By Jacob Born | February 7, 2022

This past weekend, the ECNL hosted its annual Coaching Symposium in Las Vegas, where more than 300 soccer coaches, directors, league officials and more gathered insights and collaboratively shared ideas with one another, all with the goal to foster growth, change and progress in the sport. 

This two-day event featured speakers Doug Lemov, Dr. Cristina Fink, Codey Gandy, Mark Williams, Becky Burleigh and Brett Ledbetter, spanning topics ranging from cognitive science and data behind the development of elite athletes, to the psychology of how players remember information and the best way for them to learn and recall it in training sessions and games. 

Those in attendance heard real-life examples of leadership from former Marine Codey Gandy, gained valuable examples of how to design training sessions from Doug Lemov, how to give effective and productive feedback from Dr. Fink, and the steps to build a great culture from Brett Ledbetter and Becky Burleigh. And those were just some of the great takeaways. 

“I think the speakers’ outlook on bringing more education towards coaches and focusing more on the thinking part of the game rather than just X’s and O’s was incredible,” said Dan Naidu, Director of Coaching for Kansas City Scott Gallagher. “That’s a huge part for us. There were a lot of brilliant coaches at the event and a lot to listen to about how we can help develop a mindset of a player as a coach in that environment. Those topics are very important to our club for our future.” 

“One of the biggest things I took away from this event is culture,” added Brent Leiba, head coach for Virginia Union FC. “It’s about culture versus environment, and how do you ultimately end up positive in the long game for that sustained culture? To me personally, that’s very important and that’s what I’m going to go back to my club with and really try to emphasize.” 

In addition to the Symposium speakers, ECNL President Christian Lavers led the league’s annual general meeting, showcasing what the ECNL is doing to empower clubs through marketing assets, event operations and more, while also allowing every club to give the league their input on various topics. Breakout sessions after the presentation also allowed clubs to discuss their thoughts and continue to share information and learn together. 

“We’re always learning as coaches,” said Pete Palomino, ECNL Regional League Director for San Antonio City SC. “So we always want to make sure that we push ourselves and study and just be curious about what’s going on out there in the fringes. The atmosphere was very vibrant. You got to see a lot of familiar faces, people that I’ve known from outside the clubs, so just getting a chance to meet them again, meet new faces and to be at a great facility, it was awesome.”

“I knew the speakers the ECNL had lined up were going to be good, but I didn’t expect them to be that good,” continued Lorne Donaldson, Real Colorado National’s Director of Coaching. “They blew me away. All of them have been fantastic presenters. I enjoyed it. Getting together with your peers and sharing information is huge too because we’re all coaches and we’re trying to strive to be the best. The ECNL’s Coaching Symposium is a great platform for us coaches to continue education in a nice, relaxed way that really fosters learning.” 

With more than 300 coaches in attendance, the impact of the ECNL Coaching Symposium is incredibly far-reaching, with the potential of these coaches impacting more than 500,000 athletes with the information shared at the event. Every coach in attendance returned back to their club with a wealth of new knowledge, ready to push their club forward and continue to help develop the best athletes this country has to offer. 

“The speakers were all very good, keeping you involved, and bouncing ideas off of each other,” said Joey Hoffman, ECNL  Boys Director for Eagles SC. “It’s fantastic that ECNL puts on this event for the directors and coaches because the ideas shared here filter down and make an impact in the game of soccer for youth as a whole.” 

“It was a fantastic weekend,” added Erin Sharpe, Director of Coaching for Pleasanton Rage. “World-class speakers and we just can’t stop talking about how much out-of-the-box thinking we’re able to do as a result of these new, innovative ideas that were presented. Now we need to apply them to our environment so we can continue growing and learning.” 

Below are some insights shared by speakers throughout the ECNL Coaching Symposium. To hear more from these speakers, be on the lookout for sign-up information for the 2023 ECNL Coaching Symposium later this year. 

“You have not achieved becoming a leader until you put the success of your team ahead of the success of yourself.” – Codey Gandy, “Extreme Ownership”

“Control the controllable. We manage our thoughts and emotions and we control our behaviors. We control how we act.” – Dr. Cristina Fink, “Creating an Environment for Effective and Impactful Coaching”

“Questions are a really powerful way for players to understand the game. But the best question in the world doesn’t mean anything if your players aren’t answering it.” – Doug Lemov, “The Art of the Stoppage”

“That’s the goal of a team, to get everyone going in the same direction.” – Brett Ledbetter, “What Drives Winning Environments”

“Experts spend most of their time practicing the skills they aren’t very good at. Most of their time is spent on growth activity.” – Mark Williams, “The Best: How Elite Soccer Players Are Made”

“A coach’s reaction affects the players’ reactions. We instill in our players a ‘next play mentality’ but do we as coaches employ that same mentality?” – Becky Burleigh, “What Drives Winning Teams”