Thousands of soccer coaches from every level of the sport converged in Chicago late last week.
McCormick Place played host to the event, which ran Wednesday through Sunday and typically includes the attendance of more than 10,000 coaches from all over the world.
The MLS’ Chicago Fire held meetings there. The Big Ten Conference hosts meetings for its coaches. The National Women’s Soccer League held its college draft. Coaches from Europe’s top club teams presented.
And, at least for a one-hour breakout session, 14 members of Janesville Craig’s girls team snagged a piece of the spotlight.
“The building itself was really big and was filled with so many people, so the energy level was something not like anything we’d ever experienced,” Craig junior Greta Hanthorn said.
“It was really intimidating,” junior Abby Membrino said. “But it was really fun.”
The locals were the demonstrators during a session called “Train Where You Play: Integrated On Field Skill, Strength and Movement Training.”
That’s a mouthful. But essentially half of the presentation included a training program called “Magic Moves,” which teaches players individual foot-skills drills they can do in a small space. And the other half of the presentation focused on training with elastic bands, a presentation by renowned strength and conditioning coach Steve Myrland.
Rob Kehoe and his son, Robert, were the instructors for the “Magic Moves” portion of the presentation. The elder Kehoe is the Director of College Programs for United Soccer Coaches and a close friend of Craig girls soccer head coach Bill McCabe.
“A few months back, Rob said, ‘I would like to use your girls in a training session,’” McCabe said. “They normally use professionals or high-level college players (for demonstrations).”
Many of the local players have been put through the steps of “Magic Moves” since early in their soccer-playing days.
So it made sense to bring in a group of demonstrators who had done the work before, rather than attempt to teach a new group on the fly.
“We’ve been through Magic Moves pretty much every summer since we were 8,” Craig junior Hannah Dunlavy said.
“I had coaches come up to me after and say, ‘There have been the highest level boys teams in Chicago’ … and they could not have done what these girls do for one solid hour,” McCabe said.
Myrland’s part of the presentation was new to the young players, and they said they were still feeling the burn two days later but enjoyed learning a new workout.
With high-level coaches potentially in attendance at the session, McCabe cleared the event with the WIAA.
“We had to make sure all the boxes were checked,” he said.
Once they were, the players carpooled down to Chicago on Thursday, pulling up to a special-access area for other demonstrators, like players from the Chicago Fire.
“When you walk in, immediately there are hundreds and hundreds of people,” Hanthorn said. “It was a great experience.”
Craig’s team is coming off a season in which it advanced to a WIAA Division 1 sectional final.
The first day of high school girls soccer practice is March 19.
“We’ve got a countdown,” Membrino said.