The NCAA recently banned satellite camps in response to Michigan football  coach Jim Harbaugh (and a growing number of others) travelling to other states to conduct football camps.  Here's the long and short of it.

Satellite camps allow coaches to go to players who cannot afford to come to them.

It's just that simple.  Those who pressured the vote to eliminate satellite camps did so to maintain what they believe to be a competitive advantage they enjoy in recruiting or access to prospective student athletes in their area. 

THAT's it.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

You have an opportunity to make a difference for the high school student athletes seeking the best opportunity for themselves.  

Make       #ChangeNCCA     trend on twitter

and go here to 

to overturn the NCAA ban on satellite camps.


Coaches' Clinics vs Coaching Courses

When I first turned my coaching attention towards soccer over 20 years ago I knew I needed help to do justice to the young players placed in my charge. Although I had coached various sports for a number of years I possessed a rudimentary knowledge of soccer in general. So, I set about educating myself about soccer.

One of the first things I did was to attend a "clinic" presented by the local high school coach. This clinic was part of a coaches meeting for the local recreational league and lasted all of about 30 minutes. Thus armed, I began my career as a soccer coach. We won the league championship that year with a 6-0-1 record!  This had little to do with my coaching acumen and much to do with the fact the biggest, fastest, strongest player in the league played for our team. As a coach, I knew to get the ball to the kid who couldn't be stopped.

What I did not know was how to teach technique. So I went looking for that information. I looked at the local library for books on soccer - there weren't many. So I went to local books stores to look for books only to discover there were none. Not a single book on soccer. I searched out stores that specialized in soccer and found The Soccer House in Ft. Wayne Indiana. It was, at that time, a mom and pop store offering all things soccer. They didn't have many books or videos but what they did have was a gold mine to me!  From there I learned some of the large national chain book stores carried soccer books and videos, As the Internet was just becoming a thing, I learned about sites like Reed Swain, Championship Productions and Kwik Goal which all had educational offerings, As I have reported before, today I have an extensive library of soccer books and videos.

I also learned of coaching courses which I was greatly excited about. I thought, what a great way to learn how to (coach) teach soccer! The first caching course I attended was the State Goalkeeping Course offered by the NSCAA. It was to this date the best soccer coaching course I have ever taken. Tony Waiters, Tony DiCicco and John Murphy were the clinicians. Murphy remains my favorite clinician of all time.  I learned so much from their presentations.   My next venture into the realm of coaching courses was a USSF course which I still view as the greatest waste of money ever spent on soccer education. The USSF course tested what I already knew.  I was not a novice coach, so had an understanding of how to coach. What I needed to learn about soccer was what techniques to coach and how to teach the properly. I was almost completely out of luck in this regard with the USSF course.

I understand today's NSCAA and USSF offerings, at least at the entry levels, do a much better job of teaching coaching fundamentals before testing your knowledge. They also do a better job of instructing how to teach the fundamentals of the game. They have listened to complaints and suggestions from the grass roots of the game. Kudos to both organizations.

Knowing what I do now, I wish I had availed myself of the coaching clinics that were available to me. Quite frankly, I confused the pursuit of knowledge with the pursuit of Diplomas and Licenses.  I have numerous of both and ... well, so what?

I have not attended a coaching course in five years. The last being the NSCAA High School Diploma Course in Georgia which was quite good. Probably second only to the State Goal Keeping course referenced earlier in this article. I did help host an NSCAA Level III coaching course last summer as the DOC for a local club. Our coaches needed diplomas / licenses to meet league coaching requirements so it had to be done.  It was a decent course focused more on how to prepare a practice plan and what to present in that practice plan. Good information for the level of coach targeted.

I have continued to attend (and conduct) coaching clinics.  Yesterday I attend a small and short but sweet clinic at Ohio Northern University. It was a one day clinic consisting of 3 sessions.  I came away with perhaps a dozen different things I will be trying out in the camps I conduct and with the team I will coach next fall. There is some different nomenclature that I believe will benefit the players I work with to better understand the input I am providing them.  Despite specializing inn goalkeeping instruction for two decades I saw a different exercise I think is practical and functional that I will give a try. And  I rediscovered a tactical consideration that I believe the teams I work with might benefit form.  It was a productive use of 4.5 hours on a wintry day.

Today, I view the NSCAA and USSF as necessary evils in the sense most leagues are demanding coaches be "licensed" before they are permitted to coach. Real education in the game remains in the purview of coaching clinics.

At coaching clinics many coaches become engrossed in the drill or exercise being presented. Excitement builds and they want to rush right out to try out the new drill on their own teams. I do not have a problem with this as long as the coach understands the reasons for having the team perform the exercise - the coaching points involved.  The good clinicians explain these things before, during and after their presentations. It is important to grasp these things otherwise we turn it into an effort to train monkeys, so to speak.

The elite clinics, in my opinion, will follow a day's practice plan.  The warm up, individual, small group and eventual full-team or game phase of practice will be presented by a variety of clinicians. There is a flow and structure based around the theme of the sessions. A picture is painted for the coaches in attendance of what a well thought out and organized training session should look like. The exercises and accompanying coaching points are icing on the cake.  The different ways of organizing a team and the nomenclature used are bonuses.

At yesterday's clinic they provided us with a nicely done written synopsis of the what was to be presented, I still ended up with 7 pages of my own notes.  Most of my notes are of ideas the clinicians and or the exercises they presented prompted in my own mind. I diagrammed some variations of the exercises they present that popped into my mind while watching theirs presentations. I jotted down terms and phrases I think may convey my own ideas to teams better than what I have been using. And as noted above, I will be borrowing an exercise or two to use with my teams, if not in there entirety then certainly in there general intent.  Hey, it's what coaches do!

So, my message to you is to know he difference between a coaching course and a coaching clinic. My personal experience has been coaching clinics are far more valuable learning experiences. They have met and continue to meet my needs better that coaching courses that award diplomas or licenses based on what you already know.


Fast Soccer - think about it.

EDIT: Many links to previous articles in today's writing. Still more links in the linked articles. All are related yet each presents the general theme differently. Don't just blow the links off. Take a few minutes to read each. You will not regret that choice!

Have you ever see a coach have a player race a predetermined distance against a kicked soccer ball? This is a fairly well known demonstration to drive home the idea of allowing the ball to do the work whenever possible.  Simply put, the ball can be moved faster via passing than it can be by dribbling. The late great Johan Cruyff puts a slightly different take on it placing emphasis on the brain, or thinking the game.

Ballwatchingitis is a term I learned from Graham Ramsay. The idea is very much the same. If the focus is on the ball, the game becomes small and slow. If the players vision are on the game, it allows for the  pace of play to become much faster. Playing quickly is all about allowing the ball to do the work for you.  Universally recognized as one of the the games all-time greats Cruyff also stated Soccer is a game played with the brain! 

As you can see, I have written much on the idea of pace of play being more about brain power than physical speed. I believe the winner of of most games is the team that best thinks the game.  Many problems encountered in a match are self-inflicted by players upon their teams due to a lack of thought behind an action ... or inaction. Decision making is the key factor in many games. It is usually the difference maker between teams.  Therefore, practicing decision making skills should be a major emphasis in training, correct?

Failing to Prepare Properly is Preparing to Fail is another of my favorite quotes. Proper preparation is a key to increasing the pace of play. Properly preparing to play the ball is simply another way to emphasize using the brain to increase pace of play. This too can be practiced and trained for.

These ideas are all part of what we seek to present in our team camps, clinics and symposiums. I would suggest these do not only apply to players - coaches need to think the game as well.  We need to properly prepare training sessions so they bring about the results, the style of play, we envision for our team. Selecting the correct activities to bring out the desired play is a talent we must learn, develop and grow if we expect our players to continue their own progress in the process. It can be good for coaches to review their own process now and again.

Obviously, I have linked to many articles today.  I wished to emphasize the importance I place on today's topics.  After watching the US U23's struggle and ultimately fail to qualify for the Olympics yet again it is clear we must change our developmental model in this country. We must find a way to recognize the value of the brain in the game being greater than pure physical gifts.  Direct play kick and run soccer cannot be the main staple of play at the upper levels of the game, It simply cannot be and this has been proven time and again. We need to teach our players to THINK the GAME!

Increasing Speed of Thought

is how to increase

Speed of Play