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NJ Youth Soccer Supports the Inaugural Princeton Soccer Conference

Written by Alessandra Haddock

The inaugural Princeton Soccer Conference was originally just an idea that was created by Founders Jonny Hopcroft and Ben Clarke, but it has since turned into what will now likely be a new tradition at Princeton University. Leading up to the event, NJ Youth Soccer helped promote the Princeton Soccer Conference and sponsored registrations for player membership and the referee community.

"We were really excited about the response to the inaugural Princeton Soccer Conference and think that it lays a sound foundation for similar events in 2020 and beyond," stated Hopcroft "With that, we genuinely appreciate the promotional support from NJ Youth Soccer and look forward to building upon that partnership in the future."

The inaugural Princeton Soccer Conference provided undergraduate students and soccer enthusiasts the opportunity to be part of the discussion on the future of soccer. Sparked by their love of the game and the strong connections between Princeton University and US Soccer, Hopcroft and Clarke set out on a mammoth endeavor to pull together 40 key figures from the soccer industry. The weekend was a unique opportunity to foster and expand dialogue with a diverse and eclectic grouping of soccer supporters and those in the business of soccer.

The weekend kicked off with Court Jeske, Executive VP of the United Soccer League, in a Welcoming Address that led to a conversation about the relationship between students and business professionals. Jeske encouraged students interested in the field, "to be passionate about the work you are doing," ask questions and network.

The attendees then had the pleasure of listening to Jeske, Charlie Stillitano, and Grant Wahl discuss the future of North American soccer in a conversation moderated by Sebastian Alvarado, Senior Producer/Content Developer for The Players Tribune.

Stillitano, Executive Chairman for Relevant Sports and organizer of the International Champions Cup, focused on the importance of bridging the gap between ethnic groups and everyone else in the U.S. who plays soccer. He proceeded the discussion by reflecting upon his own experience as an immigrant.

"All clubs at the time of my childhood were ran by immigrants," he recalled. "Americans were not encouraged to play the game. Now, you see these two communities separated.

In light of this, Stillitano reflected on the culture that modern day soccer expresses: one where socioeconomic status plays a large role. Wahl, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated, added to the discussion by referencing players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan as examples of individuals who bridged the gap in North American soccer. Jeske then closed by stating, "Progress lies in the community having the ability to be represented and rooted."

The rest of the weekend aligned with these greater ideals in that the progression of soccer depends on the willingness to address tougher topics within society.

Conference discussions on Saturday covered topics such as Tackling Homophobia in Soccer, A Discussion with Women's Soccer Professionals (Past and Present), The Growth of Player Care in US Soccer, and Will There Always Be Corruption in Soccer? Similarly, the conversations on the Sunday included Race and Soccer in the United States and Soccer for Good: How Can the Sport Promote Positive Social Change.

While the inaugural Princeton Soccer Conference may have begun simply as an idea, its eventual outcome proved to be more rewarding than initially expected. Those representing NJYS as well as myself had an outstanding time at the conference and look forward to working on this endeavor with the University in the years to come.