Billed as “The World’s Largest Annual Gathering of Soccer Coaches,” each year the NSCAA Convention draws approximately 4,000 coaches from their 30,000-plus members, and more than 10,000 attendees over five days for live field demonstration and lecture sessions, networking socials, coaching diplomas and more. In this article Bobby Puppione, Director of Soccer at Cincy United, shares with you his experience from this years Convention.


This was my 9th year attending the NSCAA coaches convention. Along with all of the educational opportunities, it is a chance for attendees to network with coaches from across the world, check out the latest technology in the game, and see more Puma, Adidas, Nike, etc. warm-up suits than you have ever seen in person.

My first convention was back in 2006 in Philadelphia, and this year we were back in Philly for the convention. I have always enjoyed Philadelphia conventions because of the set-up, the history of the city, and the Reading Terminal Market (where you can get the best eats in town). And no matter what level you coach or your involvement in the game, you should be able to take something away from the event and bring it home with you.

The NSCAA does a nice job as well as giving coaches opportunities to earn special topics diplomas and coaching education credits as well. I earned the “Special Topics: Mental Game Diploma.” I have listed below some of the specific sessions I enjoyed and key points from those sessions. Also, I have put together a document with some coaching highlights from the session. The dropbox link is at the bottom of the paper.

Willie McNab – Soccer Academy Manager, Celtic Football Club

Willie did a session on “Defensive Scenarios” and how they translate in to the 11-a-side game. I really enjoyed his attention to detail from the warm-up, to 1v1 play, all the way up to bigger number activities. Too often teams focus only on the attacking part of the game, failing to address defensive scenarios. This was a great session for young and old.

Donna Fishter – Leadership Coach and Team Architect, Donna Fishter Consulting LLC

Donna did two lectures on soccer psychology during the convention. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch all of the first one. But, the second one on “leading your coaching staff” was very valuable.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from this lecture: – “People will be high performers if they have autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” – “People that know they are valued have higher performance and higher production.” – “How am I letting my colleagues know that I value them?”

April Heinrichs – Technical Director, US Women’s National Team Former US Women’s National Team coach and current Technical Director

April Heinrichs, did a good session on “developing youth national team players.” National Team Staff Members April Kater and Mark Carr also assisted in the session.

Two of the main focuses of the session were partner awareness/relationships of players and moving like a soccer player. I really enjoyed her attention to players moving off the ball, reading the game around them, and decision making. She also addressed how players need to improve their ability to play with the players next to/near them – this was focusing on relationships of players. Examples includes center backs relationships with outside backs, or relationship of the three center mids and their movement. The session was successful as we noticed improvement by the demo players as the sessions went along.

Tiffany Jones – President, X-Factor Performance Consulting

Tiffany Jones was quality! So many good mental questions and statements were dropped in her field session and lecture – I never stopped writing. Great soccer psychology!

She did a good field session and followed up with a lecture on developing mental toughness off the field.

Here are some of the top quotes I took from her session/lecture: – “We need to emphasize grit and self-gratification, in and out of practice.” – “There is a big difference between motivation and commitment. You can’t control motivation. We need to talk to them more about commitment.” – Players today aren’t able to self-assess and self-evaluate. We need to have that, on the fly. But we need to educate.” – “We think this generation can’t take honesty or truth. But if we talk about it they’re going to be more receptive.” – “It discourages me to see half the team sitting idly while the other half puts in their (punishment) work. No encouragement.” “Don’t tell them what they did wrong, ask them what they did wrong. When they have to process that it helps.” “Attitude, body language and work ethic are three of the most important things.”


With coaches from across the country and world, the NSCAA convention is an excellent opportunity for young coaches and experienced ones to get a chance to learn from others. Coaching sessions and lectures are definitely educational, but some of the best takeaways to help improve coaches, teams, and clubs can be gained from the conversations at lunch, dinner, or social gatherings. I always enjoy speaking with other coaches, asking them about how they are successful at their youth clubs. This is a chance for me to “borrow” ideas from them as well as help them take some new ideas

Exhibit Hall

The exhibit part of the event showcases more than 300 exhibitors, making it the largest soccer trade show in America. There were some great new products shown with some old products still holding strong in the market. Some of the new gear and boots coming from PUMA are going to be breathtaking. Hotdot is a patch that can detect when your body is overheating and alert you. Another company, TeamSnap, is an easy way for teams to manage youth or adult teams online, cutting down the time it takes to schedule and communicate. Tons of exhibitors showcased their new products, and a full day could be spent in the exhibit hall alone learning about products.


The sessions with McNab, Fishter, Heinrichs, along with networking with other coaches across the world, and seeing some of the new technological advances in the game are just some of the many highlights for me from the 2015 NSCAA convention. It is truly amazing to see the soccer community come together to continue to advance the game, locally, nationally, and across the globe.

Link to NSCAA Coaching Notes and Sessions: