Loyalty & Trust

The past couple of weeks have seen me inundated with soccer related job offers. I sorted through these and decided which to accept.  In one instance I sent an email to regretfully decline a possible position just as the other party was making an offer official. Timing. In two other instances offers came in after I had accepted positions.  I am comfortable with the positions I have accepted, but was a bit miffed at being called out on not being loyal in one particular case.

Loyalty is a two way street.  I believe passion is a key consideration in loyalty. To an extent that I am unsure if loyalty exists without passion for whatever or whomever it is you are being loyal to.  But loyalty is not simply given, it is earned and must be constantly nurtured. Loyalty is a relationship and all parties to it must continuously work on the relationship to maintain its health. I feel as though I have done my part in remaining loyal to the people and organization, but that loyalty has not been reciprocated even to an extent where some made it known I was no longer needed or welcomed.  That's fine.  Only now some others in the organization are beginning to appreciate the time, effort, dedication and passion I donated to the cause. Would I be willing to re-invest to once again build something?  The short answer is I have moved on and in LeBron speak am taking my talents elsewhere.

Exciting times for me!

I will be serving as an assistant coach at a Division I (large) school that plays in a league with some perennial powers. I like to compete against the best and will have the opportunity to do so.  I will also be serving as DOC for a local soccer club as they transition from playing recreational soccer to playing in a competitive league. My plate will be full this fall, but I am anxious to begin both adventures.

To tide me over until then I have camps through the end of July.  I love conducting team camps. The progress a team can make over the course of a week can be so very rewarding. I have conducted camps for some of these teams for many years now. To think I have in some small way contributed to the building success these programs are enjoying is satisfying to me.  Yet in the end it is all about the relationships I have formed with coaches and student / athletes while conducting these camps. As I build relationships through team camps I find myself becoming loyal to the people in those programs. I consider myself a Spartan, a Tiger, an Indian, a Wildcat, a Viking and so on. I return to the schools whenever I can to watch the teams play during the regular and post seasons. I share whatever resources I have with the coaches and players throughout the year. As a result, I often am recommended by these people to others and my business grows ... or as has been the case this summer, the job offers come.  

Loyalty to a team goal and the efforts made toward achieving said goal needs to be nurtured before during and yes, even after, a season.  Tradition is built upon a foundation that includes loyalty among its cornerstones.  Trust is a product of relationships built around loyalty. Trust is the glue of life, the most essential ingredient in effective communication. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.  It might be considered that Loyalty and Trust are twin pillars in the establishment of healthy productive relationships. They are certainly difference makers capable of moving a team from good to great. When in disrepair or poor quality they are also deal breakers that will mire a program in mediocrity and even despair.

Both Loyalty and Trust are built over time through commitment and effort to the relationship.  Tradition, strong traditions are seen where Loyalty and Trust have thrived for a long time. Yet what can take years to build can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Broken trust or misplaced loyalty are among the most destructive forces known to team culture and life in general. Neither are easily rebuilt once shaken to their core foundations.  In this sense Loyalty and Trust are earned by the respective parties in a relationship. If they are not perpetually growing, then they are surely dying. In the end, successful soccer is not about technique, tactics, physical or mental abilities - just like anything else in life soccer is about the quality of relationships we build with one another.


Hope Solo: Innocent until proven guilty?

Hope Solo is arguably the best goalkeeper in women's soccer. It is not a stretch to say the USWNT hopes of a World Cup championship rest in no small part in her hands. Off the pitch, Solo continues to make news and not always in a positive light. Alcohol often seems to be a contributing factor.  It seems reasonable to suspect she may have a drinking problem. And she's evidently not the most truthful person either.

Hope Solo not yet cleared of Domestic Abuse charges.

Although our legal system proclaims one innocent until proven guilty when it comes to sports figures the consequences for decision making that lead to legal troubles more often than not result in an athlete being suspended or even dismissed pending the legal proceedings playing out. Hope Solo has never been publicly suspended concerning this incident. She was kept out of the public limelight.  Solo was suspended for 30 days earlier this year after her husband crashed a USWNT van while driving drunk with Solo in the passenger seat,

The current legal proceedings will conveniently not take place until after the World Cup is completed. US Soccer seems willing to allow Solo to play in the World Cup and take its chances on how the legal proceedings will play out afterwards.

I cannot complain if only for the fact we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Even when this reasoning flies in the face of the conventional wisdom in dealing with athletes who run afoul of the law these days.  However, I am not comfortable with putting Hope Solo on the World Cup stage as one of the faces of the USWNT.  I am left to wonder if her participation is all about winning with her personal well-being a secondary issue.  Will World Cup glory, if it is to be, be tarnished if Solo falls from grace and is convicted of domestic abuse?  Is this the epitome of trying to win at all costs? What message are we sending to all the impressionable young girls playing soccer and watching the World Cup?

What say you?


Team Culture in Soccer

Culture: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.

Philosophy:  a set of ideas about how to do something.

The culture of a particular team will be reflective of it's leadership. A coach's philosophy will go a long ways toward determining the team's culture. Player leadership will also impact a teams culture. Great team culture sees player leadership buy into the coach's philosophy.

Establishing a productive team culture is so important I write about it often.  Most recently I authored the article Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast based on a quote I found on Twitter.  The title says it all. We have all seen teams with great talent lose to "inferior" teams with great culture.

Every team has a culture be it great, good, indifferent or toxic. 

Just think about that for a minute.

A great culture enhances and magnifies a teams technical, tactical, physical and psychological abilities. Perhaps most importantly a great team culture manifests itself as passion to participate with teammates and play the game together as many working towards a common goal.

The foundation of great team culture is Honesty.

A soccer team is a group of people who develop, nurture and grow relationships based around a common interest - soccer. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together. Trust is dependent on honesty, on truth, to exist. Trust is the glue of life, the most essential ingredient in effective communication. Healthy relationships are all about effective communication.

Belief takes root in the ground prepared by Truth and Trust.  When a team believes, when a team buys in to the coach's philosophy, the potential for success increases exponentially.  The momentum created can be palpable. Confidence can be felt exuding from vibrant athletes who are eager to test themselves against opponents. 

When I scout a team the first thing I try to determine is its culture.

When I observe an opponent warming up, the first thing I try to determine is its culture.


Whatever problems an opposing player, their team or their teams tactics present can be dealt with and solved to the best of our ability.  The opponents culture?  If it is stronger than ours, we will face a difficult battle because there is virtually nothing we can do to counteract an opposing teams strong culture. We must match or exceed the opponents team culture.  This being the case, it is of utmost importance to establish a strong team culture and intentionally work on strengthening it every day.