Last week dunny and I headed to Indianapolis for the NSCAA Convention. Neither of us had ever been so we were really uncertain about what to expect from it and what it is really about. We have plenty of friends that go on the regular, we have been invited a number of times and we have even been asked to curate a space for Bumpy Pitch. Yet through it all we had never been. So we wanted to go and see what it was all about. And I have to say I am really glad that we did.
I’m assuming that many of you have heard of it, and if you are like us, you still weren’t entirely clear what really went on there. So we wanted to go and meet with people that made this yearly trip to see what it means to different people around the game. We wanted to talk to a wide range of people who attended and see what the convention really meant to each of them. Whether they were there for the education component, exhibit their brand, catch the 2013 MLS Super Draft or just be there to network, the convention really does have something for everyone involved in the sport. It’s a time to get educated, be introduced to new ideas / philosophies, meet with people you only deal with on the phone or over e-mail and ultimately advance your role within the sport.
We ended up hearing great stories, seeing people we hadn’t seen in years, making new friends and expanding our soccer minds. And for us, it’s a great time be in such an incredible environment. If you haven’t been, make a point of getting out to a convention. If you have been, and know what it’s all about, then I hope you continue to embrace the uniqueness of this event in the landscape of American soccer.
Hit the jump to see some of the people and their stories that put a human touch to the biggest soccer convention in the United States.
If you have read this site with any regularity, then you might remember seeing that we go way back with John O’Brien. I first met John when we were 14 years old when we were on the same club team. Fast forward a number of years and John and I were both playing in Holland. John, dunny and I all spent time playing together with the US U-20′s & 2000 Olympic Team, so we all go way back. John was in town giving a speech on what it was like as an American playing in Holland. But not just the actual playing side of things… He made you feel the cultural side of the city and the game as well. He gave an incredible presentation and showed equal depth as a speaker / writer, making you feel as if you were standing next to him on the field when he was a player. Great stories with great pictures, you actually felt like you were in his shoes when he was going through his journey in first person. If you ever get a chance, ask him about that Froz Fruit sponsored jersey.
Keeping with the Olympic team theme, that gentleman on the left is Peter Mellor. Peter has had a long and storied career in the game. From a former professional goalkeeper, to countless coaching roles including goalkeeper coach on our US U-20 & Olympic Team in 2000 to now his role as the head of the USL. Peter is one of the really good guys, not only in the sport but in life and dunny may or may not have an incredible story about tackling Peter during a scrimmage in Malaysia back in 1997…. One of those you almost piss yourself laughing about.
Rounding up the #USMNT team reunion is Eddie Hidalgo. Eddie was a team administrator who has also had many roles within the game over the years and is now a part of Match Analysis, which I’m pretty sure will revolutionize how the game is broken down and studied. We have talked at times about technology and it’s role in the game going forward, and what Eddie is doing is a shining example of that. If you are a coach, you need to be up on this.
One of the big components of the convention is the exhibitors hall. Countless brands showcasing their products. Be that major brands like PUMA showcasing their latest collection, to companies that specialize in soccer tours, trophies, training aids, etc etc. We talked to a number of these folks and the consensus is that the NSCAA Convention is vital to their success as a business. Without this convention, their ability to showcase their products to the right people would be tremendously impaired. The convention proves to be a life blood for many of the folks trying to make a living in the soccer world.
This Tacoma Stars jersey by Admiral is a serious flashback to watching the team as a kid play in the MISL. Little has changed with this jersey over the years, and that is one of the best things I can say. Classic in so many ways. We remember some EPIC battles on TV when we were kids growing up, watching our home town LA Lazers (led by Cle Kooiman) take on the Stars.
Diadora was in the building and provided one of the more interesting pairs of boots I have EVER seen. Not only are these see-through and you can change the color on the inside, but the material of the upper is a jelly like substance that is one of the more unique materials on the market. Look for a review of these from Bryan and I for The Gear Show, because it obviously has to be done.
Speaking of The Gear Show…about a month or so ago we had the chance to review some Munich futsal boots for The Gear Show. I had never really heard of this brand and certainly never had a chance to wear them. In the last month, dunny and I have worn these a number of times, seen their commercials on FSC and continually hear people talk about them. Below is Brad Feldman, who along with Ilija Stolica is helping build the brand domestically and here to show why people all across Europe have been singing the praises of these futsal shoes for years.
The brand has an incredible history and with the entire company / facility based in Barcelona, their history intertwines directly with FC Barcelona and players named Messi & Pique to mention a few…. The future of Munich in the United States is very bright!
One of the great things about the convention is getting to meet people that previously you have only spoken with on the phone or via email. Below is Jeff from Ruffneck Scarves. Jeff and I have been in touch over the years but have never met in person. As great as technology is, and is easy as it makes communication, there is nothing like a real life connection. Jeff and Ruffneck are doing big things and are giving back to the sport in more ways than any of us know. We heard about just a slice of it (which had our jaws on the floor) and we commend these dudes on everything they are doing. Continued success fellas.
One of the first critiques of our Bumpy Pitch brand was our visual use of an old school soccer ball. ’What are you, a volleyball brand? Don’t you know anything about Soccer?’
When Ben and I headed inside the convention hall as everyone was setting up, we came across Soccer Cage Sports. Born in the UK, this is the first time the company has exhibited and it got plenty of people wanting to jump in there and give it a try. Speaking of which, Ben and I jumped in and played a little 1 v 1.
If we had this when we were kids you wouldn’t have been able to get me out of it. The only thing that would make this better would be if fire shot out from the top of the cage when you scored a goal.
In addition to all the vendors, the convention is an incredible opportunity for coaches to continue their education including strength and conditioning and diet / recovery / regeneration. Besides the speeches and presentations, there are coaching classes on the field. Continuing education for our domestic coaches is a key to the growth and development of those who are coaching the next generation of players.
One of the greatest parts of the NSCAA Convention is the ability to reconnect with people that were influential in our own personal lives as players, people that you don’t get to see as much as you’d want. This group definitely includes former MLS player, current FC Dallas Analyst and one of our best friends in the world Dante Washington who came through Indianapolis and made the convention a better place to be just by being there. When people are talking about incredible human beings to have played a part in the growth of the game in the United States, you’ll hear continually hear the name Dante Washington.
You need to hear Dante’s ‘Right Back’ story over beers and hear this man laugh… Pretty good chance you’ll be in tears by the end of the story.
Taylor Twellman was on hand, doing his MLS SuperDraft day coverage duty for ESPN and then on continuing his advocate work for his ThinkTaylor.org. From a couple of guys that have had / played with multiple concussions, pay attention to what Taylor is saying.
The lovely Leslie Osborne needs no introduction.
We always talk about how when one door closes, another opens… This is Craig Devine, former Athletic Trainer for the Columbus Crew. One of the best in the league, Craig wanted to spend more time with his family and while still in the medical field, is now a club soccer coach. Always important to find a way to stay in the game.
One of the things that dunny and I couldn’t agree more on is that Kyle McCarthy is one of the best soccer writers in the country, hands down. He also happens to be one of the best individuals around. If you ever get a chance to hang with him and talk soccer, we highly suggest you do.
And lastly, the man who made this all happen. Mr. Joe Cummings. Mr. Joe is one of the most influential men in the world of soccer in the United States, staying mostly behind the scenes and continues to do so as CEO of the NSCAA. His imprint on the sport can not be measured and he continues to go about his business of building the game here. He is as sharp as they come, the type of person you could sit and chat with for hours on end and has Sir Alex and The Special One on speed dial. #Fact
Another little known fact, when dunny signed his first MLS contract way back in the day for the New England Revolution, Mr, Joe was the GM of the team. Mr. Joe is making the NSCAA bigger and better than it has ever been and there is no doubt that next year in Philadelphia is going to be even better. Start clearing your schedule for January 2014 and we will see you at the NSCAA Convention next year.
Indianapolis, you were a great host. We’ll see you all at the next convention in Philly.