Reflections on Growing Soccer Parenting, and Growing Up in the Game with Skye and her Daughter, Cali Bruce - Soccer Parenting Association
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Reflections on Growing Soccer Parenting, and Growing Up in the Game with Skye and her Daughter, Cali Bruce

Skye, Soccer Parenting Founder, and her daughter, Cali, sit down for some reflection as Cali wraps up her college playing experience and graduates. Skye founded Soccer Parenting when Cali was 8, and much of the evolution of the company mirrored Cali’s growing-up experience in the game.

In this hour-long conversation, moderated by Anthony DiCicco, Skye and Cali will discuss:

- How Cali developed her personal drive and motivation over the years
- The importance of a player leading the way and how Skye got that wrong (and right) over the years
- What Cali and Skye loved about her Futsal experience at Own Touch
- Game moments Cali still remembers – and why
- Cali’s experiences at TOVO in Spain and how and why that changed her path
- The arduous college selection process
- Falling in love with the game

We hope you enjoy!

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TRANSCRIPT

Anthony:
Good afternoon, if you're on the East Coast. And good morning if you're anywhere else in the country. My name is Anthony DiCicco. And this month we've decided to flip the script on Skye Eddy a little bit. Normally, she's the one that does the interviews and asks the questions. And today we're really excited to hear from Skye and, Cali Bruce, her daughter, who played at Emerson College in Boston.

And so, just a couple housekeeping things before we get started here. The first is we will not be monitoring the chat during the webinar. But if you do have questions, we encourage you to ask them through the Q&A feature. We're really excited. Skye and I are both leaving tomorrow for Philadelphia for the annual United Soccer Coaches Convention, and we hope to see many of you there. We will be at Booth 1628. We hope you'll come by and sign the coach belief statement at the booth. So please, come find us, introduce yourself, and for those who aren't coming, we'll miss you. Skye, I think most people probably know you. Skye is our CEO and founder of Soccer Parenting. So let's start with Cali. Cali, you want to give just a quick introduction of yourself and what you're going to be doing?

Cali:
Sure. I'm Cali, Skye's lovely daughter, at least I hope she'd say. I am a lifelong soccer player. I started playing when I was really little. Kept playing all through youth, played on the ECNL team. Went and played at the collegiate level at Emerson College up in Boston. And just graduated this past December, so I am entering the real life adult world now.

Skye:
I no longer have to pay for college. That's a good thing.

Cali:
And I am about to start a full-time position with Hartford Athletic, which is a USL club up in Hartford, Connecticut, as the partnership and foundation activation manager. And whenever I say that, people ask me what that means. And I just say I basically make everything that we promise the sponsors, happen. So with our partners, I just make sure all the activations go into place and on the same side of the foundation, the nonprofit that the club has, I implement the programs that we're looking to put out into the community.

Anthony:
Yeah, Hartford Athletic is a neat project. I was involved in the stadium renovation there. And grew up just south of the stadium there. So we love that you're joining the Athletic full-time and congratulations on that. We'll come back to your playing and your career here in a minute. But to start with, you guys just got back from a two-week trip to England with our partners at GoPlay Tours. So why don't you guys tell us a little bit about that? What were the highlights or the memorable moments? What are the things that you're taking away?

Skye:
Yeah, it was so much fun. We did six games in six days. And then just because that might not have been enough, Cali and I decided to go to London and get two more games. So what did we do? Eight games in nine days? Yeah, it was a lot of football. It was great. I don't know, I don't what your highlights are, Cali. But obviously the soccer highlights, going to the sentiment, the stadiums going... We went to Leeds-Man City game at Leeds. And just the stadium vibe, the sense of football culture that they had there was pretty cool for me to see. And other than that, I mean whenever I travel, my highlights around football are always just the connections, the people that you meet, the random people that you meet in the stands, or that are celebrating the love of the game as well. So yeah, those were probably my... Leeds was my highlight. What about you?

Cali:
Well, my highlight was going to Anfield and getting to watch Liverpool play in person, because I'm a big Liverpool fan, and I've liked Liverpool since I was probably seven or eight. So it was like my dream was getting fulfilled. And you always hear people talk about how amazing these stadiums are, and the environment, and the cop and Enfield, and it was just really special to see that in person. Because I feel like for a lot of sporting events in the US, not even just soccer, the environment that European, and especially Premier League soccer stadiums have, is unreal. And it was also really cool because we saw some championship games. So one teared down from the Premier League. And it was really cool to see the passion that the fans have and experiencing a side of soccer that we don't have in the United States without the promotion, and relegation, and how much it really means to the communities, and to the people. And so, it was really cool to see that in person.

Skye:
And we went to Wrexham. And we took a little day trip. And if anybody watches, Welcome to Wrexham, have seen that show, we went and we had a couple of pints at the bar that's always on the show. The food truck was up, the people got coffee there, that's always on the show. We went into the league store or the team store, and then we got out on the pitch. They walked us out and gave us a little quick stadium tour. So we had some cool pictures there. That was pretty cool too, just to see that after watching it on TV. And then chatting with people in the bar that are in the pub that were the regulars. One of the people on our trip bought a square, if you've seen the show, they have these squares. So some of the people on the trip bought those so that they'll name will be remembered there. So yeah, that was great.

Anthony:
That's very cool. I haven't seen the show, but I obviously know the story. And I think that, Cali, you hit the nail on the head, which is, it is about community, and it's something that is an ongoing process. And I would say that our soccer community in the US has changed a lot in 10 years, and 20 years, and 30 years. But it also is about rediscovering some of what we did have, because pre MLS, the soccer that did exist, was small community clubs that were pro or semi-pro. But I remember my first pro game ever was a Connecticut Wolves game in the UISIL, or I could have gotten that wrong. But that's awesome. And yeah, Anfield must have been a dream. When did you become a Liverpool supporter? Or how did you become a Liverpool supporter?

Cali:
So my mom, knowing so many people in the soccer world, one of the many has or had, he unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but a son my age. And we became email penpals when I was like seven-ish. And I asked him, "Oh, do you have a favorite?" I think I said football team because I knew him English and that used to sound pool, "Do you have a favorite?" And at this point, she had been trying to get me to watch soccer on TV and I wasn't really into it. And he said, "Oh, Liverpool is my favorite." And I wanted him to think I was cool. So I was like, "Yeah, oh, that's so funny. Liverpool is my favorite soccer team."

Anthony:
It's funny. That's hilarious.

Cali:
But then I was like, I had to keep up the facade. If he asked me about the game, I had to figure out who was who, and how they were doing. So then I started watching, and then I actually became a real supporter, not just one who was trying to seem cool. But that was-

Skye:
How old were you? Like 10?

Cali:
I was younger than that, I was probably eight or nine.

Anthony:
So that's so funny.

Skye:
We talked about that at Soccer Parenting, these kind of moments of ignition. And it was so hard to get Cali to watch soccer on TV. I'd have it on in the background, not that I... I didn't want to force her into this. But I know that that will help drive her passion, and her connection, and help her find this deeper connection to the game, which was important to me or I wanted her to have. And so, trying to help her find a team didn't come easy. So yeah, that's actually a great story.

Anthony:
Looking back, Cali, can you think about some of those moments? Do you recognize the moments where mom was subtly feeding you some soccer while... Or was it more overt and she thought she was being sly by just putting it on in the background? Obviously, Skye has loved football for decades. How did it go from being something she loved, to being something that you loved, or that you both love, or that you share together?

Cali:
Yeah, I think at first, I played all the sports growing up And soccer was the one that I just ended up liking the most. I did go through a brief period where I quit soccer when I was eight and played softball for a year, which it was really hard. But I went back to soccer and she didn't make me. And I think that was a big thing for me, was that it was my own journey. She would put on a Premier league game and say, "Cali, come watch this." And a lot of times I probably should be sitting on my iPod touch, or a little iPad as a little me pretending to watch the game. And I think it was just stuff like that, not subtly introducing it, but putting it into my brain without forcing it on me.

Because a lot of times parents were like, "Go outside and juggle. Go pass against the wall right now." And she tried that a little bit, but she figured out very quickly that I wasn't going to say yes, that I just didn't want to do that. And so, she figured out differently. She'd said, "Cali, let's go play soccer-tennis." I just didn't like doing stuff by myself, I think, was a big thing. It was hard for me to self-motivate. And so, it was easier for her, she realized, and adapted that I wasn't going to do it by myself. But if we both were going and playing soccer-tennis outside, or she was being a little goalkeeper and I got to shoot on her, that was more fun for me. And I think it just evolved in my own path of not being into it, being into it casually. And she says all the time, "Oh, I made all these mistakes." So I figured it out, but by and large, I'll give you the credit, mom.

Skye:
Thank you.

Cali:
You did a good job, because you didn't make me hate it. And you let me figure out my love for it gradually. And then as I got older and started playing on ECNL teams, that was a whole different thing with going to the gym and figuring out my own fitness. But through it all, it really was just suggesting things, but then also supporting me in how I felt about it. If I didn't want to go to the gym, she wasn't going to make me. If I didn't want to go train on my own, she wasn't going to make me. And now, I love going to the gym and working out on my own. And I love going and training by myself or with my friends. And I feel like my love for the game evolved through my own sense of discovery. And then with my mom loving soccer too, it made it easier for me because I could share it with someone. "Oh, I can strike a ball so much better now. Look mom." Stuff like that.

Anthony:
Well, not making you hate it is a good bar to clear.

Skye:
I think that I always say, I feel like I made so many mistakes with you because it was really hard for me. Not forcing you to go juggle was surprisingly difficult. And it was a constant sense of stress. Literally the amount of stress that I had in those moments is shocking to me. And I think I'm always curious if other parents feel those same feelings. So yeah, I didn't force you to, but I'm not saying that I wasn't in the kitchen really wanting you to, and forcing myself to not say anything, and be distracted with something else.

Anthony:
What do you remember about her quitting soccer for softball? What do you remember about that conversation or that experience?

Skye:
Well, it was a big discussion point because... And I've told this story before at Soccer Parenting. We actually let Cali quit in the halfway through a season that we had committed to the club. But her learning environment was so negative and she just really wasn't having fun, that I felt really clear, her dad felt clear as well. I mean, we made this decision that we would let her do this if she found another sport to play right away. Because we felt like if we forced her to stay... She did the whole fall season. But if we for forced her to go back and play all the spring season, then she might just not want to ever do it again. And so, this was sort of the in between, "Okay, well we will let you stop this soccer experience, but you have to find another sport." So that became softball. So it was actually the beginning of Soccer Parenting for me as far as the aha moments of going on-

Anthony:
Having these thoughts about your role and the experience?

Skye:
Yeah, my role, the experience, how much pressure to put on her. But also bigger than that, is just what was going on at this club, the Richmond Strikers where I work now, I'm on the board. It's amazing, it's evolved so much. But in that moment, and in that learning environment that she had, it just became very obvious to me that there's a role that parents can play to facilitate better learning environments for our children, if we know that the environment isn't up to standards that it should be. So that actually was starting my brain going about.

Anthony:
So Strikers is a big club, there's other big clubs that are out there. One of the things that we've talked a lot about is equality of opportunity. Not everybody's going to have the best coach in the club. That's not possible. But I'm curious about you deciding to allow Cali to step away from an environment that wasn't serving her, versus fighting at that moment to get her on a different team or with a different coach. Did you feel pressure to immediately try to improve things? Or was it just clearly a moment where everybody needed to take a step back and then see where the chips fell?

Skye:
Yeah, no, I got on the board of the club. So I started to be on the board of the club when Cali wasn't playing at the club. But I had been coaching at the club, and doing goalkeeper work, and had all these connections to the club. So no, I made a decision to try to make change, facilitate change in terms of, it was clear that we needed some new leadership and fresh ideas at the club. And really, the learning environment was this whole ADP program that they have now that's phenomenal. And I coach it for many years. It's such a good learning environment now, I can't even stress this. So it was all the kids that were this eight, seven, eight, nine year olds, all came and trained in this environment. And the structures of those training just weren't up to speed.

Anthony:
So Cali, obviously you were pretty young, but what do you remember about the decision to come back to the game? Was it something you immediately missed? Or was it a bit of relief and then the next year came around, and you were ready to try it again? What do you remember?

Cali:
So yeah, so I played softball in the spring and I thought it was okay. I liked it enough to do it again in the fall. One thing about me is I don't do well... Softball's a team sport, but it's kind of an individual sport because you have to hit the ball by yourself. And I don't do well, especially then, failing, that was really hard for me. So I didn't like to swing the bat because I didn't want to strike out. And I was fortunate in that I was... I'm still pretty small, but I was a very tiny child, and it was still pitching machine, and they couldn't adjust the pitching machine-

Anthony:
Small strike zone.

Cali:
And so, I would get walked by the pitching machine. And then running around the bases was really easy for me because I was fast enough, that I could always score run. But just getting on the base as well was hard for me. And so, I remember thinking it was fine in the spring. And then in the fall it was just kind of boring for me, I guess. And I missed getting to run around more. And also, just the experience of playing soccer. And I just decided that, "Okay, yeah, I think I want to play soccer again." And what I actually ended up doing was instead of going back to the travel program, because a ADP was in travel team for little kids. I went and played rack soccer for the spring. And I was like, "Oh, this is actually fun." And it was fun for me because I was probably the only person on the team that had ever played competitive soccer, as competitive as soccer could be for a seven-year-old.

And so, I, at that point, was maybe eight or nine. And so, I went and did that. And it was super fun. It was objectively easy for me. I remember scoring a lot of goals and it not being super challenging, and feeling like, "Okay, yeah, I think I want to go play where it's harder again." And so, deciding to go back and do that. And fortunately for me, so a whole year basically had passed and I wasn't in ADP anymore. So I had a actual more of a team and the structure was different. And I liked it. And then-

Anthony:
Different dynamic, different environment. I mean Skye, do you remember Cali going to rack soccer? I mean, I actually didn't know that about your journey, but it's a fascinating microcosm of how finding success can yield joy and confidence. And I think we get into this mindset where we've got to constantly be challenging young players and kids. And this is a great example of sometimes what we need to do is just allow them to rediscover joy.

Skye:
Yeah, absolutely. The thing that I think I did a lot as a parent is, the hard thing for me with Cali And soccer is our mentalities when she was little was much different. I mean she's even saying, she didn't want to be alone and have everybody stare at her. I wanted to be a goalkeeper from the age of seven. I wanted everyone staring at me. I wanted to be the one to make the place. So we're very different mentally. And I think for parents who are raising children who have a different mentality athletically, that it just can be a lot of conflict that evolves. So I had to really quickly learn.

And so, rack soccer, I didn't coach. She had a parent coach that was fine. And I just stood back. We just stood back and let her find that. So the challenge for that whole process was just this awareness of my understanding of how different our mentalities were. And now, that's the other thing that we do as parents. We expect our kids to have our mentality as an adult when they're eight. Now, she has such a strong mentality that's evolved over time. And I would say we're a little bit more similar in terms of our mentalities. But I think we put these expectations on our young children that... I grew into that mentality that I have now. And we need to let our kids do that.

Anthony:
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. So obviously, this becomes a transitional point. You go to a more competitive team again. At what point does futsal and One Touch come into your story?

Cali:
Yeah, So Own Touch opened when I was 9-10.

Skye:

Yeah.

Cali Bruce:
And so, for those who don't know, it's a technical training facility here in Richmond. And the idea is that it's not affiliated with any of the clubs. So basically, you can come in if you're a mentee or a member, you can sign up for whatever sessions. So they have sessions per age group. They also have aerial control sessions, or shooting and finishing sessions. So if you're thinking, "Oh, I want to get better at shooting, finishing," you can sign up for something that's applicable to that, and whatnot. And Own Touch is side by side with Futsal RVA, which was pretty sure the first competitive travel futsal team in Richmond, and really brought futsal to the city. And they have a bunch of national championship titles. And it was a really big thing for me growing up.

And so, I went here and there when it first opened when I was 9-10. It was fun, it was fine. My mom was friends with the guy started. So it was one of those things where it was like, "Cali, go try this." I thought it was okay. But she didn't force me to go by any means.

Skye:
She didn't want to be a mentee. She just wanted, "Did you drop in now and then?" Because I wanted her to-

Anthony:
Less structure.

Skye:
Yeah. Yeah, the less structure and just when it was convenient, instead of feeling this pressure to do it, I guess, was important too.

Cali:
And so, what changed was they would do pickup on days that we had snow days. So in Richmond we get snow, but it's not really snow. We get a fourth of an inch and they're like, "Oh my god, no school for two days." So it's really safe enough to drive more or less. So, unless it's something random, crazy happened, they would have pickup indoor, and it would either be it, you do half on turf, half on futsal. I went once with some of my friends from my club team. And I knew other people who went to Own Touch, and was loosely friends with them. And it was mixed, co-eds, so we were playing with guys older, younger, and girls, older, younger, all different levels, some better than me, some not as good as me.

And we just got to play. And we would play for four hours, two hours on the turf, two hours in the futsal. And it was so fun. And I think that was one of my first experiences of just unstructured... Obviously, they put us on teams and made sure we didn't hurt each other. But just unstructured free play, without having to worry about a coach getting mad at me for making a bad pass or missing an open goal. With new people, with having to adjust my playing style, because the boys are a little bit bigger, so I'm going to have to be a little more physical. And "Oh, this girl is way better than me so I'm going to have to adjust, and learn, and whatnot." And I think that she was talking about moments of ignition, is that what you called it?

Skye:
Yeah.

Cali:
I remember. That was a big moment of ignition for me. And they're like, "Oh my God, this is fun. I like doing this." And from there it was interesting because it evolved into me wanting to go to Own Touch just to train. Because I sort of started to build this community. And we had seven or eight snow days, the winter of my sixth grade. And it was fun. And then I started going and training, and forging more connections and realizing like, "Oh, I can get better in an environment that I'm not having to worry about playing time, or the opinion my coach has of me." If I take a bad shot with my left foot, I can just learn, and mess up, and it's okay.

And so, I began progressing technically, but also it was really fun. And I made a bunch of new friends from other teams of the other side of town. And it was just an environment where I could go, and explore, and learn, that was safe and productive. I definitely got a lot better at soccer and then I started to juggling by myself, and I got really good.

Anthony:
So when does this turn for you from, "I enjoy doing this. I want to be a gym rat. I want to play. I enjoy this less structured environment," to, "I want to go play in the ECNL. I might want to go play in college." Obviously a different level of motivation, a different level of investment from you. So when does that happen, and how does that happen? Is it driven by you? Or, like with Liverpool, Skye's still planting seeds and encouraging you towards some of those opportunities and avenues?

Cali:
Yeah, so I will say growing up, once they started dividing us onto teams before ECNL elite, being the top team, the best little kids premier, and then United was the lower team. I was always on the premier team, I was always on the middle team. I never made the elite team, the top team. I mean, I'm sure that was maybe hard for you, I don't know.

Skye:
Yeah, maybe. I don't remember. I don't remember.

Cali:
And so, it wasn't like, "Okay, I think I want to try out for the ECNL team." It was just sort of... Because U-13 was pre ECNL, so after year 12. It was sort of everyone just goes and tries out. It's just another tryout. And then if you don't make it, then you go try out for the Striker's travel team. So I went, and I tried out, and I was the only player from the premier team, from the not top team to make the ECNL team. And it just sort of was like, "Okay, I guess this is what I'm doing." I didn't fully grasp maybe the commitment side of it. But also it was my teammates and my friends who were on the team. So it wasn't a brand-new team because strikers had the pre ECNL at the time.

It's since evolved into Richmond United, which is the two biggest clubs in Richmond merged just for the ECNL, and then previously Boys Academy, now Boys ECNL. And so, it was just one of those things that was just the next step. It was sort of how I feel like for a lot of players, especially ECNL players, it's just assumed and understood you're trying to play in college. It was just assumed and understood that I was going to try it for the ECNL team. And I did, and I made it, and I liked it.

And, of course, pre ECNL was a little bit more relaxed than actually ECNL. And then come U-14, is when Richmond United formed. So the team shifted. And that some of the girls who were on my pre ECNL team didn't make the Richmond team because we brought in a bunch of girls from Kickers, because previously, the other club... They're big rivalry, they wouldn't want to try out. So from there it just became what I was doing, which it sounds kind of weird. It wasn't like I had this dream of playing ECNL. I was really happy when I made it. I remember my mom when it got the ECNL banner because I didn't know if I was going to make it or not. And she hung it up in front of the house. So I came home from school and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I made the team."

But it was an evolution for me too. I had always been to center forward. And when I started on the ECNL team, it was like, "You can be on the team. But you're not going to be center forward, you're going to be an outside back now." And so, that was a part of it too. Switching positions, learning a new position, new environment, different coaches. But, really because it was a lot of my similar teammates, it didn't feel like that much of a transition. But even then, it was like I was doing the bare minimum. In season, I would go to Own Touch a little bit, but I was practicing four nights a week, and had games twice on the weekends far away. And so, maybe you felt stressed wanting me to train technically more. But my bandwidth capacity of soccer was taken by ECNL for the most part.

Anthony:
Yeah, I mean it is, it is a big commitment. And I imagine that during that process, there's some adaptation and adjustment that you have to make in terms of finding your way amongst a group of committed motivated players. So Skye, talk about a little bit what you saw in terms of Cali's drive and motivation during that period. And did it ever feel like it was too much, or maybe we do need to take a step back here? Or was it once she was on the track, it just came together?

Skye:
Yeah, we just kept going. I will say sometimes the travel seemed a lot. Like the weekends to go play a game in Ohio where it's just a league game was say a lot. But we knew that getting into it. And I will just say that Cali's just always sort of been a follower of these groups. So the mentality you asked about, how her mentality, and her motivation, and such thing, she's good to get in a group and to follow it. But what I learned earlier, what we've kind of already said is she's not going to be the one that's leading that, but she can keep up with everybody. So I was really relieved knowing that she made a top team, because I knew she could keep up with them.

Athletically, from an athletic standpoint, Cali has everything she needs to her speed, her quickness, her agility, that was always there for her. The challenge has been the mentality. And so, it's slowly evolved. But I mean, it's taken a long time. I mean, I would say now, as she's wrapping up college, okay, now it's solid, and it's hers, and it's very growth-oriented, and the sense of resiliency that she has is so impressive to me. And it has been a journey, as a parent, watching her evolve into that.

Anthony:
So you're into high school, you're playing ECNL, you're on this journey, you're on this path. And then you make a decision to go to Spain for three months. That's a big decision for a high schooler to make. What went into... Cali went to TOVO with Todd Beane. What went into the decision? Again, how of that was... Because I can't imagine you would even know about TOVO. Skye doesn't plant the seed and point you in that direction, so how does that come together?

Cali:
Yeah, so she had first mentioned TOVO to me when I was a sophomore in high school. And I thought it sounded really cool, but it just didn't fully fit in with everything that I was doing. And I don't know, I just couldn't let go of the idea of it. I've always really loved Spanish. That was always my favorite subject in school. So the thought of being able to go to Spain sounded really, really cool. And also, from a young age, I was going to sleep away camp for four or five weeks at a time. And I liked going out, and doing my own thing, and getting away, and exploring, and meeting new people. And so, I thought it sounded really cool. And I was like, "Huh, maybe this Todd sounds really smart, and the coaching sounds really interesting. It looks really pretty. I feel like it'd be fun. And uh, public school." I wanted to get away and I thought it sounded awesome.

And finally, senior year rolled around and I was like, "Well, if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it now." So I met with the principal. Originally I was only going for one month. So what happened was I had to drop out of school legally, because I would've been considered a Truman. I still did all my homework and stuff. But I would just email it to my teachers and then they would grade it, but I had to get taken out of the system because it would've messed up my ability for graduation technically. So I still did all of my homework and stuff when I was there.

So I basically was gone for a month and then I was like, "Mom, I want to stay. This is so awesome." And the principal suggested that I don't stay for my academics, but I had all A pluses. So I was like, "Oh, this is fine. And I already dropped out so you can't make me come back." And so, I emailed all my teachers, they were fine with it. And it sounded like an adventure. And I didn't exactly know what I was getting myself into, but I am so beyond glad that I went. Because not only did it make me a way better player, if anyone's interested, I would just look up TOVO and Todd Beane, and see his coaching philosophy because it's very different than the way that we're coached in the US.

But it made me a much better player. I got in way better shape. I started enjoying just the idea of moving my body beyond just playing soccer. Just moving, walking, stretching, mobility, lifting. I just found joy in the movement of my body. And I understood the game in a way that I never had before. And truly, it was just fun. And I realized soccer was not supposed to be a job. For my ECNL team, we would always joke, "Oh, we have to go to work. We have practice, time to go to work. We all have a full-time job with soccer." And I was like, "Oh, that is not the way that I'm supposed to think about it. This is so fun."

Anthony:
How were the expectations different from the reality that you found when you got there? Or I guess what were your expectations?

Cali:
I knew it was going to be a different coaching style. I didn't realize how mentally fatiguing it would be. I mean, was in fine shape. I was playing ECNL, but I was in super amazing shape. And it was less on my body and more on my brain. I was having to think so much and-

Skye:
While playing.

Cali:
Yes. And so, the angles, the time, the space. There's this loop that he always used is perceiving and conceived, decide and deceive, execute and assess, over and over. And so, it was constantly me thinking about my body, positioning, how far I was, and where's the ball going to go, and where do I need to go, and how can I help my teammate here or there offensively, defensively. And it was so much more mentally fatiguing. And my mental fitness, more than anything, is what increased. Because we talk about taking time off soccer and what it's going to do to you physically, but also mentally. Being in the game and mentally fit is something that I feel like isn't always touched upon.

And that was what, really, I wasn't expecting and what shaped how I played and viewed the game so much differently. And I became a better player technically too, which is very interesting, because I was doing no technical drills. It's all about playing angles, time, and space, and shrinking the game in the beginning, and slowly expanding as the training session goes on. But I came back and I could strike up all my left foot somehow. Did I ever do a shooting drill when I was there? Nope. But all of a sudden, I could do it. I didn't even know how. And so, it really not only taught me something about playing, and self-motivation, and finding joy, and finding love in the game. But also it taught me a lot about... Because I am an aspiring coach, that's something I want to do. How we teach the game, and how we view the game, and the way that we teach it in the United States.

And what type of player could I be if I had been learning this since I was eight? And I didn't start learning it when I was 18. And so, I think that was the biggest thing. I just didn't even realize that this world and this coaching philosophy for soccer existed. And it's basically, Todd is Johan Cruyff's son-in-law. And Cruyff was a big mentor for him. And so, it's a way in which it's very commonly coached in Barcelona, and it's Cruyff's football mentality. And so, it was just really interesting to experience a different type of the way of seeing and learning about the game. And I think that's also what was really surprising to me. It's just, "Oh, this is something I can do. And this is a way that this exists. And I would love to be able to bring this back and implement it for other people."

Anthony:
I think everybody has that moment if you stay in the game long enough where you truly understand the global nature of the game. And Skye's talked about her time playing in Italy, and the role that had in her seeing and experiencing the game differently. And I think that it is a completely different moment of ignition, but it is an aha moment to expand your brain to that space. And I think one of the things that I see coaching all different levels here is what you're describing, I refer to as focus conscious attention. And the ability to maintain focus conscious attention for longer durations, not only in training, not only in games, but also over the course of the season, is a major factor in players taking their game from whatever level they're at, to the next level.

So you go from playing softball, to being in the ECNL, being in Spain, being on this trajectory, you know you're going to go play in college. And then you decide to go play division three soccer in Boston. That's not necessarily the path that most people might have predicted if we kind of put your journey and isolated it out. So what was that like? What went into that decision-making? And I mean, Emerson for those who don't know, is a very urban campus in the heart of Boston. I think you have one field for all of the sports. Is that accurate?

Cali:
Yeah.

Anthony:
So how did it come about? What were your takeaways from that process?

Cali:
Yeah, so recruiting was really hard for me, and it was also really hard for her. And so, a lot of the recruiting nowadays, I know the rules have kind of changed since I was in high school. I'm 22 now, so I know it's a little bit different. But the process started when you were a sophomore in high school. One, what I wanted when I was a sophomore versus when I was a senior and now was very different. So the thought even now like, "Oh, that's really young to start thinking about college." But I didn't have the confidence. And it wasn't maybe that I wasn't good enough, it was that I just didn't think I was good enough.

So I went on visits to division one schools here and up north. And a big thing was I knew I wanted to be in a city. That was a big thing for me. I knew I wanted to get out of Virginia, no offense. And I knew I wanted to be in a city. And so, I looked at some schools in New York City, some schools in Boston. And frankly, talking about recruiting is hard for me because it was so hard that I blacked it out in my brain. I literally barely remember it.

Skye:
Yeah, it's like the idea of Cali being able to pick up the phone, and dial the numbers to have a conversation and initiate a conversation with a college coach was just impossible. She couldn't do it. So then I try to step in a little bit, these aren't many of my friends to try to... And that's work at all, obviously. And then I get perceived as like, "Okay, you're this overbearing parent." I'm like, "But my daughter just is a really good player. But she doesn't have the confidence to be able to pick up the phone and have a conversation with a stranger." And so, it just made recruiting really, really challenging.

Cali:
Yeah.

Anthony:
So, you recognize this, Skye, you try making the call, it doesn't work. So as a parent, what are you feeling in that moment? I imagine that there's some degree of helplessness or floundering to try and do the right thing. So what advice would you give to parents who find themselves in a similar situation?

Skye:
Yeah, I mean those really were hard times. I feel like I kind of went through a lot in my life too. Well, it's the same story with Cali this whole time, of seeing this potential, seeing her growing passion for the game, knowing that she has the ability to do this, knowing that she would enjoy it. I'm not forcing anything on her. Anytime she's in this situation, she always enjoys it. And so, we would rehearse conversations, we would do this. But I think there was just this growing anxiety with her that was just... And so, it was a constant battle for me. Am I pushing her too hard? And she doesn't really love soccer, and this is her way of telling me in the language of a 15-year-old? Or is she just struggling with having this conversation, and can I guide, and help, and support her? And we can do a mock conversation to... We tried everything. And at the end of the day, I mean there were division one schools that were interested in Cali. But they just didn't meet her needs academically.

Anthony:
So what was different, Cali, in your conversations with Emerson? Or how did you become comfortable with that decision?

Cali:
Yeah, so I remember Su, is David Suvak is my coach at Emerson, but we all call him Su. So I remember him emailing me... Even like this, I ended up there, and I still barely remember it. And I remember him emailing me. I talked to him on the phone. I thought he sounded nice. Colin, who was my assistant coach, came and watched me in a tournament. So I got to meet him face-to-face, which was so much easier for me than a phone call for some reason. I think a big part of it too is being conscious. I was struggling with a lot of anxiety. It was hard for me. Once I got on the phone, I was able to have the conversation because I did call some coaches. It was just super hard for me to do it. Which sounds weird, but for some reason, that was something that I really struggled with.

And so, once I met Colin in person, I was like, "Oh, he seems nice. Su seemed nice. I'll go up and visit Emerson." I went and I visited, and I had already looked at another school in Boston. So I knew that I liked Boston and I liked Emerson even more. If for those who have been to Boston, it's right across the street from the Common. It was in the heart of the city. I studied sports communications and nonprofit communications, and I knew, more or less, that's what I wanted to do. And they have really good programs. And a big thing for me too was feeling overwhelmed by the big schools. I went and looked at some bigger division one schools, and went on unofficial visits, and went into the classrooms. And I remember just feeling like, how am I supposed to learn like this? There were just a lot of people in classroom. My brother goes to a big school and he loves having all of the people. But it was just something that I didn't really like.

And so, I don't know. I went to Emerson, I met with Su. But I think I went twice maybe. And I decided... I don't want to say this sounds bad, because Emerson was like... I have zero regrets, and had an amazing time, and an experience there that I don't think I would've had anywhere else. But I sort of feel like I was like, "Oh, well, this works. I'll go here." I don't want to say settled, but it was so much anxiety. I was like, "Yep, I like this. The team seems nice. School is cool. Program is good. Perfect. Okay, let me be done with this, please."

Skye:
What she needed at that point was somebody to just really want her, want her on the team. And I think that that's what Emerson did. But I also remember when you went to the campus... Because you talked to other coaches, you went to other places. The second she was on the campus, she was like, "I really like this place." It resonated with her for some reason. And that is something that your... And your brother too are really good about, is just being clear on what it is that you want and what's important to you. But-

Anthony:
One of our... Sorry. Go ahead, Skye.

Skye:
Cali also committed Emerson before she went to Spain. And so, that was already... So in my mind, Cali going to Spain and to TOVO was just... Going, experiencing football in the globally. Find a global connection, use the game to help you with that. So at that point, that's what TOVO was. And then she came back from TOVO, a totally different person, a totally different player. And in a great position to go and to have an incredible college experience. And again, like how I said, no regrets. I mean you came back, and I think from a playing standpoint, were really positioned to definitely be playing in division one.

Anthony:
Well, and I think that that's a big... There's a whole bunch of things that you guys have hit on that I think are worth bear repeating. The first is, the volume of options, or possibilities, or potentialities that high school players and their parents face in the college process is daunting. There's almost, I think, for a lot of people in the college process, a paralysis by analysis. Because there's a fear of not wanting to make the wrong choice. Of not wanting to go to the wrong place. Of not wanting to make such a big decision and not have it work out the way that you imagine it working out.

But it leads to a couple questions that friend of Soccer Parenting, Gill Urban, has asked in the Q&A. So Gill asked, how do you feel about spending so much time playing and training in college? And would you... I think the answer to this is yes. But would you do it over in the same way again knowing what you know now? And then part two to that is what do you feel like you've extracted from your time in college and at Emerson, and playing soccer at that level that will help you or serve you in your future?

Cali:
Yeah, I think in terms of the first question, yes, I would do it all again. And something that I have really enjoyed about the experience of playing division three, especially when I talked to my friends who played D1, is that I still played a lot of soccer. I had practice every day. We had lift every day. We had games. I wasn't having to travel on a plane to any of my games. But we had two games a week. I was playing a lot of soccer. But I still was a college student at the same time. And that's something that I am really grateful for, being able to have that balance of life. And like she was saying, do I think I could have played the pretty good division one school? Now I have the confidence to say yes.

But I got to go and experience feeling like I had an impact, which I never really felt like I had before. And I was fortunate in that I got to start every single game in my college career. I played almost every minute of every game. I was a three-year captain. I had all these amazing experiences in my path that I don't think I would've had. I gone to a division one school. Not that I don't think I would've played or maybe gotten to start here and there. But I got to feel what it means to be a leader. And I feel like I was given the opportunity to help build up the team. We went from, I think, placing fourth or fifth in the conference regular season my freshman year, getting knocked out first round of the playoffs to this year, winning the conference for the first time in program history. And that is something that I'm like, "Dang."

I feel like it's not just me, it's the whole team. And I wasn't out here scoring necessarily game winning goals or doing anything crazy, but I was on some level, a part of it. And I feel like that's something that I am really thankful for about my college experience and that I wouldn't change. And people talk about, "Oh, you want to be a college student? Do I really want to play soccer?" And I just want to push out to people. And it's something I say when I'm talking to younger kids when I'm back home coaching, or just seeing them. Girls I know who are 15, 16 on ECNL teams especially... There's so much pressure to go division one, you don't have to do that. And even now, when people talk about soccer with me, there's a part of me that still feels like, "Damn, I have to tell them I play division three soccer." Which is bad. I played on a good team. We were top 20 in the country for a point in time. And there's very likely division one teams that we could beat. But there's just this-

Anthony:
Sure, there's a stigma.

Cali:
Yeah, stigma around division three that it's not as good. And so, that's a big thing that I've been trying to be a proponent of is, you can go to a very good division three program that takes it seriously, but there are also different regulations for division three soccer. So it's not going to be your whole life. And you can have a intense and very high level college playing experience that, at the same time, does not take away from your whole entire life. And that's something that, I mean, talking about how parents feel, I'm obviously not a parent with a child who's trying to play college or soccer in college right now, but feeling like, "Ah, I want my kid to go to division one.

You can achieve so much success and have so much fun, and just joy in the game playing at any of the levels. And it's not this D1 or bust mentality. It doesn't have to be that. And if anyone else, I don't know, watching this or whatever, feels like that stress of, "My kid's not getting to division one exposure." These D3 schools or D2 schools are looking at them like, "That's awesome." It's still playing college soccer.

Anthony:
Yeah, if you play college soccer at any level, NAIA junior college, you're in a small percentage of players who make it to that level. And I think that's an important testimonial that you just gave there, Cali, because I think too often when we do college talks, and one of my roles here is, as the college advisory program director, there's a lot of access to division one athletes who tell their stories. And I don't think that there's nearly as many division two or division three athletes who share with people what you just shared with them. You'd mentioned a little earlier that you aspire to coach and that you want to continue to serve in the game in some different capacities. Obviously, you're going to go do some work with Hartford Athletic. When did you decide that coaching was going to be part of your path? And why don't you talk a little bit about the coaching education that you've already done. Because you're, again, in a small percentage of players who come out of college having already taken some of those steps on that journey.

Cali:
Yeah, so I always sort of enjoyed coaching because despite my anxiety in calling college coaches, I have a loud voice and I'm not afraid to use it, which maybe made it more confusing and hard for her, because it didn't really make sense. I don't know. So that's always been something that I've liked doing. I started coaching for Own Touch, the technical training place that we previously mentioned. When here and there, probably my junior year of high school was my summer job, just working the summer camps. And it wasn't a team, so I wasn't necessarily coaching kids in games. But I was like, "Well, this is fun. I enjoy this." I enjoy forging connections and with the kids and feeling, more or less, I have an impact. And then when I went to Spain, I realized, oh wow, a coach can have a big impact on a player. Not just as a player soccer wise, because Todd made me a much better player, but also he made me, in a lot of ways, a better person, a more confident person.

I came back and I felt empowered, and strong, and I could do it, and joyous. And I was like, "Oh, I would love to be able to make another person feel like this." And aside from that, I've always viewed the game very analytically. It's easy for me to understand how it works, where positioning and players should be. And then see having my experience in Spain sort of viewing coaching the game a little bit differently, that helped me. So I decided before I went to college, "Okay, I want to get my D License before I graduate." And so, in order to do that, you have to do two in-person, one online, the 11V11 grassroots. You have to do the grassroots ones before you qualify for your D License. The 11V11 one has to be in-person. And so, I remember thinking, I think it was my junior year like, "Ph no time's running up. I better start getting on this." So at the end of my sophomore year.

And so, I committed to it. I went full in. I took a bus to Worcester, Massachusetts. And then I took an Uber from Worcester, Lancaster, all by myself, and did a D License course. And I was-

Skye:
Or did your 11V11.

Cali:
Oh, sorry, sorry. My 11V11 in-person course. And was the only woman there and was like, "Hmm, this is probably what my mom's been talking about forever." And it was like the start of like huh, now not only do I want to coach to help impact kids, but also I feel a little bit... I want kids to have a female role model in the game. Because besides my mom, I never had a female coach growing up. And so, that was something else that sort of ignited it a little bit for me. I did my other courses. And when it was time to look for my D License course, I was connected through my mom with Candice Fabry?

Skye:
Fabry.

Cali:
Candice Fabry, who works down in Kansas City. Has a coach educator, and she has her own company, but does a lot, she's awesome. And she says, "Hey, I'm holding an all woman's D License course in February and March." It was online because of how it works with COVID now, but online a little bit, go for to Kansas City for an in-person weekend at the US Soccer Youth Learn Center. Which was pretty cool. And then a little more online, then in-person one more time. And I was like, "Dang, okay. Yeah, now I get to do this. I get to learn. And it's an environment like full of other women in the game who have had similar experiences and different experiences to me."

I was the youngest person there by far. So it was awesome to learn, but also get some guidance from people who had been coaching for a little bit longer than me and had been able to hear about their journey and their experience. And I did it. Spring of my junior year, I got my D License, and I accomplished my goal. And it was just one peg in the coaching journey. And something that I still am looking to build off of in my time at Hartford and whatnot. But it's been a process and I stuck with it. I'm proud of myself for my goal.

Anthony:
Yeah, you should be. The importance of what Candace does, those all women's coaching courses wags and New Jersey Youth Soccer do it as well. They're critical because we have to get more women into the coaching pipeline at this point, so that they can have the experiences, the positive and the hard ones, to get on that journey. As we get towards the end of our hour here, I just want you to give your final reflections, Cali, on... I know at the beginning you gave Skye lot of credit for how she's handled this. But give her some constructive feedback, not for her, because hopefully she's not going to be doing this again, but for the other parents who are listening. What are some things that they can learn from how Skye served you on this journey?

Cali:
I would say the biggest thing is you're probably not doing as bad as you might think you are. Because I feel like, and a lot of times when I'll have conversations with my mom about my experience growing up, she's like, "Oh, I'm so sorry for this." I don't fully remember that. I remember the times that she supported me. So it's okay if you're not perfect, and maybe you're... As long as you're trying your best to improve. Because she gave me a lot of room to come into my own. And I would say for the sake of your kid in the game, and them continuing to love the game, if you have a child who is, in some way or another like me, they maybe don't want to go outside and train all the time, or they lack confidence calling the coaches, or you just feel like, "Ah, they could be doing more. What's going on?" Just let them grow. I figured it out. I figured it out on my own.

And because I had a parent who was supportive and gave me that room to figure it out and come to it on my own, she is still the person that I look to for all of it. I didn't push her away. I didn't push soccer away. I evolved and figured it out, and ended up exactly where I was meant to end up in the exact way that I was meant to end up. And it definitely, looking back on how I felt, I don't know how you felt, but retrospectively, there's so much. I remember feeling so much stress. And now I'm here and I'm like, "Oh, it really didn't need that much stress."

Because it's soccer and it's a game, and at the end of the day, it is supposed to be played with joy, and love, and for fun. And just let your child have that experience, and that joy, and that love, and they will evolve into exactly how they're supposed to be and in the exact way that they're meant to. And I feel like by being given that room, that's what happened to me and I'm really thankful. And that's beyond anything else. What I would say from my experiences growing up in the game.

Anthony:
Steve Jobs, in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech talks about you can only connect the dots backwards. And I've known you your entire life, but for you to end up where you are, having accomplished what you've accomplished in the game, and really in many ways just at the beginning of it. I mean, I know last year you played UWS with the Connecticut Fusion. The opportunity to stay engaged in the game at the professional level playing, coaching, you've got all kinds of opportunities and experiences ahead of you that I can't wait to see you take advantage of and see where this takes you from here. Skye, we'll give you the last word. Final thoughts, or reflections, or anything you want to touch on that we missed?

Skye:
Well, I love what you just said about connecting the dots backwards. If I could just give any insights about Cali's path, and how arduous of a journey at times it was, at this point now I'm so proud of her. I mean, she was just named in All-American college. That's so cool to me to think about that.

Anthony:
You stole the thunder there because the-

Skye:
Oh, sorry.

Anthony:
That's okay. The celebration is Cali is an All-American this year, and Skye was an All-American. So we have our All America panelists here today. But we're obviously all incredibly proud of you for your accomplishments on and off the field, Cali. And look forward to celebrating your All-America Award on Saturday at the convention. Sorry, Skye. Go ahead.

Skye:
No, no, no. Sorry. I didn't mean to steal your closing. But I just would say that the path was so perfect. And it was very different than a lot of people. And that's what was really hard for me, is to let the path be different, to open the space up so that as long as... My biggest priority the whole time was just that Cali loved the game. And everything else was going to fall into place based on everything else. And I will also say that I worked hard to make sure that she was in the presence of good, quality soccer people. Between you, Anthony, I mean, Cali still talks about your dad, and the time that he took care of her at Soccer Plus camps. And Todd, obviously, getting Cali connected with Todd, with Candace. These things have been really, really important to me. And I think that's a big decision we make as parents, is who our children interact with. And so, just seek out the most quality people possible.

I didn't always get that right, but I was really proactive in making sure that she had quality people around her. And I'm just so proud of her. This has been fun. Thanks. It's been so weird not meeting a conversation.

Anthony:
Well, I appreciate you asking me to fill in for you, Skye, because I think your insights, and Cali's insights, and the ability for you to share together this conversation, I can just see all the thanks in the chat. So let me add mine to that. Thank you guys for both taking the time today. And for all of you joining us, we'll look forward to seeing several of you this week. And otherwise we'll see on another Soccer Parenting webinar somewhere down the line. This conversation, if you missed any of it, will be available in the resource center later this week. So you can check it out there if you missed any of it. Also, if any of your players or other families you think would benefit from this, have them grab our three-day free pass, and check out this conversation, and eight years of other content in the Soccer Parent Resource Center. Cali, Skye, thank you guys both so much. And have a great rest of your day.

Skye:
Thanks everyone.

Cali:
Thank you.

About the Author 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.

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