Reflections on this Summer's Camps

Conducting summer camps is, obviously, something I really enjoy doing. The hours are long. The days are hot. The travel can be exhausting. The players and coaches make it all worthwhile. And that is what I take from the camps we conduct - the relationships built with the people we meet.

On a personal level, I enjoy seeing teams improve under our tutelage.  It is rewarding to see the concepts and ideas about the game come to life for the teams that camp with us.  To see them take the pitch for a summer tournament and witness their excitement over improved play and success is heart warming. And still it is the relationships that leave an enduring impression.

This generation of young people are an amazing lot as I am sure each generation is. I marvel at their problem solving skills on the pitch and in life.  I am in awe of their time management skills. Astounded by the wide range of activities and interests they lend themselves to with dedication and discipline.

Brittany lives on a working cattle farm and rearranged her chore and work schedule to be able to attend goalkeeper training. Jacob worked 2 jobs and came to training over an extended lunch break having to make up the time at the end of his day. Brianna brought her baby sitting charges to training and those youngsters respected her so much they were hardly even noticed. Nick convinced his parents to allow him to stay home from vacation to attend our camp at his school.

When I see dedication to soccer on this level it sends vibes of positive energy throughout me. I literally get charged up with excitement to work with these young people. But let's remember how I learned of their stories - I engaged these young men and women in conversation.  I showed a genuine interest in them as people. In turn they shared with me and a bond developed. A working relationship centered round soccer was established and we learned a little about one another along the way.

Candace is a young woman who attend our camps in previous years. Now a graduate, I invited her back for this summer's camp with her old team.  No pay. No incentive other than to play some soccer and hang out with friends. She readily accepted and showed to camp despite having totaled her car and being banged up from an accident a few days prior.  That's dedication. That's following through on commitment.  That's working to establish a tradition and legacy in a young program.  I have to believe big things await Candace in her future.

My son Lance and two of his teammates, Hunter and AJ accepted my request to volunteer as instructors for a high school girls camp.  These young men are all 19 years of age and placing them in camp with high school aged girls might seem a cautionary tale, but I have known these gentlemen for years. They are trustworthy, honorable and will someday, imo, become very good coaches in their own rights should that be a path they choose to follow. It turned out to be one of our best weeks of camps ever.  From 9:00 am through 6:30 pm for five straight days we worked for this high school girls team ... and they worked for us.

"Team bonding" is the catch phrase often bandied about when people talk of uniting a team these days. Team chemistry is still an elusive intangible sought after in pursuit of making a good season a great one.  Whatever we call it, it still comes down to the most simple of concepts - building relationships with those we associate with,

I don't care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other. This is a phrase I have heard repeatedly over the years. It is a phrase uttered by Coach Boone in Remember the Titans as he addresses the team after an early morning run through the Gettysburg battlefield.  In this instance the established relationships were of very poor quality and Coach Boone knew individual change must occur or they were collectively doomed.

With many of the teams we work with changing the way the team plays is the focus of what coaches ask us to work on during camp week. Relationship building with the members of the coaching staff and team is a crucial ingredient in our recipe for success. Establishing a foundation of trust rooted in honesty is our primary objective as camp clinicians. If we fail in this mission, the camp itself will be a failure.

This is the lesson Coach Boone sought to impart on the young Titan squad and his coaching staff. Liking one another is not a prerequisite.  Respect is. And the only path to respect is through honesty and trust.

I have recently written of the two greatest coaching tools being a chair to sit on and the ability to be silent during games.  Both were somewhat tongue in cheek ways of making the point that its a players game. Today I have identified the single greatest coaching tool in existence - the ability to build relationships. This also happens to be the secret to living a productive and happy life.  And for us here at CBA Soccer we enjoyed a wonderful summer camp season. One I would term our best ever for precisely this reason - the relationships established, developed and renewed while "working" in an environment of soccer.  Thank you to each instructor, coach and player who worked with us this summer! It was our best summer so far!

11 Captains

I believe this article is the handiwork of Graham Ramsay who I have referenced on this site before. A quick google search of his name will result in numerous hits.  I re-discovered this article when going through some soccer files. It goes well with some of the themes I have recently been posting on.  Enjoy!

Eleven Captains

Wherever the soccer ball goes, the well-coached team will float mini-teams of three or four players toward it (1 v 2, 1 v 1, 2 v 1, etc.) throughout a game. The more times these duels are won, the greater your chances of victory.

To make this a reality, a coach needs 11 captains to organize, encourage and influence the play. One captain cannot do it, unless he is wearing a big "S" on front of his shirt.

Nor can Superman's dad, resplendent with cape and kryptonite shinguards, help as the all-seeing, all-knowing coaching expert on the sidelines. They are often too far from the critical plays, and this is why coaches must educate their players to create a "captain/coach on every play."

The nearest player to the teammate who is involved in the "eye" of the game action becomes the captain/coach for that vital moment. He has the best seat in the house to coach and to advise his teammates how to win the duel.

The more times you put verbal oil into the team engine, the smoother it will perform. Quality information "in" creates quality play "out."

Screaming instructions at the last moment is no way to win anything. It will probably reverse your strategy of getting ahead of the play and coaching your teammates to win. You have to develop the art of reading the play early and preparing your teammates for the next action.

Good players are like detectives--spotting clues to outwit their opponents (visual cues, body language, and habits).

For example, their last look at a play is often the first choice of what to use when play is resumed. A savvy defender might use such a clue to determine how to defend.

For example, if the head of the opposing passer goes down as he is about to pass and he winds up kicking the ball, the defense can channel the play. The information will allow the nearby defender to get ahead of the game by planning his move--maybe intercept or contain,

At that very same moment, the nearest teammate will be alerting/coaching his teammates. Sending them good advice.

The "real coach" must educate his players into this winning mode of thinking by:

1. Playing small-sided games where it's easier to spot and have many opportunities to "captain" each other.

2. Playing one-on-ones with a third player on the outside coaching one of the players.

3. Going to pro or college games. If possible, let them be ball-boys/girls.

Its vital for the coach to both highlight good examples and correct the "non-coaching" efforts of the players.

A team of captains, coaching each other, is like facing a team that's playing with 30 players--it intimidates.

As one coach said after his team had lost to Liverpool, "I'm certain they cheated. The Mighty Reds (Liverpool) seemed to be everywhere with their support play and verbal enthusiasm. To play that way, they had to have had two teams out there!"

Such was their energy level. Great teams know the power of knowledge and enthusiasm--coaching each other and encouraging each other to play brilliantly.

This is particularly so whenever things are going against your team. Too often youth or high school teams tend to clam up when the going gets tough.

 Potholes, red lights and  conceding goals are part of life's rich canvas. The teams and players that can rebound from these setbacks with renewed vigor are the ones to stay away from, as you know they are going to compete to the final whistle. They are mean.

When is the right time to start addressing this black hole in the vast majority of youngsters' soccer education? The earlier the better--and keep adults far away. How can a child learn to be a captain/coach when they have a dozen parents screaming 20 pieces of expert advice per second?

We have had a generation of subservient non-talking players because of this assault. Who can blame them? Haven't the parents been their verbal life support system since infancy?

You know the picture is wrong whenever the parents become the dominant vocal force and the players remain verbally invisible. Sadly, it should be the other way around.

For proof go out and listen or probably not listen to a couple of games. Another indicator is watching/hearing a high school game.

Most of these youngsters have played for nearly a decade and yet cannot read nor coach nearby teammates. What have they been doing all these years? It's almost as though they have been playing in their own bubble or world.

In fact, trying to correct this fault in older teenagers is almost impossible, as their habits have, for the most part, been set in stone. You cannot over emphasize the need to start creating thisverbal intelligence in the pre-teenage years.

To help understand the learning process, you must understand the three main cancers in fighting the development of skillful  players. They are:

1. Fatigue. Players simply don't learn when they are tired.

2. Verbal interference. Yelling  
names ("Carlos!") as you receive the ball is of little use.

Hopefully you've learned your name by your teens. What you do need is simple, vital information to help you and the team retain the ball--"Man on!," "Time!" 

Giving misinformation or poor advice, or worse still, no verbal help whatsoever is a major soccer crime!

As one coach, upon seeing one of his starters about to be tackled hard, said: "It's like watching your girlfriend or mom about to be mugged on the other side of the street. Don't you have an opinion? Don't you care?" Can't you even shout, "Man on!"

3. Coach dependence. Where the coach dictates every play and shouts constantly. He winds up with non-thinking robots who traditionally get their speed pass and sprint out of the sport as fast as possible.

As you can see, these verbal skills, allied to "soccer savvy," are like secret weapons that very few players or coaches understand or use.

Can your team be the first in your area to create 11 captains on the field? If you can mold a squad of individuals into a real team, you will deserve a new Superman uniform for the play-offs.

Go for it!



Vision          Communication         Character          Competence         

Courage          Commitment

First in.....             Last out.

This video was shared with me by friend and coaching colleague Paul Lee. 


Leadership 101

This is not the first time I have set about teaching leadership to high school aged student athletes. Even with past experience, this is not an easy task. The teenage years are often more about fitting in than standing out, more about following than leading. And leaders, be they good or bad, positive or negative, tend to stand out. It takes a certain level of confidence to lead and developing confidence through the teenage years can be a gradual, even slow, process. Often times, in the mind of a typical student athlete, the rewards of being a leader are outweighed by the perceived risks of being a leader. How we learn to develop and teach the confidence necessary to overcome powerful emotions such as doubt, fear, trepidation and uncertainty that will determine their effectiveness and success as leaders is a process that all too often gets short shrift.  
Team sports are a natural environment for developing leadership skills. 
In having played,  coached and observed team sports over the years one thing stands out about successful teams - that being the quality of leadership. It stands to reason then a primary responsibility for a coach should be on developing quality leaders.
I think it fair to say a majority of coaches appoint team captains based on some type of arbitrary criteria grounded in both how much control they wish to relinquish to the players and the role they wish for their leaders to fill. Seniority and popularity are often determining factors when appointing captains. It is as though being a captain is about winning a popularity contest or a senior year entitlement. In truth, being a leader can place the student athlete in unpopular positions and is most definitely not an entitlement.
I recently wrote of the difference between Champions and Championships.
A similar distinction must be drawn between Leaders and Leadership.
Champions / Leaders are people and Championships / Leadership are processes.
Leaders need Leadership Opportunities from which to learn and develop leadership skills. I would suggest, if you find yourself yearning for better player leadership you should evaluate the process for developing leaders that you have in place. 
Player leadership begins with the coach. 
There are innumerable opportunities in team sports for developing leadership qualities in student athletes. The most difficult step a for coach in the process of developing leaders might well be consciously deciding to alter their coaching style to allow for student athletes to experience these opportunities. How does one learn about leading if the opportunities to lead are not adequate to provide experience in leading?
I would also suggest the quality of opportunities provided for developing leadership skills is of utmost importance. Leadership opportunities exist in any team environment. If your team is plagued by toxic or negative leadership it might be opportunities for toxic leadership have been present and seized upon.  This is where the quality of coach / player relationships comes into play.
A key aspect of leading is the ability to establish, develop and maintain relationships. This has been a primary focus in our Leadership Class sessions to date. I have asked our student athletes to summon up 20 seconds of courage when tasked with completing the interview sections in each chapter. I have asked them to step outside their comfort zones, introduce themselves to new people and conduct short interviews with these people.  We have gone from blowing off these assignments entirely to interviewing parents to interviewing people in our extended families and finally tp interviewing people who are relative if not actual strangers before the interviews begin. The confidence being gained through this process, through these opportunities is palpable. So too is the transition from leading by example to being vocal leaders. Classroom participation has steadily improved. We have even had players volunteer to LEAD classroom sessions! Progress in the Process.  


An open letter ....

Ravens Devastated By Tray Walker Accident; Harbs Sends Heartfelt Letter To Team

Edit: Tray Walker died hours after Coach Harbaugh wrote this open letter to his team.

Tray Walker, the fourth-round cornerback we drafted last April, is fighting for his life in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital this afternoon. Tray was seriously injured last night when, riding a motorbike, he collided with an SUV.

This is devastating news to all of us. So young and with such promise, Tray is in all of our thoughts and prayers. His circumstance is critical.

Like a lot of his teammates and other members of the Ravens, John Harbaugh is struggling with all of this. He couldn’t sleep, and this morning he wrote a heartfelt, passionate letter to the Ravens’ players. I asked Coach if we could share his letter with all of you. Here it is:

An Open Letter to Our Team


Right now, this moment is an incredibly difficult time for our Team and our Family. One of our Brothers, Tray Walker, is fighting for his life. I know we are showering him, and covering he and his family, with Prayer and hope.

That was the kind of phone call you never want get as a coach, as a parent, as a brother, as a friend. This shook me and all of us. Like some of you, I haven’t been able to rest since hearing the news late last night.

As I focused about Tray this morning, some thoughts came to mind that I wanted to share. What would I say to my own son, if I had a son, in a situation like this? You guys are that important to me.

This is what I would be saying to you in the team meeting room if we were together today: There is a lot going on out there and you are going to be involved in tough and difficult situations. You are making and will continue to make important choices pretty much every day. That’s okay. That’s our reality. It can even be very good to be put in different circumstances. To make it right, you are going to have to grow up fast. Probably faster than many of your friends and family.

Please remember to…

Lead in your home. Take care of Your Family and Yourself every single day. Think about who you are and where you are going, and what you stand for. Look after one another. Only then can you be your most effective on the job and in every area of your life.

Please consider your actions and choices. There are always consequences. Choose who you allow to advise you. Consider the quality of the council you take. Put yourself in positions to succeed. Turn away from unnecessary and risky behavior. Take care of your physical well-being. Live a healthy lifestyle. Pursue those things that make you better. Rest well. Eat well. Laugh with those who you love and love you. Fulfill your obligations effectively.

Be your own best friend. Do not be an enemy onto yourself. Turn away from trouble and harm. Walk away from foolish behavior. Ignore silly and unwise advice – You’ll know it when you see it.

Get to know those people in your life who manage to walk free from the weight of self-created obstacles. Get close to those who have gone where you want to go, and have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Grow Spiritually. Think about what and who you want to become.

I am asking you to consider what is at stake in your life. Consider what your thoughts, actions and choices mean to those around you. Live your life fully and with purpose. Have fun and share your happiness. Find Your Faith, and allow God to Grow Your Faith.

Let’s look out for one another. Be a great brother and friend. Inquire. Listen. Ask. Investigate. Reach out. Be There. Take a Step. Go For It.

Remember, We are Brothers in Arms. And, again, take care of each other.



The 2016 Summer Camp Season is Fast Approaching!

We always offer first chance to returning teams we conducted camps for the previous year. Several of you have been in contact already. We are in the process of contacting the rest of you now.  Also, we have had a couple of new programs express interest in our camps. We are working them into the schedule as well.  As of today, it looks like we will have room for 2-3 more teams dependent on specific needs and fitting teams into available dates.

Contact us now!


There are no shortcuts on the road to success.

This is something I preach and teach to my teams.  It is also something I watch for in tryouts. If a player allows himself to take shortcuts in practice or at tryouts he will look to do the same during games and that is a recipe for mediocrity at best.  There can be no place for this on winning teams.

Championships or Champions?

The University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame are the two winingest major college football programs in the history of the sport. The two schools are linked throughout their storied histories. The Wolverines taught the sport to the Irish way back in the 1887.  Notre Dame stadium is modeled after Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines colors are Maize and Blue while the Irish colors are Gold and Blue.  What does this have to do with soccer?

The two universities also share similar ideas about champions and championships that have served them well through the years.

At Michigan, "Those who stay will be Champions"

At Notre Dame, "Play like a Champion"

It is important to note that neither schools key slogan mentions championships, only Champions.

Both sayings deal with the process rather than the outcome or goal of the process.  How to become a champion must be discussed on a regular basis. The details of the process adhered to, nurtured and grown. Sometimes what was once an admired detail must be tweaked, modified or perhaps even stored away as a cherished memory of a tradition of yore replaced by a more pertinent or relevant new tradition.

At Michigan it is believed that Defense wins Championships and I will not dispute that point. However, it is the process of building a champion, a team's culture that puts players in position to compete for championships.

Just as we must win first, then play the game, 

we must become champions before 

we can win a championship.


Bad Teams = No Leadership

Good Teams = Coaches  Lead

Great Teams = Players Lead

I recently saw the above quote on Twitter and liked it enough to share with the student / athletes in a leadership class I am conducting. It makes the point of the importance of player leadership I am attempting to drive home to the class.  The quote itself is a little too black and white or absolute to be 100% accurate though. Every team has leadership. 

It is the quality and sources 
of leadership 
that differentiates 
one team from another.

Meritocracy - Dorrance and Harbaugh.

Regular readers of this blog know I am a fan of the University of Michigan.  More than a few of the quotes found on these pages can be directly attributed to former and present Wolverine coaches and players.  With the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach at Michigan comes a wealth of new material headlined by the word meritocracy.

1. an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.

2. a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced:

A recent quote from Coach Harbaugh:  Meritocracy- Process to determine an elite Team. Progress determined by Talent, Execution & Effort

Now, Coach Harbaugh is not re-inventing the wheel as Anson Dorrance's Competitive Cauldron approach is well documented and has proven wildly successful for his teams. Coach Harbaugh is returning the topic to the fore and in using the use of the word meritocracy in defining what the Competitive Cauldron is in reality. 

If I had the staffing to chart every detail of training and games I would like to, I would adhere closely to a meritocracy approach.  First of all, I love statistics.  Yes, I actually do.  This will seem strange coming from someone who doesn't even keep simple statistics like assists or goals scored for his teams. Heck, I rarely know the in-game score unless a scoreboard is present.  Just ask my players. I am constantly having to ask referees the final score after matches because I have no idea.

The reason why I am not overly concerned about assists and goals scored is because I view them as a product of so many other areas of the game that can be charted or documented.  Statistics on the quality of one's first touch, the number of lost possessions directly attributed to a specific player and where on the pitch these occur are much more useful to me.  I want to know how many crosses a defender allows / denies and how many un-pressured services we allow. 

I am anxious to see the Wolverines take the field next fall after a spring and fall camp of Harbaugh "charting everything" and posting each days and cumulative results on the locker room walls for all to see.  It's a form of internal program pressure on the athletes to determine who the "winners" are amongst them.  These are the people Dorrance and Harbaugh want on the field of competition against opposing teams.  Winners, that's what a meritocracy is all about defining.


A New Journey

I have not written much of late primarily because I have accepted the position of Head Coach / Program Director for Men's Soccer at Lima Senior High School.  To be perfectly honest, this is a position I have had my eye on for the last 7 years.  I have conducted summer camps for the program in the past and was an assistant coach last season.

What exactly appeals to me about coaching at Lima Senior?

First and foremost are the people. I met several former Spartans when they came to play for Grand Lake United. Not only were they seriously good athletes and solid soccer players, but to a man they were really good people from really good family's.  Then there is the fact Lima Senior is the only Division I school in our area and they play in one of the best, albeit top heavy, conferences in the state. In short, I want to compete against the best in the state and believe Lima Senior can do this.

I have debated these past few months concerning sharing this ride with the loyal readers of the CBA blog and exactly how to do so. I am not comfortable in doing an all inclusive behind the scenes look at a high school program featuring student athletes of 14 - 18 years of age. However, I do feel sharing our journey with you will be of benefit to other coaches and student / athletes making similar treks.

Coming off an 8-6-3 season, returning 11 starters and virtually every major contributor expectations are high. Add in the return of two very good players who missed last season and one would think those expectations would be soaring. Such is not necessarily the case though.

The Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) is home to three perennial soccer powers in Findlay, Toledo St. Francis and Toledo St. Johns.  To win a league championship Lima Senior will need to defeat these teams. To win sectional, district and regional titles Lima Senior will need to beat one or more of these teams in addition to other opponents of the highest quality in Northwest Ohio.

In past TRAC matches with the above referenced teams a pattern has developed that sees Lima Senior play well for long stretches before surrendering a goal. At that point body language deteriorates and the proverbial flood gates open.  To be honest, the Lima Senior Spartans have lacked true belief they are capable of playing with and defeating any of the three powers in the TRAC,

This is where our journey begins. How does one motivate a team to step outside their established comfort zone and expand their confidence, their belief that not only can they defeat anyone they face, but instill a belief they will defeat anyone and everyone they face?

This is not an easy question to answer, but thankfully we do have some real life examples to borrow from.  The biographical movie Patton is nothing if not a portrait in instilling discipline in the troops. From General Patton taking over a ragtag US II Corps who had had their collective asses kicked and turning them into a fighting machine to the forced march to relieve a besieged Bastogne where elements of the 3rd Army disengaged, marched over 100 miles in deplorable conditions and reengaged the Germans in just 48 hours.  We also have a present day savant in Jim Harbaugh whose culture of meritocracy and cauldron of competition has brought positive results wherever he has coached.  Both of these great leaders believe deeply in preparing for the moment. One of my favorite sayings is Failing to prepare properly is preparing to fail.  From proper preparation comes confidence. This is key.

I am working on instilling new levels of discipline, competitiveness and confidence in our program, but this is only part of the solution. The most important aspect of change being brought is in the area of player leadership and player buy-in to the changes. We have begun leadership training using Jeff Jannsen materials among other sources. There is no miracle snap your fingers "cure" available here. It will be a slow (and hopefully) steady progression of instilling discipline, instilling confidence, establishing trust and fostering buy-in.  We do need a sense of urgency as we go through this progress as the season is only 4 months away. When we finally roll the balls out for practice, we need to be ready to go.