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Challenges & Opportunities in College Soccer

Posted by Rob Kehoe, NSCAA Director of College Programs on Apr 14, 2016 in Membership 0 Comments

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On Tuesday, April 5, I was honored to represent the National Soccer Coaches Association of America on a panel discussion titled, “The Future of Soccer: The College Game." The event was held at the University of Maryland, hosted by The Shirley Povich Center For Sports Journalism, and was presented in the presence of an overflow SRO audience.

Povich Center director, George Solomon, along with ESPN Commentator, former Maryland, MLS, and US Soccer standout Taylor Twellman, served as program moderators and the panel consisted of the following.

Sasho Cirovski – University of Maryland men’s soccer coach, NSCAA Division I Men’s Coaches Chair
Anson Dorrance – University of North Carolina women’s soccer coach
Steven Goff – The Washington Post writer
Oliver Luck – NCAA Executive Vice President
Lindsay Simpson - D.C United director of media and communications

Set up against the evolution and growth of college soccer, and the game in general in the United States, the discussion centered primarily on challenges being faced and opportunities being sought by, as well as the differences that exist in, Division I men’s and women’s soccer. Additionally, the conversation expanded to subjects such as the current US Women’s National Team compensation issue; the contentious youth club vs. high school debate; college soccer’s relationship to US Soccer, MLS, NWSL; and the absence of media attention given to the college game.

Here is a post-event article that provides a snapshot of the lively and insightful conversation. A video of the full panel discussion will be available at a later date.

From a coach association perspective, the event pointed to the importance of recent developments in the NSCAA Advocacy Council Membership Group structure that is designed to encourage member engagement and facilitate interaction with our National Office staff that provides service for all constituent groups.

As relates to college soccer, this is most important, as it is the engagement and interaction within the member group that is reflected in the NSCAA rankings and awards programs, representation with the divisional governing bodies (e.g. NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, CCCAA), coach education, and Convention/event programming.

As mentioned above, college soccer faces challenges in all divisions and many relate to the structure of the compressed fall season that includes the national tournament format, and the effect this has on student-athlete/academic/personal life balance, health and safety, and player development. And with these challenges, there are also opportunities to seek changes to improve the sport and the experience for college soccer players and coaches, and that is the work of the College Soccer Member Group, which under the direction of Advocacy Council College Chair Becky Burleigh (University of Florida), College Men’s Member Chair Carlo Acquista (Adelphi University), and College Women’s Member Chair Aliceann Wilber (William Smith College) is being rounded into shape so as to be in the best position to pursue changes for the good of college soccer. 

The panel discussion at Maryland pointed to the value of college soccer in the landscape of US Soccer, but also to the challenges to increase the relevance and strength of the sport at the college level. I thought Taylor Twellman summed it up well when he said it's “crunch time” for college soccer and added the encouragement to continue to work to raise college soccer to a level of recognition and reputation for being the best 18-22 year old soccer development environment in the world – that’s our challenge and opportunity.

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