It was meant as harsh criticism, but I took it as a compliment.

This incident took place awhile ago. As a fan University of Michigan athletics I am now reminded of it on a seemingly daily basis. I loved Jim Harbaugh as a player for the Wolverines. His legacy cemented in my heart when he guaranteed a win over Ohio State before the 1986 installment of The Game which was played on the road in Columbus, Ohio. The only thing greater than that bravado was coach Bo Schembechler's response "Our quarterback shot his mouth off, and now we've got to go down there and prove him right. Let's go back him up!"  And they did.

Jim Harbaugh is relentless and works at being omnipresent.  Just look at this past week's recruiting news. Michigan received 6 verbal commitments in 9 days and dominated the recruiting news cycles. The controversial satellite camp circuit he has embarked on the past two summers is another example.  Both Ohio State and Penn State conducted similar satellite camps, but did you hear about those?  Probably not.  Harbaugh is to college football what Barnum was to circuses.  Sleepovers at recruits houses. Throwing out first pitches at baseball games. Showing up at the World Series game with his baseball glove that elicited a national story on how many baseballs he has collected over the years including winning a battle over a kid for one?  How about the signing day extravaganza Michigan hosted last February to introduce their new recruits.

Okay, you get the picture.

A coach for one of my son's high school teams called me one night and told me I was relentless and omnipresent. This occurred in the midst of the worst season the program had endured in many a year. There were several players from an ultra successful club team I coached on that high school team. The young coach, whom I recommended for the position, was struggling mightily. The team was under performing and players were seeking me out. It was difficult for me to avoid them as I not only coached them in club but they were / are also friends of my son and were often at our house. I did my best to be supportive of the new coach, but he evidently felt threatened by my coach / player relationships with many of the players he also coached.  I can appreciate and understand that.

In the telephone conversation that evening the new coach stated his belief that he was unable to be effective as a coach because of my relentless omnipresence hovering over his program.  In short, he was lashing out and blaming me for the team underachieving. Now, I had never attended a practice and had offered zero input to any coach on anything related to that high school team up to this point in time. I attended games to cheer on my son and his friends. That was the extent of my involvement.  I had supported the coach to the players who wanted to vent. I was surprised by the coach's comments. Hurt and angry as well. In my reply I told the coach he was wrong to play someone who had always played forward as a defender and a another who had always played as  defender as a forward. I ended the conversation by saying I would only cheer for my son the rest of the season. I wouldn't even applaud other players efforts. He thanked me and informed me this is what he wanted.
Two things happened almost immediately as a result of that conversation. First, the personnel changes I suggested were made. Secondly, the team performance improved dramatically.  A third, more subtle change also occurred - that coach lost the respect of many on that team. In effect, he lost that team by making his coaching struggles about me. The conversations with players I had after that telephone conversation were supportive of me. The players tone was devoid of hope even as I counselled my son that they were a good team and could make a strong run in the tournament. This fell on deaf ears. They no longer believed in their coaches and had begun to doubt themselves.

That high school season and the conversation with the high school coach has stayed with me over the years. Missed opportunities for those players has haunted me. They held so much more potential than what they delivered upon on the pitch. The idea that I was relentlessly omnipresent has held as well.  I know it was meant in an adverse sense, but I did not then and do not now take it as such.  I watch Coach Harbaugh and see much of myself in him.  Old school yet innovative at the same time. A deep love for the game and a passion for the people who play it - not just as players but as young men entrusted to my care.

I am too strong a personality?  That is what the young coach stated.  What he likely meant is that he was threatened by me, by my established relationships with players and my 3 decades of experience in coaching the game. I begun as his biggest ally. I recommend him to the athletic director on board of education members for the job.  Even after the season when I was approached and asked to re-evaluate my recommendation of him for the coaching position I continued to voice my support for him to remain as the head coach.

I am relentless and omnipresent.  That is a goal of mine. These are traits I look for in players.  I want leaders who believe they will win every game and who will be relentless in pursuit of victory. I will outwork everyone of the student athletes entrusted to me because they will need to outwork the opponents they face on the pitch. I set the standard that they will strive to meet. To that end, I attempt to surround myself with the very best, the very brightest, soccer minds I can find to assist me. I am fearless in learning from others. I want my philosophies and thought processes to be challenged on a daily basis.  I need to continue to grow as both a person and a coach.  The new high school coach, probably unknowingly, contributed to this process. What he likely intended as harsh criticism. I took as affirmation that I am passionate, compassionate and driven to be the best I can be. Did the experience change me?  It made me reflect and learn. I am better for it. More driven and relentless than ever before. These characteristics and my omnipresence are not (yet) met in my current situation by the student / athletes and their families. I will continue to be relentless and omnipresent in building the relationships that will build these characteristics in the core group that can lead and elevate the program to a higher level.


216 Days Until the Start of the 2017 Season

The 2016 season ended 73 days ago and we have 216 days until the 2017 season officially begins. The transitioning from review to preparation is underway. I am moving on from "why" Team 29 failed to meet some of my expectations to what is necessary for Team 30 to fulfill its potential.

Program > Team > Student / Athlete

I believe we are all better when we are servants to a greater good.  In my personal life, I strive to serve God. As stated on the introductory page to this site, God is first, family and friends are second and I am third.  God > Others > Me.  Team 29 of our program made strides in establishing Program > Team > Student / Athlete as the basic tenet of the Lima Senior Soccer program but we still have a ways to go before we can say this truly defines who we are.

To begin with, I am not convinced every student athletes appreciates or understands Program > Team > Student / Athlete.  Allow me to provide an example of what I am talking about; we established new academic standards for eligibility in 2016. Each student/athlete was required to maintain a "C" grade or above in each class in order to be eligible to participate. Still, when weekly academic reports were issued we had a handful of student athletes who failed to meet this standard. In this regard, those student athletes failed themselves, their team and the program.

In a school system absolutely loaded with athletic talent this is an all too common occurrence.  And completely unacceptable to me. Maintaining a "C" in academic classes is about two simple things completely within our control - attitude and effort.  We are simply asking our student athletes to be average n the classroom.  Some are making a choice not to do so and are thereby lcultureetting down their team and, by extension, the program not to mention themselves.

So, here lies the first hurdle we must clear in pursuit of establishing a Program > Team 30 > Student / Athlete culture.

Being sure to have our shirts or jerseys tucked in at all times.

By the end of the 2016 season we had become very good concerning this simple task.  Many of the players rebelled at this rule when it was first instituted, but eventually became compliant with it if not overly enthusiastic about it. Simply put, compliant is not good enough. Too many of our student / athletes failed to recognize the reasons behind mandating shirts be tucked in and in fact, ignored the rule whenever out of sight of the coaching staff.  When allowed to wear their jerseys to school on game day the majority failed to tuck the into their pants. And it was of no surprise when I recently attended an indoor game to see not a single player have their t-shirt tucked into their shorts.

What's the big deal?


We have a cheer we break huddles with: Prepare like Champions! Play like Champions! Become Champions! A big part of this is to look the part. We look the part, we begin believing. We begin believing and we begin acting the part. We begin acting like champions and we begin playing like champions. eventually we become champions.

Character is all about doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  We are not there yet as witnessed by having our jersey's hanging out during school hours. There was a failure to comprehend and understand the importance of living the role of champion 24 / 7 / 365.  This has extended to the off season as was recently witnessed at the indoor game.  They won the league championship with an undefeated season and will believe this is an accomplishment that invalidates the need to look the part failing to realize how they look not only impacts  how they feel about themselves but how others perceive them to be. Being a rag-tag group is perfectly fine if your highest aspiration is to win your rec league indoor grouping.  It's not nearly enough if you aspire to be the champions of the toughest scholastic soccer league in northwest Ohio.

Personal preference before TEAM interests and program well-being.

No one player is bigger than the TEAM and no team is bigger than the program.

Last winter I led a Leadership Class for many of our student / athletes. A main theme of this class was the importance of being a Servant Leader. The general premise of this is for the individual player to serve the TEAM and by extension have the TEAM serve the program.  We have made strides in this. There is also still work to be done here.

So much of what is discussed here is either or propositions

We should always strive for perfection. It may never be attained by greatness can be. We all make mistakes. Each mistake made is a learning opportunity. That is, we have a choice when a mistake is made - accept it or correct it. Our decision on how to handle a mistake, adversity, sets the course for who we will become.  If a mistake is not corrected, our forward progress is stopped. We plateau as a an individual and as a team. What we allow, will define who we will be.

Defining who we want to become as TEAM 30 will be the key to the 2017 season. Setting goals is a part of this process, Defining the process to be followed in achieving the goals set is a area we failed miserably in last season.  The goals set were within an established comfort zone. There would be minimal change required to reach these goals. They were safe goals. They accepted expected adversity as their lot and lacked true challenges to be overcome. They goals set were well within established comfort zones and lacked impetus to expand and grow, to improve.

These are the areas we will be concentrating on over the next 8 months. Can we step outside of our established comfort zones to set our goals AND define a process that will provide us a legitimate shot at achieving our goals?

Dare to dream big.

Work to make those big dreams come true.

That's what 2017 needs to be about.


Attitude. Commitment. Culture. What of it?

I suppose I should have included "Patience" in the title as well.

As I enter my third year (second as head coach) in the Lima Senior soccer program I find myself fixated on Attitude, Commitment and Culture as the areas key to the Spartans rising to another level. I am fond of saying "culture can win or lose you games" and am of the belief this was proven true this past season .  Our culture did, in fact, both win and lose us games during the 2016 season. On the surface, that might seem like an odd statement, but just as technical skill and tactical understanding impact the game so too does a teams culture.  Sometimes skill and tactics are enough to win games. Sometimes it is one teams culture that separates it from the opponent.

I want to be clear that the culture was not excessively poor when I took over the program. If we used Jannsen's Commitment Continuum to rate the culture of the program I took over last season we would find it in the compliant range.


That is, the team and individual players largely tried to do what was asked of them. They did enough to get by. Where they were lacking is in the areas of accountability and responsibility to one another, the team and the program as a whole. One year later we have made progress, but are still probably in the compliant range as a team.

As I ask myself why our progress has not been swifter or more dramatic I keep coming back to the three words in the title of this article - Attitude, Commitment and Culture. I think sometimes we use these words interchangeably and that does each a disservice. They are related and interconnected yet different and unique each in its own way.

Attitude alone is not a guarantee of a win or a loss. I have seen teams with great attitudes lose games to teams with lesser attitudes. And there are certainly teams with poor attitudes that manage to overcome them and win games. Still, there can be no doubting the importance good attitudes. This set me to thinking about what attitude can provide ... or deprive a team of.

Attitude is not static - that is, it must be nurtured to grow in a positive direction and if this is not diligently attended to one's attitude will surely regress.

Attitude is not a substitute for technical, tactical or physical competence.

Neither can attitude alone be substituted for experience.

In short, attitude cannot change facts, but attitude can change how we deal with facts.

For example, attitude can make the difference in how we deal with one another - our relationships with each other.

Attitude can also make a difference in how we deal with adversity and challenges.

One positive attitude can be a beacon shining bright that draws others to it. A team with a collective good attitude can become something greater than the sum of its parts.  And that is what I am seeking to create at Lima Senior.

So, what are the obstacles slowing our progress?


More is being asked of individual players and the team alike. Everyone is being asked to step out of established comfort zones and embrace growth. This can be an intimidating task, especially if one's attitude is not positively energized.

Fear of change leads to indecisiveness, inaction, drains positive energy and generally inhibits potential from being reached. Fear also magnifies adversity, challenges and problems when affecting change. In the absence of a positive attitude discouragement can gain a foothold.

Energy is contagious whether it be of a positive or negative nature.  So, how change is approached is of vital importance. Positive energy will allow for smoother transition than negative energy will. Those who are reluctant to change may have to be eliminated from the program in order to foster an overall positive energy. I faced and dealt with this problem last fall. There were a few stragglers with poor attitudes who refused to buy-in to the changes being made. They were energy drains to our positive attitudes. They have been removed from the program. More may yet decide to leave as they find their energy, their attitude to be in conflict with the growing majority.

The 85% rule.

The 85% rule refers to having 85% of your team members being either Compliant, Committed of Compelled on Jannsen's Commitment Continuum.  This would represent 85% of your team having "good" attitudes. What I have done is to make a list of every player on our roster.  Not as easy of a task as one might think in our situation. I had 57 student / athletes express interest in playing. Of those, we had 46 who actually participated at least one day.  We lost several to academic ineligibility. Others were dismissed from the team due to disciplinary problems. Still others self-selected and just stopped showing up. We finished the season with 33 players. These 33 are the players I have on my list. Beside each of their names I have written their commitment level in my eyes. I have also asked each player how they would rate themselves. There are differences of opinions - some subtle and others quite dramatic.

Resistant: Complainers. They complain about coaching, teammates, program rules. They are generally selfish and against team goals and in favor of their own goals.

Reluctant: Skeptics. They are hesitant, wait and seers. Go through the motions but without much, if any conviction. Have not totally bought-in.

Existent: They are present but not completely engaged. They give little of themselves and expect little from others or the team as a whole.

Compliant: These student / athletes do what is asked of them, but give no extra effort. Generally not self-motivated. Not disruptive, but not fully engaged.  They neither provide energy nor drain energy.

Committed: Self-motivated.  They will do what is expected of them and then some. Take initiative to improve self and team.

Compelled: The Standard Bearers. No matter the adversity or challenge they are 100% engaged. They prepare, train and compete at the highest level. They are driven to achieve team goals and achieve team success.

In general, the 85% rule states a successful team needs 85% of its members in the Compliant, Committed and Compelled ranges in order to be successful. Obviously all of those falling in the Compliant range would not be satisfactory. There must be some in the Committed range and at least a few in the Compelled range. A balance among these three ranges is necessary with the more towards the top of the range the better. But I would submit there is value to each of the ranges being represented. Can you imagine the disconnect between 11 players in the Compelled range and a couple in the Compliant or lower ranges with no one representing the in between?


Some combination of Attitude and Commitment define the culture of the program, team and its individual players. Where program rules meet team goals success if found.  So it is moving forward we will continue to work on our attitudes and foster commitment in search of a winning team culture. That is a key consideration to take from this writing - attitude and commitment, culture, must be worked on. All coaches work on technique and tactics, physical conditioning. We must also give conscious effort to the psychological aspects of the game We must train attitude, commitment and culture until these things become second nature in the same manner as technical ability, tactical understanding and physical conditioning.  This is our platform for success,