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NSCAA Conference: More Than Just The MLS SuperDraft

The most publicized event of the week is the MLS SuperDraft, but the NSCAA Convention is a 5-day long exhibition of all aspects of the soccer world. From t-shirts to Teqball, and everything in between, it's an immense undertaking to see it all.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This is my first year attending the NSCAA Conference. I did not attend the event's last two visits to the City of Brotherly Love back in 2010 and 2014. The acronym stands for National Soccer Coaches' Association of America, and this event is informative and entertaining for more than those who conduct training sessions. The exhibit hall is a room full of equipment manufacturers, training systems, travel companies, and more. Academies, local and international, sell training packages at their locations, to bring club teams to their coaches and facilities. Given the weather here in Philadelphia, who wouldn't want to plan a trip to train at LA Galaxy Academy or AC Milan? There are also a great number of tournament organizers here recruiting for their events. They go hand in hand with the college recruiting services, who can help those tournament players get into college and continue their development.

There are also a bevy of equipment manufacturers on site. Their primary focus is whole team outfitting, but there are also vendors who work in individual sales, with generous discounts for attendees. Aside from the standard custom screen-printing vendors, boot makers, ball sellers, and the like, they also show off some high-end technological advances in the field. Player safety is a growing concern at all levels of sport, and this exhibit has equipment to revolutionize the standard shin guards and keeper gloves, while others have the latest in head gear and vital systems monitoring. The technology doesn't stop with heart rates and internal body temperature, as they have systems for team playing analytics, and ball-striking metrics.

Facilities aren't neglected, either. There are several types of playing surface vendors here, from sport grass, to interlocking plastic indoor tiles. The training goals come in various sizes and forms, such as collapsible to inflatable. They even have training tools designed to be used in the house. From fencing to pass a ball into so that one can work on one-touch passing, to something of a metronome that allows someone to time their juggling without the risk of the ball bouncing away and breaking a lamp.

There are also things that don't cost us anything additional, such as the playing demos. I sat in on Tony DiCicco's session where he demonstrated his teaching methods developing play out of the back utilizing the goal keeper. I watch first team soccer, so in skipping to the "finished product" so to speak, I am not acutely aware of the methods by which coaches get their players to that level. It's a rare treat to witness the teaching of someone who lead a team to a World Cup title. The Convention has many other coaches of this level as well, including Tommy Wilson. He's the former Scottish National Team manager who currently oversees Philadelphia Union's youth academy.  His demo was about how to teach transition play. The methods are far more advanced than when I played as a kid, where the coach was happy if we didn't all chase the ball all game. I don't have any plans to become a coach any time soon, but as a fan of the game, I found it quite intriguing to see how it is the beautiful game is developed at the grass roots level.

Administration also is quite well represented here. Speakers touch on all topics from how to organize leagues to fundraising for leagues in underserved populations. The convention comes to a head with a 4 v 4 tournament in the demo hall, which becomes a bit of a party as those who are not playing can take advantage of the complimentary "refreshments". There are opportunities to meet players and coaches from all over the country, and it's neat to hear about how players are elsewhere. Overall, it's a great event to attend, so when it's in Baltimore next year, or when it's back in Philadelphia in 2018, it's well worth the visit.

Feel free to reach out to me about the Convention here, or on Twitter, @UnholyUnionNDY