When you combine NASA and the Green Berets for a convention, you know you’re getting into some heavy conversations.
At the Leaders in Football conference in London earlier this month, though, they were just part of a bigger group discussing leadership and how the principles of their organizations can translate to the sports world.
They captivated an audience that included high-ranking executives from top clubs all over the world in their section of the two-day event, including Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer, technical director Chris Henderson and director of business operations Bart Wiley.
“It’s probably one of the biggest and best conferences of its kind. It’s great to be in a position where you are with a bunch of other sporting directors and coaches and talking about the game and best practices,” Henderson said. “Each time we go we come back with something new that we can use and new ideas. We’re always open to improving and doing things the best we can.”
While NASA and the Green Berets had an interesting presentation, they were rivaled by a presentation by Major League Soccer.
With Commissioner Don Garber, Hanauer, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and Sporting Kansas City CEO Rob Heineman making up the panel, the gathered crowd packed into the auditorium to hear the discussion.
“They want to see why it’s working here. They’re looking for answers and they’re really intrigued with how things are run here. It’s nice to be on that side of it,” Henderson said. “Now that our league is going in the right direction, people are starting to look.”
Hanauer, Henderson and Wiley spent the two days networking with and learning from people in similar positions at some of the top clubs in the world. But their interests weren’t solely in the soccer realm.
Henderson spent some time listening to the assistant general manager from the Boston Celtics, Mike Zarren, talk about how the Celtics are able to use analytics similar to what the Sounders use under the guidance of fitness coach Dave Tenney.
Fitness analytics were among the plethora of hot button issues discussed at the conference and Henderson was happy MLS and the Sounders could be included, also emphasizing that it reinforces the league’s belief in how they operate.
“Having an MLS presence there was huge,” Henderson said.