Developing and Improving Synergies in Chinese and United States Soccer (DISCUSS) was
developed in 2009 and funded by a generous grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs. With the goal of creating and improving cultural relations between the
United States and China through sport, the program partnered with the Shanghai Football Association
(SFA) to train soccer coaches in the on- and off-field practices of coaching and program administration.
Phase 2 of DISCUSS Program
The VCU Center for Sport Leadership (CSL) and the Richmond Strikers set to embark on their
journey to Shanghai, China on July 7 to begin Phase II of their D.I.S.C.U.S.S. Program. The goal of
Phase II of the program is to continue the work started in Richmond in July 2010. The delegation
travelling to Shanghai will work with over 50 SFA coaches to conduct an abbreviated version of the U.S.-
based program. Based on feedback from the 12 coaches who came to the United States, the most
important or significant sessions will be re-created in Shanghai. Delegates will also meet with officials
from the Shanghai Sports Bureau to talk about best practices in U.S soccer. Additionally, they will
observe a girl's soccer camp and a U-16 tournament between teams from Shanghai, China; Osaka,
Japan; and Ulsan, Korea.
Dr Carrie Le Crom (Center for Sports Leadership at VCU)
Dr Brendan Dwyer (Center for Sports Leadership at VCU)
Scott Tuner (Richmond Strikers)
Erwan Le Crom (Richmond Strikers)
Paul Shaw (Virginia Youth Soccer Association)
Jen Woodie (University of Richmond and Richmond Strikers)
July 8 - DAY 1
Greetings from Shanghai everyone. We all survived the 14 hour flight and are now in the midst of
adjusting to the substantial time change. We are 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Last night we were treated to traditional Chinese cuisine by Lei from iChina Sports. The fare was
fantastic and as advertised, endless. We ate course after course of Chinese delicacies ranging from garlic
vegetables to Szechuan pork, but the highlights included pig's feet, pig's kidney, tongue of duck
(pictured), and frog. There is definitely a truth in the saying, the Chinese will eat anything with legs except
a table. Regardless, it was both exceptional and distinct.
Some other oddities of the stay thus far include the filming of China's Got Talent in the 80,000
seat stadium connected to our hotel and the presence of the Chinese National Swim Team. The FINA
World Swimming Championships are being held in Shanghai next weekend and the place is a buzz with
media and security.
Today's activities include a walking tour of Shanghai's city center in the afternoon and the official
welcome dinner in the evening. We are all in good spirits and excited for a great week of enjoying football
(soccer), friendships, and food!
July 9 - DAY 2:
As promised, Day 2 was an adventure. We spent the afternoon exploring both Shanghai's historic
(Paul Shaw at the Yuyuan Garden)
and cosmopolitan city district dubbed "The Bund" (pictured below). We heard several stories of how the
city grew and transformed from a small fishing village to the metropolis of today. We even witnessed first
hand the transformation while perusing the Yuyuan shopping area that surrounds the garden.
The evening was spent in a suburb of Shanghai as we were treated, yet again, to a wonderful
Chinese meal. This time by one of the many districts associated with the Shanghai Football Association.
The courses were once again amazing and endless. Tonight's favorites included smoked duck and
steamed fish, and the exotic included jellyfish, shark fin soup, pig intestine, pig cartilage, and one dish
that even our hosts could not identify.
July 10 - DAY 3:
We travelled to the lovely city of Hangzhou, known to the Chinese as Heaven on Earth. We were
told, before we left the hotel, that it was a smaller town about two hours south of Shanghai. Well, "smaller
town" is certainly relative, given that Hangzhou is estimated to have 10.5 million people (about 2.4 million
more than NYC!). For a small town, Hangzhou is known for its beautiful West Lake, brilliant Buddhist
temple, and thriving green tea industry.
We began with a boat tour of West Lake where we took in the majestic sights of urban and historical
Hangzhou. The landscape is very similar to Charlottesville, VA with rolling, lush mountains. However,
instead of a Monticello overlooking the city, the hills of Hangzhou are filled with beautiful early 20th
century pagodas. It felt like a giant park. The saying among the locals is that for every person living in
Hangzhou, there are 66 trees. I would like to meet the person who counted the trees.
From there, we were off to what resembled a Chinese renaissance festival. We were treated to a
spectacular stage show that featured the history and famed stories of Hangzhou. It included fabulous set
changes, costumes, a company of at least 50 men and women, special effects, and vibrant colors. It
rained, it snowed, at one point there was a lake on stage and even a large section of the audience was
served green tea.
After the show, we toured the rest of the festival which included small skits, out-going minstrels,
local food stands, and a large Buddhist statue (below). And to fully-embrace the entire experience, you
must understand how hot it was. The near 100% humidity is certainly stifling. We are excited and anxious
to see how our on-field soccer sessions progress.
Lastly, we toured the second oldest Buddhist temple in China. Called the Lingyin temple, or
hidden temple, it was a very spiritual place. Due to several wars, it has been destroyed and restored 16
times. Visitors were seen paying respect within the several temples on-site and praying at the feet of the
50 foot golden Buddha statues. On premise of the sprawling temple grounds was an exposed rock
formation called Feilai Peak, or Peak Flying from Afar. Within the rock formations were 470 Buddhist
carvings that have been meticulously engraved since 326 AD.
Tomorrow our clinic begins. We are very thankful to our guides for the wonderful tours of
Shanghai and Hangzhou. They have been more than generous and extremely hospitable. Similar to the
previous two days our meals were nearly two-hour long journeys filled with out of this world concoctions
and overflowing with local delicacies. Today's highlights included pig's ear, eel soup, and lotus root.
July 11 - DAY 4:
Day 4 was our first day of soccer sessions. Like most things here, it was a wonderful learning
experience as we were forced to constantly adjust our instructional tactics to meet the needs of a different
culture. As such communication is always a challenge, but it is amazing how many barriers are knocked
down with a soccer ball.
The morning began with introductions from the delegation and an overview of the program led by
lead organizer, Carrie Le Crom. It was followed by our first presentation, Coaching Methods, by Paul
Shaw. It was obvious the coaches were highly-engaged in Paul's enthusiastic message of growing the
game globally through the exchange of new ideas and best practices.
Our first on-field session was next as Erwan Le Crom introduced small-sided games with the
assistance of a local U8 team. As evidenced in the photos, smiles and laughter were contagious. And
while Erwan led the team through the drills, Paul helped explain the method behind the drill to the
coaches who were watching from the sideline.
We headed back inside for our last session of the day, player development. Dr Brendan Dwyer
led this session in the form of a panel discussion on best practices of understanding and influencing the
psychological, physical, and sociological dimensions of player development. As moderator, he put our two
experienced coaches, Erwan and Paul, on the spot with some of the topics of youth soccer such as
allowing players to play up a level, balancing the focus of winning and player development, fostering
player creativity, and building team chemistry. Once again, it appeared the audience was very engaged.
For dinner, we were hosted by another district within the Shanghai Football Association, and once
again, the hosts were more than generous. We were treated to a new form of Chinese Cuisine, hot pot.
Very similar to fondue, it gave each of us the opportunity to create our own Chinese feast. As you can
see, it was an adventurous meal with what seemed like endless amounts of meats and vegetables at our
disposal. This meal's highlights included wagu beef and lamb and our first Chinese encounter with
potatoes and chicken.
Joining us in this afternoon was our final member of the delegation, Jen Woodie. Ms. Woodie, an
assistant coach at the University of Richmond, was coaching in Georgia and North Carolina this past
July 12 - DAY 5:
It was our second day of soccer sessions and included some excellent on-field moments and
some splendid classroom exchanges.
The day began with Jen first encounter with translation and coaching, and she did an excellent
job leading the group of U12-13 boys through dynamic stretching and drills.
Session two was led by program organizer Carrie Le Crom. The topic was sport psychology and
issues ranged from motivation, mental imagery, and positive self-talk.
After lunch, we returned to the field where Mr. Le Crom and Paul tag-teamed strategies for
finishing. This time it was a group of U16-17 boys that were led through shooting drills and small-sided
Also in the afternoon, we were delighted to be joined by members of U.S. Consulate General in
Shanghai. Greg Pfleger (pictured) and Li Qian were nice enough to stop by, take in the afternoon's
programming, and say a few words to our attendees. Thanks Greg and Li.
Scott Turner, anchored Tuesday's programming with a presentation on the structure of the
Richmond Strikers soccer club and the evaluation of its coaches. It easily resulted in the most interaction
in the classroom thus far.
The night finished with a dinner hosted by an adjacent district within the Shanghai Football
Association. The dinner was as lively as ever with great food and better conversation.
One of our host's was a former elite table tennis player. Given all of our interest in the great game
of ping pong, we were intrigued by how he chose the sport. He informed us that children in China must
choose specific sports early in life if they want to pursue it at an elite level. For instance, table tennis
requires children to choose at age 6, gymnastics age 5! He also told us during his training he was
required to practice for six hours per day, 6 days per week!
July 13 - DAY 6:
Our sixth day in Shanghai and third day of soccer programming took us on the road to Shanghai
Sport Bureau's elite youth soccer camp in the Pudong district.
The morning's programming included small group attacking and defending led by Jen and Erwan
and goalkeeping guided by Paul. In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to observe camp activities and
watch how the camp was run. The local news showed up to interview a few of the players.
One of the most rewarding moments of the entire program occurred on Wednesday when we
observed a youth team coached by one of our phase one Chinese delegates (i.e., one who travelled to
Richmond last July). It was obvious from her words and actions that she had taken the tactics and
strategies from phase one's programming and directly applied it within her coaching. It was really
wonderful to see.
This is Mr. Chen Enhua. He has been our primary host for the week, and despite his humble
mannerisms, it is obvious he spending a great deal of time and effort behind the scenes to make this a
memorable and productive week for both the Chinese attendees and our delegation. And for that, we
thank you Mr. Chen!
We ran into the Chinese Water Polo team in the hotel lobby. Big lads.
In the evening, we returned to the Pudong district for dinner. The hosts included members from
the Shanghai Sports School.
July 14 - DAY 7:
Similar to Wednesday, we spent much of the French holiday on the road observing an elite
international U16 tournament on the outskirts of Shanghai and a Chinese Super League game in the
The day began in the classroom as Jen spoke about the importance of age specific training. Scott
then walked the coaches and administrators through the planning and organizing of the Jefferson Cup in
Next, Dr. Le Crom moderated a panel of our expert coaches as they discussed best practices for
communicating with parents and players. As you can see from the picture below, Erwan's comments were
In the afternoon, we hopped in the bus and headed to the burbs to take in a U-16 international
friendly tournament between South Korea, Japan, and two Chinese teams. Never leaving a teaching
moment untaught, the purpose of the observation was for the attendees to enhance their ability to "read
the game." The attendees were given specific assignments to watch for during the match such as
formations, attack-style, defense-style, identifying dangerous players and adjustments to make at
halftime. Unfortunately, we were not left with a very competitive match. The team from Osaka, Japan was
very dominant and at one point had a 7-0 lead.
After the game, Erwan, Paul and Jen had a discussion with the coaches about the observations
made, adjustments to make, and suggestions going forward. It was a great module for interactive
learning. Check out the stadium. Not bad for a second division team. WOW!
On the ride back to the hotel, we were rudely introduced to Shanghai smog. A storm was
approaching and trapped in much of the cities pollution.
In the evening, we got the wonderful opportunity to take in a Chinese Super League game
between a local Shanghai club and a team from Northern Province. As you can see, we had great seats
and were treated wonderfully.
The game ended in a draw in a beautiful stadium (which hosted the Women’s 2007 World Cup
July 15 - DAY 8:
It was our last day of soccer programming. It was a bittersweet day, as we enjoyed some
excellent experiences, yet we had to bid farewell to our coaches and administrators.
The morning sessions began on the field where Erwan led the attendees through Age Specific
Training. Since a youth team was unavailable to run the drills our coaches and administrators got the
opportunity to show off their stuff.
The newspapers even showed up.
After the field session, the group returned inside for a presentation on teaching life lessons
Following the presentation, it was time to hand out the certificates and congratulate the
After lunch, we organized a little 8 v. 8 game on a quarter of the field. It was great to see all of the
coaches in action.
In all, it was a great afternoon filled with surprising athleticism and great laughter.
For dinner, we went to the Golden Jaguar. The place was AWESOME. One's dinner choice was only
limited by one's imagination. We could have had anything from sashimi to lamb chops to onion rings. It
included dragonfruit, prime rib, and a chocolate fountain.
After dinner we returned to the Bund to take in Shanghai at night.
July 16 - DAY 9
With our soccer programming completed, we spent our last day in Shanghai sightseeing and
Our first stop was an ancient Chinese water village.
It was a kitschy little town just outside Shanghai. It provided us with plenty of shopping and food. The
shops were filled with fine china, silk clothing, and rare Chinese artwork.
After a nice tour of the water village, we were off to lunch where unfortunately we ran into a few
Good news, a few taxis and a subway solved the problem. In all seriousness, of the numerous
impressive aspects of Shanghai, the infrastructure for transportation was remarkable. Granted, there are
over 20 million people, so it may be a necessity to have immaculate roads and subways. Regardless, it
was very inexpensive, clean and quick. It was, however, very crowded.
After lunch, we headed to Nanjing walking mall near People's Square. It was a great place to pick
any and all last minute gifts and souvenirs. From there, we headed back to hotel for dinner.
In all, it was a great trip. A trip of a lifetime, in fact. We owe a great deal to our hosts: the
Shanghai Football Association, and of course, the US State Department.
July 17 - DAY 10:
Before the group left, they took in an international water polo match (Swimming World
Championship). This game also ended in a tie, as the US tied the Dutch 7-7.
All comments and pictures (courtesy of Dr Brendan Dwyer- VCU)