Proving the Power of US Club Soccer-Positive Coaching Alliance Partnership
Tampa Bay United Soccer Club is a poster-child for US Club Soccer member clubs partnering with Positive Coaching Alliance under the PCA-US Club Soccer national partnership, which launched in August and made PCA an official provider of coaching development and player and parent education for US Club Soccer’s Players FirstTM program.
The national initiative provides US Club Soccer member clubs with preferred access to PCA educational resources for coaching development and parent engagement and education, including videos and podcasts featuring past World Cup and Major League Soccer players and coaches on PCA’s National Advisory Board. US Club Soccer member clubs and leagues also receive discounted rates to bring PCA’s live and online workshops to their own clubs and communities, and PCA will present workshops and other educational content at various US Club Soccer Players First educational events throughout the country.
However, says US Club Soccer Executive Vice President Christian Lavers, “the local level is where the real impact happens, establishing culture with players, parents and coaches. We encourage people who may have heard of PCA, or who’ve seen some of the resources online, but haven’t yet crossed the bridge, to do so. US Club Soccer’s size, scope and credibility may help people at the local level take that step.”
Tampa Bay United (TBU), serving roughly 2,200 youth ages 4-19 in both recreational and competitive programs, took that step even before the PCA-US Club Soccer national partnership launched and is reaping dividends, according to TBU Executive Director Eric Sims. “The fact that US Club Soccer is partnering with PCA nationally validates the importance of PCA. PCA is helping change the whole culture of our club. The way our coaches interact with players is taking us from caring primarily about how many games we win to caring about developing players and people. Also, a lot of parents have come out of the PCA workshops saying, ‘I’ll never again act inappropriately on the sidelines.’
“Our job as a club is to develop soccer players. To do that, we need working relationships between coaches and players, coaches and senior leadership, and coaches and parents…all speaking the same language and sharing the same messages. People don’t realize the impact of coaches on kids, and the life lessons are even more important than soccer.”
TBU has been extraordinarily thorough in its implementation of PCA training. It started with a Leading Your Organization workshop for about two dozen board members and senior leaders, such as directors of coaching and technical directors. “PCA helped us assess where our club was and how we could improve,” Sims says. “We decided that one key was to reinforce to coaches what their roles and responsibilities are in terms of teaching players how to compete and teaching them life lessons.”
TBU hosted Double-Goal Coach® workshops for the 80 coaches in the club’s competitive program for nine-to-14-year-olds, and recently completed eight Second-Goal Parent® workshops for a total of roughly 400 parents, Sims says. “Some of the parents going in were apprehensive, maybe thinking, ‘You’re going to teach me how to parent my kid?’ But parents learn how to handle situations, such as what to say on the car rides to and from practices and games, and when and how to talk with their kids about teammates and coaches.”
Alex Delgado, Director of TBU’s U8-U10 Academy, also has witnessed the power of the PCA partnership: “It unites us coaches in what we communicate to parents, using PCA as a platform from which to push out more education to parents. We wanted to get this information to parents of our younger players so that they could use it throughout their soccer careers. As a coach, the biggest thing for me is when the PCA Trainer leading the workshops suggests what questions to ask yourself about the culture and the environment you want for your players.PCA is helpful in identifying the (desired) culture and establishing an environment where each individual player can learn and have fun.”
To illustrate, Delgado recalls a parent last summer, who was “upset because his son was not on the ‘top team’ and did not understand what we were trying to accomplish in terms of teaching and development as opposed to just winning. He left the program with his son, and he tried to take some other parents with him.
“In the workshops this fall, it helped to have a voice other than ours telling the parents about youth sports. It helps that PCA is backed by pro coaches and other experts. The parents in those workshops saw that that parent from back in summer just was not seeing the bigger picture.”
Tampa Bay United provides a blueprint for other US Club Soccer members to follow in their own partnerships with PCA, Lavers says. “The feedback we got from Tampa Bay United and George Fotopoulos -- their Girls Director of Coaching, who is also on US Club Soccer’s board -- is that the implementation at TBU has been really good.”
Summarizing all the value and impact that the PCA-US Club Soccer national partnership delivers, Lavers notes: “The goal of Players First is to improve the daily experience of youth soccer on the field and off, to improve the understanding of coaches and parents, educate them as to what to look for in outcomes, that winning has its place, but development and learning and a quality experience are more important than winning. Youth sports can be a highly volatile environment. Part of our goal is to help people understand what youth sports should be, and PCA’s resources help us do that.
“The videos, essays and pamphlets online are helpful. We’ve gotten good feedback and lots of people sharing the videos of Erin Chastain and Jerry Smith on what they look for in recruits, which have really hit home. The high-touch local experience of PCA with workshops and the high-frequency reinforcement through the videos and other online resources remind people of what’s important and create a top-down and bottom-up approach: top-down, where US Club Soccer highlights our national relationship and the resources, and bottom-up where clubs implement PCA locally. Working with PCA does not mean you can’t be critical. It means helping coaches and parents understand what’s important about youth sports, and it means having a lot of tools to help kids, whether they’re playing rec or want to play at the highest possible level and become the next Alex Morgan or Landon Donovan.”