Executive Director, Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association
When asked why he chooses to work for a nonprofit, Michael Rottjakob, executive director of Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association (ABYSA) and its competitive division, the Highland Football Club, points out that he chooses to work for a soccer club—which is a little different than choosing the nonprofit sector.
“I do that because I believe sport, and soccer specifically, is a remarkable vehicle for empowering children and teaching important life lessons,” he says.
Rottjakob has been involved with the organization for 26 years, first as a part-time coach and director of coaching; then 16 years ago he became ABYSA’s second full-time employee as executive director. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, raised in Chicago, Illinois, and moved to Western North Carolina in 1983. He received a B.A. in psychology from Warren Wilson College and worked 10 years on the children’s unit of Appalachian Hall, a psychiatric hospital that was in Asheville.
To see the huge number of local youth that are part of ABYSA, just visit one of the fields on a Saturday when games are being played. All ages and skill levels are present, along with parents, grandparents, and other fans. Annually, just over 5,000 children play in the ABYSA.
“It is challenging to keep our eye on the ball with all the distractions that come with managing the resources it takes to serve so many families.”
Rottjakob says the most heart-warming stories come from adults reflecting on how much the ABYSA program meant to them as children.
“One that particularly sticks out was a very kind note that accompanied a modest donation to our financial aid program from a former player living out of state. He spoke of how grateful he was for the financial aid his family received that allowed him to participate, and the ‘protective’ impact that his coaches and team had on his development as a young man.”
ABYSA prides themselves in providing age-appropriate programming in a healthy child-focused environment. The most challenging part of Rottjakob’s job is keeping priorities straight.
“Many youth sports environments are everything but healthy and kid-friendly, and it is challenging to keep our eye on the ball with all the distractions that come with managing the resources it takes to serve so many families. Making sure we try to always do ‘the right thing’ means we keep the experience our players have on the soccer field as the first priority.”
If you find yourself at the soccer field for an ABYSA game, you may not see Rottjakob, but rest assured that he and his staff are close by.
“The most rewarding part of my job is simply watching all of our players having fun and competing on Saturdays at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex and Buncombe County Sports Park,” he says, referring to the sports facilities located in East Asheville and West Asheville, respectively. “Game days are the culmination of the efforts of 15 full-time employees, over 40 part-time coaches, and 44,000 annual volunteer service hours—and just watching all the activity and fun is extremely gratifying.”
We are committed to providing children and families the health and social benefits of team sports through the sport of soccer, the number one participant sport in the United States. Our Mission Statement reads: “We empower children, strengthen families, and enrich our community through soccer, the world’s game.”
Number served annually
Just over 5,000 children
how do you get funding?
The majority of funding comes from fee for service—the registration fees paid by participants. We also generate significant funding from sponsorships and partnerships with businesses that want to reach our member families with effective and targeted marketing. We employ a full-time development director whose primary job is to ensure ROI for our partners.
Year nonprofit was founded?
ABYSA is located in Asheville. 95% of the players we serve are from Buncombe County. We have recently started providing HFC Competitive programming in Hendersonville through a partnership with Henderson County Youth Soccer.
List of board members with titles
President: Dave Zorich
Vice President: Chris Lenderman
Board Development Chair: Kim Lennox
Secretary: Chris Brock
Treasurer: John Luckett
Derek Dephouse, MD
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…