US Club Soccer, NorCal and SOCAL set to launch Coaching Education for Current Players through Innovate to Grow Fund

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Nov. 2, 2021) – In 2022, US Club Soccer will launch its first Innovate to Grow program, Coach Education for Current Players, in collaboration with NorCal Premier Soccer and SOCAL Soccer League. The program will include a fully funded U.S. Soccer grassroots coach licensing pathway to ignite a passion for coaching to current players aged 16-22.

The Innovate to Grow Fund was established in 2017 to help U.S. Soccer member organizations launch new and innovative programs to grow participation in their markets. In order to be considered for grant funding, members’ proposed programs were required to meet certain criteria as part of a comprehensive application process, including:

  • The program must be new and different from current efforts.
  • The program must demonstrate capability to grow participation.
  • The program must demonstrate potential to scale in other markets.
  • The program must align with U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives.
  • The member must also be financially invested in the program.

US Club Soccer has run over 200 U.S. Soccer grassroots licenses in 2021, and one of the demographics that has rarely been represented has been current players, specifically in the high school to college age group of 16-22 years old. In agreeance with U.S. Soccer’s philosophy that “education is a journey,” US Club Soccer, NorCal and SOCAL will launch this program to begin that journey for young, aspiring coaches. The overall goal is to provide the necessary tools, guidance, and mentorship a coach requires and create a structured coach education pathway with no barriers to entry.

“The coach educators selected to teach these courses will also serve as mentors for these young coaches,” said Ashley Lehr, Senior Manager of Club Development and Outreach at US Club Soccer. “I think the impact from this program will be showcased years from now, when directors and coaches tell us they began their coaching career through Innovate to Grow.”

“This project will help us select many of our top future coaches and give them the necessary tools to be successful in the coaching world,” said SOCAL Director of Special Programming Cris Gilmore. “This great program will teach these candidates valuable leadership skills and guide them on the right path to being educated coaches, most importantly, preparing them to easily implement U.S. Soccer’s methodology in youth soccer environments.”

The objective is that after three years of successful implementation, US Club Soccer member clubs and leagues will see the value in developing current players into coaches and see the increase in the quality of coaches – and as a result, of their players.

“Coach education is something we have placed a high emphasis on since the inception of our league and remains a pillar of our organization,” said NorCal Premier Soccer Coach Education Coordinator David Robertson. “Our motto is simple, ‘better coaches equals better players’. With that in mind, we are excited to work on such a worthy project that gives many young people the opportunity to help elevate the game, while pursuing a potential career in coaching.”

The Coach Education for Current Players program will be executed with NorCal and SOCAL from 2022-25. US Club Soccer hopes to run a successful program on the west coast and then emulate in other regions around the country.

For more information on U.S. Soccer coach education courses hosted by US Club Soccer, please visit


A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible environment for players of all ages.

Anchored by Players First and its five pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.

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