Ray Franklin’s story started in Liverpool, England where he was born and raised until the age of fifteen. By his own accounts he was a wisp of a child with a severe bronchial asthmatic condition that would only worsen in England’s unforgiving climate.
Upper: Eastern Soccer Coaches Jason Simone, Ray Franklin and Rick Franklin.
His father, a former professional goalkeeper for the Everton Football Club, moved young Ray and the entire family to the United States where they set up residence in Mt. Kisco. "I had an aunt who worked at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco and I began to receive the treatment I needed. That, along with climate change, helped Ray Franklin return to a sport that has been his game since birth — football — known in America as soccer.
"I played for Fox Lane High School and you have to realize that in the early 1960’s this country didn’t embrace or know very much about soccer," he said, during a recent interview.
Evidently one person saw a gifted player and appreciated the skills that Franklin demonstrated. He was Yale University’s Head Soccer Coach, and he took his recruit in the summer of 1970 to the World Cup in Mexico as a prelude to playing for the prestigious University. "It was a fantastic experience for me to see these world-class players and to know that I would be going toYale. I was concerned about whether or not I could keep up with the academics, but Coach Hubert told me I would have the help I’d need to do well there," he said.
As with many young men facing choices, especially with college, and in Franklin’s case with athletics as well, he reached a fork in the road at the end of his senior year. The opportunity to play professional soccer for the fledgling North American Soccer League with the New York Generals was put before him. " I wish to this day that my school guidance counselor had sat down with me and explained what it would mean if I went professional straight from high school," Franklin said. That meeting could have resulted in a young player being told that if he played professionally he would never be able to play in college. "I made the New York General’s team but neither the league nor the club was well received by the fans. Attendance numbers weren’t great so the team reorganized under a new name, the New York Cosmos, and international soccer stars were brought to the US in an effort to make soccer economically feasible. After one year I was off the pitch (playing field) and realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Ray Franklin continued to play soccer, but this time for a club team in New Jersey called the Kearney Americans. He got a daytime job in a print shop and his attention turned to coaching and helping youngsters learn and appreciate the game of soccer. "I made up my mind to help kids learn the game and do whatever was necessary to get them into good colleges," he said. "After all that’s what life is, getting a good education and making good choices," he added.
Franklin’s choice to train and coach young boys (and girls since 1999) has never stopped being a great one. Since 1977 Eastern Football Club and Academy has introduced youthful players to a highly qualified coaching staff that recognizes the need to build and foster technique, tactical skills, fitness and attitude. Eastern has also aligned itself with the Academy at the Liverpool Football Club in England. Eastern players, both boys and girls, attend training sessions and play in games during regularly scheduled trips to the Academy. In addition, Ray Franklin established Eastern’s Soccer Academy residential camp which is currently being held at The Williston Northhampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts. The summer residential camp runs from mid-July through mid-August with four one-week sessions. His reasons for the in-depth and varied programs are simple. "If you want to be a good soccer player and you want to play in high school, college and possibly beyond, you need to play regularly," he said.
Currently the Eastern Football Club has fifteen teams of both boys and girls. Ages range from under 11 to 18 years old. Eastern plays indoor soccer in the winter months at the Underdome in Mount Vernon. When the weather changes, training turns to outdoor fields in Greenwich, Connecticut. Games are played locally and in neighboring states. Eastern also attends large soccer tournaments, giving players the opportunity to play against high quality teams and to be seen by prospective college coaches. "We have built a program that allows kids to play year round. We are a family-oriented soccer club with many of our players having a brother or sister on one of our other teams. We’ve seen our kids win the Connecticut State Cup Tournament five times and advance to the Eastern Regional five times as well. Our U-14 team was the National Champion in 2007 and some of our players have been High School All Americans. We even have a former player playing for the LA Galaxy now next to David Beckham," Franklin said.
Returning to his roots and the reason he became a soccer coach Ray Franklin has never wavered from his mission. "I want our kids to prepare themselves for life and a good education after high school. Soccer offers them a sense of confidence, increased skills, and a commitment to doing better. They take that with them when they leave Eastern," he said.
For more information about Eastern FC, its programs and the summer residential soccer camp, call (914) 864-2608 or visit easternsoccer.com.