NSCAA Convention 2015: Learning, networking, fun – who’d wanna miss out?
None? Me neither. How many times have I lamented the fact that kids don’t come with instruction manuals? They just hand ‘em to you and send you home to try and figure it out. Imagine that, the most important job in the world, and we’re left to make it up as we go. Our first born has now figured out that she was pretty much trial and error.
Yeah, Dr. Spock has a book and there are plenty of articles and magazines out there. But the best advice came to us from the trenches: trusted friends who had done this before and, by all accounts, were getting it pretty right. Times keep changing, rules keep updating and the culture keeps knocking at my door. Thank goodness I have had experienced folks to consult on the subject who are generous with their time and attention and patient with my attempts.
What about coaching? What kind of coaching certification do you have?
None? Maybe you’ve read up and gone online and taken some advice from your neighbor. There are lots of soccer books out there, mine included, and plenty of articles, websites and magazines. But nothing beats the face to face with experienced folks where you can sit ringside for teaching demo’s, then ask your questions and sketch out a few X’s and O’s.
And you’re in luck because some of the best advice, teaching and mentoring on the planet is available at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Convention taking place in Philadelphia this week! (January 14- 18) For those in my local area, the Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) Convention is January 30-31.
Both events, and others like them around the country, are full of great workshops, field sessions and hands-on exhibits. Chat it up with folks who know about recovery heart rates, training equipment, turf fields, technology to track game stats, buying uniforms and fund raising.
And, the networking with other coaches and parents is incredibly inspiring. Just walking the halls of the convention center with thousands of other people like you who are dedicated to bringing the beautiful game to the next generation of players is, well, pretty amazing. Plus you get to meet some of that next generation.
But be ready to rub shoulders with some famous folks. Amazing how many suddenly close friends Anson Dorrance has, or Kristine Lilly, or Michelle Akers or Marta or Pele. There will be plenty who speak soccer – ahem, futbol – with an international accent, you can be sure.
Call me sappy, but a highlight for me last year was stopping Tony DiCicco in a moment when no one else was around to thank him for writing the book, “Catch Them Being Good.” It still inspires everything I do as a coach of girls and young women. I’m sure he remembers me…not. But, hey, a thank you is a thank you.
Honestly, it was not until I got the glimpses the conventions gave me of the inside of soccer that I realized just how much the beautiful game keeps changing. Smart people are studying the players, analyzing the game, debating the best systems of play, better approaches, better player development, healthier training, and they’re handing it out to everyone who comes by. The committed folks know that, just like any other life pursuit, continuing education is a must if we want to keep abreast of the latest developments and best practices.
Even if you have never had any formalized coaching training, there’s a beginner track to earn a coaching diploma, or you can dabble in tons of sessions just to see what’s out there. If you’ve been coaching a long time and the last time you updated your certification was 1994 when you earned your National Youth License, it’s well past time.
If you’re a parent and want to know more about becoming a coach or just want to know what to expect from the coach you’re paying handsomely to train your team, you might start by checking out the latest in the education opportunities available.
Hey, from September to June we send them to school where they spend seven to eight hours every weekday (barring snow and ice) with people who are certified to teach, trained in the curriculum, held accountable to the benchmarks and required to participate in regular training and to earn continuing education on top of that.
Why? Because we want our kids to succeed. If we want our kids to succeed at soccer, doesn’t it make sense that those coaches are regularly engaged in learning the game and the best approaches to teaching and working with young athletes?
You won’t get a better close up at what that looks like than at the conventions.
As parents, we owe it to our kids to keep becoming better parents.
As coaches, we owe it to our players to keep becoming better coaches.
As administrators, we owe it to our clubs to keep becoming better administrators.
There are opportunities for growth out there. It’s our responsibility to take advantage of them.
If you’re in Philly, stop by the Fit2Finish Booth (#244) to say hello! And if you’re in the D.C. metro area, I’ll be looking for you in Arlington, VA on January 31!