You're a much better coach than you used to be.

I recently ran into someone I coached back in the day. He's been reading this blog and has arrived at the conclusion I am a much better coach than when I coached him.

For goodness sakes, I should hope so!

My first experience as a soccer coach was in 1993. I knew next to nothing but was put in charge of a group of 5 year olds. Among that group were some boys who went on to become very good high school athletes. One in particular was David Monteleone. He was the best player in the area and scored goals at will for that team. We went undefeated and my soccer coaching star shone brightly.

Yeah, right.

I still knew next to nothing about the sport of soccer.  I did recognize the need to learn more about it though and so began a process of accumulating knowledge about the beautiful game. Today, I quite literally have hundreds of DVD's, books, coaching manuals, and materials saved from over 20 coaching courses and countless coaching clinics, symposiums and presentations. 

This process began by going to the local bookstore and buying anything and everything I could find on the sport. Some were an absolute waste of good money. Others were most beneficial. Three of my all-time favorite books on the subject are The Complete Book of Coaching Youth Soccer, the NSCAA's Coaching Soccer and Zonal Defending: The Flat Back Four. These were among the first books I purchased on soccer.  I look back upon them as being the beginnings of my foundation of soccer knowledge.

Still, it wasn't until I began observing the local high school team that pieces began falling cohesively in place. And the process did not truly gain momentum until I was offered the opportunity to attend their team camp conducted by Mr. Graham Ramsay. It wasn't long before I accepted a position as an assistant coach with that high school team and was put in charge of goalkeepers. 



I new next to nothing about goalkeeping.  Back to the bookstore and the emerging Internet in search of knowledge about the art of goalkeeping.  A stroke of blind luck saw me in my first ever coaching course, the old State Level NSCAA Goalkeeping I Course held in Columbus, Ohio and conducted by legendary goalkeepers Tony Waiters, Tony DiCicco and an up and coming star by the name of John Murphy.  They lit the fire and my passion that has carried me ever since.

Still, as a high school goalkeeper coach I had a steep learning curve. I had to work at it and it wasn't always smooth sailing. By continuing with and completing all the NSCAA goalkeeping courses, buying virtually every book and DVD about goalkeeping I could find and learning to analyze (Thanks to John Murphy!) goalkeeping play I became better over the course of time.

It was while working in this capacity that I had driven home to me how little I still knew about soccer in general. Yes, I was becoming a good goalkeeping coach, but there was still so much to learn and especially about the game in general.  One lasting memory I have is of a coaches meeting where we were discussing how to penetrate our biggest rivals defense.  They played a diamond stopper / sweeper man marking system and did so really well.  It was the strategizing that went on that day that brought new light to my inadequacies as a coach. Not that the other coaches were so far ahead of me and talking over my head. No, it was the obvious absence of knowledge in that room of how to deal with the opponents defense that woke me to the fact I had so much more to learn.

Looking back on that day now, I wish I knew then what I know now.

And that's the point.

No, Brian, I am not the same coach I was back in 1993.  I am not the same coach I was when I first began coaching high school goalkeepers back in 2001. I am not even the same coach I was last spring in club soccer.  I continue to seek knowledge. I continue to evolve. I am getting better at coaching soccer each and every day because I continue to pursue and share knowledge and insights about the beautiful game.

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