Jordan Koschei jordan koschei

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How I Became a Soccer Announcer

Stockade FC
Stockade FC vs. Greater Lowell United FC (May 2016) Photo: Mario Rabadi @ FairPlay Magazine

I’ve never been a “sports guy.”

Remember that kid in elementary school who was woefully uncoordinated, and didn’t know the rules to any of the games in gym? That was me. I was a computer kid — too busy tinkering with QBasic and making little movies and computer games to bother with anything athletic.

Not much has changed in the two decades since. But somehow, with no experience and no knowledge of soccer, I’ve become the stadium announcer for a semi-pro soccer team.

A Little Background

I live in the Hudson Valley, about 90 miles north of New York City. Though the region tends to fly under-the-radar, we’re in the middle of a cultural renaissance. Our food-and-drink scene is already legendary and continues to grow in influence; we’ve long been a haven for artists, writers, and musicians; our film industry is expanding rapidly. Best of all, we’re seeing a surge in the tech sector, spurred on by homegrown talent as well as an influx of tech folks from NYC who are “graduating” into upstate life.

What we don’t have, though, is a solid local sports culture.

In 2015, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley founded Stockade FC, a fourth-division soccer club based out of the Hudson Valley city of Kingston. The plan was to bring the ethos of a tech startup to local soccer — information would be open-sourced, so other clubs could have an easier start, and the organization would be more tech-forward than most local sports teams.

In the three years since then, Stockade has become a local institution. It’s won its regional conference, gained high-profile sponsors like Lyft and AT&T, and put D4 soccer on the map among people (like me) who previously didn’t know or care. In 2018, Stockade qualified for the US Open Cup (a big deal). Perhaps best of all, it’s inspired other small teams to do similar work, sparking a groundswell in grassroots soccer community.

So how in the world did I get involved?

My Part of the Story

Germany, 2014

In 2014, I decided to tag along on my extended family’s annual trip to Germany. I wanted a cultural primer so I’d know what I was getting myself into, and for Germany, that meant understanding soccer. So, I invested in a copy of FIFA 2014 and started playing short games so I’d learn the rules.

“This is fun,” I remember thinking, “but I’d be much more invested if there was some local soccer culture in the Hudson Valley.”

CatskillsConf, 2015

At a local tech conference in 2015, I ran into Dennis Crowley, the founder of Foursquare and someone I knew from the Hudson Valley tech community. He mentioned that he was working on an idea for a community project that was going to be announced soon.

“I’m always up to talk about local tech projects,” I said.

“This one isn’t tech-related,” he said.

Kingston, 2015

One morning in November 2015, I was browsing Twitter and saw Dennis tweet an announcement:

Awesome! I felt supremely pumped — a massive surge of esprit de corps for the whole Hudson Valley. I decided to drive over to Kingston, a few towns over from my place, just to soak up some of the community spirit.

I was sitting in a local coffee shop when my friend Kale walked in. Kale is an institution in the local tech community — he cofounded the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup as well as CatskillsConf, and generally knows about everything happening in the area.

I waved him over, and he sat down across from me.

“We’re getting a soccer team! How great is this?”

Kale told me he was going to be involved with the operations side of the team. Half-jokingly, I said: “If you guys ever need an emcee, let me know. That would be fun.”

Kale, not joking, said: “I’ll bring that up.”

And that was that.

What it Means to Announce for a D4 Soccer Team

I sit in the press box of the stadium with a microphone and watch the game.

Jordan Koschei announcing for Stockade FC
A definitely-not-staged picture of me announcing for Stockade FC.

Thankfully, I don’t have to give any play-by-play commentary — that’s left for people with more knowledge and experience than I have, who narrate the livestream.

My role is simple:

  • 🎤 Make the opening announcements. I talk about our sponsors, make any announcements about the stadium or merch table, and give a quick intro for each team.
  • 🇺🇸 Introduce the national anthem singer.
  • #️⃣ Announce the starting 11 for each team. (With slightly more enthusiasm for the home team, of course).
  • ⚽️ Say “goal” unenthusiastically when the other team scores. Shout “GOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL” with Steve Ballmer-like enthusiasm when Stockade scores.
  • 🔁 Announce substitutions as they happen. Generally this involves seeing that a substitution is happening, squinting to see what number jerseys are being substituted, asking whoever else is in the booth with me if they can see the number, and then tapping on the window to get the attention of the commentators, who will hopefully hold up a sticky note with the numbers in case I missed it.
  • 🎟 Make halftime announcements, such as announcing the match attendance or reminding people to participate in the day’s 50/50 raffle.
  • ⏪ Make the end-of-game announcements, including final scores, goal recap, and information about the next match.

Since starting, we’ve made some refinements to the process:

  • 📜 I’ve written up a script template, making it easy to fill in info for each match.
  • 🗒 I now write out sticky notes for each team, with the current lineup on the desk in front of me and the bench elsewhere. When a substitution is made, I can just swap out the appropriate sticky notes, making it easier to keep track of who’s where.
  • 🔑 I keep a pronunciation guide for the players with trickier last names.
  • 🐦 I keep Twitter open to the Stockade FC and Dutch Guard accounts (The Dutch Guard is our fan organization), to make sure I’m up-to-date on game-related chatter.

Compared to the other volunteer roles, being the stadium announcer is thoroughly low-pressure. The trickiest part is keeping an eye on the player numbers and making sure that no goals or substitutions go unannounced; when a lot it happening at once, that can be a challenge, and it definitely helps to have someone else in the booth to confirm what just happened and update the sticky notes. Regardless, I think it’s the best job there — I get to watch the game from the press box, where it’s shady in the sun and sheltered in the rain.

Best of all, it feels great to be involved with an organization that’s helping to build the community I love. The world is built by the the people who show up — this is a way for me to show up and help with something I’d otherwise lack the skillset to be involved with.


You can follow Stockade FC on Twitter at @stockadefc, or find out more (and buy merch) at stockadefc.com.

Farewell, Agrilyst. Hello, Dwell & Lightstock!

Yesterday, April 20th, was my last day at Agrilyst.

I’ll try not to be a tech industry cliché with an overwrought blog post about leaving one job and “moving on to new adventures.” But I do want to commemorate my 21 months at Agrilyst with some standout memories:

  • 🐻 My first company retreat at Bear Mountain State Park, just a few days after I joined, where I laughed harder than I can ever remember laughing as we played ridiculous team-building games. That was when I realized that the environment at Agrilyst was going to be much different than I was used to.
  • 📈 Seeing how much traction our annual State of Indoor Farming survey would get, and being really proud of my role in bringing the website and PDF to life.
  • 👥 Working with all those great people. I won’t list them all by name, but I feel truly privileged to have been able to work with such a smart, driven, caring group of colleagues.
  • 🗝 Doing an escape room as a team-building exercise. The resulting pictures are ridiculous.
  • 🚒 Sleeping at a creepy Airbnb in Brooklyn during one of our company on-sites. It was a reconditioned old firehouse, which sounds cool and Ghostbusters-esque until you get there and realize that the pipes made a noise like a tea kettle the entire night.
  • 📸 Going to Indoor Ag Con in Las Vegas and finding out we had Agrilyst groupies. Seriously — one customer rushed up to our booth and insisted on getting a picture with us to send home.
  • 😊 Hearing from customers who genuinely loved our product. When doing product work, it’s easy to fixate on everything you know could be better, and forget to appreciate everything that’s already working. Having customers tell you they’re happy is a good way to snap out of that.

When I started at Agrilyst I’d been reading a lot of Michael Pollan books, and this job seemed like the perfect way to fuse my skills and talents with my interest in the food and agriculture industry. I love that I can say that I worked for a company that genuinely cares for farmers, and is doing something important to help feed the next billion humans.

So what’s next?

Jed Bartlet putting on his jacket

I’ll be joining the team at Little Lea, a company that builds two products:

Lightstock, a stock photography site aimed at churches and other faith organizations. Their photos are really solid, and free of the cheesiness that has unfortunately become a hallmark of church graphic design — other organizations source images from them too, including National Geographic and Penguin Random House.

Dwell is an audio Scripture app — think Audible or Overcast, but specifically for the Bible. It started as a Kickstarter, and became the fourth most highly-backed app of all time. This is something I’ve wanted for a while, ever since I tried to find a good audio Bible and found one read by James Earl Jones… only to realize that it had background music of cheap MIDI renditions of early 90s worship songs. Dwell is the remedy to that. Think of it as NeuBible for audio.

If you know me well, you probably know that I’m passionate about helping the Church pursue excellence. For too long, believers have been willing to settle for music, art, and design that’s a pale imitation of what the rest of the world has to offer. In my conversations with the Dwell/Lightstock team, I was impressed by their dedication to doing truly excellent work — not because they want to outdo anyone, but because they want to do justice to their calling. I love that. I’m thrilled to be joining such a team — I think I can both learn a lot and offer a lot. And I’m looking forward to doing my part for a cause I care about — helping the Church to rekindle its love and appreciation of beauty.

Let’s go!

Asking the Right Questions

So much of my design career has hinged on writing. My first real exposure in the design industry came from writing opinion pieces for The Industry; my first job in a design agency came after the CEO read something I wrote and asked if I’d be willing to sit down and talk.

I’ve been writing less lately, since product work takes up most of my day and I jealously guard my personal time otherwise, but it feels good to see something I wrote in-the-wild occasionally.

You can read the post here: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Annihilation

Southern Reach Trilogy book covers
Book covers of the Southern Reach trilogy, courtesy of Wired.

A section of the Florida coast has suddenly, inextricably reverted back to nature. All traces of human life have begun to degrade, and the region — now behind a shimmering border of unknown origin — is only accessible via a hole of indeterminate size and stability.

A government agency known as the Southern Reach has been sending in expeditions to determine the cause and properties of the phenomenon. Each expedition has failed, plagued by disappearances, deaths, cancers, and mental trauma. We pick up with the Twelfth Expedition, comprised of four women known only by their functions: the Biologist, the Anthropologist, the Surveyor, and the Psychologist. What they encounter inside the phenomenon (known as Area X) can only be described as weird.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge shoreline near Lighthouse
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, on which Area X was based. This public domain image comes from Wikipedia.

That’s the beginning of Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy by author Jeff VanderMeer. The trilogy is stranger and more unsettling than can be conveyed in those two introductory paragraphs. VanderMeer is a writer of weird fiction, picking up the mantle left by authors like Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

It’s hard to pigeonhole the trilogy into a particular genre. It’s science fiction, I suppose, but only in that it’s fiction that involves science. I’ve heard it described as “bio-horror,” which sort of fits, since it deals a lot with bizarre and macabre elements of biology: animals that appear to be plants. Plants in the shape of humans. Weird chimeras of unknown origin.

VanderMeer has crafted a world that’s so fully-realized that leaving the book feels like waking up from a dream. It’s been two months since I put down the last book, and I still find my thoughts drifting back to it.

The lighthouse. The brightness. The strange fate of Saul Evans.


There’s a movie adaptation of Annihilation coming out starring Natalie Portman, and I probably won’t see it.

It’s not that I don’t want to. I loved every page of the Southern Reach trilogy. But it was also the most unnerving, dread-inducing, existentially horrific book I’ve ever been unable to put down. VanderMeer is an expert at creating a tone of mystery permeated by fear and dread. There were parts that made me nauseous. There were parts that made me short of breath. I have no desire to see those things brought to life on-screen.

There’s also my fear that the trilogy can’t be properly adapted into film. So much of Annihilation takes place in The Biologist’s head, and so much of it involves being able to make connections between words and phrases and thoughts in the character’s interior life. For a book so thoroughly about the nature of communication, something’s bound to get lost in translation.

Finally — and this is even though Jeff VanderMeer himself has given the movie his seal of approval — the movie was written based on the first book alone, ignoring the second two in the trilogy. The trilogy was released over the course of an 8-month period, and functions as a cohesive whole. The first book is informed by the second and third, so creating a standalone work without understanding the latter two makes it a different thing than the books. I suspect it will be more of a tonal successor than a strict adaptation.


I loved the Southern Reach trilogy, but I also don’t know if I can recommend it outright. As with any media, I think it’s wise to consider how it will affect you: Will I be a better person for reading this? Will reading this be time well spent? How will this affect my spiritual life?

Had I known how disturbing the book would be, I’m not sure I would’ve chosen to continue reading it. On the other hand, had I predicted the richness of the experience, I don’t know if I could have chosen to do otherwise.

Read, Write, Communicate

I’ve always preferred to use different devices for production and consumption: I like to use the computer to create things and do work, and my tablet/phone to consume content (read articles, watch Netflix, listen to podcasts, etc).

I don’t like to muddle those two modes — it’s too easy to get sidetracked. If I use the same screen for production and consumption, it’s far too easy to start working and find myself on YouTube, or reading Hacker News.

Recently, I decided to divide up those tasks further. I don’t want to use my phone for consumption anymore, but just for communication. As I wrote previously, I want to embrace boredom, stay aware of my surroundings, and not feel compelled to spend every moment consuming information.

With that in mind, here’s the new division of labor between my devices:

  • Macbook Pro — Writing, design, code, etc. Anything industrial-grade related to work.
  • iPhone — Communication. I removed Tweetbot and Instapaper, and reinstalled Moment to remind me if I’ve spent more than 15 minutes using the phone for anything besides its intended purpose.
  • iPad Pro — Consumption. I’ve got Tweetbot, Reeder, and Instapaper installed (plus the usual video services). If I want to read, I’ll do it here.

It’s working well so far, but it’s only been a few days. Keeping the division sharp between those modes of thinking feels cleaner, somehow, than using every device for every purpose.

Increasing Optionality

One heuristic I find useful for making decisions is: will this increase or decrease my optionality?

In other words, will a given decision open up the range of future options available to me?

I have a friend who lived, for several years, off of 50% of his salary. This gave him several options that most of us don’t have:

  1. Each year he worked gave him enough money in the bank to spend a year not working, while maintaining the same quality of life. (Or, in his case, working entirely on personal projects without drawing a salary).
  2. He could take a much lower-paying job without having to adjust his lifestyle. If he found a job he was passionate about that paid only half his current salary, he could take it without downsizing his life.

Conversely, if someone is living off 100% of their salary, their options for other jobs are constrained — they either need to find work with equal or higher salary, or they need to downsize.

Debt is the prime example of a constraint on financial choices. If I take out a loan, it may increase my short-term optionality (I have more immediate funds to work with), but decrease my long-term optionality (a larger chunk of my income is now devoted to repaying debt)

Money is an easy example, but there are plenty of others:

  • If I have a pet, will it constrain my ability to travel?
  • If I take on volunteer commitments, will it constrain my ability to spend time working on a side project?
  • If I take a trip and plan out what I’m doing every hour, will it hamper my ability to make choices in-the-moment and do what seems interesting?

I suppose this is all related to opportunity cost — time and resources are finite, so we can’t do one thing without reducing our bandwidth to do other things. Optionality is about understanding your priorities.

It strikes me that life is largely built around choosing where we’re comfortable reducing our available options, in order to open up more options.

I choose to work a full-time job because, even though it reduces my available time by 40 hours a week, it increases my available resources to spend on the other 128 hours.

I choose to work on my side projects because I value them more than I value whatever diversions I could spend that time doing.

At any branch in the path, though, I still find it useful to ask myself: will this increase or decrease my range of available options?