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Six Women Participate in TOVO Coaching Course

One of NorCal Premier Soccer’s core philosophies is that better coaches make better players.

As one of the cutting-edge organizations in today’s American soccer landscape, NorCal offers ample opportunities for those willing to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world at events that are often attended in droves.

But look around the rooms and one is unlikely to see many women, something that Peninsula Soccer Club Girls Director of Coaching Val Henderson has noticed for quite some time, especially during a 2018 coaching education session from TOVO Founder Todd Beane.

So after the two-day TOVO course in San Jose last August, Henderson approached Beane and asked what could be done to help send women to Beane’s five-day course in Spain later in the year.

The two conversed and TOVO agreed to cover some of the cost for the course — an expense that was matched by NorCal’s Women’s Committee — allowing for a December trip just outside of Barcelona where the NorCal women learned from Beane, Johan Cryuff’s son-in-law.

In addition to Henderson, Rozie DeWeese (Union FC), Sofi Garman (Burlingame SC), Christina Gilmore (Mustang FC), Lindsay Kaufman (Girls United), and Alena Thom (Dublin United) made up the contingent of six women in a roughly 25-person course.

Like most other coaching education opportunities, those represented the only female voices in attendance as Beane taught his ever-valuable lessons.

“The TOVO method is geared around training players’ character, cognition, and competence,” Henderson said. “What was pointed out to us was the immense focus on competence, which is basically the technical aspect. I think Todd was really hoping that we left the course knowing that if we value character and cognition in our players, that everything we do should include character and thought process, not just technical skill.”

“It was about really delving into our session and asking ourselves if our players are thinking all the time or if we are providing the answers.” Henderson added. “Are we putting them in situations where they’re going to recognize patterns and make autonomous decisions? Or are we making the decision for them and hoping that they draw the connections?”

The course allowed for what will be hopefully just the next in line of women participating in these events and garnering the much-needed education to be able to best help serve the youth in Northern California.

“It was exciting to have a group of women together so that we could support each other and brainstorm, but I don’t think it’s enough,” Henderson said. “My take on this would be now that we’ve been there that we should do some type of training where we teach TOVO the concepts to other coaches — either men and women or just women — or that we try to help draw some connections so that the ripple effect is greater than just what we experienced.”

This was a narrative that Beane supported.

“It’s abundantly clear that we do not have enough women coaches,” Beane said. “At TOVO we’re trying to promote more opportunities for women so that our young players can benefit from their leadership.”

In the end, the NorCal Women’s Committee is trying to learn as much as possible while also getting to the root of the problem of the lack of female coaching in Northern California and the United States.

“We are proud to have assisted this group of women in attending such a world class coaching institution at TOVO, and are eager to have them mentor other NorCal female coaches with this new knowledge,” said NorCal Women’s Committee Chairwoman Erin Sharpe. “We are also proud to have assisted over a dozen women in the last year with significant scholarship assistance in a multitude of licensing courses ranging from grassroots levels through to the USSF B, and UEFA B.

“We have also hosted a couple of symposiums with international and home grown clinicians alike and look forward to furthering our coaching education opportunities and initiatives,” she added. “A lot of work is yet to be done and it is certainly a mission of ours to partner with member clubs to not only increase the female coaching pool in NorCal, but to improve significantly upon the retention and promotion of women on this career path.”

Added Henderson: “In general, when younger women or younger girls have role models that they can relate to, that encourages them to be better players or to get involved in coaching. If you get more girls empowered with coaching education and mentorship, they will become fantastic, capable coaches. If you put more women in positions to recruit, mentor, and educate women into the coaching ranks, it will catalyze girls and women’s involvement and improvement in coaching, and if you get more men behind the idea of mentoring female coaches (as well as male) that our coaching across the board will improve and therefore our players will benefit.”

So while the TOVO coaching course provided excellent value, it was just the start for Henderson and the throng of female coaches in Northern California who hope to engage more young women and bring them to the sidelines in the near future.

“I think that there should be a huge push for licensing our female college players and for incentivizing to some degree youth coaching in our clubs,” Henderson said. “For example, in my club I’m trying to get my high school players way more involved in coaching the youngers because it’s great for everyone. This weekend we had a clinic and had seven high school-aged female players working with 4-10 year olds.”

“That just helps them break down the barriers and help them gain confidence. I think that the reason women don’t get into coaching could be a lack of confidence or lack of seeing that they could actually make a contribution,” she added. “It’s very typical that women question themselves and their ability and unless they’re told or shown, ‘yes, you can do this,’ then they shy away, whereas I think a strength that men have is even if they haven’t done something before they say, ‘sure, I can do that.’

“Just breaking down that initial barrier is key.”

To learn more about the NorCal Women’s Committee and our various initiatives, please visit this link or contact womenscommittee@norcalpremier.com