Park City Soccer Club hires Eli Ulvi as director of coaching
The Park City Soccer Club — a club with a player-base of more than 500 athletes — has a new director of coaching.
Eli Ulvi, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, formally accepted the job in February, and moved to Park City in March. His position means he will determine how the club coaches its athletes.
According to Lisa Efinger — club president during the hiring process – Ulvi was hired for the job because of his focus on players’ needs and his emphasis on equal attention from coaches regardless of gender or skill level.
He also has years nearly 18 years of experience as a technical director and other comparable positions at soccer clubs — mainly in the Pacific Northwest.
The 39-year-old grew up on the Yukon River and started playing soccer at an early age. His competitive aspirations took him to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, where he was a walk-on for the NCAA Division II SkyHawks.
After two years, he returned to Alaska and started coaching the high school team he once played on at West Valley High School in Fairbanks, as well as a competitive U-19 team. During a licensing course, he made connections who later contacted him about a technical director position for a 2,500-person club in Anchorage, which he took at the age of 20. He stayed with the club for 7 years, then worked as technical director for another club in Anchorage for two years before moving to Bend, Oregon in 2009 for a similar position.
“My wife and I wanted to explore more outside of Alaska,” he said.
He also wanted to test himself in an area more focused on soccer.
After four years in Bend, he and his family moved to the Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, area where he worked as the general manager of a Portland Timbers affiliate club. After two years there — and the birth of his third daughter — Ulvi said he and his wife wanted their daughters to experience what it is like to live in Alaska. In 2015, he took jobs as technical director for both a club and the state of Alaska.
“Alaska was not going to be a long-term situation for my family,” he said. “But to be the technical director for the state I grew up playing in was a bucket list item.”
In that role, he oversaw outreach and diversity programs as well as coach and player development throughout the state’s youth soccer programs.
After working there for a year and a half, he told his employers that his family was searching for a job in an area with a higher standard of living. When he saw the job for Park City Soccer Club listed online four months later, he applied.
Ulvi said Park City was attractive because of its outdoor opportunities and because the population is focused on health and fitness — which gives the area the potential to be a soccer hotbed.
His role in making that happen hinges on bringing a new level of organization to Park City Soccer Club, he said.
One of Ulvi’s major initiatives involves changing the way coaches work within the club.
Instead of moving up with a team through the ranks, or coaching only to the primary team (think varsity or junior varsity), coaches will stay with a team for two years — coaching them through two age groups, and overseeing both the A and B team.
That way, Ulvi said, less-competitive teams will get the same level of instruction as others. Coaches not only understand their talent pool better and allow more cross-over between teams, but become experts in how to coach an age group.
Ulvi’s other initiative is to help players and their parents in aspects of the game that take place off the field, including healthy ways of supporting athletes at home and the importance of nutrition.
The underpinning ethos here, Ulvi said, is a focus on the player.
Ultimately, he thinks changing the club’s structure will create a more competitive program.
“It’s going to be a long process,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for the organization to feel the benefits of it, but I think in the past 18 years (I’ve) been fortunate to see the pros and cons of a lot of setups, and I think this one allows us to be very deliberate in the way we approach things.”
Park City Soccer Club’s administration was impressed with his resume and the way he conducted himself during a visit to the club.
“He seemed to know how to work with coaches and extend respect and get done what he needed to get done,” Efinger said. “He’s very responsive — good with children. He speaks to them with respect right away. That was the main thing … people gave me feedback saying he spoke to their children with respect and that meant a lot.”
He takes the place of Bob Martin, who Efinger said had made significant contributions to Park City Soccer for many years.
Ulvi said his wife, who he had not seen in two months, had packed up their belongings in Alaska and had started driving south with their daughters.