„Field report about the biggest soccer coaches convention in the world“
by Ruben Hornberger [MS in Exercise Science]
Philadelphia was the place to be for soccer coaches from all over the world. Five days packed with live field demonstrations, lectures, networking events and “meet and greets” with stars like Pelé, Sir Alex Ferguson and Raúl. With more than 10,000 attendees, it truly was soccer’s biggest party. The event hosted by the “National Soccer Coaches Association of America” [NSCAA] has grown to become the largest soccer convention in the world. From January 14th to 18th the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia opened its doors to coaches, athletes and experts in the business.
European powerhouses like Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, the German DFB and the English FA brought in their brightest experts to share their vision of the game.
Top-notch clinicians gave lectures and practice sessions on a range of topics, including:
“Long-Term Athletic Development“
“Periodization – How to Develop a Top Fit Team Without Injuries”
„Game Speed – Improving Speed of Play“
Moreover experts gave numerous field demonstrations about the technical and tactical component of the game along with maximizing your soccer warm-up. Lectures were also given about psychological aspects, soccer nutrition and the structure of the world’s finest soccer academies.
At the same time, several social events were hosted in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Soccer heroes such as the Brazilian legend Pelé, the former Manchester United-coach Sir Alex Ferguson, the Spanish goalscorer Raúl, the American superstar Landon Donovan and the German World Cup champion Paul Breitner invited fans for “meet and greets”.
With a new season just around the corner, it was also time for the “MLS SuperDraft“ – best described as the American way of selecting their best young players to the highest stage: Major League Soccer. In a complex lottery system, executives from all 20 clubs competing in the “American Bundesliga“, chose and transferred the best talents from all over the nation.
Furthermore the convention offered banquets and award ceremonies throughout the week. A tradition for many years, the NSCAA honored outstanding achievements and important personalities during the “Hall of Fame Awards“.
The “NSCAA All-American Awards“ are widely recognized as the highest distinction in college sports. Nationwide, high-level soccer is mainly organized in colleges and universities. College athletics serve as the showcase for many talented prospects on their way to the professional leagues in the United States.
Soccer Coaches Worldwide Under One Roof
Founded in 1941 and based in Kansas City, the NSCAA is the umbrella organization for all soccer coaches in the United States. Representing the interests of over 30,000 members, it is the largest coaches association in the world. Through its three core values “Learn. Participate. Belong.“ the NSCAA offers its members various sources of education and networking opportunities. Member’s benefits include an online resource library, journal subscription, a job board and discounts for conventions, symposia and international trips.
Some Top Clinicians
Bill Knowles is a Certified Athletic Trainer and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with 24 years of coaching experience. He currently serves as “Director of Reconditioning and Athletic Development“, for the MLS-team Philadelphia Union and he consults with high profile athletes such as Tiger Woods, Frank Lampard and Mario Balotelli. Knowles specializes in developing Planned Performance Reconditioning strategies for elite athletes following injury. These same concepts are also designed for athletes and teams to improve performance and reduce the incidence of injury. He lectured on “Athletic Development – Performance and Prevention to Create a Better Soccer Playing Athlete“.
Raymond Verheijen is the pioneer of soccer specific conditioning in the Netherlands. He consults with clubs like FC Barcelona, FC Chelsea and Manchester City. In addition, starting off as Frank Rijkaard’s assistant for the Dutch National team at the European Championships in 2000, he has been involved in every World Cup and EURO since. Verheijen is currently CEO of the “World Football Academy” and remains a consultant for several FA’s and clubs. He develops long-term periodization models, based on the specific needs of the club. In a round table discussion on “Football Periodization – How to Develop a Top Fit Team without Injuries“, he analyzed different scenarios of season planning and discussed questions from the coaches in attendance.
Tony Strudwick holds a PhD in Sports Science and has been a staff member of Manchester United since 2007. Until 2014, he served as “Head Fitness Coach” for the first team and was recently appointed as the club’s “Head of Athletic Development“. In this position he oversees all youth teams and ensures long-term strategies are implemented within the ManU academy. In addition, he joined the backroom staff for the English National team during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Strudwick also gave a lecture on “Long Term Athletic Development at Manchester United“.
Due to the variety of educational sessions, the overlap in time and my demanding pre-scheduled meetings I was forced to make specific selections each day of my four days available.
- Which topics and clinicians are most interesting and valuable for me?
- What schedule is reasonable considering limited time?
- Which clinicians and coaches have I already scheduled meetings with and who do I want to get in touch with?
- What networking events are worth attending?
These questions needed to be answered and decisions needed to be made all in real time while attending the NSCAA Convention. My goals were to learn from other coaches’ experiences, expand my professional network with decision-makers from US-Soccer and find inspiration for my own work.
I am confident I met all my initial targets and exceeded all expectations. The variety of educational sessions, the excellent clinicians and networking events make this convention a great benefit for anybody and everybody involved in the soccer business. And of course it’s a highlight to experience Philadelphia and soccer’s biggest party.