Always something new to learn.

I'm well into my 50's at this stage of my life. My goal each and every day remains to learn something new each and every day. Athletics and soccer in particular these last 25 years have been the impetus of this process. I have learned much. Lately I have been reminded there is still much to learn.

Over the years I have developed something of a reputation for turning programs around in short order.  Be it a high school program like LCC or a club team with Grand Lake United I have enjoyed great success in short order. As I find myself in the second year at Lima Senior I am being humbled by the slow progress of turning this program into the powerhouse I believe it should be. The talent is present, but the culture is not present.  My previously successful "formula" for quick turnarounds is not working as well as it did in the past.

As I have been analyzing the current state of the program after our first year I have been giving considerable thought to what has worked in the past. I have also given serious consideration to what is different this time as I formulate the plan leading into next season. I feel things are beginning to fall into place and progress is being made.  Writing of the process always seem to help me draw things into focus. You are privileged (or cursed, as the case may be)  today to get a glimpse into this process.

Trusted Agents.

When taking over a program and changing the status quo it is always good to have Trusted Agents or players who support your efforts. These are usually found in those who are juniors during the first year of your directing the program. Or at least I have been blessed to have found them in the junior class at past stops.

At LCC, we had a senior Megan who was on-board from the start. She took the brunt of resistance to change that first year becoming a lightning rod for any type of conflict that arose. She was strong and focused.  Our junior was Shayna who bought in and shared the vision from the start. She not only understood what the process was but also helped define how the process would be achieved. Plus, she was strong enough to stand up to the negativity always associated with change and the negative leadership that sometimes emerges in the face of change.  God Bless Shayna. Shayna was, at times, as good a player leader as any I have had the pleasure of working with.

With Grand Lake United it was my son Lance and his teammates Tanner and Adam who set the tone. Their expectations were high and became the standards the team held itself to.  Adding Alex to that mix solidified our vision, our process and how we went about achieving in the process. We weeded out a lot of the resistance to change and negativity over a 2 year period. Alex handled any residual negativity with unbelievable diplomacy and firmness.

I take little credit as a coach for what these young people achieved.  My biggest contribution was identifying the right people to lead the turnaround.  Megan, Shayna, Lance, Tanner, Adam and Alex were easy choices as determined through both their words and their actions.

I have admittedly struggled to find the same type of player leadership in my current position. This past season's seniors never did buy into the vision. They were never able to define the process and so we meandered through the season. Now, it is true TEAM 29 at Lima Senior put together the best season in recent program history. I received lots of congratulatory remarks about having won 10 games in my first season at Lima Senior. It is also true, TEAM 29 never overcame the past culture of the program. I firmly believe TEAM 29 should have had 14 or even 15 wins by the time our season ended in the tournament. Culture eats talent and strategy for breakfast. I was reminded of this on more than one occasion this past season.

Whereas in past coaching stops I had always been able to identify junior leadership to drive the team forward, that was not the case at Lima Senior.  For the first time in my coaching career I will endure two straight classes with below average leadership. And it might well be more than two years.  Our current sophomore class some has possibilities for positive, process driven leaders,  None are a sure thing.  Cole, I force fed into a leadership role too early. He has many of the qualities I am looking for, but the circumstances were not right. Can he rebound? Can I help put him back on track? Micah is not (yet?) strong enough to stand up to negativity as Shayna did for her team. Sam is home schooled and therefore not with his teammates every day. He does possess nearly everything else I am looking for in a player leader.  I have yet to identify the quality of leadership I seek in the freshman class either.  Now, the current 8th graders?  They have several quality leaders among them.  They are probably 3 years away from having the type of significant impact on our culture that is required to move the program forward to where it realistically should be.

Trusted Agents II

Be it in club soccer or in high school soccer, parents play a significant role in your program. As a coach I interact with the student / athletes approximately 2-3 hours a day in season. Parents, naturally interact with their children a whole lot more. Hopefully.  At every coaching stop some of the strongest resistance to change I encounter is from parents.  It certainly was at LCC where the parents of the "star" were adverse to her having to share the glory (scoring goals) in the balanced system of play I brought to the program. I was also not allowed to cut two players (and their parents) from the program who made it their announced aim to subvert everything I did.

Parental resistance was also a major push back at Grand Lake United until I did cut players / parents from the "A" team and regulated them to the "B" team or cut them from the program entirely. Much easier to do so when the coach is in charge and the club administration doesn't want to deal with drama.

And once again, at Lima Senior there is strong resistance from a small group of parents seemingly intent on feeding the "me" in their child instead of the "we" in our program, our team.

I included this Trusted Agents II section only because as I look to identify leadership, define the process and formulate how we will navigate the process it has occurred to me I could move the process forward by cutting resistance from the program and advancing the soon-to-be freshman class into key roles earlier than I would normally like to. Sacrifice the team for the program.

The Past

To be perfectly honest, it is usually the past that motivates the change of culture and buy-in necessary to accomplish it.  At LCC, the program had never had a winning season. They were hungry for a change. The biggest obstacle proved to be changing a few from "Me" people to "We" people.  With Grand Lake United we had players passionate about soccer and tired of getting their butts kicked by the "big clubs" so they too were hungry, eager and receptive to change,  At Lima Senior the upperclassmen are invested in and tied to their past by a recreational league state championship they won when they were in middle school.  I sometimes feel as though they view that youth league championship as the apex of their soccer careers instead of a building block.  There is seemingly little desire to strive for, let alone replicate, that championship success at the high school level.

In my coaching career, I  have rarely been so filled with emotion as the day I overheard some of our varsity players say,

"What does it matter? 

We're going to get our asses kicked anyway."    

This off-season a parent sent me an email regarding scheduling schools of our own size / classification that stated, in part, and I quote,

"I don't feel you have the talent to compete with some of the teams you are going to be playing nor will lima (sic) senior ever have that talent and I am not concerned about seasons to come I am only concerned about this season."

Yes, the son will be a senior next fall.  Yes, he is apparently worried about his son's senior season.  Did he bother to look at our schedule for next season? Apparently not. Yes, we have shed a lot of the small schools / easy wins from our schedule. Yes, we have replaced then with big schools who are comparable with Lima Senior in terms of their soccer programs. Yes, we have scheduled a tougher team or two. Should we still compete for double digit wins? Definitely.  


Some people embrace change  

Some people resist change

Sooner or later everyone accepts change or gets left behind

There is a certain comfortableness in the current program. For some, it's as if they "know who they are" and that's good enough for them.  They beat up on small schools in the area, Are capable of competing with mid-sized schools and similarly talented large schools. And expect to get their asses kicked by traditional big school powers.  It is the classic "big frog in a little pond" syndrome.  At the very mention of moving to the big pond to prove their mettle they revert to living in the little pond where they feel safe. This is the challenge I face.  Overcoming their fear of stepping outside their comfort zones to discover that is where life and their game begins, not ends.  

Sometimes as a coach we have to admit and come to terms with the fact we cannot positively impact players as much as we would like to.  Cases in point; 1) This past season I dismissed a player from the program after having invested a lot of effort and time in him. He possesses some real potential as a player. He's his own worst enemy. He simply cannot overcome poor decision making on or off the pitch and seeks to lay the responsibility for his poor decisions at someone else's feet. It's a shame. He's slipping through the cracks and will in all likelihood become societies problem in his future. No emotion other than defiance about being dismissed.   2) I had to dismiss a second player from our team. He made a poor decision, admitted it, but due to the nature of the violation of team rules I still had no choice,  He was visibly broken up over the consequences of his decision. 

Notice: I dismissed the first player from the program and the second player from the team.  The player in the second example is back training with the team this off-season. Lesson learned. He and we are moving on.  This is how we want all situations to turn out.


We, the program, will continue advancing toward the vision I have for the program.  Team 30 may or may not take a step forward from Team 29. That will be up to them as a team and perhaps specifically to the leadership that emerges.  The players of Team 30 will have a mixed lot of individual success and satisfaction derived from their participation on Team 30.

And in the end, that is what we as coaches must always remember - One gets out of something what one puts into it.

I will put my all into this program.  The program will continue to steadily advance to where I believe it can and should be.

Team 30 will get out of it's season exactly what they put into it. Judging by off-season participation rates, that will be something similar to Team 29 before them.  Meh, by my standards.

Individual players will get out of this season exactly what they invest into it. Soccer is a team sport comprised of individual players. Some of our players are putting in the effort and time to better themselves. Others, not so much. 

The more one is invested in a process, 

the more difficult it is for them 
to give up or quit. 

When the 2017 season concludes we will look back on the progress of the program, the accomplishments of the team and the progress of the individuals.  Will we be satisfied?


It's part of coaching

We often speak of athletes learning life lessons through their participation in team sports.  Coaches learn life lessons through heir participation in team sports as well.  One of the most important lessons sports has taught me is the necessity to develop, establish and maintain healthy working relationships.
I put a lot of time and effort into developing working relationships with everyone remotely connected to the program.  My athletic director and his administrative assistant. The boosters organization. Surely our players and coaches. The parents as well.

Now, with parents I tend to keep them at arms length as it concerns team selection, positions, playing time and the like. On the other hand, I desire and need parental support for a healthy program. I rely on parents for everything from fundraising to furnishing team meals.

Players get suspended or cut from the team and coaches lose their jobs often due to poor relationships and ineffective communication.  Communication is a shared responsibility.  That is, it takes a minimum of two to hold a conversation unless one is talking to one's self. LOL. This is another lesson I have learned - if people choose not to respond to your efforts to include them in your program, repeating those efforts ad nauseum is simply a waste of time.

I have a three strike rule.  If I ask you three times for your input or help and you choose not to respond, I move on.  This happens mostly with parents of student athletes in my current position. A sad commentary on our society in general.  Please do not misunderstand, I do indeed enjoy tremendous support from many parents. The vast majority jump in and help in whatever way is needed and I am genuinely appreciative for their involvement. It is a small minority that decide not to respond, not to work on establishing, developing and maintaining a working relationship in teh best interests of their child.

Being a responsible decision maker is also something sports teach us. Not every decision we make is cut and dried. I often seek input from every source imaginable when faced with a tough decision. I also give difficult decisions a lot of  prayerful consideration.  In the end, as a head coach it's still my decision. I live with both the rewards and consequences of those decisions. I firmly believe it important everyone involved with the program knows I take making these decisions very seriously and own up to them regardless of how they turn out. It's a matter of trust and respect.

Trust is the glue of life, the single most essential ingredient in effective communication.  If I do not own my decisions, why should anyone trust me?  Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.  Disagreements are a part of life, its how we handle disagreements that matter more than the disagreement itself.  Adversity is a part of life and athletics. It is a given, individuals and the team will encounter adversity at times. The adversity is not as important as how the adversity is handled. Being able to trust those you face adversity with is critical to success in overcoming the obstacle. Successfully overcoming adversity or an obstacle with others is how respect is earned ... and given.  Without respectful working relationships not only is trust absent but the prospects of success are greatly diminished.

We ARE all in this together, correct?


College Soccer Scholarships: The Facts.

Every so often someone sets a spark off that ignites my frustration and I feel the need to report this article.  Tonight was such a time.  I met the parents of two little boys ages 7 and 9 who seem to think the boys are USMNT material.  They already been have been involved with a local club for 4 years. Have already spent thousdands of dollars. They are now somewhat disenchanted and are looking to move to a more prestigious club in a larger city. The nine year old already has attitude and was damn near uncoachable when we tried to work with him.  This is NOT what youth soccer should be about. These parents (and by extension their sons) are more than likely going to severely disappointed. They need desperately to read an article like this. Don't get me wrong, I honestly hope the kid succeeds and makes one of the USMNT teams. I see zero indication this will happen though. The parents are about to spend enough money on soccer to fully fund their children's college educations  and will have little to show for it when all is said and done.  Such a shame when youth sports are reduced to this. 

This is a reposting of an article originally publish in March 2013 concerning available scholarships for playing soccer in college.  I have not re-researched NCAA regulations since the original writing.  I have received numerous requests to re-post this article. So, here it is... again!

With club tryout season upon us once again I deemed it appropriate to move the article to the front page.  Do not be fooled by clubs who advertise they have helped "x" number of athletes obtain college scholarships for playing soccer. Investigate the claims.  If talking about the prestigious D I programs, you are more than likely to find no one, not a single solitary individual, listed as a scholarship recipient received a full ride. Most will probably have received a fraction of a fully funded scholarship. A quarter to a third and in rare cases 1/2 of a full ride are the norm.  Those who did receive full rides likely did so at NAIA or NJCAA schools.

Bottom line?  If you are looking for money to pay for college, study hard and get good grades.  All the money being spent on playing club soccer?  Invest it in the stock market or even a savings account. The return on investment will be much higher for the overwhelmingly vast majority of you.

NCAA Divison I

At the NCAA Division I level men's soccer is considered to be an equivalency sport. This simply means the number of scholarships that can be offered is determined in part by Title IX. Fewer men's scholarships may be funded due to women's sports not having an equivalency to football.  A school is not mandated to fund it's full allotment of scholarships.

Schools offering Men's Soccer:  199  (this number is in decline in part due to equivalency standards)
Schools offering Women's Soccer: 320  (this number continues to grow in response to equivalency standards)

Mens Soccer Scholarships:  9.9
Women's Soccer Scholarships:  14

Scholarships can be full or partial rides at the Division I level.  With rosters often approaching 30 players the money is distributed very carefully. 

NCAA Divison II

Schools offering Men's Soccer:  179
Schools offering Women's Soccer: 227

Men's scholarships:  9
Women's scholarships:  9.9

Many NCAA Division II schools do not offer football and so there is less discrepancy in scholarship numbers between the sports. Partial scholarships are the norm as coaches can distribute the money to as many players as they wish.

NCAA Division III

Schools offering Men's Soccer:  401
Schools offering Women's Soccer: 424

Scholarships are not offered at NCAA Division III schools.  Student / athletes often rely on academic scholarships and financial aid to assist with costs for school.


Schools offering Men's Soccer:  218
Schools offering Women's Soccer: 223

Men's scholarships:  12
Women's scholarships:  12

Partial scholarships are common.  Coaches often reserve monies for student / athletes that do not meet requirements for academic aid.


Schools offering Men's Soccer:  136
Schools offering Women's Soccer: 118

Men's scholarships:  18
Women's scholarships:  18

Many scholarships awarded at the Junior College level are full rides although partial rides are common as well.


Great Players want to be driven.

“Great players want to be driven. They want coaches to be tough and demanding. Average players and mediocre teams want it easy.” - Pat Riley