It was circa 1991 and I was a young high school teacher and coach in South Bend, Indiana. I remember being introduced to Mike Berticelli after a game in which my team scored six goals after a rather louder than usual halftime talk.
Mike, or “Bert,” at the time was the men’s soccer coach at the University of Notre Dame and director of coaching for the NSCAA. After being introduced and embarrassed he then joked, “If I could have my Notre Dame team score six goals that would be great. Can I have a copy of your halftime talk?”
He then asked me if I have ever been to a coaching course. After telling him “no” he talked to the parents of my high school team and convinced them to send me to the NSCAA National Diploma course.
Having played the game and being a young coach I often relied on what my coaches did. Sound familiar?
At the NSCAA National Diploma I learned how to organize all I had learned about the game into more meaningful methods of training. I do remember thinking that it would have been nice to have learned prior to attending the course.
About six years later I started instructing courses for the NSCAA and U.S. Soccer on a local and national level and have continued until this day.
I am blessed to have met “Bert” as he became a true mentor and friend to me and without his suggestion wouldn’t be where I am at today. In my role as NSCAA Education Content Coordinator, his lessons and advice helped lead to some of our new changes to our Diploma offerings.
Previously the NSCAA offered a six-level course pathway for coaches. The course offerings now align with what many grassroots coaches will be faced with now and in the future.
The player development initiatives set forth by U.S. Soccer is positive for developing future players; the NSCAA knows that the education of coaches is paramount. While most of the content is geared to the grassroots coach level, those with experience will also benefit. Like it did with me when I attended a course after my playing days ended.
When U.S. Soccer mandated small-sided games the NSCAA took a proactive approach to change how to educate coaches affected by the Player Development Initiatives (PDI).
The impetus for the change is not just a reaction to U.S. Soccer’s recent PDI mandate but to also update all of its course offerings.
Going from six “levels” to three format named content will make it clearer for all who partake in a NSCAA non-residential course. When coaches register for one of the new format courses, they will be receiving proven updated educational information with regard to coaching children.
The new course offerings will not only focus on the ages related to playing format -- such as the buildout line and rules but also technical targets, game concepts and relevant ideas for practice. The 4v4 Diploma even offers a suggested playing time chart that many who coach these age groups desire to know. The course delivery is more interactive than before to mirror the preferred way to work with young children.
Additionally, how a coach transfers knowledge into understanding is sometimes even more important than learning a new activity. The idea of connecting with a child and to make sure that no one walks around with a hole in his or her heart is also of importance. Creating a child and player-centered environment is also a consistent message in the new content.
In all of the new content the poem titled “The Youth Soccer Coach” is inserted. That poem, written by my mentor and friend Bert, impacted me when I was a younger coach. We miss Mike Berticelli, who died in 2000 at the age of 48. But his poem serves as a reminder for all coaches of their role and importance.
The courses will also be more complementary to U.S. Soccer’s course offerings. By creating the course content with U.S. Soccer’s Player Development Initiatives the hope is a more consistent message with regard to youth development will occur. It is the desire that a coach can and will attend a NSCAA non-residential course before, during, or after and be more prepared to create a better environment for the many youth that play the game.
Time was also a consideration with the new course offerings. It is well-known that many of the volunteer coaches throughout this country don’t have time to sit through a long course. The NSCAA has reduced the amount of time coaches will now have to spend to learn how to be a more informed coach.
Host clubs and associations can schedule a 4v4 and 7v7/9v9 Diploma offering in one weekend for all of their coaches as an example. Coaching education is valuable and vital but only if they are conveniently offered for all to access. The 11v11 Diploma will also be more attractive for those coaches simply wanting to learn more and receive feedback on how they coach in a positive setting. Something I wish were in place before I attended a national level course.
The NSCAA’s new initiatives:
The 4v4 Diploma is a 3-hour, in-person course designed for coaches with players ages 8 and under. The curriculum focuses on understanding both 8 and under and 6 and under children. It provides ideas for team activities and age- appropriate training activities around a 4v4 game structure. This course offers both classroom and on-field learning.
The 7v7/9v9 Diploma is a combined 9-hour, in-person course focused on the 12 and under player. Content highlights player development, principles of play, technique, and tactics with small-sided games.
The 11v11 Diploma is a 12-hour, in-person course focused on the age 13 and above player. This diploma is designed for an intermediate coach. The curriculum focuses on the 11v11 game with topics including the modern numbering system, formations and systems of play, player competencies, and defensive and offensive tactics.
Ganzberg, who has coached youth soccer for 25 years, is NSCAA Education Content Coordinator and along with NSCAA Director of Coaching Education Ian Barker developed the NSCAA's new curriculum. From 2013 to 2015 Ganzberg served as an education consultant to U.S. Soccer. A
U.S. Soccer’s national staff and NSCAA Academy staff member, Ganzberg has the USSF “A” License, NSCAA Premier Diploma, U.S. Youth Soccer National Youth License and a certified
teacher’s license. He is also Education Director for Indy Premier SC.)