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National Training 2019 Highlights

Each year, the U.S. Soccer Foundation hosts coach-mentors from across the country for National Training. From July 11 to July 14, 2019, these coach-mentors learned the new Soccer for Success curriculum through a combination of on-field demonstrations, activities, presentations, and classroom-style learning. At the end of the weekend, these individuals became certified to train other Soccer for Success coach-mentors back in their communities. Check out some highlights from the event!

Photography: Pershon Hargett/Imagine Photography

Day 1 – Overcoming Adversity

The event kicked off with opening remarks from U.S. Soccer Foundation President & CEO Ed Foster-Simeon. “We talk about Soccer for Success, we talk about big numbers and reaching 120,000 kids this coming school year,” he told the group. “But the secret sauce to everything is you all.”

“We’ve got a great team that writes beautiful curriculum, impactful curriculum, we’ve done all kinds of data analysis on impact of what this work, this program, can do for children. But none of that matters without you,” he continued. “For the children that you’re working with, don’t underestimate the power that you have to be a positive influence in their lives, to lift them up, and to help them overcome many challenges that are in front of them.”

Former USMNT player Charlie Davies then took the floor to share an important message about how soccer taught him critical life skills like how to overcome adversity, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Through various obstacles throughout his life – which included battling depression, a nearly-fatal car crash, and cancer – Charlie maintains that it was the lessons learned through the beautiful game that helped him overcome them.

Speaking to the moment after the car crash, Charlie reflected out loud to the group: “I was alive. I had my life and all those moments I had as a child, in high school, in college, prepared me for this moment right here, which is either to feel sorry for yourself – that you’re going to lose what you worked your whole life to have – or to get back up and fight and go as far as you can.”

“Each occurrence of adversity preps you for the next one,” he said. “Adversity is not just going to come at you one time. It happens throughout your life. And after each time, you get stronger, and learn from it that once you get through one…it’s just going to help you become stronger and mentally ready to take on the next challenge.”

Charlie’s life story resonated with many. “To know how much hardship he had gone through and how sport has been able to help him cope and also help him make it through that adversity…and how the sport has propelled him into a position of professionalism, it was very inspiring,” said Ismael Candelas of THINK TOGETHER. “His story I believe resonates a lot with some of the experiences that we have in the communities where we want to be able to help the children as best as we can but we know there’s some deeper issues that we just can’t necessarily get to, but at least we provide a beacon of light to be able to support them.”

Day 2 – Embracing a Growth Mindset

Throughout the second day of National Training, participants dived into the new curriculum training, with the day’s focus being how to embrace a growth mindset. In the context of Soccer for Success, this is the idea that coaches can motivate their players to achieve beyond what they think is achievable, regardless of their starting points.

“The idea is to get those kids with a fixed mindset over to the growth mindset, even if a kid is so determined…to be the best soccer player in the world,” said Omar Cummings of FC Cincinnati.

Photography: Pershon Hargett/Imagine Photography

But teaching participants to adopt a growth mindset does not only apply to the soccer field, he notes. “I think every lesson learned in the game, it can transition outside the game,” Omar continues. “It could be any game; it could be any environment; it could be any scenario in your life…The mindset is what you’re trying to change. Regardless of what environment you’re in, the same things apply.”

Day 3 – Building Culturally Responsive Coaching Environments

Leading up to day 3 of National Training, attendees had been given various tools to help them connect with their players on an individual level. On Saturday morning, Patricia Morgan, Coordinator of Science, Health, and Physical Education of the Fayette County Board of Education presented coaches with another set of tools through a series of activities.

One such activity focused on identifying surface-level and deep culture, the main takeaway being that qualities like perception of beauty, eye contact, and storytelling aren’t always so cut-and-dry. These qualities can have varying levels of importance depending on the individual and his or her culture.

“We have to get past the surface-level culture,” Patricia said. “All of us have deep culture and it impacts the way we interact with our players, our colleagues, our communities. And sometimes our communities hold biases about us because of our race, our class, our gender. And sometimes we hold biases about others.”

For Patricia, the main hope is that we all can “get to know each other on a deeper level so that we open lines of communication that sometimes is hard for people to do based on their cultural identities…If you think about sports, if you think about athleticism, it’s the one place where our sub-cultures should be celebrated.”

Day 4 – Graduation and Key Takeaways

On the final day of National Training, participants earned their graduation certificates, ready to go back to their communities to impact more coaches and young people across the country.

“It is really special for me to be a part of this,” reflected Kaley Mialki of Florida 4-H in Osceola County. “It’s been really fun learning from the facilitators, but it’s actually been really fun learning from my colleagues here too because everyone has their own little tricks of the trade, so it’s been really helpful.”

Photography: Pershon Hargett/Imagine Photography

“I feel very lucky to be part of this movement,” said Ismael. “I feel very thankful to my organization that trusts the selected few to make it out and be part of the cause, the movement, to make this awesome game available to multiple communities, particularly communities that are underserved that we know can benefit so much.”

The 2019 National Training hosted 130 participants representing 51 Soccer for Success programs across the country. These now-certified Soccer for Success Trainers return to their communities ready to collectively train 5,000 coach-mentors that will strive to make a lasting, positive impact on more than 100,000 youth nationwide during the 2019-2020 Soccer for Success program year.