Football is Back and Focused
on the Fans

Meet San Diego Strike Force President/CEO Vivi Lin

Are you ready for some football? It’s more than just a Hank Williams Jr song, football has been part of the culture of San Diego since the ‘60s and with the departure of the Chargers, a worldwide pandemic, and quarantine, a new team emerges to fill the football void in America’s Finest City.

The field may be a little smaller and the rules slightly different, but the competitiveness and heart are the same as the Indoor Football League’s (IFL) San Diego Strike Force gears up to impact the community in ways we’ve never seen from professional athletes.

Helming this group of guys, is a woman. No ordinary women, not only is she the first Asian American appointed as President of a professional football team, but she has a specific vision for the players and the community at large.

Risen sat down with Vivi Lin to hear more about her story. How her love for sports, especially football developed, how her faith has shaped her, overcoming trauma, serving SOUP and stepping in to lead this team for such a time as this.

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: Football is back in San Diego! The city is ready for some fun after the pandemic keep most of us home for the better part of 2 years…. Share about Strike Force. 

Vivi Lin: Yes!The San Diego Strike Force has been around officially since 2018. It actually came under a different brand. Different identity. When I joined the team in September of 2019, the branding was changed to its current brand today. Two days before we were supposed to play our home opener, COVID shut us down and then sports just saw time to regroup, right? Which is what I did. I took a look at what are we going to do coming out of COVID.

I started looking at how do people feel safe? What do families need? At the end of the day, we’re going to be coming out different from this. We’re all aware of what an infection can do to a community that spreads quickly. Whether we agree how to treat it, or deal with it, it’s still going to affect all our lives. And that’s what I want to better understand.

Being a resident of San Diego that chooses San Diego to be my home. I grew up in the Bay Area. I lived in Hawaii and then I’ve done some career moves out to New York and to other parts of Southern California. My decision to live here was because… I love this community. I chose San Diego to be my home because of its culture, the community, the people, what it has to offer both indoor and outdoor activities. And I really fell in love, so it became my home.

So I feel like having had that experience with my community and the pain that I see our community go through without football. The loss of the Chargers [moving from San Diego to Los Angeles] is traumatic for a lot of football fans. The excitement of having the fleet come back and they’re playing a season and we’re doing great. And then 10 games into a 12 game season. They just disappear. It’s not even that they come and then they go. It’s just how the league has chosen to do that, or the ownership chose to do. It’s just, we’re leaving you. No embracing of what the community has given to the football teams. No appreciation for, “Hey, we appreciate you guys coming to our games” and having been part of our community, we want to carry you through. It was just, “we’re leaving you. See ya.”

So to be honest, this wasn’t something I planned to do. This was, I felt something I could do to give back to our community and here’s why: I love families. I love that we have so many military families. I love that we have veteran families. We have families who are into health. Families that love outdoor activities and sports. We are a family community. This is a great place to raise your family.

And for me, what’s here for the kids and what’s approachable for them. An IFL football team is. You can approach us. We’ll go out and teach your clinics. We’ll go to the schools and inspire your kids. That’s not just the players but even the CEO. Give me a call. I have a really strong faith and my faith directs me to look to my God to tell me, where am I going? What do I do? And what is my purpose? And my purpose overall is to inspire, to unite my community, to empower them, elevate them and encourage them. I call that my E to the power of three.

So if I’m not doing that, then what am I doing? Am I really serving the purpose that God has for me? And this football team became that opportunity. It is a platform that isn’t just for me, but for every player to understand that. To be able to go out and do the same. Kids look at professional football players. They look at high school football players. They look at college football players as heroes. So that’s what we want to do is make the choices to be able to inspire our community. And that’s why I’m doing what I do to bring this football team here to San Diego. I want to build fierce champions on the field that will win games for us, win championships, but I also want them to be great men in our community who win hearts with the people who live there.

RM: Speaking of people that inspire… you are the first Asian American president of a professional football team!

VL: It sounds really, glamorous. But it’s a title that comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s actually the bigger the title, the more responsibility. And for me, the responsibility is how do I take care of my staff? How do I take care of my coaches? And how do I take care of my players? When I am serving them, I serve their ability to serve their community. And that’s what it means to be the first person. That’s why being that first Asian American woman wasn’t a factor to think about it. I think it’s just an odd thing to say.

Opportunities come when you are ready to receive the opportunities. In other words, I didn’t say I’m going to achieve that. What I said was, I’m going to be my very best at doing everything that I do. And should that opportunity come along, I am prepared for it.

So when the opportunity came along, from a place of being in prayer and thinking about it, I realized this is a responsibility that I’m required, that I’m obligated to take on because I’ve been equipped to do it. And if I turn away it’s sort of like saying… if somebody handed me the keys to a Ferrari, I’m going to say, No. I better learn how to drive stick. I better make sure I know how to operate it. If I’m prepared, I’m going to take the car. I’m going to go for it. And that’s what I think God handed me, the keys to a Ferrari. Except in a football team.

RM: So when did your love for sports develop? Was football always the top or more about being around teams and developing them?

VL: Great question. I love telling this story because I only recently started reflecting. What did start my love for sports because it wasn’t my family. My parents are both immigrants and didn’t even know what football was. So when I was in high school, my best friends were four guys who we are still good friends today and they played football. All but one. And I wanted to support them at our football games. And that was the first time I experienced what football was in person. And in that I was thinking, this is really fun, and fell in love with the team concept. And then I wanted to join into competitive sports.

So I’m just going to make a little fun of myself here. I am Asian American and, I mean go figure, I played tennis. Yes, I played tennis and it’s a great sport. But it’s different when you have a different strategy on the field with 10 other guys in traditional football. So long story short, it started there. That was my interest. All my friends played competitive sports in high school or college. And then I am the only one of all our friends who made sports a career and did it for the rest of my life.

And it’s not just football. I love the stories of football. I started off in broadcast television news and I found traditional news to be depressing and sad. Information, I understand but the focus is so negative that I was seeking something else. I found that sports was a bunch of stories of overcoming from being the under to adversity, to other physical challenges, and/or mental challenges. And I thought these are great stories because this is what we are in life and I started working with extreme sports. Started off with surfing and skateboarding, and then eventually started doing some work with baseball and eventually ended up here. So it’s team sports, but I do happen to love football the best.

RM: Was there a specific moment when you thought I can make that transition from loving sports to actually being my career?

VL: That’s really interesting because you’re asking like I planned it, and I just didn’t plan it. Here’s the only thing I would say is when you follow your heart and you commit to it, no matter what failures and obstacles and challenges you face, you will work through them and get better through them. That’s ultimately all I did was follow my heart, and what I love. And I will say, it’s not saying I love this team. I get a lot of that. I love the Chargers or I love this team or that team. I love that you love the team, you should definitely be a fan, but you have got to love the business of people. If you are in sports, it has to be a business of people. You’re blessed to work in a field that you love, happen to love that sport or not. But I’ve worked plenty of fields where I didn’t love that sport, didn’t know much about it and learned and grew because I love working with people.

RM: You talked about your faith and how it’s been a driving force into how you communicate with people, let alone run a team. Share how faith has shaped your life.

VL: It’s every day, every moment. It’s going to make me cry just talking about it. You know, I should not be here. There are circumstances in my life where I probably should have died. Now, when you think about it, I think, “okay, don’t be over dramatic” because nobody wants to think that you’ve gone through a circumstance where you came that close to death. But truthfully for a 20-year-old kid who went through what I went through… essentially, I was kidnapped. It was a work situation. Somebody didn’t want me to succeed. And I went through a situation where I was in a foreign country, didn’t know if I was able to get back, didn’t have a vehicle, didn’t have money. And hitched a ride across the border. And I didn’t even live in San Diego at the time.

So I believe God brought me across that border and He kept me alive for a reason. Now I wasn’t a believer then, I didn’t have a strong faith at that time. I think like many Americans, we’re like, “Oh yeah, there’s a God.” But for me, I came to understand that He was using that circumstance as an opportunity for Him to communicate to me. He was not going to forsake me. And it still took me a little time, maybe another six months to kind of really grasp that. But, it was a young 18-year-old intern who tapped me on the shoulder, seeing my angst, seeing my anger, seeing my pain and asked if he could invite me to his church. He can use anybody, any age. If your heart is open, you can share that kind of love and God can use you. And within months I realized that I was meant for something more. I was meant for a bigger purpose. Surviving the incident that I did was not on my strength. It was because God brought me through it and He has something planned for me. So no matter how depressed I got, how challenging the trauma was for me, how many times I wanted to die, I remember that my God had something bigger for me and I needed to just keep pressing through. So that ultimately is my testimony. That is how I found God and I realize that I cannot do that life without him.

RM: Thank you for sharing that, so powerful. Carrying that into assembling a team, from the front office to the players, share your mission.

VL: My front office team are people who have a huge passion for this community, first and foremost. You don’t have to love football to serve this community. Football is easy to learn. Loving this community is not something I can give you. I can train you in the skills of the jobs but your heart to serve has to come first. So this team is assembled, including the players, on a message that I share all the time called Serving SOUP. And it’s more relevant now than it’s ever been because of COVID. We are coming out of a lot of hurt, pain, loneliness, fear and confusion. The community is hurting and my message is how do I serve SOUP? Because when we don’t feel good and we’re feeling sick, we want soup. We’re not looking for a big old steak with potatoes.

So what does S.O.U.P. mean for me? It’s selfless service. It’s an acronym for selfless service: S – Serving others, just like Jesus did for us. He came to this earth to serve us first. And then O – Ownership. What is my part? Jesus knew He had to die on the cross because that was His part in order to serve all of us. Who wants to die on a cross? He even asked dad, is this the only way I have to do it? Yes it is. Then I will do it. So you own your part. Then U – Unify, look for ways to do this. How do I bring people together? How do I encourage them to come together? Not look at our differences. Just like Jesus walked this earth, He saw that we were different. From the believers and non-believers. Those who followed him, those who didn’t. But He converted how many non-believers to his disciples? Because He looked to what unifies. And then P – Purpose. What is our bigger purpose? It isn’t to be famous. It isn’t to be the biggest name in the world. I always say what one individual in the history of mankind is more recognizable than any other name? And it’s Jesus. He did the best marketing plan ever.

RM: Without social media. [Laughter]

VL: Without social media, I’ll give you that. And it’s because He served. He had his ownership and He did his part and He did nothing but selflessly unite the community. And that is what I say to my players and to my front office. It isn’t about winning games on the field. Yes, we must win because that is the goal that we have as a team. We must win championships, but they are not a purpose. Our purpose is how do we use the winning and the championships to convey our vision, our message.

How do we inspire you? How do we share light? God’s light ultimately. Love into this community? Is it feeding you through the food banks? Is it encouraging your children and scholarship them into camps? Which we’re doing with Impact, with FQ10 and Strike Force, we’re giving out scholarships. Is it going to skilled nursing and memory care facilities to encourage them when they feel alone? Maybe their family members have passed away and they’re by themselves. How do we come and be your family? That’s the purpose of winning. That’s the purpose of bringing a championship back to San Diego. It’s only to give us the resources and the tools to equip us to serve even more.

Our head coach, David Beezer has never had a losing season. Ever. And he is a leader of men. So when I chose Coach Beezer, I wanted to look at someone who was fiercely competitive on the field, but also knew it started from providing that fire. Igniting it in these young men and knowing that you do it with integrity because you are as much who you are on the field as you are off the field. And that is Coach Beezer. So I have no doubt that he is recruiting the very best talent for our team. And we’re the underdog. The fact that we hired all our local coaches, we hired local talent and shop for local talent first, the league doesn’t believe that we’re going to be competitive at all. But I say, watch out IFL. See what San Diego has to offer because we’re going to bring it.

Score! Join the Pros and Kick Off Summer with Camp

Play and learn with professional athletes and coaches at the San Diego Strike Force Camps. Ages 5-14 can select a week of camp, based on age group, and immerse themselves in all things football. The coaching staff is experienced in their fields as well as how to mentor youth. They will equip your children with tools for success in sport and in life. Plus professional dance instructors are putting on hip-hop camp where kids can explore the high energy world of hip hop dance and learn basics, famous dance moves, and upbeat choreography.

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