Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the US. While the beautiful game still lags behind the big three (baseball, basketball and american football) in terms of total viewership, it has tripled in popularity over the last decade, (overtaking ice hockey in the process).
Although the game’s profile has benefitted from a medley of superstars gracing the MLS in recent years, much of this rise can be put down to high youth participation. The soccer mom phenomenon is real; with more than 6,000 registered youth teams, over 3 million kids are estimated to play soccer in the US. The recent dominance of the US women’s soccer team is somewhat explained when you consider that 48% of these young players are female.
Much of this success is driven by the passion of coaches at grassroots level. We first met Cesar Coronel back in 2019 when he was looking to expand and enhance the coaching programmes available at his academy in Houston, JC Sports.
Texas is probably more associated with american football, yet interest in soccer remains high, with an estimated 250K youth players in the state. Cesar wants to provide quality coaching for these kids, and he’s not afraid to start them early. Programmes begin for two-to-three-year olds, teaching basic motor and ball skills, going right up to more sophisticated programmes for teens and young adults. Crucially, he can feed any talent of note into the Houston youth soccer system, giving young players a tractable route into the professional game. Most recently he has established a partnership with La Liga’s Villerreal, becoming an official overseas academy for the club.
Early on in his youth coaching career he realised technology was the way to go to coach this new generation of youth players.
“Kids don’t really respond to laying out cones; they’ll just switch off. It’s about creating engaging experiences for the participants, letting them have fun, while they’re also getting a serious training session.”
Above all, Cesar wants to produce creative and well-rounded players, and he combines many approaches to that end, including VR, and ESA’s Wireless Circuit.
“The great thing about these platforms is that they provide Instant feedback. Kids can see what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. We have several ESA Soccer Training tools at JC Sports Houston. I love the flexibility of the Wireless Circuit as I can change the layout of my training sessions and move the panels to my liking. In one session, with one tool, we can work on passing, receiving, accuracy and then switching to dribbling, turning, attacking and finishing... Do not get me wrong, I love the other tools too, but the Wireless Circuit is a great training tool with many applications.”
In addition to their work in Texas, Cesar and his wife Jennifer also started Harvest 8, a non-profit focused on empowering communities through sports:
“We are passionate about sports and fitness, but also about building community through sports. We have created sports programs in Haiti, Kenya and Laos, in addition to providing thousands of dollars to schools in our Neighbourhood. We don’t only provide equipment but also a curriculum for the volunteers or teachers in those communities so that they can teach sports to the kids just like we do in Houston.”