At 8:00 p.m. EST on April 13, 2021 the ECNL held its first-ever digital Town Hall, speaking directly to parents and players across the country about the scope of the ECNL, and giving them a look inside the League. More than 3,000 people tuned in to hear ECNL leaders answer live and pre-submitted questions about the league and its programs, and learn more about their vision for the future of player development and youth soccer in the United States.
The ECNL Breaking the Line podcast host, Dean Linke, led the discussion with ECNL President Christian Lavers, ECNL Vice President Doug Bracken, ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle and ECNL Boys Commissioner Jason Kutney. The ECNL Town Hall centered around three main topics that are at the core of the league: the club pathway, the player pathway and the coaching pathway.
After a brief opening by Linke, Lavers kicked off the event discussing the purpose of the ECNL Town Hall (6:23), why the league chose now as the time for the first-ever Town Hall, and sharing a brief overview of the vision and core values of the League.
Next up, the panel dove into the club pathway. Linke led a discussion about the competition structure (8:59) and how the league assesses, reviews and changes competition formats on a year-to-year basis (10:52). The panel also reviewed how the new ECNL Regional Leagues fit into this structure (17:51) and more.
Following the club pathway discussion, Jason Kutney opened a discussion on a player pathway, recognizing how confusing this process can be for parents (19:20). The group discussed how programs such as the new SuperCup debuting this fall, the conference selection programs, and national training camps fit into the player pathway (21:56), along with the pros and cons of mixing age groups (30:11). The panel took questions on how players are selected for these programs and other ways the league recognizes its athletes on and off the field (35:04).
The third prong of the Town Hall centered around coaching development and education, which is a hallmark of the ECNL and another critical area that separates the ECNL from other leagues. The panel talked about the coaching symposium, the importance of looking beyond Xs and Os to topics more broadly focused on learning, culture, and personal development, and the lessons learned from some of the sport’s most accomplished coaches (36:07). The panel also covered the off-field offerings designed to support all aspects of player development ranging from the ECNL Advisors (40:20) to the ECNL’s Breaking the Line podcast (41:16).
In the closing minutes of the event, Linke had panelists touch on a few final programs, including the importance of referee development (45:53), and what the future holds for the League and for youth soccer (52:41). In a memorable close, each panelist shared their favorite ECNL memory (55:50) before President Christian Lavers closed the event with a look to the future.
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