Club Feature – Black Bear FC

Hello again! Welcome to another Club Feature at SmallWorld. This time, the club on tap is Black Bear FC, an independent club out of Birmingham, AL, with an intriguing mission.

Black Bear was founded by Gavin Owens, and I had the pleasure of getting in touch with Gavin in order to learn more about who the club is.

But in order to know who Black Bear is, I wanted to know a little about who Gavin is himself.

I grew up just outside of Birmingham and played soccer for the various youth clubs we have. It wasn’t until my Sophmore year of High School that the Birmingham Hammers (NPSL) was formed. I was fortunate enough to play on a Hammers Jrs. squad that competed in the Spring before the Hammers took the field for that summer.

Gavin Owens, Black Bear FC

One of many who finds a love for the game and is able to nourish that through local soccer. What sets Gavin apart, though, is what he did once that passion was planted in him.

That feeling of playing for something bigger than just a youth club or Sunday league team is what inspired me to start Black Bear FC. I want to provide opportunities for players in the Birmingham area to showcase their talents while also being an option for them to continue playing the game they love.

Gavin Owens

That’s a pretty special response to having an opportunity to play high-quality soccer; he decided to make that happen for others around him, too. And thus, Black Bear began. As many in the lower-league community know, however, starting a soccer club isn’t so simple and easy as speaking it into existence.

I wanted to know about what kinds of difficulties the club has faced as a new team in a market that’s covered by a professional club. Gavin’s response was one of the more intriguing and thought-provoking I’ve heard from this type of question.

Black Bear FC is more of a project created to fulfill different needs with very different goals in mind. Our impact is on a much smaller scale with a focus on the little things that we can impact. From reaching out to small non-profits and start-ups to partner with for games, to giving a player another way to meet new people that like soccer too.

Gavin (because we’re on a first-name basis at this point)

Black Bear is one of the more honest clubs I’ve come across. It doesn’t feel like they’re looking too far ahead into what the future could hold, but instead working to do what they can in the present moment. That’s awfully refreshing in an American soccer world of league expansion, million-dollar investments, and constant emphasis on growth and monetary gain.

The odds of us uniting the city are very slim; however, we recognize the odds of us making a profound impact on a handful of individuals are much higher. We know that our role is not to unite the entire city, but rather unite the people that are close enough for us to reach.


Again, keeping expectations at a healthy level. Doing what they know they can do well, and doing it in a way that inspires others to do their part as well.

Still, I couldn’t help but ask Gavin if he had any particular plans for Black Bear’s near future, or at least if he had any expectations for what could lie ahead. What he said really resonated with me.

At this point, there is no telling how big Black Bear can become. In the end, my goal for the club is to simply inspire other people to take a chance on starting their own club. If it means that 1 or 2 other clubs form, then I would say I’ve achieved that goal.

This connects for me quite a bit because it’s similar to my thought process when I started SmallWorld Soccer. I knew it wasn’t likely to reach the masses, but I did believe it could impact one or two people and help them appreciate lower-league soccer.

With that in mind, Gavin and Black Bear as a whole are a huge inspiration to me, and equally so to many others in the lower-league soccer community. If you appreciate what Black Bear is doing and how they’re doing it like I do, show them love on SmallWorld Social and in the comments!

Also, check out the fantastic online store Black Bear has set up. Make sure to support them and do yourself a favor by buying some of their merch!

Support local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!




By danny kotula

danny kotula is an aspiring sports writer and play-by-play commentator. unfortunately, he is not good at either one. his interests include watching soccer and listening to obscure music genres, and those aren’t even his most boring ones. he was born in Tacoma, Washington but has called South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, California, Georgia, and Costa Rica home over the course of his life. he generally knows where to put a comma, which is by far his most redeeming quality. he is writing this in third person as if he were famous enough for someone to write him a biography, but don’t be fooled. he’s not famous.

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