Scenes from the NSCAA convention

Even for those of us who pay our own expenses these days, the NSCAA convention has become an essential event for soccer journalists. It’s one-stop shopping. I gathered great material for three or four projects and managed to touch base with so many different people — Hall of Famers (Julie Foudy, Claudio Reyna), great journalists, roughly half of the coaches in the NWSL, and people doing extraordinary selfless things to use soccer for good. I’ll single out one session I attended — “Understanding Players with Disabilities,” led by the enthusiastic and thoughtful Mike Barr.

So if you’re wondering why social media legend Amanda Vandervort’s Twitter feed suddenly revs up with excitement around this time of year, that’s why. And Amanda actually has the energy to go out and be social after each day in the convention center. I envy her, especially when my energy level is being sapped by sinus headaches that almost made me turn around and go home on the way to the airport Thursday morning.

Though I spent much of Thursday in sinus-related agony (and my apologies for ducking out of the MLS draft so soon), I’m glad I stuck it out. The content — the sessions, the media opportunities, etc. — was great. The atmosphere is even better. I’m not just saying that because it’s flattering to chat with a couple of Crew fans in line for food and then discover that one of them follows me on Twitter.

One fascinating part of the convention is the exhibit hall. It’s an eclectic mix of soccer-related stuff. Artificial turf-makers. Trophy-makers. Sports complexes with fields ripe for youth tournaments. Leagues — the USL, WPSL, NPSL and U.S. Club Soccer, the latter of which had a rather large space to display the nice Doug Hamilton National Cup Trophy but had no one on hand to answer questions from passers-by like me who are still trying to make sense of the alphabet soup of elite youth leagues cropping up these days. Software and gadgets to help you coach your team or run your league. Coaching videos.

And then this, which appears to be what you try if soccer tennis is too easy for you:

Or this, which brings soccer into the MMA generation:

Soccer Cage Sports usually features 2v2 or 3v3 matches, as featured on their site, but they needed a smaller cage to fit in their space in the exhibit hall.

Next year: Philly. Can’t wait.

 

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