Every January a soccer mecca of sorts takes place in the United States. Major League Soccer joins the party with their SuperDraft on a Thursday and the National Women's Soccer League holds their draft on Friday, but that is really the undercard to the gargantuan NSCAA Convention and the United States Youth Soccer Workshop that takes place the rest of the weekend. The result is a five-day-long collection of top soccer minds, and a global exchange of soccer concepts both on demo fields and in classroom settings.
The convention covers a comprehensive collection of topics as this selection of topics from Friday highlights:
9AM - 10AM: Top Trends in Technology: What's New and What's Next? - Brad Skeen
10:30AM - 11:30AM: Hosted Q&A with Peter Vermes - Manager of Sporting Kansas City
11:45AM - 12:45PM: Attacking In the Final Third - a classroom session taught by Vince Ganzberg, Assistant Director of Coaching at NSCAA
1PM - 2PM: Fighters or Victims? The Mindset of a Winning Soccer Team - Bill Beswick, Applied Sports Psychologist
2:30PM - 3:30PM: Creating Space for Passing Opportunities - a session on the demo fields with Anouschka Bernhard, Head Coach U-17 German Women's National Team
4PM - 5PM: A New Idea, A New Concept in Football - a classroom session taught by John Vila, Head of Methodology, FC Barcelona
Now that's a good day. Over the course of the five-day convention there are hundreds of classes like these offered.
A local club, FC Brandywine, sent four coaches to the event and I caught up with Jim Wallace, Technical Director, and Chris Goldkamp, Girls Travel Director, to get their thoughts on why they, along with many local clubs, annually make the trip to this convention.
Jim Wallace spoke about the different benefits for different positions within a club.
"When I used to be more a coach I came here and attended more of the field sessions to be a better coach. Now as Technical Director I spend more time in the classroom sessions, and I learn about the club structures and the last one I just went to about communicating with parents," Wallace said.
"For me it's primarily as a coach," said Chris Goldkamp. "I get perspective on technique, tactics, physical issues and psychological strategy through these sessions, and it improves my ability to progress through the years with the girls that I'm coaching."
Taking a look at the sample of classes it's evident that this convention is a global affair. Speakers from FC Barcelona and the German Women's National Team are just two examples. Jim Wallace is Scottish and has attended these types of events in Europe.
"We have nothing like this of this size in Europe," commented Wallace. "The Scottish Football Association now comes here because it's that big. And you can see that by a lot of European Federations, Bayern Munich, coming across to this convention. They say it's the biggest in the world."
Wallace continued, "In Europe when we go to these things it's usually all field sessions and Xs and Os. Here they are covering everything, which is an evolution of the game. Its about organization, sleep, nutrition, communicating with parents, and how to work with new technology."
The comprehensive classroom curriculum coupled with the globalization of the event makes this an invaluable resource for coaches and administrators.
"As a U.S. homegrown person you've also got a bunch of international instructors coming over here," said Goldkamp. "For people like Jim who know the game far better than a lot of the Americans do, I'm trying to learn from these Europeans who have been doing this a lot longer than we have."
Next year's convention will be a long trip for local clubs as it moves to Los Angeles. But the convention returns in Philadelphia in 2018 and projects to be an even bigger event.
Check out this video by Bill Beswick, renown Applied Sports Psychologist who spoke at the session "The Mindset of a Winning Soccer Team."