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Fredericksburg FC

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FFC Social Media / News / Communication Director
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @TomLeiss

All pictures provided by Kevin Leahy, Peter Armatis and Adrian Batchelor

With the United Soccer Coaches’ Convention being held Jan. 17-21 a rather short distance away in Philadelphia last week, it was a great opportunity for four members of the Fredericksburg FC club coaching and technical staff to attend and expand their soccer experiences.

Coaches Kevin Leahy, Peter Armatis and Adrian Batchelor - also the club’s Recreation Director - and Mayowa Owolabi - the club’s Technical Director of Coaching and Academy Director - made the trip up for the five-day event for various reasons.

Leahy has been coaching for six years, five with FFC at the U14 level in both the Recreational Program and as an assistant in the Travel Program. Armatis has been coaching for four year, three with FFC as a U10, U12 and U14 Recreation Program coach.

Batchelor has been coaching for the longest of the three, starting back in 2004 when moved to the United States and began coaching in the Soccer Association for Youth of San Antonio, Texas (SAYSAT). After moving to Fredericksburg in 2008 he coached in Spotsylvania Parks & Recreation leagues until joining FFC - back when it was known as FASA - a couple years later. Along with his director duties, he has been spending his time coaching U12 or U14 teams in the Recreation Program.

Leahy, Armatis and Batchelor, who already knew each other from their time with FFC the past few years, made the trip together, while Owolabi, who only joined the club earlier this month made the trip on his own. While there, the four were able to meet up for the first time on the third day of the event.

Leahy and Owolabi, grew up playing soccer in the area and has held several staff and coaching positions since graduating from Old Dominion University in 2011, have both attended previous conventions. For Armatis and Batchelor, however, it was a first-time experience at what the conventions’ website calls, “The World’s Largest Annual Gathering of Soccer Coaches and Administrators.”

The website goes on to say that “the United Soccer Coaches Convention and US Youth Soccer Workshop draws more than 6,300 coaches, and more than 11,000 attendees. Over five days there will be more than 250 educational opportunities consisting of live field demonstrations, classroom sessions, meal and social functions, award presentations, coaching diplomas and more!”

So, it’s an amazing opportunity grow your soccer knowledge and network no matter how long or what way you are involved with the sport.

I communicated with all four after they returned from the event to find out why each attended, what they each got out of the event and more.

A short video on the event from United Soccer Coaches (@UnitedCoaches)

Link to more the convention playlist on the United Soccer Coaches YouTube channel:

What made you decide to go to the convention?

MO: It's a massive event so it’s always good to go further educate myself, network and attend required meetings. [Club Champions League] has its annual [Annual General Meeting] so a lot was covered in that meeting moving forward for 2018. As I'm coming in new to the TD role here at FFC it was important to meet all other TDs in the state and surrounding states so attending this event will help me bring more programming, coaches and opportunities to the club in the future.

KL: I'm always looking for opportunities to improve as a coach. My previous experiences attending the convention have always been time well spent. Plus, Philly isn't too far of a drive and it's a great city to visit.

PA: Kevin has been before and said it was worthwhile if I wanted to continue to expand my coaching knowledge. When he, Adrian and I talked about it we agreed to go together so we took time off work, paid our way and did it together.

AB: I had been a member of United Soccer Coaches back in 2004/2005, but never bothered renewing my membership. Kevin suggested to both me and Peter that since this year's convention was in Philly - last year it was in Los Angeles - what did we think about going to the convention, not just at the weekend for the "90 minutes," but for the whole five days.

Is this the first time you have ever gone to it? If you've been before, how many times have you gone?

This was now the third convention that I've attended. I've been twice in Baltimore and now once in Philadelphia. It is nice when they host the convention here on the East Coast it’s much more accessible during these busy soccer times.

This was my fourth convention, but first time attending in its entirety.

It was my first time.

This was my very first time and I loved the experience. I'm still exhausted - three days after getting - home with the wealth of information and ideas that we were exposed to.

Was there anything in particular that you were looking forward to seeing/doing before you got there?... and how did it life up to your expectations?

MO: The field session by Raymond Verheijen was a highly anticipated field session and he did not disappoint. Very smart, intellectual individual who managed a session for older players but used younger U11 players to show how concepts can be used to coach younger ages tactical ideas. The emphasis was more that the focus has to be fun and very detailed for them to grasp a lot of the concepts. That was a great session to watch. The topic of his session was, “The Execution of Decision - How Isolated Training Kills Creative Players.” As Verheijen disclosed before starting the session "This isn't a practice plan to steal, but rather an approach to understand better." [NOTE: Verheijen is a Dutch soccer coach that is the director of World Football Academy, which is based in The Netherlands]

KL: I was really looking forward to Dan Abrahams' (right) presentation. His book "Soccer Tough" transformed my coaching and his Twitter feed is chock full of good stuff. He was an excellent speaker and I got to talk to him briefly before the session.
[NOTE: Dan Abrahams “is a global sport psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organisations across the world,” and is also the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy.]

PA: At the convention, it was the mix of classroom interactions on connecting with your players and then how to translate good training sessions to “the team.” Outside the conference, it was seeing historic Philadelphia for the first time. Both were exceptional. The quality of the presenters in both forums was really good in the sessions I attended and the friendliness of other coaches to talk with was great.

AB: Since this was my first time, I had an open mind. We got a preview of the scheduled sessions that were going to be put on, but I was a little clueless as to where I would spend my time. In the end, I settled for sessions on two specific diploma/certificate tracks: Small-Sided Games and NFHS/United Soccer Coaches Professional Development Certificate. In addition, on the last day of the conference, I completed the United Soccer Coaches 4v4 Diploma.

What were a couple of your best highlights from the event?

MO: CCL put on a few events and it was enjoyable to see how in the roundtable discussion you can really see how our league is doing a lot of things right. All the technical directors involved all have common goals for their respective clubs, but at the same time understand the power that the league has to help build all clubs involved.

PA: Listening to Bill Beswick talk about “Passion Underpins Performance” with passion in a packed room. . . All of the sessions about players’ vision and critical thinking. . . Every night, walking around downtown Philadelphia to a local restaurant with my friends and the conversation and experiences we shared for those five days.

KL: Dr. Tiffany Jones' presentation on helping players get to the "blue zone," what others would call "flow." Bill Beswick, a sports psychologist that has worked with numerous teams, talking about his experiences over the last 40 years. He ended his presentation with a video of his current team, Bristol City, defeating Manchester United in the EFL Cup. As a United fan it was hard watching that again.
[NOTE: The EFL Cup, or English Football League Cup, is a knockout tournament open to any club in the top four levels of the English football league system.

AB: One of the biggest highlights was spending time with the other two coaches that I went with, Kevin and Peter. The three of us just have our heads screwed on correctly when it comes to coaching . . . It's all about the education of the kids, not about winning . . . Although that does make you smile! But to instill greatness into the youth of today, not just with soccer skills, but with life lessons. Another highlight for me was a session by JT Thoms (right), "How to Connect, Coach and Build Relationship with this Generation of Athletes." Today's generation of youth are so different to those that came before, myself included. Technology gives instant access to a massive amount of information, but it can be too much for the youth of today to handle. It's hard for them to understand how to apply this information. They have the “what,” but they don't know the “how.” Coaching gives us the opportunity to help our young players answer those questions. [
NOTE: JT Thom is the Director for Strategic Partnerships with Growing Leaders.]

How do you think attending the event will help you with your duties with FFC?

MO: After these type of events you come back to your club with so many ideas. You learn a lot in specific lectures and presentations, but you also take back a lot from talking to other soccer professionals. You leave with understanding different clubs are facing different situations, but a lot of solutions to big or small problems are the same. I'll come back to FFC with different programming ideas, a new network of coaches and hopefully some ideas that will help our club become more organized than we currently are.

KL: I chose to focus my time at the convention on topics that addressed the "psycho-social" corner of player development. I think it's overlooked by most coaches since its a "soft" skill. Teaching kids ways to improve their self-esteem, perform confidently, and be a great teammate helps their on the field performance. More importantly these are the same skills they will need to be successful in life.

PA: When I went through the E License course in 2016, I realized just how much better and more organized I could be as a coach. Attending this was exactly the same and I want to work hard to understand the players’ mindset in the 10-14 year-old age range. I want to be better.

AB: In the Fall of 2017, I was offered the position of FFC Recreation Coaches Director, which I accepted and hope that I filled those boots last year. The sessions that I attended will guide me into developing a recreation program with coaches that care about the whole player, not just what they do on the field. The lessons learned at the conference will also help me guide the grass roots players to enjoy soccer from many angles . . . Make it an experience that they can talk about with their school friends and neighbors, hopefully, inviting them to join FFC for their soccer fix in the Spring and Fall every year.

Did you meet any "celebrities"?... have any cool stories?

AB: There is a soccer podcast that is run by a couple of guys out of Richmond called the Total Soccer Show. We found out that they were recording a LIVE session at Jose Pistola's, a bar/restaurant in Philadelphia the second night of the conference, so we made sure we got their early to get a good seat. Not only did we meet the hosts of the show, Taylor Rockwell and Daryl Grove, a fellow Englishman, but we also ran into Alexi Lalas and Tab Ramos.

PA: Getting to meet and talk with Daryl and Taylor . . . I’ve been listening to them for a few years and we shared stories about our indoor soccer teams, which was funny. . . and then running into Alexi and Tab and said hello to them. They were the guests that night and waiting to be introduced so that was cool.

KL: I'm not a celebrity-seeker, but it was cool to see Thierry Henry, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda at the convention . . . and then of course seeing Lalas during the recording of the podcast, along with about 40 of our closest friends. We also spent some time with the editor of Howler Magazine, George Quraishi.

NOTE: Listen to the Podcast here:

Anything else come to mind that would be interesting to know?

MO: I enjoyed running into coach Adrian, Kevin and Peter. It’s great to see coaches take the initiative and get themselves up to the convention, attending presentations and educational opportunities. These guys took on coaching courses, watched presentation and sat through meetings that will not only benefit them, but also our Recreation Programs! In my role it’s a goal to get more coaches involved with this event. Bringing our technical staff to attend convention meetings, clinics and presentations will be extremely valuable! This will assist and allow our staff to bring back information and ideas to impact our club membership in multiple ways.

PA: We got to meet Mayowa, the new FFC Technical Director, which was great. Also, I came across some neat video technology in the exhibit hall that I’m already playing around with for visual training tools. Lastly, a statement at a session was “Nobody cares about how much you know until they know how much you care.”  That resonates with me.

AB: I grew up in Southampton, England and have always supported Southampton FC, through the highs and the lows. During a recent visit back home, I got to see two home English Premier League (EPL) games - Saints vs. Arsenal and Saints vs. Leicester City. I've always loved football, or soccer as y'all call it here, but never believed that i would be so directly involved with it in my 40s. I not only “run the show” for FFC Recreation soccer, I coach, I play some small-sided indoor adult coed soccer, and I also referee.

Some more highlights from the trip in picture form

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Fredericksburg FC - Soccer Club

PO Box 3895 
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22402

Phone: 540-760-6409
Email: [email protected]

Fredericksburg FC - Soccer Club

PO Box 3895 
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22402

Phone: 540-760-6409
Email: [email protected]
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