Sian (pronounced Sean) Hudson knew exactly where she was going when she left Wales for the United States 13 years ago. She’s been in Colorado Springs ever since. While here, she has been instrumental in steadily building the Pride Soccer Club, from directing its youth programs to working with college-bound athlete placements, into a nearly-5,000 strong organization. Between bicycle kicks and flying headers, she took time with the Business Journal to discuss taking the reins of the Colorado Springs Pride Women’s League team, which begins its inaugural season May 22.
You were just named general manager of the women’s Pride soccer team. What can you tell us about the team?
[Pride] has acquired a W League franchise, which is essentially one tier below the women’s professional division. The NWSL, which is the National Women’s Soccer League, would be the equivalent of [Major League Soccer] for the men. … It’s a pro-am league where you can bring professionals and amateurs together. It’s really exciting to get to bring this to Colorado Springs. Especially with the soccer buzz going on with the World Cup fast approaching this summer along with the premiere of the men’s Switchbacks [pro soccer team].
What does your role as GM entail?
I actually have two roles. One is GM and the other is assistant coach. On the GM side of things, we are in the process of acquiring partnerships. The players won’t be paid to play, but this will be a fully funded team. They won’t have to pay anything to play. Obviously there will be travel costs. We are in the Western Conference of the league, which is the most competitive conference. The current national champion, Los Angeles, is in our league. And Seattle is a soccer hotbed. There are some great historical franchises with the W League and in our division. I’m really excited about testing ourselves against them.
Tell me about Pride Soccer Club.
We’re one of the largest youth soccer organizations in the state of Colorado. We have 4,500 members and over 3,000 families. I’ve been with Pride for 13 years, and in 13 years we’ve gone from a statewide competitor to a nationally competitive program. We’re winning state championships and competing for regional championships. We’re at some of the highest level soccer tournaments in the country on the youth side and in the past four years alone we’ve placed more than 100 girls on college scholarships. This past year we were able to acquire $1.8 million worth of athletic scholarships for our players.
Have you been a GM before?
This is the first time. I’ve sort of progressed from coming here and running our academies and youth programs at Pride. … Now I’m taking on the GM role. We’ve secured some great partners like VillaSport as a gym partner, the Marriott will be our hotel partner, All-American Landscaping, Adolfson & Peterson Construction, and Edge Rehab will be our partner on the medical side. We’ve secured some leading businesses in the community, but we’re looking for more partners and corporate sponsors.
What is your background with the sport?
I grew up in the UK. I’m originally from Wales [and went to the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff]. Soccer has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I played for my national team at every level. … My career was ended by injury. I had bilateral ACL surgery. I came out here and became a coach. Essentially, the week after I finished college with a sports coaching science degree I came out here and began my coaching career.
I traveled the country when I was in college. Each summer I came out and worked with a soccer camp company called British Soccer Challenger Sports, and I traveled to probably 30 states running soccer camps. I fell in love with Colorado. I love the outdoors atmosphere and the city.
What do you think of the soccer scene in Colorado Springs?
There’s definitely an avenue for growth. I think the Switchbacks team and the City for Champions push is excellent for the sporting aspect of the city. Growing up in a soccer culture, there’s not really an opportunity for our kids and players to really have the chance to interact with high-level players on a consistent basis. The main objectives for me in forming this team, from a performance standpoint, are to provide an environment where players can play at a very high level, have an opportunity to go on and be drafted by professional teams, but more so, having been a young soccer fan, I’m really excited about the opportunity to bring world class players to Colorado Springs and give kids in the community access to wonderful female role models.
How do you see this team filling its own role as a business?
I think, being a first-year franchise, one of the primary goals is to make sure we are fully funded and that we will be here for years to come. We would like to increase exposure of the team across the community and gain interest where we’re drawing 1,000 or a couple thousand fans to each home game.
And you will play at Colorado College?
Yes, we secured a fantastic facility at Washburn Field. It’s a downtown venue and a great environment for families to come and watch the games and then jump over to Tejon for dinner. It should help the downtown area and bring people into the community.
Who will be your biggest rivals?
Well, Los Angeles are national champions. They are the pinnacle of the W League. They will certainly give us the opportunity to measure ourselves. We play them in the second game of the season. The first game on the road is against the national champions. It could be a baptism by fire. But we have a phenomenal team. n CSBJ
For information, visit pridewleague.com.