Friday, January 22, 2010
This past weekend I attended my 30th annual NSCAA Convention. My first one was in 1980 when another young coach and I drove from Orlando to Houston to attend the convention. If I recall correctly, there were about 800 people at that one. This year's was in Philadelphia and had about 5,000 attendees. Certainly the convention has grown in many different ways over the years. Still, it strikes me the same as being a great soccer love in. Those of you who do not clearly recall, or did not live through the 60s, can ask a baby boomer what a love in was.
I think of the NSCAA Convention as a soccer love in because it is an opportunity to see the many friends we have in the game who live in other parts of the country. Given the size of our country as our friends move around with their soccer jobs, it can be a real challenge to visit with one another. Or, perhaps like I did, they move into another level of the game. I moved from being a college coach to a youth coach and educator. So, the convention gives me a chance to visit with friends who are still in the college coaching ranks. Part of the convention for me is that reconnection with friends and colleagues in so many levels of the game.
The convention has moved from hotel ballrooms to convention center halls. The sessions have grown to full field demo areas and therefore what can be demonstrated has expanded. The range of topics in sessions on the floor and in the classroom has grown and is now quite varied. Perhaps though, it is time to coordinate that a bit more so there can be a connection between the sessions that reflect the needs of the game in the USA. Just a thought.
Is it time to reduce the number of meetings that take place so that more attention can be paid to the education sessions? For me, I just go from one meeting to the next now-a-days and do not actually get to watch many of the sessions. I would like to be able to attend more though. The convention is a business and networking scene so maybe the meetings need to take place, but are they detracting from the main purpose of coaching education?
One of the events at the convention I always enjoy is the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund ceremony. Talk about a Who's Who of soccer in the United States – well this is where they gather. The ceremony honors someone who has given a lifetime of service to the game as Walt did. This year the recipient was Walter Bahr, who played on the 1950 World Cup team that beat England 1-0 sending shockwaves across the football world. Walt got the assist on that goal. Many NCSAA members do not know of this ceremony but they have heard of the 4v4 tournament which bears Walt Chyzowych's name, another piece of the convention that has grown dramatically from humble beginnings.
For years the coaches had pickup games at the convention in the ballrooms or the hallways. When Dr. Tom Fleck was the president of the NSCAA he decided to formalize these games. So, in 1981 the convention was in Orlando and there was a large empty field behind the hotel (yes we needed only one hotel). Ron Quinn and I took a paint machine and made lines on the vacant lot for two 5-a-side soccer fields. I went to a guy named Andy Caruso with this new company called KwikGoal and we set up some of their goals on the field. Badda boom badda bing, we had a tournament. I signed up coaches, easy to do when there were less than a 1,000 coaches attending, and we had an afternoon of games. Boy has that tournament grown into an outstanding evening of fun games.
So, there are a few asides from a long time coaches' convention attendee. I hope to attend many more of the annual gathering of those committed to the game!