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Feb 032014


index Finding the Heart of American Soccer at the NSCAA Convention

“Sure, why the hell not.”

That was my thought about 6 months ago when I received an email from Adam Uthe, The VP of Content for Global Football Today, about going to the NSCAA Coaches Convention in Philadelphia in January. At the time I had only been working as a soccer journalist for about 6 months, and only serious for about 3 months. Having just done my first “on-assignment” job at the Gold Cup, the thought of being in another environment with other bright minds in the game seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. Oh, and hoagies are delicious.

My first inclination that this was much bigger than a group of coaches sitting around teaching 1v1 drills came in September when the lecture list was released. This was more than just coaching drills. The NSCAA Coaches Convention is a convention of the greater game. Looking through the daily agenda there were courses being taught by the likes of  Dan Gaspar, the Goalkeeping Coach for Iran, the Bayern Munich Youth Academy, and by countless players, coaches, and training officials. There were courses being offered on concussions, on sports management, on effective communications. Oh, and of course there was the MLS Draft and the NWSL Draft.

Reviewing that initial list of courses, and the subsequent research to learn more about some of these subjects, made me think of something that I needed an answer: Just what exactly is the heart of American soccer? For many years, my perspective on the game had been that the heart of the game rested in Major League Soccer. A childhood of watching coaches yell at players for taking shots and kids who are underprivileged having to scrap every nickel, dime, and penny to get even a notice by a private academy left me bitter and jaded towards the youth system. At least with MLS it felt like it was nice, uncorrupted, and though it wasn’t perfect it was trying something new and different.

In the past few weeks and months researching this event and some of the different efforts going on in this country have changed my perspective. Working with an organization like Goals for Girls, which aims towards using soccer to empower young women in impoverished countries, has helped chip away at some of the bitterness and replaced it with some hope. The glow of MLS has also been dampened: years of questionable financial decisions, bad signings, and Chivas USA have changed my perspective on the league. It only takes about five minutes of going online to find something that will crawl under your skin.

There were two particular events that completely changed my perspective on what is important in American soccer. And they actually occurred at just about the same time. As I was watching a group of  MLS suits wearing the scarves of their respective teams, a sight that probably makes thousands of English hooligans spin in their graves, I was also engaging in a very interesting chat with a group called One World Football. One World Football is an organization that has developed something a soccer ball that never needs to be pumped up and is virtually indestructible. But beyond making a ball that every kid dreams of they are doing something with it: for every ball that is purchased, another one goes to a child in a developing country.

It is often hard to believe, but the game of soccer is bigger than the professional leagues. It is the ability to coach others about the game and life, to give children the opportunity to learn more about themselves through a pitch and a ball, and for people like myself to connect with others by using the power of the word to connect with others who share a passion of the game and the good it can do. Whether it was sitting down for a beer at Monk’s Café with a fellow writer, listening in to lecture on the use of “Moneyball” for soccer with Tim Lenahan, the Head Coach at Northwestern University (while consistently peeking at the score of the F.C. Barcelona game on my computer,) or even engaging in some healthy banter with my fellow writers at the MLS SuperDraft. The heart of American soccer is not Landon Donovan or Major League Soccer. American soccer’s heart will keep beating if we don’t make the next World Cup. The heart of American soccer rests within groups like One World Football, within the coach who works with the up and coming players, or with the likes of Dr. Tom Kaminski a concussion expert who is looking to make the game safer. The heart of American soccer is with those who choose to promote the best qualities that the game can provide to those on pitch and society.

If you want to see some of the presentations that I hit on during this article please check out the NSCAA website for replays of some of the different programs that were offered.


Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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