Mark Cole Joins UK Elite Soccer as Chief Operating Officer

UK Elite Soccer is excited to welcome Mark Cole to the team as our new Chief Operating Officer. Mark has an extensive background in youth sports and recreation with the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club before joining Steel Sports in May 2017. He currently lives in majestic Wyoming and is an avid skier and outdoorsman.

UKE: Welcome aboard to UK Elite Soccer, Mark! Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and where you were before joining Steel Sports and UK Elite.

Mark Cole:  Glad to be with UK Elite! My resume is old school in that I have 30+ years of experience with only two organizations. A love of teaching developed into involvement with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where I could couple teaching with a passion for outdoor activities: rock climbing, back-country skiing, mountaineering. The chance to lead an organization whose mission focused on athletic excellence and character development drew me to Aspen and the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club (AVSC). The focus of Steel Sports and UKE is the same. I have to be able to put my heart into what I’m doing, and I want to work with good people who are making a difference in kids’ lives. I can do that with UKE.

UKE: How do you think your experience with Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club and National Outdoor Leadership School will help you with your role at UK Elite?

Mark: My experience at NOLS included six years overseeing the hiring, development and placement of instructors at the organization’s eight different branch schools. Staff are key to the success of any company, so the experience directly applies. I was also the Finance Director for five years while the overall budget grew from $9 million to $14 million. Size and complexity were similar to where UKE is today. Branch schools are comparable to UKE’s regions.

As Executive Director at AVSC, I was ultimately responsible for all aspects of our success or failure: including program excellence, organizational fitness, image and financial strength. Living and breathing that responsibility for 15 years gave me the chance to try many things and learn from what worked and why. There our different disciplines: Adaptive, Alpine, Freestyle, Nordic and Snowboard were similar to regions, each having particular strengths and challenges. The culture at both organizations was built on passion for playing a pivotal role in the development of children and youth, pride in developing as professionals outside more widely accepted career paths and an impressive work ethic. I find all of these elements alive and well in UKE’s culture.

UKE: What is your philosophy and vision to help move UK Elite forward?

Mark: I think we have what I would describe as collective genius among the senior directors at UKE and the regional managers, and really, it’s an effort to unlock that and make sure we’re sharing information across regions. Even though each region faces its own particular set of challenges and opportunities there is so much we can be learning from one another. I want to make sure the regional managers have the information they need in their hands to help them with the decisions they have to make, but then to make sure that so much of the information is being shared across the regions so that we can all benefit. For me, that’s really a focus here early on.

UKE: When you first got the opportunity to be hands on with UK Elite what excited you about the business and their impact on soccer in the United States?

Mark: I know the impact we can have on all the kids that are involved in our programs, and that is powerful. It’s the combination of UKE’s focus on athletic excellence and character development that I find compelling.

UKE: As COO, what are the high priority items you’re focusing on the first few months in your new role?

Mark: Getting to know each Regional Manager and their region: the challenges and opportunities they have. Financial performance – to a person, Regional Managers are focused on this. I can help by making sure they have the information they need to make decisions. Finally, sharing information across regions – Each region should have the chance to learn from the other regions. Let’s unlock the collective genius we have among our Regional Managers.