After a six month ‘getting to know you’ period, Richmond’s largest youth sports organization by membership, Richmond FC, has announced the latest of several significant staff hires aimed at setting our 60-year-old soccer club up to compete with BC’s finest.

Widely recognized player development expert David Thorburn has moved to Richmond from Ontario, where he previously led Whitby Iriqouis’ Soccer Club for the last five years, and Aurora Youth Soccer Club for four years before that. Both clubs notched national titles and sent players to top colleges and on pro trials in Europe during his tenure.

Thorburn is recognized as one of the most – if not the most – qualified and successful Technical Directors in Canada, with over 30 years’ experience in soccer as a professional player, coach, manager, chief scout and international player agent. Thorburn has worked extensively in Scotland and England with clubs including Glasgow Rangers, Aberdeen and Greenock Morton, and has been employed by the Scottish and English FA in youth development roles.

RFC Chair Chris Parry says partnering with Thorburn is a sign the club has grown in stature and respect in the region.

“We brought David in on a provisional basis, to be sure it was a good fit on both sides, and during that time David was getting calls from other clubs on a regular basis. To be honest, he could have his pick,” says Parry. “When we approached him initially, we made it clear we’re ready for the next level in coaching, club growth, and setting a positive path forward for our players. We know there is a lot of untapped potential in kids soccer in Richmond, and David has built large clubs in Ontario everywhere he’s been, so it’s just a case of giving him the tools he needs and we’re confident success will follow.”

“His commitment to Richmond FC for the next several years makes this a proud day.”

Thorburn’s experience as a scout and agent has seen him send a multitude of players and coaches to Europe to ply their trade at the highest professional levels, including sending youth players to Europe for trials.

Thorburn is a mainstay of the world renowned Coerver Coaching and has run programs across the country, and sees incorporation of that philosophy as a part of RFC’s future.

“It’s the biggest coaching program, the most respected, in the world so yeah, we’ll be bringing that to Richmond.”

“I’ve sent players to clubs as big as Chelsea, Southampton, Leicester City, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, and Aston Villa in the Premier League,” says Thorburn. “Locally, at the MLS level, I’ve worked with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Minnesota FC, Toronto FC to name a few. My goal is for every graduating player at the advanced levels to have offers for college scholarships and beyond. To make that happen, you need to do more than just make good players, you have to present them to scouts, you need a network that s extensive, and you need that network to know your club is serious.”

The reason Thorburn chose Richmond as the next step on his professional career?

Potential,” Thorburn says. “It’s a beautiful city, the facilities are good, the kids are eager and the parents are crying out for good programming, whether their kids are on an elite player path or just here for a kickaround. RFC has done well for some time, but the board understands they have to compete not just with other teams locally, but other sports and – if we’re being honest – screens. We’ve got to get kids outside more often, and to make this city one where people outside of Richmond say, ‘Oh, we’re playing Richmond next weekend, that’s going to be a tough one, that’s a real soccer city.”

Overseeing Thorburn is recent RFC hiring, Marius Roevde, a former European professional goalkeeper, international team coach, and former Vancouver Whitecaps trainer, in the recently formed role of Executive Director.

Roevde blasted out of the starting blocks on the admin side, bringing in former Canadian Women’s National Team coach Even Pellerud to help create a new girls program, and then agreeing a sponsorship deal with GO Columbia Chrysler. More deals are coming.

The same things that attracted me to the club also attracted David,” says Roevde, who has worked with Thorburn professionally in the past. “You can say RFC is a good club, but we’re here to make it a great club. David’s qualifications include the UEFA (A) International License, and the UEFA (B) License, Youth License, and Children’s License. He has a degree in Sports Development, and a reputation across the country for helping players get athletic scholarships to big schools. There are very few youth soccer clubs in the country that have that sort of credibility behind the scenes.”

One important element in the development of Richmond FC is central to the board’s plans going forward, and that’s coach development.

Says Parry, they got their man.

David teaches coaching courses intended to teach coaches how to coach coaches,” he laughs. “In the very short time he’s been here, he’s put together a squad of 15-18 year olds to help coach the younger kids, and they’re learning fast. It used to be, if you dropped your kid at the soccer field and you didn’t disappear to Starbucks quickly enough, you’d find yourself being drafted as an unwitting coach. Now, our volunteers are getting national accreditation training, the older kids are getting employment hours as referees and volunteer hours as coaches, and they’re beginning to find a real pathway to coaching, reffing, and playing soccer for a living.”

Among the first new initiatives kicked off by new management: A low-cost Sunday morning program from under-4’s.

There’s nothing better than watching a thundering herd of 3-year-olds chasing a ball,” laughs Thorburn. “You can do all the work you like on elite kids and technical training and extra sessions and the like, but you’re not a success unless you’ve got all the kids in town coming out and having a kick, having a laugh, making friends, and wanting to do it forever. That’s what we’re building here at RFC. If you’re just focusing on the elite kids, you’re doing it wrong. Football needs to be fun, and that’s where we’re starting.”

To that end, RFC’s traditional summer camps have grown in numbers and scale.

“We’re holding five one-week camps this summer,” says Parry, adding, “Those have traditionally been largely afterthoughts for the club, but David’s reputation has kids coming from other areas. This is a sign of things to come.”

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