How one of the country’s oldest soccer organizations joined forces with MOJO to help coaches everywhere
| 4 min read
Mass Youth Soccer
Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association was founded in 1974, making it one of the oldest state organizations in youth soccer. Today, it’s one of the largest. Ian Mulliner, the long-time technical director for Mass Youth Soccer, was there from the beginning.
“I would like to say it was before my time,” he jokes. “But unfortunately that wouldn’t be accurate.”
Mulliner’s long-time experience and expertise was central to taking the sport to another level — not just in Massachusetts, but across the entire country. And in 2021, Mass Youth Soccer used MOJO to take it even further.
The goal of Mass Youth Soccer had always been to provide the best experience for the children on the field, says Mulliner. From the start, the staff quickly realized that a player’s experience was greatly determined by their coach. And that coaches needed support.
“There wasn’t anything out there to help the coaches,” says Tommy Geis, the current technical director at Mass Youth Soccer. In the early 2000s, the staff got to work designing training tools for their volunteers. “Twice a year we would create the lesson plans and then sit in a room and just rip them apart.”
“We backed it up by going into the field ourselves, really field testing and making sure that curriculum we provided actually worked,” adds Mulliner.
Little did they know, they were creating something that youth soccer coaches everywhere desperately needed. By 2015, an online search for a soccer lesson plan would inevitably lead to mayouthsoccer.org — some half a million hits a year.
“People were using our training session plans really without us knowing,” says Mulliner. “Only since the inception of email and permissions being asked and granted did we find out the plans are quite popular nationwide.”
Mass Youth Soccer was happy to share, but they wanted to do more.
“A two-dimensional piece of paper is nice, but it really doesn’t paint a crystal clear picture,” says Geis, of the .pdfs people downloaded from the website. “People looked at the lesson plan and said, ‘I can read what’s on there, but I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do.’”
MOJO was paying attention. “When we started MOJO, we always dreamed of getting to partner with Massachusetts,” says founder and CEO Ben Sherwood. Both MOJO and Mass Youth Soccer shared a common goal—to provide the best playing experience for children. Sherwood knew that partnering with Mass Youth Soccer could help coaches, players and families everywhere.
Mulliner was excited to merge the plans created by Mass Youth Soccer with the technology of MOJO. He recognized the opportunity to take coaching support to the next level. “I always wanted our training session plans in video format,” says Mulliner. “I took a look at the app and it was exactly what I’d envisioned.”
The partnership, which began in spring 2021, has proved to be a huge win for youth soccer.
Over the course of the next two soccer seasons, Mass Youth Soccer used the MOJO platform to develop practice plans for U6 through U14 team—like a U6 session designed to improve players’ ability to read and understand the game in the opponent’s half of the field, a U8 session to teach players how to deny scoring changes, or a set of U14 practice plans that focus on attacking.
“I’m a busy parent-coach. I’ve just finished my 9-to-5 job. I’m rushing to practice,” says Mulliner, explaining the benefits of having the Mass Youth Soccer plans in the MOJO app. “I pick up my phone and hit Coaching U12s and now I’ve got a list of coaching sessions that come up.”
“There it is,” he says, “right in front of you.”
Each session includes the player action, key qualities and moments that coaches should look for during practice, as well as the skill acquisition to keep in mind. There are more than 40 in all.
Two years into the partnership, nearly half a million youth soccer players across the country have benefited from access to the plans.
Says Rob Holliday, director of operations, Mass Youth Soccer, “It’s really like seeing the session plans come to life.”