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Tired, overworked, stressed out by his corporate day job, Shawn Daugherty is in his element. As the owner of the the newest women’s soccer team in Kansas City, he is living his dream. He has worked 10 hours a day alongside his day job for almost two years to create a semi-professional women’s soccer team, and finally, the pieces are starting to come together. This summer, his dream will be realized when his team, the Kansas City Shock, takes the field to play their first game.
Already, Daugherty feels more accomplished than he was three years ago. Then, he was newly divorced and newly homeless. He didn’t have time to dream about anything more than a job and somewhere to sleep at night.
“I was like, ‘What do I do with my life now?’” Daugherty said. “I was given every excuse in the world to get angry and bitter. And when all that went down for me personally, I chose not to hate. I want to be known to do something different.”
Once he had a job and a home again, it didn’t take long for Daugherty to start dreaming big again. In college, he had planned to become a missionary in Africa. Now he sees soccer as a way to do missionary work in Kansas City, by cultivating a team and a community that is both passionate and positive.
His team doesn’t have a full roster yet. Or an office. Or a field. Nevertheless, Daugherty feels confident that the Shock will catch on quickly in Kansas City.
Daugherty had always been a women’s soccer fan, especially after working for the team at his college, Southwest Baptist University, in Bolivar, Mo. He was inspired at a United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) game against Canada in September 2011. Listening to the sold-out crowd, Daugherty realized that there was a market for women’s soccer in Kansas City.
“I’m listening to the kids just screaming their heads off,” Daugherty remembers. “And I’m thinking, there are 17,000 people here in Sporting Park for a women’s soccer game. There has got to be a market in Kansas City for a team like this.”
The goal was simple — create a soccer team focused on community involvement. Daugherty decided that the main problem with past women’s soccer teams and leagues was a lack of emphasis on connection to the community and local businesses. Two leagues collapsed in six years, disputes broke teams apart and games hardly pulled 100 fans.
“The biggest problem you saw was teams focusing on just trying to get those big ticket players, your Abby Wambach or your Alex Morgan,” KC Shock’s Marketing and Public Relations Manager Haley Rose said. “We wanted to focus on the business side as well, trying to establish a good fan base and a good community first.”
Daugherty began his team on social media, asking questions on Facebook and Twitter to gauge the audience he might receive. Encouraged by positive responses, he began to assemble a staff of part-time volunteers.
In late summer of 2012, Daugherty paid the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) entry fee and the Shock officially became a team. At the time, all that Daugherty had was a staff and an idea. No coaches, no players, no field or merchandise.
Daugherty and his staff of six started from the ground and worked up, always remembering their main goal: to be different. From that stemmed their catchphrase, at first tongue-in-cheek, now a business model: “Dare to be different. Shock the world.”
That model made them decide to choose dubstep for their music, to call on local businesses for sponsorships, to select an anonymous group of mask-wearing soccer fans called The Underground as their supporter group.
Most importantly, KC Shock is a soccer team, and finding players was the first step. The WPSL does not allow teams to pay their players, making it difficult to pull big-ticket players from colleges.
To catch the eye of hopeful players, Daugherty and Rose compiled a list of high school teams and Division I, II and III college teams in the Kansas City area. In fall of 2012, they emailed around 570 coaches and received 100 inquiries and 30 players at tryouts in return. The team will host another tryout on March 9 and 10.
The Shock hosted their first tryouts on Dec 27, 28 and 29. The tryouts pulled players from the Kansas City area, across the country and from countries like Scotland and Australia. Their first player, Aliesha Cassie, was signed on Jan 15. Cassie was raised in Banff, Scotland and then moved to the United States to go to school and play for the University of Texas at Brownsville. Cassie was UT Brownsville Player of the Year in college.
“Aliesha brings a great deal of experience to this team,” said Shock Head Coach Nicole Ortiz. “She is a well rounded player that can fit anywhere on the field. At tryouts she showed great leadership and skill that will help our team succeed in the first year.”
Ortiz will focus on recruiting college-age players to her program. She and Daugherty have agreed to only allow players to join the team if they have graduated from high school, to allow them time to mature as players.
Daugherty has turned the selection of players over to Ortiz. Now the owner focuses on promoting and business. Daugherty needed sponsors and wanted to work with local Kansas City businesses. He contacted businesses across the Metro area, explaining his new team and emailing them sponsorship packages.
At the least, Daugherty will ask businesses to post KC Shock stickers in their windows. His supporter group, The Underground, will help him to spread the stickers in businesses throughout Kansas and Missouri. From there, sponsorship packages range from $100 to $20,000. With a budget of $72,000 a year, Daugherty is certain that it won’t take long for his team to have proper sponsors.
His efforts have already caught the attention of several local businesses. Blanc Burgers will become the official burger of the KC Shock and Caribbean Cowboy Barbecue Sauce Co. will create a special “Shock” sauce. Pro Ebiria, the company that makes Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen’s gloves, have been in talks with supplying KC Shock keepers with gloves.
“It’s caught on so quickly. It’s crazy,” Daugherty said. “There are so many local businesses in Kansas City… they’re all interested when I tell them about my business model. People are really on board with it and it’s just making me so excited for this summer.”
With a steady sponsorship built up, the staff began to search for a stadium to play in. Daugherty and his staff contacted several stadiums, including Sporting Park, but were not able to establish an agreement with any of them. In the meantime, the staff is continuing their search, focusing on a stadium with small size that is accessible to most of the KCMO area.
“We’re going to look to be centrally located,” Daugherty said. “The clubs in Kansas are extremely elite. Lee’s Summit has a massive soccer association, but in Lee’s Summit it is a ton of recreation programs. If we can find a way to appeal to all people and maintain professionalism at the same time, that’s something that I think Kansas City would love.”
The specifics of the team — players, uniforms, final sponsors and vendors — are still mostly in limbo. But Daugherty and his staff are determined to remain true to their focus of providing an inexpensive community for soccer.
“Of course, on the field we want to slaughter our opponents just like any other team,” Daugherty said. “But the environment, it’s gonna be custom. We like to rewrite the rules. We color outside the lines without crossing the lines. That’s my best way to sum us up right now, and we’ll see how that idea works.”