Never say never.

It is no secret that after having coached the Lima Central Catholic girls team I proclaimed I would never coach girls again,  Time passed has allowed me to gain better perspective and realize that one bad experience with a challenging group of players (and parents) should not be an indicator that all experiences coaching girls would be the same  These last two weeks of camp have been extraordinary and both involved coaching girls teams. 

Last week I worked with the Coldwater girls team whom I found to be sincerely polite, eager to learn and hard working. They were attentive and readily tried and bought into the ideas we presented. The improvement they made over 5 days of camp was noticeable to myself, the coaches and players alike. It is a good thing to see confidence blossom and grow throughout camp and manifest itself in their play during the Elida pre-season tournament this past weekend

This week I have been at Liberty Center. This is my third year in a row working with the Lady Tigers and the improvement has been startling over that time frame, but especially so this week.  The improvement is evident in technical and tactical ability, physical fitness and soccer IQ.  The girls have been a delight to work with and the team chemistry is at its best since I have been associated with the team.  I was granted permission to coach this team in camp as if they were my own team I was preparing for the season.  It has been a blast! I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Good players and better people. Great experience.

So it is that I have once again learned not to deal in absolutes.  The LCC experience, as I have come to refer to it, was not without its rewards or satisfying moments despite the difficulties and stress.  I found it easy to focus on the negatives of that situation allowing these to overshadow all the good that came from the experience.  These last two weeks have "restored my faith" in those that play women's soccer.  Two young and improving programs whose current teams hold the potential for record breaking seasons ... all due to the incredible young women who comprise their rosters. 

Thank you Lady Cavaliers and Lady Tigers!  You have been a blessing to me.  I sincerely hope you have benefitted from our camps and I wish you the very best in your 2015 seasons! 



We had been married about a year. My wife was on her way to take the CPA exam and unfortunately had an accident just outside the entrance to the examination facility. I rushed to the scene to find Christi uninjured. Our car was not so lucky. Besides the CPA exam she had studied so diligently for it seemed her greatest concern was how I was going to react to the car being totaled.

I gave Christi a hug, inquired if anyone else was injured and asked if she felt up to taking the CPA exam.  I did not yell or scream at her for having been in an accident and this seemed to surprise her. My reasoning for not doing so was very simple,  no amount of yelling or screaming was going to change the outcome of the accident.

I have seen coaches berate officials and their own players for mistakes made be the mistake real or perceived. To what end?  Players generally know when they make a mistake. Referee's very seldom change a call because of being yelled at. I'm just not sure what purpose yelling at someone after a mistake has occurred  serves.

I could have yelled at Christi that morning of the accident before the CPA exam, but had I done so I am fairly certain she would have done poorly on the tests.  As it was, Christi regrouped and proceeded to pass several sections of the CPA exam that day.

Athletes rebound from mistakes in much the same way. Chances are pretty good the athlete will recognize his own mistake without a coach drawing attention to it by scolding him in a booming voice heard by everyone in attendance. What constructive purpose is served by such actions?

I wrote awhile back about the best coaching tool on game day being a chair.  I believe the chair should be accompanied by ... silence ... from the coaching sideline.  Okay, not complete silence.  A coach should be encouraging and supportive in his communication with athletes on game day.  If an athlete is not performing to the coach's expectations whose fault is that?  The coach's for not having properly prepared the athlete in training is the likely answer. 

I believe the proper response to game day mistakes by athletes is for the athlete himself to find a different solution to the problem that forced the error.  Now, if the same athlete commits the same mistake repeatedly, then perhaps a substitution and sideline discussion exploring other possible solutions would be appropriate. Encouragement to more fully explore the game in search of better solutions to the problems being presented. Empower the athlete instead of berating and degrading him in a loud voice in front of his peers and everyone else present.

The same advice holds true for dealing with officials.  Is your yelling at an official really going to generate a positive response?  It is important to remember the referee will have had an entirely different view of the action than the one you had. In all likelihood the referee will have been closer to the action than you were.  If you must interact with a referee it might be best to inquire as to what he saw and do so in a calm manner.

What we are talking about in this article is relationships.

My relationship with my wife is a loving one and my concern was for her safety and that of others involved in the accident not a hunk of metal, plastic and rubber. The coach / player relationship must be built on honesty and trust.  Yelling at someone about an obvious mistake is hardly the way to go about establishing trust, is it?  And every coach needs to establish a working relationship with officials. You are far more likely to receive the benefit of the doubt on close calls if your relationship is congenial as opposed to the coach whose relationship with referees is confrontational, right?

How good can we be if our best player is not our best teammate?

This might be the single most important question to be asked as it concerns teams that underachieve. When the person perceived to be the best player on a team is not a good teammate the team will often struggle to achieve to potential.  I have seen this time and again as I am fairly confident we all have.

This was the case on what was potentially the best high school team I ever coached. The player looked upon by her teammates as the best player was selfishly about herself  and this did the team in when it encountered obstacles that demanded a team first approach.  The truth be told, she was not the best player on the team at that point in time. She had earned the reputation as the teams best player by scoring a lot of goals as she came through the youth ranks.  The epitome of an athletic freak taking advantage of weaker competition to pad her stats.  When a team oriented attack was installed as the preferred system of play and the scoring load more evenly distributed our "best" player became a cancer as a teammate. 

Now, one might picture such a player as an overt trouble maker, but this is not always the case. And it is the covert trouble maker that is actually the worst type of teammate one can have. This is the type of player who pushes their own agenda behind the scenes. They recruit people to "their side" of what they perceive to be a "situation" thereby dividing the team. Predictably the team faltered long before it should have. Alas, this is the destructive power of negative leadership and a poor teammate perceived to be a teams best player.

There was another player who I coached in club soccer for a number of years. He always seemed to be on the outside looking in on very talented teams when it came to exerting leadership skills. Gifted athletically but not possessing great game IQ or vision. He was a hustler, a worker and perceived this to be his role on the team.  I had a hunch he had much more to offer. There came a time when I relegated him to our second team and something miraculous happened - he blossomed into a leader. Always a good teammate, but when placed in a position and situation that called for him to lead he did so with spectacular results. He was one of the best players on that second team and unquestionably its best teammate. The team overachieved on the season in no small part due to his being a great teammate which helped make him an effective leader.

How good can we be if our best player is not a good teammate? Unsatisfyingly underachieving and mediocre is the likely answer.

How good can we be if our best player is our best teammate?  This is the recipe for success. This is when a team can overachieve.  This is when good things happen for a team and its individual collective parts.

There is nothing in sports more satisfying to a coach than seeing a team grow before your eyes.

All the long hours spent on the camp circuit are worthwhile when I see a team come together and grow as one. This was the case this past week as I watched the Lima Senior Spartans play summer league games after having had the pleasure of working with them in a camp setting at the end of June.  I had actually watched the Spartans play a summer league game before camp started to get a feel for where the team was. I spoke with head coach Mitch Monfort about what he wanted to work on during camp. From these observations and discussions I put a plan together for camp.  The camp went well and I was eager to see the players in live game situations.

I was not disappointed in what I saw and as the evening wore on became pleasantly surprised at the growth taking place before my very eyes. Disciplined defense complimented by versatility on the attack is what I preach and teach. Over the course of a doubleheader one evening last week this is exactly what I observed.  The first match was against the Lima Central Catholic entry in summer league play. The defense was stout and the attack effective albeit a little too direct at times. However, I really do not have a problem with direct play if this is what the defense is giving us.  The Spartans found an advantage and exploited it to a rather easy victory.  The problem I do have with direct play is when it becomes a teams attacking identity.

Versatility is the key when attacking.

In the second match the Spartans faced a veteran team from Continental that was physically big, deep and fairly well talented. The challenge for Lima Senior in this match would be markedly different than the one Lima Central Catholic presented in the first match of the evening. An added degree of difficulty would be in evidence as the Spartans would play their second match of the evening against a rested opponent. These are the type of challenges that should be embraced during the preseason months as they help prepare a team for obstacles they will encounter when their regular season starts.

About midway through a scoreless first half the Spartans began finding a rhythm with their attack.  It had become evident to them the direct attack that had worked so very well against LCC in the first match was not going to generate the same type of results in the second match against Continental.  What I became very excited about was the collective problem solving ability the team displayed in recognizing the need to change their attacking philosophy to meet the new challenge presented by a different opponent.

In the second half of the match against Continental the Spartans had a 10-12 minute stretch that saw them play in a manner worthy of soccer being called the beautiful game. There was patience and poise on display as the team moved the ball side to side, backward and forward forcing their opponents defense to continually move and shift until seams opened through which to attack. And attack the Spartans did with pace! 

As I sat in the stands watching this display I couldn't help but smile.  The problem solving ability on display coupled with the use of technical, tactical, physical and psychological tools the team is developing were on display. By no means was it a finished product. There is certainly much to work on, but they laid a foundation on which to build.  Over the course of 3 hours on a summer evening a noticeable display of improvement played out before our eyes. A good start.  Definitely a satisfying moment yet that satisfaction can be but a fleeting moment as there is much work to be done if the team is to be satisfied with its performance four months from now at the end of their season.


The Four Elements. No, not a rock band.

As I have conducted camps and clinics this summer a theme has developed during question and answer sessions - What can I (the coach or parent) do to help players develop properly.  I have settled into a somewhat standard response that I will share with you in today's writing.

There are five basic elements that need to be given attention in properly developing soccer players. Yes, I realize I titled this article The Four Elements. I will list the four elements with brief descriptions in a moment, but first we need to concentrate on the most important and sometimes overlooked element - the passion for the game a player must have. 

The Four Elements


A good coach will have at least a basic understanding of these four elements and know enough to incorporate all of them in each training session.

A players technical ability references the ability to perform fundamental skills or the quality of mechanics in the skills being performed.

For example: When executing a "push pass" are the athlete's toes up, heel down and does he strike through the ball with the ankle bone?

The tactical element refers to the decision-making involved in playing the game. The who does what, when and where in game. And maybe most importantly why and how it is done. This includes both decisions made "on-the-ball" and of at least equal importance the decisions made when not in possession of the ball.

For example, before a player receives the ball he should already have made a decision based on data gathered via scanning the pitch. He then decides how to properly position himself to execute that decision before his first touch on the ball. The amount of space he will have to play in will impact the decision he makes. Shoot, advance into position to shoot, pass to a teammate in position to shoot, advance the attack, maintain possession for his team possibly by dropping the ball back to relieve pressure or by executing a switch of fields to change the point of attack. It's a complicated yet simple process that requires constant attention in training. These are all components required to achieve a fast pace of play.

The physical or fitness element of the game is exactly what it sounds like.  Physical speed, explosive strength, quickness, agility, flexibility and balance are all necessary to performing at peak ability. 

Unlimited substitutions in youth and high school soccer might diminish the importance of being properly conditioned to some small degree, but if you want playing time and a lot of it physical fitness is paramount.

For a lack of a better description the psychological element refers to the intangibles a player can bring to the game. Attitude, confidence, mental toughness and other controllable emotions or mindsets that result in an even keel or stability in the athletes approach to the game.

The athlete can train for these things as well. This often includes asking or forcing an athlete to step beyond his established comfort zone to redefine a new comfort zone.  It involves problem solving  and overcoming obstacles the game or opponents present in  successful manner. In that regard it is very much about developing and maintain confidence.

A sound understanding of these elements of the game will help the player (and by extension the coach and parents) enjoy the game to the fullest extent possible. 

Good training session will address all of these elements of the game. That holds true whether the session is an organized team activity or simply an athlete working on his own.  The role of coaches and parents to provide the athlete with the opportunity to experiences all elements of the game as a set as often as is reasonably possible. It is then up to the fifth element of the game, the athlete himself, to decide whether to take advantage of the opportunity he is presented with.  If the passion is present in the athlete he will embrace the opportunity.

I firmly believe the game remains the best teacher. This is when athletes demonstrate their technical proficiency by passing, receiving, executing a move to defeat a defender or tackling the ball away. It is also when they make the decisions that impact the pace of play, possession and general flow of the game - the tactics of playing soccer. Physically they walk, jog, run, backpedal, shuffle, change directions, jump and play the ball. And psychologically they learn to deal with both success and failure with failure often preceding success when failure is handled appropriately,
In conclusion, it takes a team environment to help an athlete develop - the parents and coach play critical parts secondary only to the athlete himself. Understanding the four elements will help the parent and coach understand a players strength and weaknesses enabling them to help the athlete address these.
If I had to choose one word to focus on in developing players it would be confidence. It is the parents and coaches role to help instill confidence in the athlete.  I often refer to the necessity of coaches to give their confidence to the player. This is accomplished with honesty to praise and critique.  The same holds true for the role of parents. Give a realistic assessment of your child when and only when your child asks for one.  Otherwise, cheer the efforts of your child and his teammates... even the opponents. Do not coach your child from the parent sidelines or when you play with him in the backyard. Enjoy the experience of watching your child play, compete and grow as a player and more importantly as a person.  Remember, soccer is something your child does, but is only a very small part of who he is in the grand scheme of life.

The evolution of soccer (coaching).

As a young parent coach in the early 1990's I knew something was amiss, but did not yet have the experience in soccer to make sense of what I was observing.  With a minimum of knowledge about the game I jumped in as a volunteer coach for my son Grant's U6 soccer team.  I knew I had to become a student of the game if I were to be of any value as a soccer coach even at the recreational level.  Now in my third decade of coaching soccer ... well, if I only realized then what I know to be true now. LOL.

Much of my early soccer education centered around Lima Shawnee high school and it's summer camp clinician, Graham Ramsay.  To this day I still adamantly declare I learn more about soccer in a summer's week spent with Graham than I do everywhere else combined.  The man is simply brilliant when it comes to soccer. That said, there are some lessons that only experience can teach.

My sport was basketball. Heck, our school did not even offer soccer when I was in school.  When I first came to soccer the tactics, such as there are in U6 soccer, were foreign to me. I used the formation (4-3-3) prescribed by the high school coach. Yes, it was 11 v 11 at U6 back in those days. I took whatever hints or suggestions the high school coach offered and tried my best to implement them. We were both fools - the high school coach and I - for promoting the implementation of and attempting to implement anything remotely resembling tactics with a group of 5 year old soccer players. I honestly do not know what the hell either of us were thinking.

It wasn't until the founding of a futsal league in our area a couple of years later that the correlation between basketball and soccer began to be realized.  The two sports are quite similar in some regards, but it would take several more years before I fully came to appreciate the lessons I learn from basketball could be applied in soccer.

Around the turn of the century I joined the high school coaching staff as an assistant coach in charge of goalkeepers. I knew little of how to play goalkeeper so I signed up for the old NSCAA State level goalkeeping course. To this day, still the best coaching course I have ever had the pleasure of taking. Tony Waiters, Tony DiCicco and John Murphy were the clinicians.  Waiters and DiCicco were world household names, but it was the young John Murphy who made the biggest impression upon me. He taught me more about the tactics of attacking soccer in a weekend course than I had learned in the previous ten years combined. Yes, I learned attacking soccer at a goalkeeping clinic because of the emphasis John Murphy placed on analyzing play from the goalkeeper's perspective.

Still, I would not fully appreciate the correlation between basketball and soccer nor the complete import of Murphy's lessons for a few more years.

For more than a decade beginning in the late 1990's Lima Shawnee was the powerhouse team in west-central Ohio.  A primary reason for this was Graham Ramsay introducing the "flat back four" zonal defending system to program. We were the first to run zonal defense in the area and it not only defined the Shawnee program, but gave us an advantage others simply could not over come. No one else in the area ran zonal defense and thus teams really struggled to prepare for and play against it.  I don't know that Shawnee always had better players than some of the teams it regularly defeated, but that zonal defense was like having a nuclear weapon in our arsenal against opponents playing with muzzle loading muskets.

During much of that time our biggest rival was Elida high school. The Bulldogs ran a conventional diamond man-marking defense with a stopper and sweeper. They were great defensive teams in their own right and Shawnee certainly struggled to score against them. We were confident in our defense and quite honestly believed if we could score one goal against the Bulldogs we would win the game. The problem was in breaking down the Elida defense to score that one goal.  I remember those strategy sessions in the small coaching office back at Shawnee.  More importantly I now recognize the futility of those strategy sessions because none of us looked at the problem from the proper perspective. And that is the point of today's writing.

As a soccer coach I was constantly conflicted by the similarities I recognized in basketball and soccer and being told they really did not exist.  That fledgling futsal league previously mentioned seemed to drive home this point as we practiced a style of play reminiscent of basketball transitioning only to find others playing futsal ala Iowa style girls basketball - attackers on one half of the court while defenders stayed on the other half of the court. We had to adjust our style because of the constant cherry picking of opponents leading to easy goals against us. Still, I was on the right track in my thinking only meeting obstacles along the way that caused me to doubt what I knew in my heart to be true.

It wasn't until the youth (and high school) soccer world began to catch up with our use of zonal defending that the proverbial bells sounded and the radiant beam of light shone down upon me that I fully realized and appreciated what I had always known.  Just as in basketball a soccer team must recognize the defense it is facing and attack accordingly.  That is, when facing a man-marking system a team must attack in one fashion and when facing a zonal defensive team it must attack in a different fashion.

Coerver Coaching was a huge thing back in the day and is still quite relevant today. They have modified their curriculum over the years to reflect the changes that have come about in the game.  Allow me to explain,  Coerver is all about individual ball mastery.  Lots of dribbling exercises and moves to beat an opponent. This was perfect for the era of man-marking diamond defense where the focus was on 1 v 1 battles across the pitch. On today's game of zonal defenses a passing attack is more pertinent than individual moves to beat an opponent. Coerver, to their credit, has incorporated more small sided games and group play into their curriculum.

The concepts of zonal defending were introduced to the game to counteract the 1 v 1 experts emerging in the game via schools of instruction like Coerver.  The idea with a zonal defense is to be numbers up around the ball.  It takes pressure / cover / balance and turns it into pressure / cover x2  / balance effectly negating most 1 v 1 play. No longer was isolating your best attackers against a single defender the most viable option.  If you wish to attack a zonal defense effectively, you must move the zone forward and backwards, side to side in order to create seams through which to attack.  Everyone who has played organized basketball knows this to be true.  I certainly recognized this truth applied to soccer as well even in the face of being told by the world of soccer it did not.

If only we, at Shawnee, had applied the correct attacking principles in going against a man-marking system back in the day.  Instead, we viewed soccer through the lens of our zonal defense. We attempted to play a possession game of ball movement when what we needed was to focus on winning the 1 v 1 battles against isolated defenders. We looked at creating numbers up situations when being man marked across the pitch greatly restricted the feasibility of doing so.   We saw the zone every day in practice and became quite adept at possessing the ball and moving the zone. It's just that this is not what we faced in our actual matches. And so we struggled to score against good defensive teams.

With my most recent teams I have stressed recognition of the opponents formation and defensive system as soon as possible. The earlier we define both, the sooner we can effectively begin attacking the opponent. In a strange but predictable turn of events, it is the now rare man-marking system that provides the stiffest challenge for many teams. Such has become the emphasis on possessing with a purpose - that purpose being to move the structure of the zonal defense to create seams to attack through.  The athletes (coaches?) in today's game are sometimes slow to recognize the 1 v 1 scenarios present by man-marking systems of defending. The result being an approach designed to combat zonal defense being employed against a man-marking system which is proving quite frustrating.  I know, because this is full circle of where I was as a coach in the late 1990's / early 2000's - I have been there and done that. There truly is no greater teacher than experience.


Let's discuss TRUST

On May 10, 2017 I sustained an injury at work.  The attending physician put me off work pending an MRI to discover the full extent of the injury.  I've been waiting for the Workers Compensation process to play itself out ever since.  The down time has provided ample opportunity to think about and analyze various aspects of my life. I have rediscovered a recurring theme -TRUST.

My twitter profile (Timotheus @TJBrown6083) includes the following:  Trust is the glue of life, the most essential ingredient in effective communication. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.

I believe this to be true.

The job I had was working as a 1 on 1 aide with a 6 1/2 year old boy with severe developmental and behavioral issues.  The behavioral issues being so bad they usually precluded any attempt to work with him on developmental issues. I only shared 4 days with the young lad before the injury prevented me from working but in that time (and since) the lasting impression I had was one of TRUST.  That is, the student could not be trusted. More importantly, the student did not trust anybody.

We shall call the student, "Addison".

When I arrived for my first day of working with Addison I felt isolated from everything going on around me. In a classroom of developmentally and behaviorally challenged students I was not provided a list of classroom rules and was given only the merest of expectations.  I found the space Addison and I would work from to be isolated from all other students, the classroom teacher and other aide. Addison did not even have a proper desk as the other students did. I was most curious about this isolation and determined to be open minded about what I was observing.  Another way to state this would be to say I wasn't sure who or what to trust.

My welcome into the classroom by the other adults was cold.  Not even an introduction to provide me the names of the adults I would be working with. It was basically, "this is your space. Here's a binder and a few books Addison can work on" and that was it. Well, okay then. I was going to have to learn on the fly which means I would be making a lot of mistakes.  I'm good with that. Mistakes are a great way to learn.  I have written articles posted on this blog about the value of making and learning from mistakes. Mistakes do not intimidate me. I embrace mistakes. I learn from mistakes.  I move on from mistakes.

The challenge working with "Addison" presented was gaining his trust. This is not unlike working with a new soccer team. Establishing trust is the first step. Building a working relationship based on trust is the next step.  Honesty is paramount to developing trust. We have to be able to trust the communication we have with others. That's where relationship building begins ... and can end.

To be perfectly honest, the relationship I had with the school system in terms of non-coaching employment was in distress.  I had tried to obtain a full-time position, any position, for several months. Bus driver, cook, custodian, grounds, paraprofessional, substitute work, any number of administrative jobs to no avail. Communication from the school system was inconsistent at best and at its worst was downright deceitful.  It wasn't until 6-7 months into the process that I began to figure out how to play their game. Then, I was "hired" on three different occasions without the school actually following through and awarding me a position. Internal politics and union contracts seemed to play a strong role. Regardless, a lack of effective communication from the school to me regarding these situations was eroding my trust in them.

I relate this not as sour grapes. It was what it was, but what it was was not good.  I had the distinct impression I was awarded the one on one position with Addison with great reluctance on the part of the supervisor.  They had no one else to work with him. I was the last gasp to get them through the school year.  I feel I was treated accordingly. All this went into building a relationship with Addison.

Addison was isolated in the classroom. Physically he sat apart from everyone else.  Addison was also isolated developmentally as he was a minimum of 2-3 years behind his classmates. Addison was isolated at lunch as we were forced to sit by ourselves at a table away from everyone else. Addison and I even rode the bus to and from school by ourselves. This child was alone. In that, we were alone together.

Addison and I built a rapport fairly quickly.  He tested me to see what limits I would set. We got in trouble together when my limits did not mesh with the established classroom limits. How was I to know what those limits were without communication from the teacher or other aide?  These became bonding moments for Addison and I. We got in trouble together. We took the consequences and moved on, together.  How I responded to adversity became important to Addison and he usually followed my lead.

At the end of that first (and only) week (due to injury) with Addision I was informed it was the best week he had had all school year. This was attributed to my being a man.  A backhanded compliment, I suppose. I was also dressed down for not following classroom rules and not being a team player.  I took the criticism even while thinking of how difficult it was to be a team player without knowing the team members, their goals, their mission, their system of play and most specifically what my exact role was supposed to be. Lack of effective communication had scuttled my ability to be a team player.

So, last fall was my first year as head coach at the school. We achieved the best record in many a year and people took notice.  I was not satisfied due to believing we had left as many as 4 wins on the field. Instead of 10-4-3 I felt we could have been 14-4-0.  Why the discrepancy?  TRUST.  Much of the year was a battle of wills from a lack of full buy-in of the system to the changes in culture we were instituting.  Despite my best efforts to define and communicate expectations, roles and responsibilities there was reticence present especially amongst a certain group who wanted to do things their way instead of the team way. On some level, they did not trust the process.

I knew this coming fall would see more of the same unless I cut the cancers from the program. If I cut the cancers from the program the team's record might suffer. So why even consider cutting three of the better skilled players from the team?  Because effective communication demands give and take.  When players refuse to respond to communication from the coach, it isn't so much about disrespect towards the coach as it is disrespect towards the team. No way are we all going to like one another, but we should be able to respect one another. That's what being a team member is all about - the ability to work cooperatively together towards a common goal.  I knew it would take another season (and maybe three more) of turmoil before the program fully turned the corner unless certain student athletes matured and put conscious effort into building trusting relationships with teammates and coaches.

As I have reflected on life while laid up these past several weeks TRUST has been a recurring theme. Just this morning I received a call / message from my father-in-law who wanted to know if he could mow our yard since I am unable to do so due to my injured knee.  On the surface, this is a nice gesture and I suppose I should accept it as such and leave it at that except past history raises red flags. I have never enjoyed a good relationship with my in-laws. I have never felt I was welcomed into their family. More like I have been tolerated to some small degree.  There is a long history of me asking the in-laws for help doing something or other with always a negative response if they respond at all.  If we, my wife and family, seek assistance from my in-laws and expect them to actually help, my wife must be the one to initiate that conversation. If I initiate it, all I will have accomplished is wasting my breath.

Lack of effective communication.

Lack of TRUST.

I have no idea why my in-laws are non-responsive to me. They don't like me? I'm not good enough for their daughter?  There has never been direct communication from them to me regarding this.  I hear things through the small town grapevine and even through family channels now and again but never has there been direct, effective communication and so there is no trust.

An unsolicited offer of help from my in-laws? Did my wife put him up to this? I immediately begin to wonder what their agenda is?  I suspect it might have to do with an offer to pay for an MRI on my knee?  I only say this because my wife made mention of such. I'm not sure if she approached them or if they approached her with the idea. I just know I was not in the communication loop until after details were worked out.  I'm not inclined to be beholding to the in-laws given the past 35 +/- years of dealing with them.

In reflections on situations as the ones related here my mind often returns to sports. This has been the case over these past several weeks. In a general sense, teams underachieve, play to potential or overachieve.  The underlying reason for a teams performance can be traced back to TRUST and the relative level of effectiveness in communication that has been established, nurtured and grown.

The very best teams I have been around in sports and life have had excellent communication and abundant trust.  The most unsatisfying team experiences I have been associated with always revolve around suspicion, distrust, poor communication.  A lesson learned is to not devote time, energy and other resources to people and situations that are mired in ineffective communication and distrust.

We are not always successful no matter the effort we might put into developing an effective relationship. It's okay to recognize mistakes even if said mistake is in the form of "wasted" or ineffective effort.  Step back. Regroup. Find the silver lining. Learn.  Get back into the game of life.

That's where I am now.

I gave up worrying about being accepted by the in-laws years ago because I have no control over them. It's easier on me to limit or restrict interactions with them. I am generally cordial with them and supportive when needed. I control these things.

I also cannot control the Lima City Schools. It took forever to get a foot in the door for non-coaching employment. They are fighting the Workers Compensation approval for an MRI and treatment of my knee. Why?  I do not know. They have not communicated with me. I have attempted communication with them on multiple levels and no one from Lima City Schools has responded.  Now we communicate through lawyers.  I find that bizarre, but out of my control.  I am moving on.

Those truly special teams I have been a part of?  Parkmore Little League basketball, St. Matthew Men's softball, NBC - Tech Men's basketball, Sumeno's, Botkins Soccer, the Grand Lake United 2012-14 soccer team. They all revolved around effective communication and a strong bond of trust forged in respect and overcoming adversity together.

Trust is the glue of life, the most essential ingredient in effective communication. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.

When trust is absent, either through being broken or never being properly established, there will be a struggle.  Trust, once broken, can be extremely difficult to reestablish.  This is why the divorce rate is so high. It is why sports teams are constantly trading, waiving and searching for new players. The absence of trust often drives change for the sake of change.  I just cannot emphasize enough the importance of TRUST in sports and in Life itself.