One of my pet peeve's is the person who needs help, but will not ask for nor accept help. I think this stems from a time in my life when having lost my father I needed help in the form of a male role model, but so many turned away from helping me.  No big brother. No other family or family friend. No one from the congregation. It was a lonely time in my life and I admittedly struggled to find my way.  I knew I was struggling.  When I married I held hope the new father-in-law might fill some of the void, but part of me knew before I ever said "I do" that was not going to happen either.  Quite literally I Thank God and his Holy Word for helping through that time in my life.

At some point in time I made a conscious decision to offer help anytime I saw someone in need. This was noble but misguided as well.  Some people just don't want the help. They might be confident in their own ability or they might view "help" as a threat to themselves or their position - for whatever reason they simply are not ready or willing to ask for or accept help. 

The very act of asking if someone needs your help can be intimidating to the person your offering     help to.  This is especially true when the person being offered help does not realize (or agree) that help might be needed.

Let's be honest, those of us who are parents have had to deal with children who think they are prepared to go it alone. It is often a case of not wanting help even when they recognize they need help. The struggle to be independent and accountable.  It's what we want for our children, but we want to "help" them get there as seamlessly as possible.  Again, a noble, but misguided idea.

What does this have to do with soccer and coaching?

I am sure we have all had encounters with players who we deemed "damn near uncoachable," as I phrase it.  Strong willed, strong minded individuals who were convinced their way was the right way even in the face of mountains of evidence their way was detrimental to the team effort to achieve a common goal.  We cut the player just to be rid of their disruptive influence or if the player is especially gifted we keep them on believing we can be the person to finally channel their attitude and ability in a positive and productive direction.  Sometimes the player comes around and sometimes you end up wondering what the hell you were thinking in keeping them and praying for the last day you will have to deal with them.

It's not all about players though.

There is a young coach I have been mentoring for a few years now.  I made the initial offer of help to John in the form of sharing resources I have with him.  After several months passing, John accepted the offer. We have developed a great relationship over time. I was initially in a role of mentor to John, but as time has progressed we find ourselves friends and peers.  This is a success story that goes far beyond the coaching relationship John and I enjoy for it's impact has been and continues to be felt by the players passing through John's program which itself has grown throughout the years.

Another example shows mixed results thus far.  Several years ago I took on a former player as an assistant coach. There was a general consensus of opinion that Ryan had the makings of a very good coach. This had been discussed since Ryan was a captain for his high school team and in some corners it was hoped that he would eventually come back to lead the program.  Maybe it was the expectations being heaped upon Ryan that gave him pause about coaching. To say he was reticent to the idea of coaching is somewhat an understatement.  As time passed Ryan did become involved as an assistant with the high school program and was eventually named to succeed the long time head coach.  All seems to be going according to long ago hopeful plans.

When I started coaching soccer I knew nothing about the game. Soccer wasn't even a school sport during my childhood.  I had to become a student of the game. I bought books and videos to study, but the single best thing I did was to ask questions of established coaches.  The local high school coach, Dick Hagen, was a starting point, but to be perfectly honest he did not know much about the game either having never played himself. He was simply more advanced on the same path I was beginning to travel. A good resource for sure, but not the be all / end all of a coaching mentor.

Graham Ramsay, a former professional player, coach and administrator who conducted camp for that high school team became a mentor to me. As did Ken White (University of Louisville / BGSU / NSCAA national staff).   There were certainly others along the way - some I learned the "do's" of coaching from and some I learned the "don'ts" of coaching from.  All have helped in one regard or another... because I was receptive to being helped.  I knew I needed help and went looking for it from the most qualified individuals who could offer it to me including a couple of email lists of coaching peers who have been wonderful resources ... and critics when necessary. 

Ryan's first year as a head coach was pretty much a disaster.  It was the worst season in terms of won/lost/tied record in decades at the school.  Coaching mistakes cost the team several victories. Because I had endorsed Ryan for the head coach position and even campaigned to the athletic director on his behalf it was difficult to see him struggle so.  To make matters worse, Ryan chose assistants who themselves had zero coaching experience at the high school level.  The learning curve was huge and to my knowledge they went it pretty much alone.  I had offered to help in any way I could, but was never taken up on that offer. 

One of my pet peeves is the person who needs help, but will not ask for nor accept help.  Ryan needed help and you might think my offer was about mentoring Ryan but it goes far beyond that narrow scope or view of things.  You see, another lesson I learned long ago was that when one person struggles there is a ripple effect. One person's struggles affect many other people.  The young players on the high school team did not deserve the season they ended up having. They were too talented to be a sub .500 team.  In fact, the pre-season consensus amongst experienced coaches in the area was the team had a chance at the league and district titles.

Help was offered to Ryan, but he was unwilling or unable to accept it.  The program, this past falls team and individual players suffered for it.  Help was offered to John and he eventually accepted it. John's program, this past falls team and the individual players that comprised the team are an improving lot. They continue to become stronger.  While a tale of two programs, both can have bright futures. I know John's will because he constantly seeks help... and not just from me. He's open to help from wherever and whomever he can find it.  Hopefully Ryan will grow into that mindset as well. There are plenty of people who are willing and more than capable of helping him - the question is, will Ryan be receptive to their offers?

James is a third coaching associate. I have known him for over a decade.  His program is bottom tier in the league they play in. Has been the entire time I have known him. He could use some help. It's been offered repeatedly, but James continues to do what he has always done and unsurprisingly continues to have the same type of results he has always had.  He continues as the head coach because ... well, I'm not real sure. Soccer is evidently not a real high priority at his school.  Losing seasons are the accepted norm.  It's a terrible rut to find one's self in. 

Which bring me back to Graham Ramsay and the building of the Shawnee soccer program.  There was a time when long-time coach Dick Hagen knew he needed help. He hooked up with Graham Ramsay who was key in helping to build and develop the program over the course of more than a decade. This culminated in a state semi-final appearance during Ryan's senior season.  Shortly after that season Coach Hagen began to become disenchanted with Graham conducting summer camp for Shawnee. This eventually led to Shawnee looking elsewhere for help.  Not coincidently this coincided with the Shawnee program beginning to decline. A decline that picked up speed in succeeding years and eventually culminated with Ryan's first year as head coach being the worst in recent program history.  In a manner of speaking, Ryan now finds himself in a position similar to where Dick Hagen found himself in the late 1980's - the coach of an underachieving program in need of ... help.

What I encourage you as coaches (and players) to do is to actively seek help. Be open minded and receptive to the help offered. Take from each helpful person the bits and pieces of information that resonate with you. Continue to educate yourself and explore both the game and the coaching profession to its fullest.  The minute you stop growing your trade, is the moment you should get out of coaching.  There is always more to learn and more coaches and players to learn from.  Be aggressive in seeking help and in accepting help when offered.  Approach each day with enthusiasm to learn previously unknown to man-kind.

And for those of you offering help, remember to be patient.  While watching someone needlessly struggle as they muddle through gaining experience is difficult it remains the responsibility of the person struggling to seek help, ask for help and accept help.  No one can do it for them.  It is much like alcoholism or drug addiction in that the addict must seek, ask for and be receptive to help before help can do them any good.   That time may never come. Sad, but true. 

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