SOCCER AMERICA: How many coaches will attend?
VanDeusen: We expect to have 6,500 coaches and 14,000 people total in Chicago for the convention.
SA: Can you estimate the breakdown of the kinds of coaches who will attend? Youth club, high school, adult amateur, pro?
VanDeusen: About 30% each from the youth, high school and college levels with the final 10% or so being made up of professional and international coaches. One of the amazing experiences of the convention is walking down the halls and talking to coaches you never imagined meeting. It could be Bruce Arena, Peter Vermes, Anson Dorrance, Lesle Gallimore, April Heinrichs or one of dozens of others. At our convention, regardless of level, everybody is just a coach who loves the game.
SA: Has the demographics of the attendees changed significantly over the years and decades?
VanDeusen: The convention has definitely become more of a national and international event over the years. What started out as a small event hosted mainly on the East Coast has now grown into an event that is hosted around the country and has attendees from all 50 states and 36 countries. The program is designed for every level of coach from rec to pro.
SA: How would you describe to a first-time attendee what to expect? Anything in particular a first-timer should make sure to attend?
VanDeusen: The most common description from any soccer person is that “It’s like being a kid in a candy store!”
First-time attendees should definitely attend one of the “First Time Attendee Experience” sessions. There is one on Wednesday afternoon and another on Thursday morning. The Convention has over 250 education sessions including field demonstrations, panels, lectures, presentations and one-on-one interviews, 30 social and networking functions and 400 companies exhibiting over the course of the five days. It’s the largest annual gathering of soccer coaches and administrators in the world.
SA: With so many various clinics, seminars and presentations, what advice do you have for navigating the event?
VanDeusen: Attendees should definitely download the free app and plan ahead. Map out the week ahead of time with the sessions they’d like to attend. There is a lot to choose from at every hour of the day (and night!). (Search “United Soccer Coaches CHI19” wherever you download your apps).
SA: Can you explain how the app can help attendees find their areas of interest and significance of the color code?
VanDeusen: The color code next to a session corresponds with the different diploma tracks and professional certificates that are available at the Convention. These credentials are included at no extra charge in your Convention registration. The app has maps of the Convention Center layout as well as the surrounding areas of Chicago. It contains the most up-to-date schedule of events, list of speakers and the sessions they are presenting. It really is your one-stop shop to all things convention related. …
There are 14 United Soccer Coaches diplomas and/or professional certificates that coaches can earn during the convention and there is something for every level of coach. The diplomas aren’t all just X’s and O’s, but cover other aspects of what coaches do as well. Here is a list of all the diplomas and certificate programs.
SA: Does the Convention help coaches learn about new job opportunities?
VanDeusen: Yes, there is a job board where clubs, schools and teams can advertise job openings as well as the numerous networking opportunities throughout the week.
SA: I imagine you attended the conventions before you started managing them. Do you have any special memories of the first conventions you attended? What you felt was particularly valuable or enjoyable?
VanDeusen: It was the first time I saw all those coaches in one place and realized I was part of something bigger. I think the most valuable aspect of the convention for me was the networking with coaches from all different levels of the game and the opportunity to learn from one another. There is nothing else like it for soccer coaches.
SA: You've also got the NWSL and MLS college drafts taking place at the Convention ...
VanDeusen: Yes, these are two events that we really enjoy hosting at the convention. It’s an opportunity for the best college players in the country to be drafted into the top level of American soccer. The NWSL draft (taking place on Thursday at 11 am) and the MLS SuperDraft (on Friday at noon) also provide a great place for fans to see future stars of the two leagues.
SA: Can you give us a quick preview of the awards that are being presented?
VanDeusen: Sure, United Soccer Coaches selects the All-Americans for soccer and will honor the youth, high school and college All-Americans, Scholar All-Americans, Honorary All-America and Yeagley Awards at the All-America Ceremony & Reception on Saturday afternoon. We have the association awards like our Hall of Fame inductees; Honor Award; College, High School, and Youth Long-Term Service Awards and Excellence in Coaching Education Awards which are presented on Friday night at the Awards Banquet. There are more awards and recognitions that are handed out at different functions throughout the week.