How St. Croix SC Uses Trace to Help Players Take Ownership of Their Development
It’s hard to find coaches as loyal to their club as Nathan Klonecki. He’s been with St. Croix Soccer Club in Minnesota for over two decades — first as a player, then a coach, and now as Executive Director — and has helped the club grow into an elite destination for players in the Eastern Twin Cities region.
His dedication and leadership have seen St. Croix SC announced as the latest addition to USL League Two, a semi-professional league bridging the gap between youth soccer and professional soccer in the United States. Joining USL2 means the club is perfectly positioned to help players achieve their fullest potential, with new opportunities and new pathways for growth.
A proud advocate for his club’s development-focused philosophy, Nathan believes in empowering players to take charge of their own development. That’s why, in 2020, St. Croix SC turned to Trace, forming a strategic partnership that would allow teams across the club to engage with and explore their game film in new and exciting ways. Players have jumped at that opportunity: the club is averaging 1,189 moment views per game.
We’re always trying to do more and more with video, and to put the onus of responsibility on the players rather than the coach. The coach should be the guide.” – Nathan Klonecki, Executive Director for St. Croix Soccer Club
Nathan has always recognized that video can be a valuable coaching tool, but found coaches often had difficulty engaging players with traditional, long-form game film delivered by other soccer cameras. “We don’t want watching game film to be like school,” Nathan says. “We want to make it where the players want to be here, not that they’re forced to be here. We want them to listen and watch and be invested and engaged.”
Another major roadblock was the amount of time that reviewing and editing video took from coaches. “Some teams liked Hudl, some teams didn’t,” he admits. “Most coaches barely ever touched it. Unless they were very detail-oriented and enjoyed the technical side, it just didn’t work — coaches had to do so much work just to break the film down.” Nathan was looking for more than just a soccer camera; he needed a platform that coaches would actually use and players would actually get excited about.
Initially, Trace’s efficiency and accessibility were the biggest selling points for the club. Coaches immediately bought into a system that does the hard work of organizing game film: After learning that Trace uses A.I. to automatically edit footage for each player, Nathan stated that choosing Trace was “a no-brainer. Using Trace means we have the time to use video productively, as the actual tool it’s meant to be. It helps us pick up on patterns and team tendencies, and makes it easy to see where and how we can correct them if needed.”
For families, the most exciting aspect of Trace was initially the promise of receiving results and footage back within 24 hours, rather than waiting days or even weeks like with other soccer cameras. “Our players and parents really appreciate the consistency,” Nathan says. “They know when they’re going to get their moments. That’s helped our families make watching video part of their soccer routine.”
Above all, though, the club appreciates the way Trace puts the power in players’ hands. “We’re always trying to do more and more with video, and to put the onus of responsibility on the players rather than the coach,” Nathan says. “The coach should be the guide. When it comes down to it, the more games a player watches, the better they become.”
A year using Trace has helped St. Croix enrich its club culture and elevate individual and team performances. They’ve put on workshops to teach older players how to use Trace iD to get noticed by college coaches and to make the college recruitment process easier. Other workshops teach younger players how to explore their moments and make game film analysis a core part of their development process. Coaches have led discussions about what it means to engage with game film, and why it is an important aspect of any player’s development.
The results have been undeniable, both on the field and off. Here are six powerful ways in which Nathan has seen the effects of Trace resonate within and ripple throughout his club:
- Players take ownership of their development. “Kids are taking ownership of the process and recognizing that we’re looking at video to learn. They are starting to think about the game more, rather than just coming and playing. They can recognize where and when and why they made mistakes. When you’re playing the game, you don’t really see it — you’re part of it.”
- Players are seeing the game in new ways. “One 07 player comes to me all the time, after every game, to talk about his video and what he sees. It started with him mostly just looking at himself, but now he’s starting to look at the bigger picture, what’s going on around him. It’s improved him — he sees the game better, can recognize moments more easily. He’s a team leader already, and Trace has also helped him communicate with teammates to bring those ideas out on the field.”
- Players are building resilience and recognizing opportunities for growth. “Especially with younger players , there’s a tendency to fixate on the mistakes they made in a game, but Trace provides an opportunity for me to help them accept and learn from their mistakes. Rather than just focusing on what happens with the ball, Trace helps us go deeper into soccer.”
- Players are more engaged and excited about watching soccer. Players like it because they can see each other and see themselves— that’s the biggest thing. Before Trace, we would use professional clips as teaching tools. But we’ve found that when we use players in the clubs, players that everyone knows, the reaction is drastically different. There’s more engagement, more interaction — it’s more real to them. It makes these achievements feel more obtainable.
- Teams are building camaraderie. “My older boys are a bunch of soccer junkies, so they watch their moments a lot, but they also watch each others’ and will pop different videos out into the group chat — sharing positive things to shout each other out, or sometimes funny moments from games.”
- More efficient and effective self-evaluation. “In our seasonal one-on-one meetings, I use Trace moments as a chance for players to critique themselves and give me feedback. They have to do some investigating. I want them to be in charge of their own learning process. Trace allows us to have efficient, effective communication about why something is happening.”