Merchant City, Colorado. – Brian Reed has completed his first season as the Player Welfare Office at Colorado Rapids. With lessons learned from COVID-19, the Rapids and their development academy are taking player wellbeing on and off the field more seriously. In a brand new position, Reed is creating the change he wants to see.
How Player Protection Officer Brian Reed is helping the Colorado Rapids on and off the field
First of all, what is a player welfare office. “Put simply, a life coach,” Reed replied.
“I can work with all three levels. I work with the academy, I work with Rapids 2 and I work with the first team. Each of these groups are at different stages in their lives, so they need different things. On any given day, I can teach an Academy player basic time management skills. I might be working with players either on the college placement process or possibly helping them because they just moved into their first apartment on their own. And then maybe with a First Team Player I’ll help them find daycare because this is their first child. I’m really enjoying the way the role has been set up by the club,” he told Last Word.
“We forget what happens outside of the white light. I’ve always been someone who wanted to give my all for every player I’ve ever worked with in that type of role. I would argue that it is necessary. All over the world, big clubs, small clubs, they really care about player welfare, player care. I love to see players succeed and the only way they will succeed is when everything else is going well for them. You can’t split up and play at your absolute best when other things in your life aren’t in order. Maybe you can do it for a short time. We want to be here to help each of our players achieve that success, both on and off the pitch.”
Reed went on to say that no two days are the same during the season. He checks in daily with players from the youngest academy team to the first team. That includes academic support for players who are still in school, right through to onboarding a new MLS signing that needs to settle in Denver. International players may need help finding housing, a driver’s license, a phone, social security number, furniture, enrolling their children in school, learning English, and finding a grocery store or restaurant with well-known ethnic dishes. Brian attempted to sort this out within 14 days of arrival. On SuperDraft picks, he helps these players adjust to a professional environment.
In her first year at the club, Reed regularly spent time with Max Alves and Anthony Markanich.
“I like to joke that you could write a 30-minute sitcom of Brian and Max and go to Whole Foods. We’ll make sure they don’t order DoorDash every day.”
He comes to the Rapids with a wealth of experience with youth and collegiate players. At the MLS level, he spent a year doing video and performance work at LA Galaxy and as a coach at the Houston Dynamo Academy. With his role as Player Welfare Manager, he jokes that he has a Ph.D. in Football.
Reed was introduced to improve the wellness experience, especially for youth players. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on young people. Many lessons have been learned which the club is now implementing.
“If you had a player during the pandemic who spoke a language other than English at home, they spent between 12 and 18 months during the pandemic at home away from the classroom, away from their peers. They’re back to 100% listening to their native language and depending on how the online education was broken down, day-to-day English use may be slipping.”
“Getting transcripts was one of the first things I do with the academy. You request the certificates because you want to see where everyone stands academically. When they went back into the classroom, there were students who were still there, they were good at math, they were still good at math because, honestly, math is their own language. But then when you look at how they’re doing in some of the other subjects that might have English-based classes, they’re struggling. Council members and teachers lost some of the resources in some schools due to the pandemic. Suddenly these kids are falling behind through no fault of their own.”
The club saw a drop in grades and online learning in general in 2020. Reed and Academy Director Chris Cartlidge turn to Audi Goals Drive Progress and other resources to better support the Academy’s future.
“Chris has been working to continue growing and expanding our Audi online school program. Every year we added more players. We are up to 15 players full time in our online school program. Some of these players needed more support than others, but I think he did a really good job going through case by case and trying to figure out which players we really need to put in the environment so we can help them to thrive and succeed. We plan to continue expanding this program because we want to continue to provide the additional resources and care.”
The club has also emerged from the pandemic with better mental health and social resources. Reed has directed the club’s homestay program, which places players from outside of Colorado with host families.
“The idea is that a young player comes in leaving his family who want to compete in a very high pressure environment. We want them to feel that family presence. They come into our environment, they have left their homes. But then you give them that structure, that family environment, that family feeling. So whether it’s families that are directly involved with the academy or some families that have had players who have graduated but are still interested in getting involved.”
“You add the layer of being separated from your family and possibly missing siblings, mom, dad. The homestay model and host family can really help these children to settle down, thrive and ultimately further their development and real success. There are so many great families around Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It’s pretty amazing. It helps the players finally get a foothold.”
Colorado Rapids player protection officer Brian Reed was interviewed for the Holding The High Line podcast back in July. His work will continue in 2023 in his second year at the club.
Photo credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB