For one week, Wofford College is the center of the world, at least for more than 100 coaches from 16 states and two foreign countries.
The NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) is holding its National Coaching Academy at Wofford this week. The coaches are learning ways to improve their coaching both on the field and in classroom sessions.
Paul Payne, rising president of the NSCAA (which has about 25,000 members and is based in Kansas City, Kan.), said Wofford and Spartanburg both attracted the organization.
“What we try to do, especially in summer, is hit different pockets around the U.S.,” says Payne. “We came to Spartanburg because we heard a lot about the Wofford facilities. The town of Spartanburg is a very strong soccer area. This time of year is also good for us because a lot of the southern schools are out and we try to hit the high school coach as well as the club coach and the college coach. It was just a good fit for us. The fields are absolutely phenomenal. The best we’ve been on, bar none.”
So good that coaches have come from far and wide to see them.
“I have a young man in my group and someone was translating for him on the first day because he’s from Cameroon,” Payne laughs. “We have guys from San Antonio, Texas to Pennsylvania. That’s kind of the norm for our courses. We get people from all over.
“We always give out a prize to the guy who has come the greatest distance to be with us. I’ll never forget one year we had a guy from Japan who got beat because another guy was from an island between Japan and China. It’s a really cool deal because all these guys get to see this part of the country or this part of the world. And it brings people together in a great learning environment.”
The languages and even the accents on campus may be different this week, but the reason for being here is the same…a round ball that teams try to control without using their hands.
“It’s amazing,” Payne says. “You go through any airport in the world and see someone else in a soccer jersey and you can start talking to them. It’s a round little ball that doesn’t discriminate against anyone and brings everybody together. I think it breaks down cultural language barriers.
“Without a doubt it’s the world’s sport. You don’t see the passion until you’ve been in the environment. I watched a game this week, Honduras vs. the U.S., and the crowd was just so into it. Here in America, you can watch the NBA tonight, major league baseball, and the NFL is starting soon. Whereas in most other countries, it’s just soccer. It’s a lifelong passion.”
A lot of the coaches are from other countries but now live in the States. Many native Englishmen and Irishmen have descended upon Wofford this week.
“Obviously they’re bringing their knowledge of the game to us, just as we’re giving our knowledge to them,” says Payne.