Lynn Berling-Manuel On Advice For Women in Soccer and the Role Of Coaches
SoccerToday Interview Series with NSCAA’s CEO Lynn Berling-Manuel
There is a prestigious list of female CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. From Mary Barra at General Motors, Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard, Virginia Rometty at IBM, Indra K. Nooyi at Pepsi, Marilyn Hewson at Lockheed Martin, Safra A. Catz at Oracle, Phebe Novakovic at General Dynamics, Deanna M. Mulligan at Guardian Life Insurance to Debra L. Reed at Sempra Energy and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo — when Lynn Berling-Manuel joined NSCAA, she joined the highest ranks of the female workforce.
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While there are still far fewer female CEOs than the other half of the sexes, at least the median salary for women CEOs is on the rise. While Lynn Berling-Manuel may not make what the highest paid CEO – that honor goes to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who, according to the Wall Street Journal, earns $42.1 million — she is the highest ranking woman in the business of American soccer.
In the highly male dominated sport of soccer, women of power are unfortunately as rare as a shark attack. Although the presence of women in positions of leadership in soccer may be anemic, the winds of change are visibly on the horizon and even FIFA has begun to realize that a healthy business requires the inclusion of women in decision making — thanks to Moya Dodd, FIFA’s Executive Member and strong advocate for gender equality.
Named CEO of the world’s largest soccer coach’s organization in May 2015, Berling-Manuel is the first female to lead the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) in its storied 75-year history.
Clearly outspoken and open minded, Berling-Manuel served as American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) chief marketing officer for nearly 8 years before being selected for the NSCAA top job. What is so intriguing about Berling-Manuel is that she has never coached soccer, ever. Her rise to the top started as editor-in-chief, then publisher, then CEO of Soccer America, the iconic soccer media company that started as a weekly magazine 44 years ago and today, in its largely digital form, continues to be a leader in American soccer journalism.
Highly respected by the soccer world, Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Hank Steinbrecher, former U.S. Soccer Secretary General and Tony DiCicco, former U.S. Women’s National Team Coach and US World Cup and Olympic Gold Champion are 3 of the men who Berling-Manuel counts as big fans.
Here is the interview with Lynn Berling-Manuel on the future of soccer in the USA and being a woman in the male dominated soccer world.
Diane Scavuzzo: Congratulations on becoming the CEO of NSCAA. How do you feel as a ‘woman’ in the role?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I’m certainly honored to be the first woman in this role. What’s really wonderful, however, is that I didn’t get hired because I was a woman. However, being a woman didn’t STOP me from getting hired.
That says a lot about the NSCAA.
Diane Scavuzzo: What would you like to say to women in soccer?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: Be professionals and take your power. Drop any sense of a chip on your shoulder or being thin skinned. You’re at the table now.
Don’t wait for the world to change around you because you can wait forever.
Take risks. Speak your truth. Don’t be a jerk if you don’t need to be but don’t hesitate to be direct. I admire grace and honor. It’s exactly the same advice I’d give to a man.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you think U.S. Soccer needs to do to help soccer be successful in the USA?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: They’ve got a very hard job and it’s always easy to be the critic. But although I think developing the national teams is very important, I also believe ensuring every child and family has a great soccer experience at the level they chose — and becoming a fan of the game for life — is also very important.
Our sport loses players younger and faster than any other team sport. I understand the argument that we’re a gateway sport and we get players so young. However, while I was at AYSO, we did extensive parent research beyond our organization and found great consistency in the fact that the biggest reason child and parent left soccer was because their experience wasn’t a great one. And the coach is who really makes that experience.
Diane Scavuzzo: How old were you when you had your first paying job?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: About 12. There were three girls in our family and we ran a baby sitting empire.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do people describe you? What adjectives would I hear if I asked people in the industry?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: The way I HOPE they describe me is: honorable, smart, insightful, a tough negotiator, and fair.
Diane Scavuzzo: What would you say to your younger self — if you could turn back the clock?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: For some reason I always seem to be 27 in my own mind. But I’d give the same advice to myself as I give to others … Build a career, not just a series of jobs; take risks; ask for what you want; create your own opportunities; and be a leader. It should be your own style of leadership, but invite yourself to the table!
Diane Scavuzzo: The value of being from the business sector – How did your work at Soccer America prepare to be a leader?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I can honestly say my years at Soccer America were an MBA in the business of soccer.
We were on the cutting edge of a growing sport. The team there is brilliant. Editorial experts like Paul Kennedy, Mike Woitalla, Ridge Mahoney and Paul Gardner are few and far between. We covered the highs and lows of our sport, but we had an insider view of soccer’s development that was really one of a kind.
I was leading very smart people with all the challenges and opportunities that presents and that is where I truly learned to be a leader.
Diane Scavuzzo: Has coaching evolved since you have been in the soccer world?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I believe coaches are transformational. They can make or break the soccer experience. That’s true whether you’re coaching 6-year-olds or a professional team. Today there are so many choices of styles and methods. The entire world is really our classroom and getting a license is just a small part of the journey.
Coaches need to be continual students of the game to make their players and teams excellent. And that’s really helping grow the game.
There are so many skills and areas of knowledge required: leadership, management, communications, science, handling difficult people and all the rest. Coaches are critical to our sport’s success.
Diane Scavuzzo: And to help the USA win the World Cup?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: We’ve already won three World Cups: two FIFA Women’s World Cups and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The women had the good fortune to lead first so they didn’t have to be like anybody else. The men still have to find that in themselves.
We need to let our youngest players be creative and have fun. Let’s not turn being a soccer player into a job too soon.
We’re deciding very early who’s going to be good and who isn’t and the game proves every day that each player develops in their own way.
Let’s keep the player pool large for as long as possible. And playing multiple sports is still something that brings new skills and abilities to a player. We’re specializing too young. America has to find its own style and way of doing things. We’re just not going to be like the rest of the world. And, the best coaches know that.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is the role of a youth soccer coach?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I think there are a lot of different roles. The role of a coach can be to develop an elite player and help launch them in the right direction. But it can also be to ensure that every child on the team wants to return next year. I have great respect for the “recreational” aspect of our game.
It continues to be where the vast majority of soccer coaches are. Bringing out the best of what each athlete has to offer, helping teams rise to the challenge and win, and I continue to think it’s important in the youth coaching world that helping to make great people is very important.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think of yourself as a pioneer? Are you afraid of speaking your mind?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I’m a pretty direct person and I think “afraid of speaking my mind” is not something that comes up often! Usually it’s just the reverse. Being a pioneer often seems to mean you’ve been around a long time. Pioneers are people who enter new territory. I’m very proud of when I’ve done that but considering all the people in soccer that have done groundbreaking things, I think I can hold my vanity in check!
Diane Scavuzzo: On a scale of 1-5, how lucky are you in life?
Lynn Berling-Manuel: I’d say a 6! Life throws lots of things at you, but I’ve had a wonderful career, grand adventures, a husband of almost 40 years that I adore, and an extended family that is diverse almost beyond belief. We truly are the modern family. But they’re always there for me and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’d like to think I’ve just been wise with my choices, but the reality is that so much really is the luck of the draw.
Article Originally published in March, 2016
Reference: Wall Street Journal on CEO Salaries