It’s that time of year again where I make my trip to whatever city is hosting the United Soccer Coaches (former NSCAA) Convention. It is great to spend 4-5 days talking, thinking and learning about soccer. If this is your first time or you’ve never gone, here are some ideas on how to get the most out of the Convention.
- Decide – There’s more than enough going on at the Convention for just about any soccer coach/fan. Deciding what it is that you want to get out of the Convention will get you much closer to achieving that goal. It’s fine to spend some time wandering around the exhibit hall but it shouldn’t be your only activity. Decide on some presenter that you want to see, Bill Beswick is one of my favorites. Decide on the concepts that would really help your team, club or players.
- Don’t be afraid to be a paratrooper – This is my term for showing up to a session and deciding quickly that that topic, presenter or material is not what you were looking for. Don’t be afraid to move on to another session. There’s more than enough going on that you can have two or even three worthy sessions in each time slot. So plan ahead.
- Engage – There are thousands of people here with the same passion as you. The possibility for common ground is immense. Although it may be more comfortable to only talk to the people that you came with, you’ll probably find that engaging with new people creates new possibilities. This does not mean stalk Thierry Henry to pick his brain about how to fix your U9 girls team’s finishing problem. There are more than enough people here who would be eager to talk to you about it though. So step out of your shell.
- Get out of your lane – There are so many facets to this sport on display over the next few days. Sticking to your own area is a great way to leave with the exact knowledge that you had upon your arrival. Make a concerted effort to learn about something outside of your personal “wheel house”. I once attended a panel discussion on club finances. It gave me an insight into the work that my club’s treasurer was doing and helped us to prepare for some future financial concerns.
- Show up – Over the years, I’ve convinced several friends and colleagues to go to their first Convention. Almost all of them are now yearly attendees. There are many people in the soccer community that are disappointed in the qualification failure of the USMNT. That problem will not be solved at this Convention. However the solutions to American soccer problems will come from many of the people and ideas that are here. As I hope that we’re beginning to see in many areas of life, a better tomorrow is not dependent upon the chosen few at the top. It is incumbent on all of us who care to show up early and often to help get things right.
Enjoy the Convention if you’re already going. If you’re not, get a one day pass and check it out. Philadelphia is one of my favorite venues for the Convention. The Market next door, the “Rocky Steps” and the city in general make it a fun time.