The dust has settled, the emotional pleas for change have waned, and 3 months post the near apocalyptic event of the U.S. Men’s National Team failing to qualify for the World Cup we are in the middle of a U.S.S.F. Presidential race that is receiving media bandwidth like never before.
There is a cautiously optimistic feeling permeating the frustrated, fed up, ready for change American soccer world that is tantalizing us with the possibility we may actually be able to pull it off – and live up to our American soccer potential.
Soccer leaders are drilling down the issues, problems, and challenges of our soccer landscape and developing coherent thoughts and plans for action. Eric Wynalda, one of the leading USSF Presidential candidates said:
It’s not so much a revolution, as an evolution.”
As if the men failing to qualify was the Big Bang, and the result is what is best described as potential energy.
This potential energy will be best harnessed with the intentional creation of a stable, influential, and forceful core that is best characterized as our SOCCER CULTURE.
Our soccer culture is the core where our potential energy begins to unite, build and strengthen.
It is the principles that guide, inspire, and ground us while providing focus and direction. The soccer culture should not be confused with the infrastructure, programs, or processes that will improve our soccer landscape – but rather our culture is the combination of the common foundational elements that permeate the complete landscape.
Without a defined soccer culture we will continue to lack direction, be susceptible to fads and fame, and we will not live up to our potential as a soccer nation.
Defining our soccer culture should be a deliberate and collaborative process. Our mission with the Soccer Parenting Association, is to Inspire Players by Empowering Parents. In this case, it is to empower parents to be a part in developing a stronger youth soccer culture.
Ideally, the process of defining our American soccer culture would be driven by strong leadership from our U.S Soccer Board as they fulfill their duties and responsibilities in their mission to make soccer the preeminent sport in the United States. Again, the tantalizing possibility we find ourselves a bit consumed with – the idea of a strong Board and leadership to guide us in a general direction we agree upon.
Thankfully, United Soccer Coaches, the world’s largest soccer coaching organization, is demonstrating tremendous leadership to get the conversation going. I am looking forward to being a part of their one day Coaches Summit taking place at the upcoming United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia with 50 soccer coaches from across the country tackling the question:
How do we create an American soccer culture where children love to play, coaches love to coach, parents are partners in the process and we grow the full spectrum of commitment and skills from first-time players to Pulisic and Lloyd?”
There will no-doubt be lots of discourse and healthy debate – and three essential, foundational elements can be agreed upon from the start:
Three Essential Foundational Elements for Our Developing Soccer Culture:
The deep lack of trust that permeates our soccer culture has continually held us back. The very center of the core of our new soccer culture must be trust. This means our leaders, organizations, stakeholders, coaches, and parents must act in a manner worthy of trust.
As Stephen Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, we must first focus on self-trust and be credible, full of integrity and overflowing with positive intent. And then, we can focus on our relationship trust. This means we must focus on behaviors that create transparency, show loyalty, and demonstrate respect. We must confront reality, get better, show results and be accountable.
We will not live up to our potential as a soccer nation if we do not act in a manner worthy of trust and extend trust to one another.
The vast size of our nation makes collaboration essential. We must continue to develop and sustain our businesses and organizations while harnessing the potential of our collective energy by cooperating with organizations we are not normally connected with.
Collaboration will create innovation and innovation will inspire and unite us as we move toward fulfilling the power of our potential as a soccer nation.
Joy is the shiny beacon we must all lock our sights upon. Joy is what has brought us here and why we are tantalized. Love of the game. The joy in seeing players of all levels, parents, fans, referees, administrators – being given the gift of falling in love with this amazing game. We must allow soccer to takes its place as the inspirational experience is has the potential to be. It is meant to unite us. It is meant to teach us. It is meant to bring us joy.
Julie Foudy, in the 2017 Soccer Parenting Summit put her hands in the air as she looked up and screamed “Bring Back the Joy!” Seeking out, developing, and being inspired by the joy must be a foundational element of our soccer culture.
For us to ensure the transformation of this cautiously optimistic feeling we have about our ability to live up to our potential as a soccer nation into a reality will require strong leadership, innovation, people and organizations being willing to give up some power and a realigned and refocused U.S. Soccer Board.
With a foundation of trust and collaboration and the power of joy – we may just get there.