What convention means to me.

by admin on January 17, 2011

Back in 2002 I attended my first convention, held in Philadelphia with my then boss, the first USWNT goalkeeper Kim Wyant. I remember well how blown away I was with the size and scale of the event, something I’d never witnessed before. I shuffled from field to class session with excitement and thirst for knowledge, ideas and opportunities. It delivered so much and inspired me beyond belief.

I was a young, fresh faced coach that moved to the US eight months prior to that. This was my first contact with the wonderful world of the NSCAA and its convention. Kim wanted me to attend a Region One open meeting to meet like minded coaches, build friendships and support an instrumental person in the soccer community, Sue Ryan.

Sue Ryan, Head Coach of Stony Brook University has had an amazing impact on my life. We first met when I was coaching in Long Island at Stony Brook Soccer club, not long after I’d moved to the country. It was there during our first exchange when she gatecrashed my under 14 boys training session that I’m thankful for that infectious smile and friendly face. Sue is also the Head of Region 1 and invited me to join the open meeting at convention to get involved with the program, which I did. From there she has gone on to be a mentor, role model and friend.

I couldn’t believe it. After living in England where opportunities were few and far between for women in the game I now find myself being embraced by a community that I had given nothing to yet. It lit me up and all I kept thinking after convention was how I was going to have a major impact on US Womens soccer and give all I can. That is where my journey began. That moment in time shaped me forever.

A I sit on the plane en route to London, I can’t get out of my mind what a massive part convention has since become in my life. I have attended every convention bar one since then. The more I go, the more I want to give back to the countless number of people who have been instrumental in developing the Womens game with their unconditional work to the game we all love.

I have been blessed with wonderful work opportunities ever since I came to this country and I continue to forge a path that will present many new ones. As a result of my experiences I’ve been fortunate to present three times as a clinician at convention, something which I recommend every coach does.

I know what some of you are thinking as I say that. ‘oh god, no way, I couldn’t do that, I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough experience, etc etc’ I can’t stress enough how challenging and rewarding the whole experience was and I do hope we continue to get many more female coaches presenting at convention. Its not easy going out there in front of an audience and being vulnerable to a challenging and diverse crowd. You know us coaches, we all have opinions so its not easy standing up there knowing that everyone is judging your every move.

I remember the weeks and months prior to doing my first convention session in 2004. I don’t think I slept for a few months prior. The sickness in my stomach stressing that I would get stage fright and lose my tongue. I didn’t lose it of course and when it ended it felt very rewarding. In fact, it an unbelievable feeling and I vowed to do it again and work at getting better at it. By the third session I was loving being on the stage(something my mother always thought I was born for). And all the while I built friendships, developed and shared ideas. I haven’t presented the past few years but I have been busy with other areas of convention, most notably with WPS including drafts to building a Womens professional league and its community.

I think fondly about convention. This year’s convention has been the best yet. And as I leave behind friends that feel like family, im grateful for the opportunities it has given me. Usually I am front and center in some capacity but this year I got to enjoy everything that convention offers. I sat through countless sessions picking up tid-bits of wisdom from all, mingled with vendors, presenters and peers, and had a lot of time to ponder what I will contribute next.

I’m sure that will continue to take shape throughout the year… but after seeing what contributions many have made before, I realize that I am very much part of what happens next. I am part of the growth, the solutions, the innovations and hope to inspire others around me. At a minimum, as I join the Womens committee I will continue to pose the question, what can I do for this organization and the people it represents?

So while I sit here sad to leave the many friends who feel like family, I am excited to look ahead at what is going to be exciting times. As I head back to England, I cant help but be thankful for what the US has given me. It’s become my other home and US soccer is the cause that champions my heart. And just to think it all began at convention, a place which has inspired us all.

I will always keep in mind to give as much as I can, whether it be a conversation with a young coach to supporting Lisa Cole with the Education online department to sharing the load from our Chair Amanda Vandervort, keeping in mind that charity begins at home. This is what makes this organization so amazing. The more you get, the more you give. I see it in so many before me. And if I can have half the impact that the likes of Sue Ryan, Louise Waxler, Janet Rayfield, Marcia McDermott, April Heinrichs, to name a few then I will feel fulfilled.

Now the work begins, to expose many more, to the wonderful opportunities that it’s afforded me. Goodbye convention until next year.


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