Redding Royals Semi-Pro Soccer Team
By Jon Lewis
By the Code
By Jon Lewis
Photos by Eric Leslie
Like so many players, Daniel Bietz fell in love with soccer as a kid and then stayed with the sport, playing competitively and advancing through school, travel and club teams while also learning to be a referee.
It was while alternating as a referee for semi-pro games in the Bay Area and as a player on amateur teams in Redding that a thought kept crossing Bietz’s mind. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Why don’t we have a higher-level team in Redding?’ We have some players up here that are the same caliber, with the same athletic and skill level as the Bay Area players.”
The idea took hold and only strengthened its grip as Bietz, 33, shared it with other players, referees and coaches. As 2016 drew to a close, Bietz’s rhetorical question had developed a real-world answer in the form of the Redding Royals FC.
Bietz and his collaborators, however, weren’t content to simply form a semi-pro soccer team. “I felt it needed to be a club with more of a purpose behind it than just high-level soccer,” Bietz says.
Dismayed by what he saw as arrogance and lack of sportsmanship displayed at soccer’s higher levels—behavior “that can bring the whole team’s attitude down, bring the spirit of the game down and make it less enjoyable for other players, the fans, the coaching staff, referees, everybody”—Bietz says he was determined to “build a club that is focused on good sportsmanship, respect, honor, integrity and selflessness.
“And that’s how this dream came about. Those have been our core values since the beginning. We’ve been picking our core players based on those values, and really championing those values on our club. We make sure everybody is on the same page. We even have players sign a code of conduct contract saying they’ll abide by that code,” Bietz says.
That philosophy helped in the recruitment of head coach Benjamin Wade, a Susanville resident and former Lassen College coach with an extensive background in soccer. “His vision was in line with my own,” Wade says of the Redding Royals’ general manager.
Bietz came to appreciate Wade’s style of coaching after refereeing some Lassen College games and watching the coach in action. “He was always professional and had good sportsmanship, very respectful with referees. And I was always impressed with how he interacted with his players and managed his team. You could tell his players respected him as a coach and worked hard for him. That says a lot about a coach.”
When the Redding Royals FC was established, Bietz says Wade was at the top of his list of coach candidates. Last year, after Wade stepped down as coach after two seasons with Lake Tahoe Community College, Bietz approached him with vision for a semi-pro team in Redding.
Wade, whose coaching career started 20 years ago when he launched Simpson University’s soccer program, brings a record of 243-63-33 to his new assignment. In addition to his new Redding Royals responsibilities, Wade serves as the artistic director and conductor of the Susanville Symphony. He is also well known for his three appearances on the pioneering CBS reality TV show “Survivor.”
The Redding Royals are in the Pacific Premier League and will compete against the Yuba City Alliance, the Glenn County Barnstormers, the Chico City Rangers, Bay Area United and the Ashland Starphire. The Pacific Premier League recently became affiliated with Champions Soccer League USA, which will allow the Redding Royals to advance to the U.S. Open Cup if they capture the league title.
The Royals practice at Redding Soccer Park but are working on an arrangement to use University Preparatory High School’s soccer field as their home pitch. The season begins May 13 and continues through the end of July.
Will the Redding Royals catch on? “The chances are very high,” says Steve Hofferber, a member of the Royals’ management team and a busy soccer coach (U-16 Missfits, Shasta High JV girls, Shasta College women’s assistant coach and associate head coach for Redding Royals women). “Everybody seems excited to have this level of soccer back in Redding again.”
Brendan Ackley, the Royals’ team captain who also does community outreach, says having a semi-pro team in town can serve as a goal for young players throughout the region. As a Redding Youth Soccer League coach, a Redding Soccer Park employee and an avid player, he’s got his finger on the pulse of soccer in the community.
“Redding has been waiting for a team like this to inspire the youth. It gives them a bigger vision and more than just playing to their senior year of high school,” Ackley says. “When he (Bietz) told me his vision, I thought it was an awesome avenue for local athletes. I was super excited and wanted to be a part of it.”
Find the Redding Royals FC on Facebook