Please join us for the next installment of AstroTurf’s “5 Minutes With” series. In this edition, we talk with AstroTurf’s National Director of Soccer Carl Capellas.
Carl, tell us about your background in soccer.
I grew up playing the sport of soccer. Like every kid, I wanted to be a pro. Got lucky enough to get a scholarship to play Division I soccer at Marshall University. I had a great experience there in Huntington, West Virginia.
While I was at Marshall, I was doing a little coaching down there. I did play professionally. I got to go to Europe. I played there for a short stint. Came back and played in a professional indoor soccer league in northeast Ohio for a little while and then got back into coaching – and was coaching for 14 or so years before getting into turf.
I had a good 9 year run at a Division III school in northeast Ohio, Hiram College. Then, later, I coached for two seasons as the University of Akron and then jumped over to turf from there.
Talk to us about your transition from playing and coaching soccer, to the turf industry
It all happened at Hiram College when I was a Division III head coach. I met the president of ProGrass at the time, who was an alumni and former coach and I engaged him into being a donor for the school. And that’s how I got introduced to him and started a connection with him and was offered a job a few different times. But like any coach, I wasn’t quite done with what I wanted to do. I still wanted to keep coaching because our teams were doing great. And he kept bringing it up over and over that he would love to have a soccer guy on his team. He said there is a whole thing coming over to the United States now, we are trying to bring this FIFA-quality concept, we need somebody who knows soccer. So ultimately, maybe two years later, I made the change and got into the turf industry.
Was it a smooth transition, what do you remember most about your start?
Of course, I found out very quickly, I knew very little. I had a good turf education. I had some great mentors. Guys like Todd DeWolfe. Guys like Steve Coleman. Guys like Aaron Klotz. Guys like Joe Geata. I was thankful they all helped me early on when I was first starting, but some of the best things I got to do was to work on some of our crews. Some of those guys are still installing for us now. Like Nate Starcher – I worked on a crew with him, just saw Nate installing a field recently. John Koontz- I worked on a site crew with him at Cleveland State during my first two months just to get an idea, so I could really feel, really know what we are talking about.
When we’re talking about, “this is what a stone base looks like,” and these are the problems you’re going to run into. This is how you install a field. These are the problems you are going to run into.
The selling part was easy. Because again, I had a large network in northern Ohio for sure, and in the soccer world as well having lived in that world quite a bit. Selling wise, there was some low-hanging fruit. I think the first field I sold, the first field I sold was the University of Akron men’s soccer team where I had just been coaching months prior.
I wish it could be that easy all the time. I enjoy it. I really enjoy it. That education I got from knowing the guts of it, getting my hands on in the installation process really helped me even to this day in selling to see what’s good and bad.
Tell us what AstroTurf can offer in terms of a soccer field
What it comes down to is that we have the largest governing body of a sport in the world that is setting a standard for what a field should play like. Good, bad or indifferent. Hot, cold, wet, dry. Different climates. Different infill. How that field should perform. They set a standard and we can meet that standard being tested by a third party that instantly gives us our own set, our own criteria that are beyond what we are doing right now. Because every turf company is going to say their turf is the best, obviously. Right? Ours is great. Ours is great. And new turf is good. But we want to look at turf in the long run. FIFA helps us with that by setting standards of performance that we can test over time. Again, from a third party, from a non-interested group that shows that you are being tested.
Talk to us about the AstroTurf product and selling it
People buy from people. You can say whatever you want, but people buy from people. And your ability to stand behind what you’re talking about, our ability stand behind what we are talking about and be willing to invest in different aspects of the turf industry is key.
At the University of Tennessee, we’re spending more time investing in grass, studying grass, than turf there. That’s the whole point, right? We’re willing to back up what we say we do. And the product speaks for itself. It’s fantastic. Right? On the soccer side, it’s simple. It’s a simple conversation on why AstroTurf is easier. We have the most consistent performing turf in the world. It consistently performs great over time. That’s the real value it has. The other part, again, the people, standing behind what you say you’re going to do. Right? It’s a construction business we are in. There’s different things that go right and go wrong, that we need to do. Your willingness, how responsive are you when something bad happens versus something good. Everyone wants to go take credit when it is something good, but when something bad happens, and we need to get it fixed, are we willing to stand up there and that’s where your creditability comes in, that’s where your people come in and that’s where AstroTurf is phenomenal.