Soccer News: Leadership Through Diversity – Training Our Soccer Leaders
“Cal South’s Leadership Academy is laying the groundwork to help the industry tackle these important topics,” says Chris Moore, CEO of US Youth Soccer. The Cal South Leadership Academy — Inspiring accomplished individuals to become motivating leaders in their organizations and communities. Leaders in youth soccer share a passion for the game and not a background in business. The Cal South Leadership Academy offers a soccer-specific leadership program that makes a difference.
Cal South is dedicated to making a difference in the landscape of youth soccer. One of the 55 state associations of US Youth Soccer, Cal South is well known across America for developing elite youth soccer players and winning national championships. Cal South has earned 67 US Youth Soccer National Championships, 13 National Presidents Cup Championships, 167 US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships, 71 Region IV Championships and the list goes on. However, the leaders at Cal South understand there is more to growing the beautiful game than winning on the field. Focused on meeting the needs of their members now and in the future, Cal South’s President Derek Barraza has often asked, “Who is training our future leaders?” The lack of a clear and vibrant answer, along with Barraza’s work on the U.S. Soccer Diversity Committee, led to a simple solution — the Cal South Leadership Academy.
The two-day Cal South Leadership Academy was held last weekend, on June 5-7 at the San Diego Marriott in Del Mar, California. Emilio Pozzi, who has over 24 years experience in the soccer arena organized matches with U.S. Soccer, Soccer United Marketing, CONCACAF and FIFA, produced the Leadership Academy to teach the game 360 degrees. The former Director of Events for US Soccer from 1996 to 2001, Pozzi has also worked on the Olympics and Para-Olympics. Pozzi developed the program for Cal South and knows that growing the game of soccer in the USA requires our leaders to appreciate diversity, inclusion and business skills.
Chris Moore, CEO of U.S. Youth Soccer, was impressed with the Cal South Leadership Academy. “Cal South’s Leadership Academy crystallized and reinforced for me the notion that our industry engages in business along two unique dimensions,” said Moore. “First, dedicated and passionate individuals ranging from volunteers and coaches to referees and club administrators handle soccer business inside the lines and on the field each and every day, ensuring that we deliver a quality, professional and rewarding experience to kids.”
“There is also the business of soccer which gets transacted everyday off the field by our industry leaders,” continued Moore. “In an era where soccer and other sports must confront the well-documented issues related to youth sports safety, childhood obesity and declining youth sports participation, it’s absolutely essential that our leaders be equipped with the necessary tools, resources, knowledge and insights to make important business decisions affecting the sport. Skills such as negotiations, decision-making, problem-solving, diversity and inclusion and management of people become critical for the growth and sustainability of youth soccer. Cal South’s Leadership Academy is laying the groundwork to help the industry tackle these important topics.”
The Leadership Academy is designed to equip leaders with the important tools needed to become more effective leaders. Through discussions on the importance of diversity and inclusion to workshops on strategic stakeholder management and problem solving, the program includes 13 topics to help significantly impact and enhance leadership abilities.
Ric Listella, U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV Director said, “I’ve had the pleasure to have attended the Cal South Leadership Academy on two occasions. The Cal South Leadership Academy is a comprehensive, progressive and engaging program providing critical skills, tools, and shared experience to emerging and established leaders in the soccer industry. Interestingly enough, even though I have attended two sessions, I’ve found that I have learned and benefited both times. I would like to recognize Cal South for demonstrating the forward thinking leadership necessary to develop, promote and deliver the Leadership Academy.” Region IV Includes: Alaska, Arizona, Cal North, Cal South, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The attendees of the Cal South Leadership Academy included top Directors of Coaching and Presidents of prestigious area youth soccer clubs as well as a few young coaches and the mix created thoughtful discussions and a dynamic exchange.
Rene Ortiz, the Director of Coaching for the Xolos Academy FC said, “Cal South is doing it’s part to make our clubs better by giving us more tools to be successful. I think the Cal South Leadership Academy is great. It gives clubs a chance to talk with each other and share ideas and feel more like a big family that can work together.”
With over 200 High School soccer team victories and nearly three decades coaching in the youth soccer world, the Director of Coaching for the Oceanside Breakers, Frank Zimmerman, thought the program was outstanding.
“I really appreciate Cal South putting forth this Leadership Academy,” said Zimmerman. “The discussions were rich. There was such a diverse group of people in the room, from new coaches to experienced coaches, admins, presidents, which lead to some really interesting discussions. We all went home talking about the discussions. Those discussions make us better, they open up dialogues and help us to see different solutions to the problems we all face and make Cal South the best soccer environment in the nation for kids.”
Ben Leathers, President of AYSO Matrix said, “I think the Leadership Academy is excellent. It’s been something that has been missing. All of the topics are fabulous. It’s definitely something that’s needed. Soccer is a business. Whether we all agree or not, whether your club is run by volunteers or paid staff, it’s a business and you have to run your business. Which is why I believe Board Members should be more involved in the Leadership Academy as well. The Diversity Inclusion class really opened my eyes. Discussing this topic and bringing awareness is a good start to a solution.”
Ryan Shera from Coerver San Diego and Yalla Soccer Club said, “This Cal South Leadership Academy is fantastic. It’s a great event to learn from experts and share ideas. They should take this model to every region and state. This program is an amazing learning opportunity for clubs to really grow the game in this country.”
“My son is playing in a youth soccer tournament this weekend so being here shows how important I think this is. I am catching his games when I can, but this Leadership Academy is valuable time well spent,” said Ron Lewis, Vice President of Recreational Soccer at San Diego Soccer Club. “We do a better job at diversity, but we struggle with the inclusion part. Seminars like this will help leaders be better at being more inclusive when it comes to thought processes and best practices — where we can take bits and pieces from different perspectives and include that into how we run our programs. The more inclusive you are, the more innovative you become. I hope that it continues to grow within Cal South.”
“It’s fantastic being amongst such great and exceptional leaders of the game sharing the same common goal, to improve youth soccer and promote diverse organizations,” said English born Nicole Farley who coaches at Laguna United FC and traveled down from Orange County for the Academy. “To attend this highly acclaimed leadership academy was not only insightful but inspiring. The speakers and information was very helpful.”
The event also provided an opportunity to chat with Cal South Board Member Roy Carlson who joined for Sunday breakfast to share his soccer-specific leadership experiences with attendees. “It was great to meet a Board Member of Cal South and actually be able to chat with him,” said Farely. “In conversation with Roy, he shared an example of when U.S. Soccer was preparing for the 2022 World Cup bid and in that moment, I realized that I was starting to see things from a different perspective. He was very open-minded and I felt that as a younger person, it is equally important to have a voice.”
Professional soccer player Kraig Chiles is also the Director of Coaching at Cardiff Mustangs. The Captain of the San Diego Sockers, Chiles said, “I had a great time at the Cal South Academy. It was extremely informative and there is no doubt I learned some useful things to bring back to both the structure of the Cardiff Mustangs and my individual coaching sessions.”
“I think this program is finally an opportunity to move the U.S. to become a soccer nation rather than a nation that plays soccer, said Gary Martin, who trained as a youth at the West Ham United Academy in London, England and now coaches at the Cardiff Mustangs. “This type of leadership academy actually fulfills a real need and brings us to the next level.”
“What a privilege being apart of this Leadership Academy — hearing the speakers and the ideas of well respected individuals in the soccer community, both locally and from a far,” said Bryce Ostroff, head coach at RSF Attack for BU9, BU10 and BU17 and assistant coach for Canyon Crest Academy High School Boys Varsity Soccer. “I learned more than I ever expected in areas that I never thought were related to soccer. I love my job and I feel it’s my duty to continue learning and grow as a leader in life and soccer.”
“Joseph Mailander was very interesting, he made us think about some things we don’t often think about; doing positive things and community outreach,” said Rick La Salle from Presidio Soccer League. “Community outreach not only creates a positive image for your organization but you’re also helping someone in the community better themselves, so it’s a win-win situation. We need more leaders in soccer. We need to not ‘shoot from the hip’ so much. We need to think about what we do and there needs be a reason for every action we take. Without doing that, you’re not going to get better.”
“Needless to say, I really enjoyed the class and plan on putting the techniques learned into practice within our club,” said Christine Van Slyke from Valley Center Hurricanes.
Dani Parker, Content Manager, Westside Breakers SC said, “Leadership is important in any business. Success includes leadership, diversity and inclusion but not all leaders have the tools to lead successfully. I applaud Cal South in their efforts to offer their members’ tools to utilize in their day to day world. It gives me hope for the future leaders as my daughter grows in the game.”
While everyone who attended appreciated the value of the program, the question of who else could benefit came up. “This would be a great value for all clubs, everywhere in the nation,” said Zimmerman. “Many leaders in youth soccer did not come as business men. We’ve had to learn and fumble our way through certain aspects of running a club. I’ve been coaching for 27 years and a director for 20 years and I learned a lot. There’s always things to learn.”
Manny Neves, Director of Coaching Coronado Youth Soccer League concluded, “It is great that Cal South is doing this. I enjoyed it, and people in leadership roles in youth soccer clubs need this information –Directors of Coaching, Directors of Operations, Presidents, Managers, Registrars and Marketing Directors.”
Among the speakers at this Cal South Leadership Academy:
Reverend Canon Jaime Edwards-Acton, an Episcopal Pastor who has developed many leadership and diversity programs, kicked off the Leadership Academy with a compelling talk on Diversity and Inclusion.
Shannon MacMillan, Director of Operations at Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks Herman Trophy Winner, Olympic Gold Medalist, Women’s World Cup Soccer Star, U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year and Cal South Hall of Fame inductee spoke on Building SMART Teams.
Mark Zeigler, an award winning sportswriter for the San Diego Union Tribune who is an avid soccer fan who has covered many o FIFA World Cups spoke on Organizational Change Management.
Joseph F. Mailander author of 300 columns of cultural criticism, opinion journalism, and political analysis spoke on Government and Community Outreach.
Bob Turner, President of San Diego Presidio Soccer League, said, “The Cal South Leadership Academy was terrific. We need this information and it is great that Cal South is making it happen for us. The information was really important and the discussions were eye-opening. Everyone — all the Directors of Coaches, the Youth Club Presidents and even the younger coaches all participated — we all came together to learn and grow the game. A big thank you to Cal South.”
“When I stood up in the room at the end, it was great to see the diversity in the audience and to see how everyone learned from the material and each other. The excitement and enthusiasm that our students had for the program itself was very exciting to see,” said Barraza. “It solidified that we are taking the right steps for the right reasons. It was great to hear the Directors of Coaching and the Presidents want to see the program continue and grow and confirm that we are on the right track — helping our current members — as we build our membership for the future.”
“All of us in California are descendants of pioneers and explorers, and we should be proud of how far we have come as we keep reaching to better ourselves. To be able to see a room full of leaders like this, I know Cal South will be in good hands in the future,” said Barraza.