Ever since Ryan Madden was hired as the Senior Director of Communications for the Colorado Rapids in June 2017, we have seen a shift in the level of transparency coming from the club. He’s easy to connect with on Twitter and frequently reaches out to fans and members of the media. Earlier this season, he was good enough to sit down (well, to be truthful, walk around) with the Burgundy Wave to tell us a bit about himself, his role, and the ups-and-downs of managing communications for the Rapids.
Prepared to sit in an office somewhere and ask a few questions, Ryan suggested we go for a walk. And we did, around the edge of the pitch.
Falling in Love with Soccer
Most of us remember that one game or that one player that got us hooked on the sport, and for Madden, it was June 22, 1994.
“I grew up in Southern California – Orange County – and was fortunate in that my dad bought my entire family tickets to the 1994 World Cup match between the U.S. and Colombia at the Rose Bowl,” he said. “I was pretty young and had never had any real exposure to soccer to that point. My brother and I followed college football and basketball, but soccer wasn’t really on our radar. I was 10 years old and completely clueless about any of the big European leagues. But thinking back to that day in Pasadena, two things really stuck out: One, I remember parking outside the Rose Bowl and we had to walk through a tunnel to get into the stadium. Everywhere around us, fans were decked out in those famous denim kits and chants of, ‘Ole, ole, ole, ole… USA… USA!’ were deafening – echoing around the concourse. My brother and I had no real clue what was going on, but the energy and passion were infectious. It only took one song. We were all in.”
Madden’s second big soccer memory involved our very own local favorite Marcelo Balboa.
“Sitting in our seats, sun blazing down, the USMNT won a corner on the far side of the field, under the press box. The corner was whipped in and future Rapids legend Marcelo Balboa went for a full bicycle kick, hit it flush, and only missed by a couple of inches. The place went silent. Stunned. And then slowly people started clapping until it became a sort of standing ovation. It left a mark.”
Madden added, “I think looking back, if it wasn’t for my dad getting those tickets, for the World Cup being in Southern California, for the US beating Colombia — it’s possible I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. It’s interesting how those small moments can change your life in a positive way. I’m very grateful for June 22, 1994. It instilled in me a real devotion to the game that never went away. And now as a new dad, I’m already looking forward to 2026, maybe I can provide a similar experience for my son and bring it full circle.”
Managing Communications for the Rapids
It was here that we approached section 121 and what my boys and I affectionately call, ‘Our home away from home.’ We climbed the 12 rows and planted ourselves in seats 1 and 2, new seats for us this year. We wanted to be closer to the action.
This is our fifth year as season ticket holders, but have been fans longer than that, so we’ve been through seasons like 2016 as well as the (more frequent) tougher times. I asked Madden about the challenges of communicating with Rapids fans who’ve been through so many lean years.
“At my core, I’m a fan. We all are. I’m a fan of the USMNT, a diehard fan of the University of Missouri. I’m a fan of the Rapids. So I can tell you that in a lot of ways, as someone who now is fortunate enough to work in sports, you know from experience that emotions run both ways,” he explained. “So, when things are good, you’re going to get the best out of people, and when things aren’t good, it’s possible for some of those more negative emotions to come to the fore as well. That doesn’t worry us. We want people to feel strongly about what we’re doing. We want people to care. A bit of negativity here or there isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. What would be concerning is if people stopped caring.”
He continued, “And I think we’re making some really great strides. I think this past offseason is a good example of that. Under Padraig and Wayne’s leadership, this is a club that spends a great deal of time asking ourselves how we can best represent our community. Working in the front office, we’re never going to kick a ball or go flying into a challenge. But what we can do and what a lot of our focus is on, is doing all we can to tie this club to the community it represents and to Colorado. We care about what people think and we want to make them proud.”
Madden also knows that the club will be ultimately judged on what they can achieve on the field.
“I know some fans are disappointed with the results lately, and they have every right to be. We’re disappointed, too. But as someone who comes to work here every day, I’m fortunate to get to see all the positive things going on that maybe are not immediately visible, and that we believe will ultimately help us be successful in the long term,” he explained. Madden mentioned things like hiring a Head of Sports Science and improving the medical team, the academy where “in just nine years 15 players have gone on to be professionals, and 100-plus to the college level,” improving the in-stadium experience, and the great work being done by the digital team. He also mentioned the Community Relations department and the Special Olympics program, “which is one of the most important things that we do here.”
As we walked back to his office, Madden had one final reflection: “Sports organizations don’t, by their mere existence, have a right to be supported. You get what you put in. And for those of us who come to work every day at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, we want to give everything we have.”
Madden started his career in finance, covered the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Women’s World Cup for CONCACAF.com and wrote an international soccer column for the Huffington Post. Before coming to the Rapids, Madden worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, overseeing strategic communications for the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).