U.S. Soccer’s National Development Center (NDC) represents a new standard and opportunity for those interested in Coaching Education. The facility features two full-size turf fields with flood lights, cutting-edge classroom tech and meeting spaces that facilitate high-level learning. Putting the coach and the coach’s needs at the center of the facility’s design, the NDC stands as the most forward thinking, soccer specific environment for Coaching Education in the United States.
The facility recently opened its doors to full time staff and coaching license candidates in early 2018. With the intention of educating coaches and guiding their development, the NDC will play host to every level of coaching education opportunity along the U.S. Soccer Coaching Education pathway, from the Grassroots courses through the U.S. Soccer Pro License. Most recently, 30 coaches gathered at the compound in Kansas City to kick off their six-month, U.S. Soccer A-Senior Course journey and utilize the facility in a formal learning environment.
“The National Development Center is a vision of how seriously U.S. Soccer is taking coaching education at all levels,” said Molly Rouse, assistant coach at the University of Iowa and A-License candidate. “From all the way down to grassroots to all the way up to professionals, they are trying to create an awesome environment for coaches to continue to learn and grow. They’re providing them with all the resources and they’re bringing together collections of people from all over the nation and all over the world to collaborate with.”
A-Senior Coaching Course candidates work outside the Pitch Lab during the maiden
U.S. Soccer coaching course to be held at the National Development Center.
The A-Senior course prepares coaches for the realities of working in a Zone III (players age 18 and above), high-performance environment. As an extension to their existing coaching experience and formal education, coaches in the course are taking next steps to further develop themselves and refine their profession.
“The comprehensive curriculum that this course has, it’s going to prepare me to someday be a head coach,” said Jessica Smith, assistant coach at Kansas State University. “I want to be more comfortable leading training sessions and coaching in the game. I knew that this six-month journey would certainly stretch me.”
With a need for dynamic learning spaces, U.S. Soccer envisioned classroom functionality being available both inside the main building and outside alongside the fields. In addition to the facility’s four customizable classrooms and six breakout rooms, the “Pitch Lab” serves as the NDC’s centerpiece. The two-story pavilion set between the complex’s two fields provides the opportunity to observe and dissect what is taking place on the field. With audio and video technology wired directly into the pavilion, the coach or instructor who is speaking can be heard clearly by others on the touchline or within the classroom space. Using 80-inch touch screen televisions, video captured from the fields can be observed in real-time or played back to review various coaching points.
“When I walked into the facility for the first time, it was pretty incredible,” said Davy Arnaud, Houston Dynamo assistant coach. “It shows how far we’ve come in a short time in soccer in this country. This is just another piece in the puzzle to get U.S. Soccer moving forward. It’s all the quality that you would want it to be. It’s hard not to learn in this environment that’s been created here. It’s hard to not become a better coach when you’re getting access to so many good facilities.”
Relationships and trust form the foundation of a safe learning environment and is evident between candidates and their instructors as well as candidates and their peers. This aspect was not overlooked when creating the formal and informal learning spaces within the facility. The NDC’s meeting spaces are central to encouraging consistent and meaningful interactions.
“Peer learning starts with communication. The facility that’s been built here allows us to interact and communicate at the highest level that’s possible,” said Russel Payne, head coach at the United States Military Academy. “With the meeting rooms, with the congregation spaces, with the meal rooms, those kinds of things allow us to interact all day. We’re going to build trust from the ability to continue to interact and really break down our walls that exist when we first get here.”
2018 U.S. Soccer A-Senior Coaching License candidates work closely in one of the NDC's breakout rooms.
U.S. Soccer Coaching Education instructors, experienced professionals that work as mentors with the candidates, guide the entire journey to the A-Senior License. In addition to in-person meetings, instructors travel to the candidates’ home environments to help them apply what they’ve learned.
“The relationship with the instructors and the candidate is very good,” said Miles Joseph, Orlando City SC assistant coach. “They try to make you think about things that you haven’t normally thought about in this coaching environment to bring back to your environment, to apply them there. It takes you out of your comfort zone. They’re going to be tough on you, but they’re also going to nurture you.”
The lessons learned from fellow candidates can equal the importance of their instructors’ tutelage. Each coach has their own knowledge and experiences that impact their perspective on the game. With the NDC serving as a conductor for collaborative discussion, coaches and instructors alike are able to not only share their way of thinking but also challenge each other on their processes.
“A huge aspect is getting to interact with your peers,” Arnaud said. “We have coaches here who are coaching at different levels. To get to be around different people, different ideas is a great experience. If you take some of the ideas of your peers that might not make you change your mind completely, but it makes you look at what you believe from a different angle and see it in a different way that makes you grow in your own ideas, it’s nothing but a help.”
The NDC serves as the stage for the continued progression of the coach’s journey. With U.S. Soccer placing an increased focus on education related initiatives and programming, the facility will truly serve as the development home for our future American coaches.
“A center like this symbolizes the commitment of U.S. Soccer to help develop the highest-level coaches they can,” Arnaud said. “It’s a great symbol of not only the way that the game is progressing in our country, but the hopes that we’re now starting to develop coaches of a higher level. I think that’s a logical step in soccer in this country. The more high-level coaches that we can develop, that all filters up.”“I feel like we just put a flag in the ground,” Joseph said. “This is our training center. This is where the future of U.S. Soccer has begun.”