by Mirza Kurspahic from the Reston Connection newspaper, dated December 15-21, Vol. XVIII, Number 50
The essay hangs framed on the wall in the house. Above the essay, in the same frame, is a picture of the late Reston resident Chris Nedelcovych.
"When you read that," said Larry Paul, pointing to the essay, "you'll get all of the answers about the foundation." Paul is a personal friend of the Nedelcovych family, the program director of the Cris Nedelcovych Soccer Foundation (CNSF), and works with the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA).
In his college entrance essay, "The Greatest Gift," Nedelcovych explained how he inspired his younger brother's soccer team into turning a bad season into a good one. He asked the coach if he could help out with coaching the players, only three years younger than he, and guided the team into a turn-around. In doing so, he dev eloped a passion for coaching soccer. He saw that by believing in the players, he gave them a reason to believe in themselves. "The greatest gift is to know that you have had, in some way, a positive impact on someone's life," wrote Nedelcovych, only days before he would be killed in a car accident.
"It (writing the essay) was literally the last thing he did b efore he died," said Sally Nedelcovych, Chris' mother. She is also the president of the foundation. On Nov. 14, 2001, Chris Nedelcovych died in a car accident, a passenger in his friend's car. "We wanted to turn a tragedy into something positive," added Sally Nedelcovych. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Gorge Kfoury, a family friend, visited the Nedelcovych house in Reston. Kfoury, after reading the essay, encouraged Sally Nedelcovych to start a program that would give people Chris' age a chance to develop their coaching skills. Thus, the Chris Nedelcovych Soccer Foundation was born. The program was started up immediately. The Nedelcovych family contacted Paul, who was active in the soccer community through his work with the MSYSA. The response from MSYSA was to immediately make preparations for a camp for young soccer coaches.
EACH YEAR, the foundation brings 15 youth coaches to the camp. They are selected after their applications and letters of recommendation are read. The letters have to come from a club or state official. "I know what we are doing is good," said Sally Nedelcovych, "because of the people we are attracting."
Along with the 15 youth coaches, the camp also brings in 30 youth players, so that the coaches could have someone to coach. To guide the youth coaches into a better understanding of coaching, the foundation brings coaches from other countries, so far Holland, to show a different perspective on the game. The camp coincides with MSYSA's International Week, where MSYSA also brings coaches from other countries, Denmark, Brazil, Czech Republic, etc. Both camps take place at the St. James School in Hagerstown, MD.
Scholarships are provided for CNSF campers, roundtrip airfare, room and board. So far, the program has brought in coaches from Holland and will doso the upcoming summer, as well. "Their problem solving," said Paul, "is the same as ours." Paul said that the camp is considering, and probably will, start bringing in coaches from other parts of the world, but so far the Dutch have proved to be very valuable as they are able to connect with the American youth coaches on a cultural basis. "The demographics of the two countries are similar," he said.
The camp, through its collaboration with United States Youth Soccer (USYS) also offers the participants an opportunity to earn the "E" coaching license. They are given a take-home exam, and they have three weeks to complete it. CNSF offers alumni scholarships to its past participants, to help them continue their coaching education. "Fifteen years from now, these coaches will be dirrctors of coaching in their respective state associations," said Paul. This would give the state associations more credibility, as the directors will have a background in coaching.
"We had two of our teenagers go through the experience," said Jay Dunn, the president of Reston Soccer Association, "they were extremely happy with it."
CNSF IS A PIONEER in the idea of a camp for coaches. Its mission, according to Paul, is to have an impact on the state of the art of coaching, nationally. "No one is paying attention to the young coaches," he said. So far the non-profit organization was able to raise money for scholarships through donations from family and friends. The foundation scrambles to raise enough money to run its one-week program each year. This year Paul released a DVD, "Street Soccer: An Introduction to Small Sided Games," as a practical guide for average parent coaches. Proceeds from the DVD sales go to CNSF. Since the release of the DVD, the CNSF website doubles. Both Larry Paul and Sally Nedelcovych are hoping that the idea of "Youth Coaching Youth" will spread nationalaly, and that more CNSFs will emerge out of it. "The right people are showing interest," said Paul, "state (soccer association) presidents are showing interest."
This summer the CNSF camp will run July 3 - 8, at the St. James School in Hagerstown, MD. For more information about the camp, CNSF, or the "Street Soccer" DVD, visit the CNSF website at: www.cnsfund.org. "The Greatest Gift" is also posted on the website.
WITH SO MANY young people dying in the Washington area in car accidents this year, Sally Nedelcovych was often reminded of Chris' death. She said that as a parent she did everything to prevent such a tragedy, all of the things that the parents are told to do when their children begin driving, but her son's life was ended as a passenger. She said that the parents need better laws to support their efforts. "There is a log going on that we are not talking about," she said.
One of the things not being talked about is the type of cars that parents buy their children. Sally Nedelcovych said that some parents are buying cars that they wanted to have when they were their children's age, not the cars that are safe for their children to drive.