Interview: Ryan Knapp (Manager of Digital, NSCAA)

This week I have been very lucky to get a chance to chat with the NSCAA Manager of Digital, Ryan Knapp over in the US. The NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) is the largest football coach organisation in the world, with over 30,000 members. The role of the organisation is to provide guidance, support and training for coaching at all levels within the sport, as well as provide a national recognition system for college and high school teams, players and coaches across the US.           

How has social media changed the way the NSCAA and it’s members communicate with each another internally?

RK: “The focus of the NSCAA is on coaching education. With that being said, we use social media as a tool for coaches to communicate with each other. There is a huge amount of information to be shared between coaches from all over the United States and we hope that social media can help facilitate those conversations between coaches.

Coaches want to talk x’s and o’s, practice plans, skills and drills and give match recaps and analysis. We have not yet gone into training coaches specifically on the uses of social media, but it is a topic that I definitely am interested in exploring further (personally speaking!).

The one-on-one interaction that is key in social media has been at the core of the NSCAA mission since we were founded in 1941. We embrace peer-to-peer learning and collaboration in our coaching education and development so for us, we’ve been able to extend those ideals easily into the realm of social media.”

How is the NSCAA using social media to aid football coaching US?

RK: “We use social media to find those coaches who need our help the most. By using simple twitter searches and different alerts, I come across people who are having trouble teaching their players to score, for instance. I will send a message about what they need help with and I work to get them the answers they are looking for.”

Are there plans to provide a structured academic course on social media use for coaches?

RK: “We do not currently have a focused NSCAA social media course for coaches. My good friend Amanda Vandervort and I presented a talk “Social Media for Soccer Coaches” at the last NSCAA Convention in Baltimore and received great feedback. Possibly in the future we can incorporate different types of social media education into the courses.”

What has been the largest challenge for managers adopting social media? (What’s the most common problem/question?)

RK: “Many coaches, especially in the collegiate level, are worried about the time and effort it takes to keep up.  You have to explain to a coach who is already working 60+ hours a week why they should spend another five to update social media channels and grow a presence. Luckily, the most successful campaigns work alongside the Sports Information Department and Sports Information Directors (SID’s) to ensure the communications coming from the coaches reach the most eyeballs.

Along the same vein, many question “Why would someone want to know what I’m thinking?” or the common “Who wants to know what I had for dinner?” Those conversations usually take a little bit longer.”

How has social media affected player recruitment?

RK: “Social media is changing rapidly, and the NSCAA is attempting to keep up on this topic.Amanda wrote a great piece on this for the NSCAA blog a few months back. It makes player recruiting a bit tricky in that coaches and schools need to understand how they are contacting certain athletes and on what sites they engage athletes. The NCAA has released some guidelines on social media and recruiting but expect those guidelines to change yearly as social media technologies continue to evolve and change.”

At the minute it seems to be mainly players who have got on the social media bandwagon, but it makes sense that managers (particularly those at grass roots level) start to use social media as both a co-ordination and press tool. Platforms like Facebook events or Twitter hashtags could in theory be used by managers to broadcast to their players and other coaches to organise training, matches or promote the game at a lower level. Equally, at a higher level it’s already been speculated that social media could replace traditional post match press conference (I’m sure Fergie would prefer that!). Players already are, so why not managers?

With regards to social media recruitment, watch this space as I’ll be covering this very soon.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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