The United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia wrapped up a few weeks ago. The annual convention of soccer coaches, administrators, leaders, and referees is one of my favorite weeks of the year: education sessions, thoughtful conversations, awards ceremonies, industry-wide awareness about new products…all punctuated with an energizing social environment brining old friends and new together. This year over 6,000 soccer people from around the globe made their way to Philadelphia!
If I could pick a few themes of this year’s Convention, they would be celebration, collaboration, and connection.
The entire 5 days felt like a celebration to me: warm embraces in the hallways, bars and classrooms with former teammates and players, coaching colleagues, Soccer Parenting partners and supporters, and mentors. There was a palpable energy pulsating the Convention this year – people more excited than ever to run into old friends after a couple of years of COVID related distance.
My time in Philadelphia was also a celebration of how far we have come with growing the Soccer Parenting brand, and the culture changing work we are doing to make youth soccer better. Never have I had so many exciting conversations about the role parents play in the soccer ecosystem! What was originally a novel concept – engaging parents to inspire players – is now a level-set expectation amongst coaches and club leaders. I could not be prouder of the dedication and hard work of the Soccer Parenting team to drive our mission forward.
And the Soccer Parenting team was another reason to celebrate! Anthony, Sarah, Kelley, Kahlil and myself, the entire Soccer Parenting team except Elaine, were together in Philadelphia! It was awesome to see Kelley and Kahlil working our booth in the Exhibit Hall, engaging in conversations with curious coaches. Sarah was on hand as well - networking like mad in her efforts to win a spot on the United Soccer Coaches Board in the election – as well as pushing Soccer Parenting and her important work with the non-profit she has founded: The Sports Bra Project. And Anthony, a force of nature with his strong ties to the game, was bobbing around the Convention, making appearances on the radio and in the classrooms as he and I presented twice together and then he masterfully moderated a panel.Celebration was no-doubt at the forefront of my mind as my daughter, Cali, was on hand to receive her All-America award at a reception on Saturday! I am so proud of her – as this recognition is a demonstration of her hard work, resilience, love of the game, and passion for learning and developing. I was an All-American in high school and college, and to share this acclaimed accolade with my daughter is very special. To see her honored – surrounded by my friends and mentors (who are thankfully becoming her friends and mentors as well) – was something I will never forget.
Firmly rooted in our work at Soccer Parenting to Make Youth Soccer Better is the principle of Collaboration and thankfully, it was in high supply at the United Soccer Coaches Convention this year! I met many talented business owners, passionate coaches, and thoughtful people working in the game – all interested in improving the experience of players, families, and coaches and who see value in collaborating with Soccer Parenting to do so.
As I said on Friday morning as I presented with Anthony to a packed room about Parent Engagement, “Collaboration will make youth soccer better, faster.” It was refreshing to be reminded of the quality people working in the game, and to sit and have strategic conversations with so many of these people brought me an incredible amount of energy – it was as if you could feel youth soccer getting better as we spoke. I am looking forward to announcing new collaborations with companies and organizations that will propel our Soccer Parenting mission and provide a better experience for players, parents, coaches, and referees!
I collaborate just about every day with our Soccer Parenting marketing team based in the UK, Topodium Group, and many of the Topodium team was in Philadelphia as they also support United Soccer Coaches in their marketing efforts! It’s a collaboration I tremendously value and being able to have extended conversations and even share some drinks in the evenings with Giacomo and Luke from Topodium was such a treat!
I am keenly aware of my strong soccer network when I attend the Convention. There are times when it takes me 20 minutes to walk a few hundred yards – so many hellos, hugs, and handshakes. It is these connections that form the foundation of my passion for the game and help me feel more rooted and inspired.
And thankfully, my network grew this year in Philadelphia. I came home with new friendships with fun and fascinating people I would never have met if it were not for the game! I met former Premier League stars, National Team standouts, and global leaders in player and coach development. I also met dedicated coaches in small towns, long time volunteer administrators in leagues, and young coaches excited and preparing for their future. I love soccer and how it has the power to bring us together.
For the past three years I have been tasked with developing a Special Topics Diploma for United Soccer Coaches for the Convention on Holistic Development. I am responsible for finding 10 - 12 different presenters who connect the concept of holistic development in order to provide coaches who receive the diploma by attending the Convention sessions with a rich understanding of this relevant topic. Connecting this group of talented experts in their respective fields and developing the diploma is a tremendous honor. This years' presenters were Stuart Armstrong, Lindsay Hazard, Todd Yeagley, Jess Freemas, Erica Suter, Ryan Defibaugh, John Cone, Jay DeMerit, Lyndsey Hokanson, and Anthony DiCicco.
I was also able to connect with some longtime colleagues in the game who, except for our annual convention reunions, I only share whats app messages or zooms with. There’s nothing like a lingering meal and a few late night drinks to help build a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another.
Having my daughter Cali at the Convention and introducing her to my soccer network made my time in Philadelphia extra special. Plus, watching her network, be interviewed for a podcast, holding her own in conversation with thought leaders, and make her own connections as she begins her career in soccer, brought me so much joy!
Another United Soccer Coaches Convention is in the books! A big thank you to the team at United Soccer Coaches for their commitment to bring the soccer community together. Philadelphia was an inspiring Convention full of celebration, collaboration, and connection. See you next year in California!