Positive Coaching Alliance Leads Second Annual Culture Summit for National Women’s Soccer League Coaches

On Saturday, January 13th, following the 2024 NWSL Draft in Anaheim, CA, PCA led the second annual Culture Summit for all National Women’s Soccer League head coaches, assistant coaches, and general managers from each of the league’s 14 teams. The focus of the seminar was on effective coaching, leadership, and culture-building strategies.

The summit that PCA designed specifically for the NWSL, was to address the league’s ongoing commitment to implement systemic reform, focused on creating a safe and supportive culture in the league.

“Creating a positive team and organizational culture is one of the most important things coaches and leaders can do to create a safe environment at all levels of sport,” said PCA President Jason Sacks. “We commend Commissioner Berman and the league for continuing to make this a priority for their technical staff.”

The PCA seminar focused on four core themes including:​​

  • Building a Safe and Positive Culture
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick Ass Coach without Losing Your Humanity 
  • How Do Players’ Brains Work?
  • Sporting Operations: How Coaches & General Managers Can Optimize Performance & Culture
Kim Scott, NY Times Bestselling Author of Radical Candor, presents to league coaches and soccer operations staff

The summit featured PCA National Advisory Board Members, guest speakers, and facilitators from sports psychology and professional sports including:

  • Dr. Kensa Gunter, Clinical and Sport Psychologist & Director, NBA Mind Health
  • Kim Scott, NY Times Bestselling Author of Radical Candor
  • Megan Bartlett, Founder & CEO of the Center for Justice & Healing Through Sport
  • Lindsay Gottlieb, Head Women’s Basketball Coach, University of Southern California
  • Shaun Livingston, Former Golden State Warriors & 4x NBA Champion, 15-year NBA Veteran
  • Nick U’Ren, General Manager, Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
PCA President Jason Sacks (L) moderates a panel with Nick U’Ren, Shaun Livingston, and Lindsay Gottlieb

Here are some key takeaways from the guest speakers and panelists:

  • If you want a certain culture, you have to be intentional about making it happen.
  • Culture is reflected through actions; intention needs to match impact for culture to be effective.
  • Create a pathway for bi-directional feedback: healthy cultures create spaces that foster clear, consistent, honest communication.
  • Be able to receive feedback before dishing it out. It’s important to solicit feedback, especially for people in power. Consider having a go-to question that you use to solicit feedback. 
  • 3 things that are good for the brain:
    • Relationships 
    • The right dose of stress – controlled, moderate, predictable
    • Movement – patterned, repetitive, rhythmic activity = safety
      • Movement while listening to music = best thing for the brain
  • Honest communication within the team allows for vulnerability with each other and builds trust.
  • As a Coach – be open to trying new things and get feedback from all members of the Coaching staff. 
From Left to Right: Megan Bartlett, Casey U’Ren, Kensa Gunter, Kelly Kratz, Kayla Landes- Brenman, Suzanne Sillett, Jason Sacks, Marti Reed

Additionally, the day before the Summit, PCA President Jason Sacks served on a panel about “Critical Voices in Safeguarding” that was part of a summit for player safety officers and HR professionals from each of the 14 teams.

To learn more about partnering your youth sports organization, high school, or club with PCA to improve its culture, click here.