Strikers Partner With Fort Lauderdale FC, Establish Youth Development Pyramid
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Thursday, February 18, 2016) – The Fort Lauderdale Strikers took a massive step forward in its youth development efforts by forming a partnership with premier youth soccer program Fort Lauderdale FC, the club announced today. The partnership creates a developmental pyramid and a direct path for Fort Lauderdale FC’s youth players to progress to Fort Lauderdale Strikers U23, and ultimately, the club’s professional team that competes in the North American Soccer League.
Fort Lauderdale FC is the official competitive youth soccer program for the City of Fort Lauderdale. More than 600 kids between the ages of 5 and 18 are currently enrolled in the program.
“The club has made another tremendous step forward by laying the groundwork for youth development,” said Strikers CEO Sean Guerin. “South Florida is a hotbed of talent and as the area’s professional team, we feel it is our responsibility to use our resources to provide a path for kids to develop into professional players in their own backyards. Youth development is a fundamental piece of the longterm strategy of this club and this partnership is a commitment to
our community and an investment in the future of soccer in South Florida.”
As part of the partnership, Olaf Henke, Director for Fort Lauderdale FC, has been appointed the first head coach of Strikers U23, the club’s player development side that will compete in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) beginning in the 2016 season.
Henke has been with Fort Lauderdale FC since its inception in 2007 and played a vital role in its growth. Under his guidance, the club has become the leading competitive soccer program in East Broward.
“We are excited about the opportunity to deepen our relationship with our professional hometown team, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers,” said Henke. “Both organizations are already sharing facilities in the city and are driven by the same goals to provide the highest level of development for players. The partnership adds a vital part to our club with the opportunities for our players to move into a professional team and organization.”
After an injury curtailed his playing career in 2001, Henke went on to become a coach and manager for local teams in his native Germany. He holds several licenses and diplomas from the US Soccer Federation and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, including the Advanced National License and the Director of Coaching Diploma.
“Being given the opportunity to lead the new NPSL team of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers is an honor,” added Henke. “I’m excited to work with some of the best talent South Florida has to offer and create opportunities for these players to take the next step in their development and possibly into a professional career.”
Henke serves as a staff coach for the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program for the Florida Youth Soccer Association. He also has experience at the college level as the assistant coach for the Broward College Women’s team since the beginning of 2015, and at the high school level as the head coach of the Pine Crest Fort Lauderdale Boys team since 2013.
The Strikers U23 roster will be comprised entirely of college and amateur players, thus allowing them to maintain NCAA eligibility. It is anticipated that a select number of U23 players will be given opportunities to train regularly with the first team under Strikers head coach and general manager Caio Zanardi.
“Our NPSL side will provide a platform for talented, local players to develop with the same methodology of our first team,” said Zanardi. “We look forward to working with Olaf and providing support to the U23 team. We are confident in our abilities to find and train high quality players with the potential to become professionals at the club.”
The Strikers will provide resources to Fort Lauderdale FC including involvement from the club’s professional coaches and players. Lockhart Stadium, the current home of the Strikers, will also host a number of training sessions and games for the program. The youth club will retain their name and colors.
Fort Lauderdale FC and the Strikers share a key partner in Holy Cross Hospital. The Strikers and Holy Cross announced a multiyear partnership this past January.
As a commitment to the growth of soccer in South Florida, the Strikers will continue to work with the region’s other youth soccer programs, including player appearances and coaching clinics.