Opening the Locker Room Doors in Houston

A decade ago, the Houston Major League Soccer team danced around the University of Houston’s marching band during training sessions and even avoided javelins and shot puts being flung across their training pitch. It was evident soccer hadn’t arrived yet in Houston or in our country. 

But we’ve come a long way. Soccer has taken off in America, settling behind only football, baseball and basketball in nearly all statistical measures of popularity. However as the three leading sports are seeing a steady decline, Forbes and The New York Times reports soccer participation — from playing, watching, attending, and conversing — is seeing a dramatic increase, especially in Houston. Here are a few key reasons why:

  • Increase in youth participation: Up by 89 percent since 1990, the first year the U.S. qualified for the World Cup since 1950, there are approx. 3,060,000 youth participants. The kids of the 90s are also bringing an understanding and appreciation to the game that had not been seen in the US before.
  • Exposure to role models: Soccer role models like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Alex Morgan are not only seen in Sports Illustrated, but in US main stream media like Vogue, H&M ads, and Health Magazine, proving to us these athletes are here to claim the money and glitz like all the other celebrities in the business. Not to mention the US Women’s National Team just clinched their 3rd world championship title in 2015 demonstrating what it means to #playlikeagirl on a global scale. 
  • Shift towards fast-paced exercise activities: People are busier than ever today, so they are choosing activities which enable them to burn off energy (calories) quickly in a fun, social environment.
  • Soccer doesn’t discriminate: The oldest sport in the world is appreciated by all ages, sexes, races, and socio-economic levels across the world. You are just as likely to see a 6 year old rich girl with a ball at her feet as a 45 year old poor man. Everyone is welcomed.
  • Local Houston support: Thanks to key sport ambassadors and the growing Hispanic population, Houston is rated the #2 soccer market in the US. It is only out ranked by Los Angeles (see chart reference).

http://giltedgesoccer.com/what-are-the-top-soccer-markets-in-the-u-s/

This is why we are launching Sphere in our home of Houston. The appetite for being a part of the game is greater than ever. No matter what a person’s past familiarity with the sport is — whether advanced or just starting —  we want to open the locker room doors and invite everyone to get soccer fit…mentally, physically, and socially. 

Soccer is a simple game that belongs to the world, and, in return, the world finds a way to put its myriad of problems on hold and simply enjoy it together. 

Come join the club! 

Kick ups are announced weekly. Club officially launching in 2016. Keep in touch via our newsletter and social channels (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter). 

Keep the Ball Rolling

Dear teammates,

I remember the morning as if it was yesterday. I laid out my uniform perfectly pressed along the faded dark brown carpet of my bedroom floor. Top to bottom, I neatly lined every inch of the uniform down to the cleats as if awaiting some military soccer inspection from my grandfather. Unable to sleep, I stared at the ceiling of my room laced with glow-in-the-dark stars thinking about the game.

What would it be like?
How would I play?
What would I do with the ball when it was my chance? I closed my eyes. 
Age 7

Slowly blinking, 26 years later I found myself asking the stars the same questions. As I laid in the middle of nowhere and thousands of miles from any Major League Soccer team, I started to replay my story and retracing my steps. I reflected on how I ended up in this situation as most MLS teammates were ramping up for a hopeful long post-season run. However I realized I had run far enough and it was time to face the disappointment and move forward.

Not all professional athletes are fortunate enough to plan their exit. As premature as my unofficial exit seemed, I was reminded by former teammate and best friend, Corey Ashe, that there was something greater waiting for me that I couldn't quite see yet. I found myself lost and unmotivated as I was not training for a championship or a starting spot, but I knew I needed to stay fit. Therefore I started looking for workouts that didn't remind me of soccer. I tried anything and everything from rowing, swimming, yoga, pilates, bootcamps, CrossFit, boxing, MMA, and spin, but no matter how far I looked, I couldn't find the same soccer-fit body I once knew. I was underwhelmed by the workouts, instructors, music, and spaces. Perhaps, though, I was the wrong critic as I had been spoiled with the most beautiful facilities and top trainers in the world however I had developed high standards that I couldn’t come to lower. 

I was fed up with it all therefore I began training on my own again. Shortly thereafter I was approached about training aspiring Houston Dynamo players which I gladly accepted. During these sessions, I noticed these players’ families were also very fitness-focused so I got a wild idea to incorporate these bystanders into the last part of the workout. It wasn't accepted at the start but soon it became a popular ordeal. There was something special about this that I couldn’t quite put my finger on yet.

Simultaneously I was approached to play in pick-up soccer games around town with friends with corporate jobs which I politely declined but offered to train the team instead. After one of my training sessions, we all huddled up and I asked for some feedback. What was said to me next kicked Sphere into play...

We all loved the workout and would do it again but our wives and girlfriends don’t care about how many goals we score or how good our first touch is, they care about our body.

Regardless of the broken parachute MLS left me with after almost 9 years of service, I knew I wasn't getting any help from anyone and vowed to help my teammates and friends when they finished kicking balls however I could. Even with all the post-career planning and preparation, I now understood it was very arduous for any professional athlete to immediately replace the fire and passion that helped them ascend to the highest level with something else meaningful. 

I missed the competition and being in the hunt for a championship. 
I missed the ball and the daily grind. 
And most notably, I missed the locker room. I missed my friends, the daily interaction over the music before training, and the post-session banter. 

I started to reflect on this new playing field I was not accustomed to and realized group fitness classes were extremely popular and growing thanks to the (use-to-be) small company called SoulCycle. I found a lot of people were interested in boutique fitness concepts because they didn't know what to do when it came to working out and they wanted to be inspired. Particularly, the biggest thing I noticed was that people were looking for a community to be apart of. This was when I finally put together all the aspects of soccer and how applicable it was for group fitness. 

And this is how Sphere got its first kick.

Introducing Sphere, the first soccer-inspired fitness concept that meets the needs for every player. Fitness enthusiasts don't need to be professional cyclists to take spin classes or be master yogis to power flow, therefore, likewise, our customers don’t need to be professional soccer players to come kick it. Sphere is designed to be an individually-focused but team-inspired workout. I've created four classes to cover all aspects of what it takes to be a complete player using only the ball to reach every players goal. I've opened up the locker room not only for my teammates but to my friends and community! I look forward to kicking it with you all.

#keeptheballrolling

- Chewy aka Michael Chabala