Newly hired Director of National Team Advisory Services Nelson Rodríguez spoke with ussoccer.com about his new role with U.S. Soccer. Rodríguez, a former Soccer United Marketing executive and collegiate coach, will help guide players at all levels within the U.S. Youth National Team system as they seek to determine the best individual path to accomplish their career goals.
ussoccer.com: How would you describe the primary responsibilities you will have in your new role as Managing Director of National Team Advisory Services with U.S. Soccer.
Nelson Rodríguez: “The principal responsibility will be to educate our player pool members, their families and various other constituents like domestic or international clubs, the Players Union, and the NCAA, as to the focus of the role and the intent of the services we look to provide. Generally, we will provide to all members of the player pool some guidance and information that will allow them to make the best informed decisions and choices about their career path. Individually, we’ll look to create spoke programs and plans for every individual. The general idea is for this to serve as a career companion for those athletes that aspire to be professional players.”
ussoccer.com: Why do you think it is important U.S. Soccer provides these services?
NR: “The profile of the American player continues to grow both domestically and internationally, and it is the nature of the business of sport as well as the business of soccer for many people to look to maximize a player’s potential or playing career. However, very few people have been involved in providing a sort of professional education. My job will be to listen and support, to ensure that we provide a level of service that enables aspiring athletes to be prepared for the rigors of a professional athlete’s life so they can handle the social, ethical, moral and professional responsibilities that come with that type of lifestyle.”
ussoccer.com: Part of the role will be counseling the U.S. Youth National Team players on a career path. How do you see that process going?
NR: “It first begins with learning the individual and understanding where they are in their development cycle both as a player and as a person. As an athlete, I’ll rely on the input of that player’s coaches to tell us where they see the player’s abilities vis-à-vis opportunities domestically and internationally. I will also spend a lot of individual time with each player and their family to learn where they are educationally and how they feel about things so that we can integrate and connect their potential with the stage of personal development that they are currently in. That will help us answer the questions about what the player is ready for emotionally, physically and technically so that we can provide feedback to that player and their family in order for them to make an informed choice about their career path.”
ussoccer.com: How will your previous experience in all levels of soccer benefit this role?
NR: “I appreciate the privilege of serving as the counselor or career companion to the players in the National Team pools. Having been a youth and collegiate coach for both men and women, having been involved in the pro game for many years, having international experience with Soccer United Marketing, I understand all levels of the game within the U.S. Soccer Pyramid. I also have four children ranging in ages 5-14, so I understand the development stages that they go through educationally and socially. I’m looking forward to combining all those previous experiences in serving as a reference and a resource at all times for our National Team players.”
ussoccer.com: What are the goals of your office moving forward?
NR: “I look at it in two ways. First, we have a responsibility to try and prepare individuals so that they can be successful in any career choice that they make, whether that’s to go to college, to enter MLS, to seek an international opportunity or perhaps to seek a different career path altogether. If we can help those individuals be successful in their professional lives then we’ll have done good work. Ultimately, we also have to acknowledge that a key driver and metric of the success of the program will be if we’re able to develop professionals that assimilate easily to the lifestyle of a professional athlete and to have success on and off the field.”
ussoccer.com: What are the immediate steps now as you begin this role?
NR: “I want to get out and meet with as many of our constituents and individuals that are connected to the players. I’d like to meet with Major League Soccer, the NASL and USL PRO. I’d like to meet with all the teams or clubs that run Academy programs. I think it will be important to establish relationships with the NCAA, international clubs and even the Players Union and agents, so that they can hear from me about our approach to the job and learn about the resources and curriculum we will look to put in place for the athletes so we can get started and begin to integrate all of our efforts such that the individual player had the best chance to succeed in their chosen career path.”