The Vision and Philosophy of the ECNL

  • April 19, 2016


ECNL_Logo_final_colorRICHMOND, VA (April 19, 2016)
 – In January 2009, a small group of club Directors of Coaching met informally in St. Louis, MO to discuss the youth soccer landscape in which they worked and where their players and teams competed.   Representing clubs large and small from multiple regions of the country, with experience coaching both male and female players at many different levels, these directors had a wide diversity in background and a broad perspective on youth soccer and its challenges and opportunities.  The thoughts exchanged in this and subsequent discussions ultimately culminated in the presentation of a totally new platform for player development in Las Vegas in March 2009: the Elite Clubs National League.

The process and concepts that lead to the creation of the ECNL are critical in understanding how the league has made such a rapid impact on youth soccer, why the league will continue to be on the leading edge of development, and why it is unique in youth soccer in str
ucture and operation.

While the directors that were part of the first conversations about creating a new platform had very different backgrounds in 2009, and while the coaches participating in the league today remain widely diverse in their opinions, perspectives and methods, there are five core philosophical principles that have always been common amongst everyone that leads and participates in the league.   These five principles form the foundation of the ECNL vision and philosophy:

  • Club soccer is the Primary Platform for Long-Term Player Development.
  • Club soccer leaders should be the Driving Force in determining the Standards and Structures of the Competitions and Platforms in which they participate.
  • Club soccer leaders should be Empowered to operate their clubs in the manner they see fit, within Ethical and Professional Guidelines.
  • Collaboration between soccer leaders creates the most Innovative, Efficient, and Impactful Programs within soccer.
  • Empowered leaders, with Freedom to Pursue their Own Vision, will develop the best players in the country.

These principles are embedded within the governance structure of the ECNL, they influence every decision made in operation of the league, and they permeate the culture within the league and the daily interactions between the league, member clubs, and the directors, coaches, and players that the league was created to serve.

  • Club soccer is the Primary Platform for Long-Term Player Development.

Club soccer is the daily training and competition environment for youth players for the majority of the calendar year, and players spend more time in club training and competition environments than in any other youth soccer environment.

As such, clubs and club soccer platforms have the greatest impact on long-term player development in America, and the improvement of these organizations, and the resources provided to and for these organizations, will have the greatest effect on long-term player development.

  • Club soccer leaders should be the Driving Force in determining the Standards and Structures of the Competitions and Platforms in which they participate.

The coaches that work with youth players on a daily basis most deeply understand the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of players across the development spectrum, and have the greatest experience in implementing programs, curriculums, and methodologies within youth soccer and evaluating their impact.

The coaches that work over time with youth players in a wide variety of platforms and programs have the best understanding of the impact and value of each of these platforms, and the strengths and weaknesses of each program.

The coaches that interact on a daily basis with players, parents, and other influencers in a youth soccer player’s life have the greatest knowledge about the world in which these players live.  These coaches understand the constraints and realities that face youth players and their families culturally, economically, socially, and in many other areas.

As such, the individuals with deep experience in working with youth players, and in the youth club environment, should be the leaders in determining the standards and structures of the platforms that impact these players, teams, and clubs.

  • Club soccer leaders should be Empowered to operate their clubs in the manner they see fit, within Ethical and Professional Guidelines.

The United States spans thousands of miles, with an incredibly wide variety of climates, geography, and population centers.  The country includes an incredible diversity of social, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.  While youth soccer development has certain universal principles, the application of these principles varies greatly based on the external factors within each city and club, and on cultural differences between states, cities, clubs, coaches, and families.

As such, within ethical and professional guidelines, imposing one mandatory standard or style of leadership, operation, play, system, or curriculum will negatively impact performance, operation and development of clubs, teams, and ultimately players.

  • Collaboration between soccer leaders creates the most Innovative, Efficient, and Impactful Programs within soccer.

Open sharing of ideas between experienced practitioners provides the most thought-provoking discussions in player development.  Free discussion and debate of principles and methods stimulates the most growth and innovation in application.  Understanding and appreciating differences in background, opinion, and practice facilitates creation of the most comprehensive solutions to challenges within the game.

As such, a culture of collaboration is required in order to spark improvement, change, and innovation within soccer platforms and from contributors – whether they be leagues, clubs, coaches, or administrators.

  • Empowered leaders, with Freedom to Pursue their Own Vision, will develop the best players in the country.

Leaders with incentive to build better programs, challenged by those with different opinions and perspectives, supported by others with deep experience and background, and free to develop and create an independent vision for their organization will stimulate the most innovation, growth, and development in their organizations, their coaches, and their players.

The ECNL was founded on these core principles, and they are deeply embedded in the culture of the organization and its members.  These principles are not gender specific, and they are not unique to sport.  These principles are requirements for community building, necessities for progress, and a reflection of respect for the individual.  These are the principles that have and will continue to permeate the ECNL, and will spark a constant, relentless drive to improve, raise standards, and be on the leading edge of innovation in the game.

This is the vision and philosophy of the ECNL.

ECNL Board of Directors

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About Elite Clubs National League:  The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players for college and youth national teams through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs.  The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.

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