Welcome to our series of Five Minutes With… blogs that will feature interviews with AstroTurf’s staff of experts, partners, clients and friends. We hope you learn something about our industry and the great people associated with it. Today we talk with AstroTurf’s National Director of Soccer, Carl Capellas.
Carl, you’ve been around the sport of Soccer all of your life. Tell us about how Carl, the Soccer coach became Carl, the AstroTurf salesperson and how the two are intertwined.
I was introduced to the turf business really while I was the head coach at Hiram College and we converted our existing grass football stadium to turf. I was a part of the selection committee for the school and I met Bobby Thomas. A few years later and several turf field purchases later, I reconnected with Bobby while I was the 1st assistant coach at the University of Akron. He gave me a great opportunity and I made the decision to switch careers, a decision that I did not take lightly. I was at the top program in the country and enjoying great success, but once I made the decision I didn’t look back. The opportunity has changed forms a few times, but I have been able to help the team achieve great successes in our own way. While I miss the competition, the preparation and the grind, I use those innate qualities to try and help push our company forward.
What sets AstroTurf’s Soccer product offerings apart and above other industry offerings?
This is a combined effort between AstroTurf’s product development team, our European counterparts and me. We focus on the playability of the surface over time. Particularly, ball roll and bounce and the player interaction with the field over time. As there is not a real preferred type of turf for soccer in the United States, we based our product on a combination of FIFA’s Quality Pro fields, The University of Tennessee’s Center for Turf research and our internal research. Our three soccer products all meet FIFA’s highest standard (FIFA Quality Pro). Our LigaTurf RS ProII is the only turf in the world to have passed FIFA’s highest standard 4 times (8 years running.) No other turf has passed longer than 3 years.
The sport of Soccer is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States. What do you think is fueling that growth and making the sport so attractive to athletes?
It’s seen as a safe sport and one that everyone can play. Just the sheer numbers of kids playing has led us to develop a professional league, a growing fan base and competitive national team. The current generation of coaches were by and large former players, which helps continue the growth. It’s also a sport you can play well into adulthood.
We’ve talked about how the sport of Soccer is growing so rapidly, what do think is necessary for it to reach that next level?
Honestly, a lot. There are two governing bodies of soccer and the larger one oversees the national team, the professional league and top youth development league. The biggest thing I think we can do to get better is focus on kids from the age of 13-18. This is generally when kids develop their games the most. Having spent a lot of time overseas scouting and developing, it is the biggest difference. The best players we have at those ages right now by and large went to Europe at some point during those years. There are guys getting regular first team training and games at the ages of 18-21. They got there by being in that environment prior to that. A lot of it ultimately comes down to money and compensation. Domestically, let the bigger, more ambitious clubs do as much as they would like. It gets tricky because the country is so big, but that’s my short answer to this big issue.
Do you have a couple of favorite field installations that you can tell us about? What made them standout and a little more special to you?Honestly, my favorite installation is the next one. I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s true. There are a ton of great fields that we have designed and built. Our team has sold and installed some really fantastic venues, but a few that really stand out to me are the University of Akron men’s soccer practice field (my first sale), North Shore United (first FIFA 2 star field) and North Collier in Florida (great set up and team).