Joe Cummings helps American football grow at all levels 01/19/2022

Joe Cummings coached its first youth team in 1965, its first high school team in 1976, and its first varsity team in 1984. He founded the Northborough (Massachusetts) Youth Soccer Association and began working in men’s and women’s professional soccer.

During his career, he served as assistant general manager (1996-99) and technical director (2004-05) of MLS’s New England Revolution, and president of the Boston Breakers Women’s during their stints at WUSA and WPS, including he also served as COO during its launch. He also managed the venues for the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cups.

Cummings is the recipient of this year’s United Soccer Coaches Honor Award. He was CEO of the association formerly known as NSCAA from 2009-2015 and served for 11 years on its board of directors (1995-2005), including a term as president in 2004.

Football came into Cummings’ life at the age of 10 in 1959 when a Massachusetts elementary school teacher, Arthur Mulrain, started an after-school soccer program because the sport was fluid and less structured than most sports. “It was probably criticized by some teachers who thought it was a ‘foreign’ sport, but I’m very grateful to him because it was a life-changing experience for me,” Cummings said.

SOCCER AMERICA: Looking back, can you identify the attributes of soccer that inspired you to make it such an important part of your life?

Joe Cummings: The combination of individual creative play fused with the team concept was what initially appealed to me, but the ability to enjoy the sport in some way without the physical necessities limiting participation because of size or weight I liked.

SA: How would you describe the importance of United Soccer Coaches (founded as NSCAA in 1941) to the development of soccer in the United States?

Joe Cummings: United Soccer Coaches and the associated rebrand perfectly captures the importance of the organization for 80 years now. They brought everyone together with the common goal of uniting us all in the love of the game and for the game.

SA: As someone who’s been to coaching conventions since 1988, I feel they’ve served a wonderful purpose in bringing the different levels of the game together. Like giant family gatherings where there are always newcomers. I think Conventions create an environment where people from different factions of the game who may disagree are reminded of what they have in common. But now that the game has grown so big in the United States – which of course we hoped – do you think United Soccer Coaches can continue to unite the football community?

Joe Cummings: I feel like United Soccer Coaches have a greater responsibility than ever before. With so many offers for players, coaches, referees and administrators, there must be one organization that can and should bring them all together and that has always been and will continue to be United Soccer Coaches.

Youth soccer…

SA: What challenges did you have – for example when you started the Northborough (Mass.) Youth Soccer Association in the 1970s – that administrators wouldn’t have today?

Joe Cummings: Equipment, pitches, uniforms and awareness. I remember “borrowing” road cones as I drove along the highways of Massachusetts, begging for practice space, having our young players outfitted in t-shirts but never full uniforms and sitting with journalists educating them about the sport, hoping that in return a story or two would appear in their paper.

SA: Are there aspects of the youth game from your early years that the current landscape could use more?

Joe Cummings: Volunteering was the only way our early youth programs survived and there is something about people getting involved for the general and overall good of the program, without it being selfish. I’m not sure that aspect of volunteering exists to the extent that it existed when I started many youth programs in the 1970s and 1980s.

Football at school…

SA: What was high school football like when you coached and how do you assess its role in the evolution of American football?

Joe Cummings: Imagine playing four quarters of 15 minutes each. Imagine games being decided by removing players from the field or goalkeepers not being able to use their hands – yes, you heard that right). The early days of high school football were a constant battle for me to educate, change, and develop an appreciation for all the sport has to offer. High school football played a big part in those things and still does today.

HER. I believe you and I agree that the potential of football in schools – from kindergarten through high school – to increase access to the game and develop football culture in the United States has been underestimated. (An elementary school program was your introduction.) Is there a way to spark a movement to increase soccer in schools and boost high school play?

Joe Cummings: Underrated for sure and I don’t know why. I’ve always felt like the coaches I befriended in Massachusetts didn’t apologize for their involvement in the sport and I wish more teachers and coaches felt that way.

We coach and teach football and should always shout this from the top of the mountains and make sure everyone knows it, and never give up.

College game…

SA: What are your fondest memories of the college game?

Joe Cummings: My fondest memories of training at the College of the Holy Cross were the appreciation I developed for the balance needed to play a Division I sport and maintain the academic load required at Holy Cross. Also, the families that were involved when we were on the road always made these games welcoming to me and our team.

SA: Is there anything about college football today that you think could be improved?

Joe Cummings: There are a lot of things being done by those involved in the game that will help make it better, but the one I’ve always insisted on and it’s still true today is more, more, more. off-season training. I know those involved in college football work there and I hope that over time those opportunities will increase.

The men’s pro game…

SA: What are your fondest memories of your time with New England Revolution?

Joe Cummings: The opening game at the old Foxboro stadium with over 30,000 spectators and that feeling of “we did it!” The ‘we’ was an inclusive group of owners, league staff, team staff, players, referees, stadium staff – everyone had been engaged in this process and there was this celebration collective this first match.

SA: During the inaugural season of 1996, if someone asked you what the league would look like in 2022, how close would your answer be to what it has become?

Joe Cummings: I always ‘hoped’ for what we have now, but there were times in the early years when we might have wondered. I look back on those who invested and will be forever grateful for the opportunity I had in New England and Mr. [Robert] kraft and Jonathan Kraft for believing in me and in the sport.

Every time I watch a new team open, see a new stadium built, or read about a player coming to MLS, I think back to the early years and smile and appreciate what we’ve captured through the efforts of so many. people.

Women’s professional football…

SA: Share some memories of your time as president with the Boston Breakers, which included players such as Kate Sobrero, Angela Hucles, Maren Meinert, Kristine Lilly. (And Pia Sundhage coached the team in 2003.)

Joe Cummings: What a collection of players on the Boston Breakers from 2001-2003. There are now women’s professional leagues around the world, but the WUSA was an international league like no other.

All the top players came to the United States and in doing so the opponents became friends and that’s what I remember the most. Building something from the start has been an amazing experience for all of us, but the league has always been about players!

They were the story and I was able to tell that story for three years. The players you mention above, I still see them on occasion and it’s now 20 years later, but that professional experience was incredibly unique.

SA: In a country as vast as the United States, a new profitable national professional league of both sexes seems almost impossible. Can you describe a scenario in which the NWSL defies the odds?

Joe Cummings: I believe deep in my heart that the NWSL will beat the odds. Everything in this league, even with the recent challenges, is about to succeed; with ownership groups showing up, a new generation of players, leaders embracing all that is good about the sport and, most importantly, a clearer understanding of how everyone should be treated with respect. Everyone. I look from the outside with a different perspective than others who rethink over time.

Management of major events…

SA: Can you compare the challenges you faced at the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cups to what venue management is like today?

Joe Cummings: In 1996, the Olympic matches were held in Washington, DC, Orlando and Birmingham, Alabama, before the finals in Athens, Georgia.

I was operations manager for the Birmingham site before I left to join the reception staff of the New England Revolution. The challenge in Birmingham was how to ‘sell’ football in college football country. We did but he had his moments!

1999 was an unknown and now we know how that story unfolded. 2003 came very quickly as China could not accommodate due to SARS. I was the site manager for Boston (Foxboro) and Philadelphia, so I was going back and forth between those sites.

The management of the sites of yesterday and today is always centered on the volunteers. Organizing a major event will always require individuals who get involved to ensure that the event in their stadium, city or state will be a success.

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SA: You are organizing a football dinner, who are the four people you invite?

Joe Cummings: Sir Alex Ferguson, Doug Logan, Alexis Lalas and Hank Steinbrecher.

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