Club Feature: Delaware Rising FC
With the eyes of the lower league soccer world on professional and “pre-professional” clubs, it’s easy to forget the role that local amateur sides play in the development of soccer in the U.S.
Founded in 2020, Delaware Rising FC has brought high-level amateur soccer to the small city of Delaware, Ohio, just over 30 minutes outside of downtown Columbus.
Today, we’re joined by DRFC co-founder and Director, Nathan Chwalik, to learn more about his club, the impact the club has on the community, and the importance of building out opportunities for players to continue playing outside of the high school and collegiate ranks.
What inspired you to launch this club? What’s the club’s overall mission?
We launched Delaware Rising Football Club (DRFC) in late 2020. It was a passion project for two young soccer enthusiasts to support the athletes in our area, but it quickly turned into something much more. There are so many athletes forced to leave the sport after high school or college because of the lack of playing opportunities. Beside just supporting players, we wanted to create a unique, exciting experience at the amateur level for players, fans, and our community. As a nonprofit, the club is centered on serving our community with our mission being to:
- provide playing opportunities for all
- champion Delaware athletes, community, and businesses
- advance the beautiful game in Delaware County, the state of Ohio, and the United States.
Tell us a little bit about the city of Delaware and the soccer scene in the area.
Delaware is a part of one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Ohio with the city having a population of over 40,000 residents. The city is about 30 miles north of Columbus and has the Olentangy River running through. While it is continuously attracting new residents, the city has a large emphasis on preserving its history and highlighting the beauty of the area with numerous parks and trails. When it comes to soccer, Delaware has a rich scholastic sporting history with our local high schools, and the Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) soccer teams. Both the men’s and women’s side of OWU has won a total of five national championships. The women have won 9 conference championships and the men 30. The men also lead all NCAA Division III schools with 37 playoff appearances. As a club, we’re proud of our city’s soccer roots and are always trying to find new ways to support the players and fans of Delaware and Central Ohio.
We saw that you added a women’s club this year, why was it important to the club to invest in the women’s game?
When we began the club, starting a women’s team was always in our sights. It is well-known that there is a stark difference in how little soccer investment and opportunities there are for women compared to men. As a nonprofit club, we knew we had to step up to make a difference for the current and future athletes in our area. There was a young ball-girl at one of our first home games. When we spoke with her and her family, you could quickly see her excitement and passion for the sport; this team is for her. For girls to have players that they can look up to. For girls to dream. The amount of talent in our area has shocked us, and we are beyond excited for our women’s side to kick off their inaugural season!
Do you see the NOSL (Northern Ohio Soccer League) as the long-term home of the club, or would you consider “moving up” to a regional or national league down the road?
Who wouldn’t want to be competing at the “highest” levels of the sport? This question has a lot of complicated facets for any club. Is the level of competition higher and a good fit for players? Is the travel reasonable and can we provide support? Is this decision financially sustainable for the club? Do we have the appropriate facilities to welcome out-of-state clubs? How will this impact our fans’ experience? What are the expectations for clubs in the league? These are just a few of the many questions we consider and recommend other clubs to consider as well. If it makes sense for the club to join a new league, we would be open to the opportunity. Over our past two seasons with NOSL we have been pleased with the competition within the league, the affordability, and are proud to be able to have traveling fans that often rival club’s home fans.
Where do you envision the club in five years, both on-and-off the pitch?
A lot can change in five years! On the field, we want to have won league titles in the leagues we are competing in. We hope to continue to grow as a club and further our sustainability to offer more resources for our players, staff, and community. We’re also looking to be competing in the Open Cup in the next couple of years. Off the field we want to find new and exciting ways to support and partner with our local businesses, and to host some different community events.
What does success for the club look like in 2023?
Of course, winning the leagues we are competing in, even including the Lower League eCup. But ultimately, that players and fans enjoy the season! We have a few specific goals for both the men’s and women’s sides we’re preparing for in terms of league results, increasing revenue, growing our fanbase, and improving both the fan and player experience. Every year we’re learning how we can improve our operations as a club!
How can people stay in touch with the club?
If you have any questions or want to learn more about Delaware Rising, you can reach us at DelawareRising@gmail.com. We’re always happy to connect with new fans, players, and partners!