Michael and Eleni Hitchcock responsible for club’s success behind the scenes
By Nick Flores/NPSL.com
The Lubbock Matadors enjoyed a very successful inaugural season in the NPSL both on and off the pitch. The team finished with a 6-4-2 record in one of the most competitive conferences in the league – the Lone Star Conference – and have built their loyal fanbase from the ground up this season.
It can be difficult for a club to kickstart their first season and see success right off the bat but for the Matadors, they had no trouble introducing themselves in the NPSL.
While the team was able to put in quality performances on the pitch to announce their arrival, a lot of the work that was done off of it was what helped mold the Matadors into the club they are today.
Owner and Managing Partner Michael “Hitch” Hitchcock launched the club back in December of 2021 and had a limited amount of time before the start of the 2022 summer season. Hitch never panicked though as he already had the perfect business partner in mind to help him along the way – his daughter Eleni.
Eleni at the time was finishing up her Business and Sports Management degree at Texas Tech University and played a major role in the launch and management of the club.
Seeing as Lubbock is home to Texas Tech and Eleni was looking to gain real-world experience prior to graduation, Hitch thought it would be a great idea to build a unique business model which provided opportunities for interns from both Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian University.
The “army of interns” as Hitch likes to call them.
Eleni was the head of all business operations and the intern program this season while also juggling school at the same time.
“We had 40 interns in the spring semester heading into the summer so I was, on top of my school week, having this intern program and helping get ready for game days,” Eleni said. “It was really unique because I got to help with a bunch of different areas of business while teaching it to the interns who were also my classmates.”
Many would shy away from having to take college courses while at the same time help run a football club, but Hitch is glad his daughter was able to manage both.
“I’m very glad she was able to manage working 40 hours a week helping launch a new team, being an integral leader, playing a key role in our success in our inaugural season, and being able to finish her classes in the spring,” Hitch said.
With the help of Eleni and the “army of interns” the Matadors were able to create one of the most engaged and loyal fan bases in the NPSL. The Matadors finished their inaugural season with an average attendance of 4,031 per game, were able to secure top sponsorships, and created a culture and supporters’ group that is growing ever so quickly.
“We had to get really creative and entrepreneurial and really took a community-first engagement approach,” Hitch said. “We did a lot of community events from the very beginning, partnered with the top local brewery, Two Docs Brewing, and created our own co-branded beer and did a number of U.S. World Cup Qualifying parties. Eleni and the army of interns were doing three to five community events every week. Taking that community-engagement approach really helped us create a meaningful connection.”
In addition to taking a community-engagement approach in order to build their fanbase, the team has also secured big name sponsors such as Puma which has certainly helped the growth of the club.
“I’ve got a great long-standing relationship with Puma,” Hitch said. “I’ve worked with them with a number of my teams and when we decided to go into a market where people are like ‘what’re you doing you’re crazy’ Puma embraced it. Puma was on board from the very beginning which helps because when you talk about connection to the community, having cool gear is an important part of that. If you’ve got a good brand then the next piece is you got to have great gear people would take a lot of pride in wearing.”
With season one in the books Hitch, Eleni and the Matadors are looking forward to their second season with the league and continuing their growth as a club. The team now has a full offseason to work on new projects and get the club prepared for what the 2023 season has in store.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun this offseason which we didn’t have last year,” Hitch said. “Last year at this time this was just a twinkle in my eye and a crazy concept. Now we have a full preseason and offseason to really build for a successful year two.”
“Year one you’re building the foundation and year two and beyond you’re building the house,” Hitch said. “Year two we want to make the playoffs, we’re in a very competitive conference and now we have a core group of players and coaching staff returning so we expect big things on the field. Off the field we want to continue to grow the fan base and increase that fan engagement. We want to help give back to the community on so many different levels. The power of sport is what it brings to the community so we’re excited to enhance that engagement with the community.”
It’s not every day that you can run a football club with your daughter and Hitch says that in his 26 years of sports management, working with Eleni is a top highlight of his career.
“This was an absolutely incredible experience and watching her step into the role and step up to the challenge just blew me away,” Hitch said. “Not only did that make me a happy owner and a boss but also a proud father.”
Eleni recalls spending a lot of time with her father growing up and watching him work at his former clubs such as FC Dallas. Seeing her dad in action so often eventually led her to wanting to work in sports herself.
“My entire life I would kind of follow him around especially on game days, and I would try to go with him everywhere he went,” Eleni said. “It really fascinated me to work in sports, and I think I’ve just always helped him and watched him oversee all these teams. It was just a great opportunity, and I really enjoyed being able to launch a team with my dad.
The father and daughter duo will continue their work with the Lubbock Matadors as preparations for next season have already begun. Both Hitch and Eleni share a similar passion for sports management and who better to share that passion with than family.
As time goes on and seasons pass, the father and daughter duo are sure to continue the rising trend of success with the Lubbock Matadors.
Photo Credit: Lubbock Matadors