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On my last day at the 65th NSCAA Convention, I’m saying farewell but I’m leaving inspired. The last day turned out to be the busiest, and to have a little international flavor to it. It started with an awards breakfast for women’s soccer, next was a session on social media for college coaches, followed by a lecture on player development in Mexico. This was all before lunch time. The second half of the day  kicked off with the NSCAA All-America Luncheon, then a lecture on Japanese youth development, and ended with a session on Australian women’s soccer. Here is my recap of my last (and busiest) day at the NSCAA Convention.

I woke up bright and early to take in the women’s soccer breakfast in honor Sue Ryan, winner of the 2011 NSCAA Women’s Committee Award of Excellence. There was a healthy dose of laughs from every speaker that kept the mood light and entertaining. The comedic line-up featured Amanda Vandorvort (Co-Chair, NSCAA Women’s Committee), Paul Payne (NSCAA President), Alejandra Miller (Adidas Representative), Joe Cummings (NSCAA CEO & Executive Director), Tom Sermanni (Australian Women’s National Coach), John Daly (College of William & Mary Women’s Coach), and the woman of the hour– Sue Ryan (Stony Brook University Women’s Coach). Let’s just say Sue may have a second career in stand-up comedy. Although the laughs seemed to be non-stop, Sue’s acceptance speech truly hit home for me.

After the light hearted breakfast, I was pulled back into reality by a session on social media for college coaches. This lecture was presented by Janet Judge (Sports Law Associates LLC) where she brought light to the seriousness of how social media could be used to the detriment of a university and the athletic program. Coaches in attendance got the do’s and don’ts on the use of social media and also the ins and outs of social media for their student athletes.

Next was the lecture on player development in Mexico. The lecture was presented by Jose Enrique Vaca Pacheco (General Coordinator) and Juan Carlos Ortega Orozco (Technical and Tactical Coordinator). This was very interesting- the national program’s mission is more than just sports related. It aims to help improve the lives of their players and social concerns of the country. This seems like a daunting task but the governing soccer body is making great leaps to achieve these goals. It was uplifting to see what impact the game can have on a life and a country.

After leaving this great session, I made my way to the NSCAA 2012 All-America Luncheon which was packed. The mood of this reception was fun as Joe Cummings continued his comedic routine from the morning and was followed by Sunil Gulati (US Soccer President). The main event was Taylor Twellmen whose story is nothing short of inspirational. If you are not aware of Taylor’s story, please take a look here –  ThinkTaylor.

That may already seem like a full, exhausting day, but I was energized and excited for the next session. Tom Boyer (Director of Tom Boyer Academy) presented on the development of the Japanese youth system. If you watched the Japanese Women’s National Team win the 2011 Women’s World Cup, you saw the outcome of the system that set the team up for success.  Soccer has clearly become a way of life in Japan. The development consists of using pop-culture to reach young athletes through TV segments, cartoons, and comics to teach them technical skills. The technical skills are reenforced through camps and soccer-specific schools.

The last event of my 2012 NSCAA convention was a session on the changing philosophy and perception of the Australian Women’s National Team. Tom Sermanni, the coach of the Women’s National Team, gave a first-hand account on why a change was needed and how he made it happen. Known for being a strong physical team and playing “not to lose,” Sermanni focused on becoming a positive possession team and going after the win. After watching his team play in the Word Cup last year, the connection and progression is clear.

I plan to close my convention with a big THANK YOU to everyone at the NSCAA– not only for their hard work putting on this event, but more importantly for what they do every day of every year to drive forward a game I love. Looking forward to seeing everyone next year!

A sport’s off-season wouldn’t be complete without discussions about free agency and signings. And there may be plenty of talk– 84% of the leagues players from last season are free agents (110 out of 131 rostered players, including all magicJack players).

As a fan, this is one of the best and disconcerting times as we see some of our favorite players on the team stay and others leave. We also see new additions added to the team, wonder how they will fit in, and what their impact will be on next year. It is a time when the fan may be the GM for their WPS team– hypothetically, speaking of course! We may build our dream team, letting our creative minds loose.

The chat will look for you to jump into your fantasy GM shoes and build your team.

List of free agents by team roster (click link to view team roster):

Atlanta Beat

Boston Breakers

Philadelphia Independence

Sky Blue FC

Western New York Flash

Q1: You’re the GM (choose your favorite team)

  • What players from last season would you look to re-sign? Why?
  • What free agents from other teams would you look to sign? Why?
  • What are your goals for the team this season? How do your signings reflect that goal?

Q2: The International Players

  • What internationals currently not playing in WPS would you like to see sign with a team? Was there a player you were impressed with from the 2011 WWC?
  • What are some of the obstacles for internationals playing for WPS?
  • What are some of the benefits of having an international player on your team?

Q3: Free Agents

  • Who are the top free agents available?
  • Is there a free agent player that the league needs to keep? Why?

Join us on Monday at 8pm ET to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

If you were at the Breakers vs. magicJack game last week, you wouldn’t have known that the Breakers were playing at home. The second best attendance ever for a Breakers home game, and the crowd was full of energy. But rather than cheering for the home team, the majority of hoots and hollers were for the visitors and more pointedly for one player – Abby Wambach. This may only be described as “Abby Mania” and it’s taken the country by storm. Remember the “Marta Affect” from the first season? You haven’t seen anything yet.

This week’s chat will look at this phenomenon and its impact on the WPS.

Q1: What are the benefits or disadvantages of having the attention on a player versus a team or the league?

Q2: How has “Abby Mania” caught on?

Q3: What are the additional pressures put on her because of the sudden explosion of “Abby Mania”?

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to TwitterTweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

The latest issue of Our Game chronicles the story of Sydney Leroux, a young player who finally finds her way to the top. Not only is she currently playing at UCLA, Leroux is likely to be a top pick in this year’s WPS draft.

During the WWC, we saw younger talent like Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney step up and make critical contributions to the USWNT run for the cup. Younger players can bring a lot to their teams with speed and skill. But they might not have the same levels of maturity that more experienced players bring to the game. In this week’s chat, we’ll explore this dynamic and how it affects the WPS.

Q1: What assets do younger players bring to their teams?

Q2: How can coaches integrate their younger players with seasoned veterans?

Q3: Which young players in the WPS do you see making critical contributions to their teams?

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this week’s #WPSchat questions. This week’s chat will focus on the two teams– the US and Japan– that made it to the WWC final and the impact the WWC has had on the WPS. Being a fan of the losing side in the final, I am in part using this as part of my healing process.

Q1: The USWNT WWC Story. Topics for discussion:

  • Losing a match for the first time in group stage
  • The Incredible Game
  • Abby’s last-minute heroics
  • Cheney: a future star?

Q2: The Japanese WNT WWC Story. Topics for discussion:

  • Beating Germany
  • The Golden Boot Girl
  • First victory over the USWNT
  • First World Cup title

Q3: Interest in the WPS Coming from the WWC.

  • How should the WPS capture the boost in popularity given to women’s soccer by the WWC?

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

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