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Picking Up Momentum – United Soccer Coaches Convention Recap

From the very beginning, the culture change we are attempting to accomplish with the Soccer Parenting movement has felt simultaneously exhilarating and overwhelming. Exhilarating because the upside of an improved youth soccer landscape is tremendous for players, coaches, families and communities.  Overwhelming because the task at hand is multi-faceted, mildly contentious, and requires culture change and thought leadership at a variety of levels with people and organizations who have historically not collaborated.

Each year a benchmark and important touch point on the progress Soccer Parenting is making in our movement to Make Youth Soccer Better is the response I receive at the annual United Soccer Coaches Convention in early January.

I have just returned from Baltimore, where the “Largest Gathering of Soccer Coaches” was held this year…and I am happy to say, without a doubt, optimism has overshadowed my overwhelm. 

The Soccer Parenting movement has developed into a recognizable and respected brand quality coaches, clubs, companies and leaders want to connect and collaborate with.  We have established ourselves as a thought leader for the thought leaders, and the energy is both palpable and contagious.

We are making significant progress.   

This large, heavy and underpowered ship is turning. 

We are picking up momentum.

Throughout the week I consistently interacted with:

  • Coaches who earnestly want to develop their interpersonal skills, engage parents, and build trust-filled relationships with their players and families.
  • Club leaders who are rethinking the value and importance of Establishing a Sense of Community in their clubs and who are eager to implement new programming and coach education programs to support this.
  • Business leaders who believe Soccer Parenting is an organization they want to support and affiliate with because they too define their impact by the progress that is made in positive culture change in the youth landscape.
  • Organizational leadership at US Youth Soccer, U.S. Soccer, US Club Soccer, and MLS that is ready to respond to the market demands for an improved ecosystem for the benefit of players, families, communities and the growth of the game.

I spent my week alongside my colleague, Kelley Schmidt, in our booth on the Convention floor where we answered questions from hundreds of coaches, expressed to them the value and benefits of becoming a Soccer Parenting Club Member and thereby joining our movement for culture change. The vast majority of conversations were positive and encouraging. Some were frustrating due to the coaches’ lack of openness about the importance of engaging with parents. Fortunately, the frustrating conversations in Baltimore can be counted on a single hand – where in years past they seemed to outnumber the positive ones.

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Everything you need to help your child be inspired by the game!

Soccer Parenting is leading a movement to Inspire Players by Empowering Parents. Coaches are gaining clarity that this "empowering" is not parents overpowering coaches, rather it is parents understanding the power they have to make positive change in the life of their child by educating themselves on their important role as a soccer parent, and gaining the essential skills and perspectives they need to inspire their player.

Soccer Parenting is redefining what it means to be a soccer club.  And club leaders are responding swiftly – they are ready to hold themselves and their coaches to new, exciting, quality-filled standards, educate and engage with parents to improve the sidelines and player experiences, and they are open to rethinking the interactions they have with their club membership.

On Friday I moderated a panel as part of the US Youth Soccer Workshop with Soccer Parenting Club Members Richmond Strikers (Virginia) and STA (New Jersey) as well as Alexandria Soccer Association (Virginia) about Establishing A Sense of Community In Club and Team to Increase Player Retention and Inspiration.  A big thank you to Jay Howell, Tom Shields and Katie Brooks for their keen delivery of insights and sharing of best practices they are employing at the respective clubs.  The room was packed. Coaches were huddled in the back and even sitting on the floor. In this hour we inspired coaches and club leaders to do more, build stronger relationships with their parents, build community, and be a better leader themselves. 

This is exhilarating progress.

I had energizing conversations with my friends and colleagues over meals and drinks, discussed important partnerships in the hallways, and caught up with a handful of my closest friends while bustling from place to place.  Conversations with Todd Beane, Dan Abrahams, Tom Shields, Seth Taylor, John O’Sullivan, and Gary Curneen literally filled my heart with enthusiasm about the work at hand. Companies such as Duktig Brand, Go Play Sports Tours, Techne, Women and Girls in Soccer, Beyond Pulse, Beast Mode Soccer, UK International Soccer, TiPEVO, US Club Soccer, US Youth Soccer, Brookwood Camps, Kwik Goal, Brock USA and Storelli Sports played a prominent role in my Convention experience.

Importantly, the quiet conversations I had in the corners of the Convention Center with coaches I had never met before, or whom I had only interacted with on social media, who were seeking information, validation, guidance and friendship inspired me greatly.

On Saturday afternoon I presented about Best Practices for Parent Engagement and Establishing Trust in the Club-Coach-Parent Relationships.  Again, the room was full of eager coaches curious and excited about developing skills and a deeper understanding about the benefits of engaging with parents when it comes to player inspiration. The interactions in the room were contagious and indicative of the momentum the Soccer Parenting movement has helped inspire.

There are others leading in this space as well – and the shared messaging about parent engagement between Soccer Parenting, Changing the Game Project, Positive Coaching Alliance and others is an essential building block towards establishing collaborative relationships that promote culture, policy and structural change at the youth level.

There is no way we can go it alone – we must improve ourselves while we call others to action and lean on others to lead.  And that is a perfect description of how I feel in this moment:

I am motivated to improve the work I am personally doing…

I am empowered and energized to call others to action….

I am full of gratitude and inspiration by my friends, colleagues and the leaders I am standing beside….

Let’s Keep Going.

Let’s Make Youth Soccer Better.

Our children, our families, our communities, and the game we love deserve more.

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.