Sunday

There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

Just after the first of the year I was hospitalized for an infection in my thumb. My stay lasted a week and involved multiple antibiotics, a lancing and finally an operation to cut the infection out. A month and a half later I am still on antibiotics and still in recovery mode. I have yet to return to work.  I share this with you that you will understand I have had a lot of time on my hands. A fair share of that time has been devoted to evaluating the performance of last fall's high school team. It was my first losing season as a coach in a very long time.

To be fair, I began this evaluation process even as the fall season wound down. I knew the one problem area we never solved was leadership. I was disappointed and frustrated in player leadership almost from the start. 

As I considered all that went wrong last fall I found myself narrowing focus to specific individuals whom I had identified as being so toxic that they were preventing their teammates from being successful. Some time ago I had come across the phrase "frustrated genius" to describe such a person. Being a typical coach, I appropriated this phrase for my own use. In short, a frustrated genius is a rogue element who makes excuses, assigns blame and rarely if ever accepts any responsibility for negative results. I had dealt with such before. Sometimes they see the error of their ways and make the 180 degree turn around to become productive members of winning teams and sometimes they must be culled from the herd before success for the team can manifest itself. Last fall neither occurred and there is only one person responsible for that, me.

I am to blame for last falls losing season.  It was a challenging situation but I failed to properly lead. I had become comfortable and complacent as a coach. I had my system that worked well season after season for years. I lost sight of the details of the process. I did not bring the energy to the team that it required.  As a leader goes, I failed miserably.  I let the players down.

It was not until the first scrimmage that I had a full team together. Even then we were missing a player who was on extended summer vacation.  We only had 14 players in the program at that point. I feared not having enough to field a team were I to enforce my usual standard of zero tolerance when  it came to unexcused absences.  This was my first and worst failure of the season.  I set a standard and then by not enforcing the standard lowered said standard to such a degree that we could not be successful.

Captains are a coach's sub-leaders. I placed the onus on the captains to enforce the attendance standard. Two of the players most often absent from training were captains.  I focused early efforts on turning around these frustrated geniuses and eventually just gave up on them.  I failed. I should have removed them as captains upon their first unexcused miss from training.  Because I failed, the team failed. The blame for that is on no one but me.  Period.

There are other sub-leaders on a successful soccer team.  Each line must have one of these.  The GK, must be a sub-leader. The back line, midfield and forwards must all have sub-leaders to help coordinate and execute the game plan.  These leaders did not emerge to anywhere near the extent we needed them to and I am to blame for this. It was a trickle down effect stemming from my failure to hold two captains accountable to the attendance standard.  The chain of command was faulty and this was my fault.

And I can trace each failure within the team back to standards. The source of the team's poor performance was not the standards that were set, but the standards that were accepted. Standards are empty when not enforced. Ours were and I am to blame for that.

A renewed energy is beginning to boil within me.  The program I was put in charge of deserves better than last seasons poor performance. I have set my aim on bringing a winning performance to next falls team.  I'm not necessarily speaking of a winning season, but a winning performance. I need to get this thumb healed up so I can return to work and begin the process that will bring this about.Lots of work to be done and it's time to get started.