Home to U.S. Soccer Coaching Education and Sporting Kansas City’s first team, the National Development Center celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 16, 2018. The $75 million, 50.49-acre facility, which began hosting U.S. Soccer Coaching Education courses in February, is also home to Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center. Sporting the latest soccer-specific technology and sports medicine innovations, the NDC represents the future of the sport in the United States and aligns with U.S. Soccer’s primary objective of improving the sport at all levels.
Following the earlier announcement that Children’s Mercy Park would play host to the opening two games of the 2018 Tournament of Nations, including the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team clash against Japan, the buildup to the ribbon cutting drew in local, state and national soccer dignitaries. Presenting speaker and special guest Jill Ellis was joined by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid, Chief of Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Dr. Kevin Latz, Governor of Kansas Jeff Colyer and Wyandotte County Major David Alvey. The U.S. WNT head coach, who recently completed the highest level coaching license available in North America by completing the U.S. Soccer Pro License in December, described the NDC as a milestone for the advancement of coaches in the United States.
“What this (NDC) is, is a testament to our commitment in this country to grow the game,” Ellis said. “From a coach’s perspective, we have succeeded. Because what this facility says to me is that it is about being the best. This sets the bar. By investing in the players, coaches and referees that will come through these doors, the National Development Center gives U.S. Soccer a valuable asset in the pursuit of championships. The technology, teaching facilities and overall resources this development center houses will certainly impact the coach’s learning and experience.”
Over the last several years, U.S. Soccer has continued to increase its investment in coaching education. The Coaching Education department has continued to revolutionize the federation’s online education tool, the Digital Coaching Center, and re-defined the coaching education pathway with the introduction of the U.S. Soccer Pro License in December 2015 and most recently, in January, the launch of eight new Grassroots Coaching Licenses. As the department continues to raise the level of coaching throughout the country, the NDC represents another initiative to achieve the department’s objectives.
“This National Development Center is world class,” Tschan said. “This is amongst the very best that we’ve seen on the globe when it comes to a facility that’s dedicated solely to the development of coaches who are ultimately responsible for developing players and we look at where we’re trying to head as the Federation. In order to do that, we need world class facilities, and this checks all the boxes.
“The thing you feel as soon as you come in here, is a learning environment. Coaching is teaching and to understand coaching and teaching, you have to understand learning. We want to bring our coaches into the most optimal learning environments possible. And if you look at this globally, we recognize that we are very unique. We don’t know of any other countries that currently have a dedicated learning center for coaches the way that we have. So, if you compare it globally, I think we are going to end up being best practice, and I think we won’t be looking outside, but rather folks will be looking inside to find out what is it that U.S. Soccer is doing in the coaching education space.”
By improving its coaches, U.S. Soccer is investing in the long-term development of soccer and its players in the U.S. Over 1,000 coaching course candidates are expected to engage in programming at the NDC in 2018. With increased programming for all levels forecast for years to come, U.S. Soccer has positioned its coaches to be able to learn in a soccer-specific learning environment that is truly special.
Ellis summarized the potential impact stating that, “If each one of the coaching candidates can take the experiences and the resources and tap into what is here, imagine the effect we can have on impacting our game.”