Standards and Success

If you do not hold teammates ACCOUNTABLE 

to the team's STANDARDS 

you not only hurt their chances for success, 

you hurt YOUR chances for SUCCESS.


The Coach's Perspective on Tryouts

The Coach's Perspective on Tryouts

We have looked at some generalities of the tryout process and then at the parent / player side of the process. Now, let’s take a look at things from a coach’s point of view.

A coach should enter the tryout process with both an open mind and a well mapped plan for assembling a team.  The balance between the two is important. So too is the ability to remained focused throughout the process of selecting your team. I think the best way to approach this article will be to share some experiences I have been a part of or a witness to.  Cynicism will unfortunately creep in to this article at times. I apologize beforehand, but it is a necessary ingredient for making some of the points that need to be made. Through these experiences I hope the coaches reading this will learn and avoid some of the mistakes others have made before them. 

The guiding principles when selecting a team should be honesty and fairness.

Tryout Questions for Parents and Players

Another tryout season is fast upon us!  There are clubs that are asking for a 10 month committment from high school aged players and have drawn their rosters from a select limited pool of players. But for most, the process is just getting underway as the current Spring season is winding down and the current seasonal year is concluding.

Yesterday we took a look at the tryout process in general.  I presented it in a fiction and fact format that touched on some of the misconceptions often present in the process.  Today we will narrow the focus to what parents and players should be aware of and present it in questions that should be asked form. To begin with parents need to know that soccer teams are part of a buyers market - that is, teams need players even moreso than players need teams to play on. This allows parents and players to choose the right club and team to fit their needs. It is important to note that Ohio High School Athletic Associations rules and regulations play into this dynamic as well as only 5 players from a given high school program may play together on the same club team before June 1st of each year.

"Players taught to watch the man with the ball
leaves them totally unprepared for the next move,
which is always dictated

by a player without the ball."
Tommy Docherty

"The Doc", is a former Scottish player and manager. Docherty represented Scotland 25 times. He managed a total of 13 clubs between 1961 and 1988, including Manchester United and also managed the Scottish national team.

Tryout Season for Club Soccer is Upon Us.

This will be a 4 part series.  In today's posting we will look at tryouts in a general sense. There's something here for player, parent and coach alike.  Following installments will look at things from a player / parent perspective followed by a look at the process from a coaches perspective. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

See also The Coach's Perspective on Tryouts and Tryout Questions for Parents and Players and College Soccer Scholarships: The Facts

What You Need to Know About Tryouts

When true tryouts are held there exists the possibility of jubilation or heartbreak for players. There can be much agonizing for coaches or the selection committee as well. Such is the struggle to organize competitive youth soccer teams, be they of the club or high school variety.


Water Seeks It's Own Level

It's March and here in west central Ohio that means the start of the club soccer season. For me personally, it means fielding many a question about the process of playing club soccer.  Answers to many of these questions can be found on our FAQ about Tryouts page.

One phenomenon addressed on that page is selecting the correct club. It's not always about playing for the most prestigious club.  In some cases there are simply too few geographically reasonable choices and the player / family play wherever they can or for whomever will have them.

When choices are available I have found more often than not that water seeks its own level.  Just as water is want to find the lowest point it can go it is also true people enjoy being comfortable and can be reluctant to change or step outside an established comfort zone.

The truly great players in any sport are those who embrace failure and seek out change to overcome . said failure. They are never satisfied and are continually looking to expand and grow both their knowledge of the game and the skills required to play the game at an ever evolving peak level. Whereas most players revert to a previous comfort zone when adversity is encountered, the above average players recognize opportunity in challenges to their established comfort zone.

The middling players are content to be the big frog in their own little pond. The great players seek to thrive in the largest of oceans.  I see this more often than one might wish to believe. Young players afraid of challenge and change because they have been successful thus far.  Afraid to relinquish good for the possibility of great.  And so, they "dominate" lower level play, but falter when challenged to up their game against better competition.

In short, they play well against weaker competition, win some and lose some against equal competition and have their heads handed to them by better competition.   In their eyes, this is acceptable.  Their water has found a level of mediocrity that the are content with.  The idea that a single drop of water might, just might, evaporate and come down again as rain in a new place is foreign to them.  The heat of higher standards and the winds of change are resisted so that a current, or heaven's forbid, a past comfort zone can be maintained or revisited.

Water seeks its own level can also be interpreted to mean individuals seek those of similar comfort zones to be associated with.  As a coach, this is one of the most important lessons I have learned  - to surround myself with the very best people I can find. I want assistant coaches who see things differently than I do and who bring different strengths to the program than I do.  I am not fearful of being challenged by someone with different ideas, by someone who knows more about something than I do. These are the exact people I want to surround myself with.

Too often in my coaching career I have seen players "settle" or revert back to a past comfort zone.  I would like to believe I can help them learn to play the game at the end of their comfort zones, but that is not always the case. Family, peers, recreational or high school coaches can all have agendas that hold players down to the low settling point that water seeks out. It takes a strong player to allow himself to "evaporate" from the comfort of being a big fish in a little pond for the opportunity of playing with the bigger and better boys found in the lake, the seas or the oceans.

Anyone can play soccer.  There are recreational leagues for all ages. There are club teams of all sorts ranging from barely recreational to levels sponsored by state USSF organizations to MRL and US Club or Academy leagues. On the high school side a player can often choose to attend a school that plays in a low lever small school conference to a mid-range medium sized school all the way to playing at a big school against the very best competition around.  The path after club and high school soccer is just as varied. Almost anyone can play soccer in college as long as you don't mind paying for the privilege of doing so. College soccer can be a gateway to a developmental league contract and eventually the MLS or other professional league. The top tier for many aspiring players is to represent their national team in a World Cup and there are those who have followed both the club path and the collegiate path in successful pursuit of this level.

Once again, water seeks its own level and so too do players. Those players not content with their current status and unafraid to test themselves against better competition seek out their own personal canal system by which they can raise the water level to move on from where they are towards larger failures and larger successes in bigger pools of water.


Use your timeouts!

I was recently conversing with someone about coaching soccer. No big surprise there, right?  This person, whom we shall call Bob, asked me about my relationships with administrators and to describe the most difficult situation I had with an administrator.

I know I smiled and I heard myself chuckle.

These were probably not the first reactions Bob was expecting from me when he asked this question. What immediately came to mind was a past athletic director calling me into his office to scold me about not using my timeouts to address players and make adjustments.

A little background.

We were playing an away game. The opponents pitch was located along a busy interstate highway. The winds that day were blowing in excess of 30 mph with gusts stronger than that. The pitch was 120 by 75.  Communication from the technical area / bench to players even 50 feet away was near impossible because of the location and wind conditions.  I had 14 players total that day.

How I solved the issues on game day.

I used substitutes to carry information about adjustments to their teammates on the field. I spoke with the players substituted for as well, of course.  It wasn't a great solution, but I would still maintain it was the best available that game day. And it worked well. We gained a good result on the pitch despite the difficulties in communicating effectively. And "effective" communication is what we did end up achieving to a decent degree.

Evidently a player and / or parent took exception to the methods used to communicate that day and complained to the athletic director.  "Don" called me to his office to discuss the situation. With Don this meant a lecture.  I listened to Don go on for several minutes about the necessity of using my timeouts and how to properly communicate with players. He provided a lot of advice on coach / player relationships and how timeouts were a part of building these. I'm not sure I could have gotten a word in edge wise if I had tried so I let Don blow himself out. I then replied calmly with six simple words, "There are no timeouts in soccer"

The look on "Don's" face was priceless.

As was the look on "Bob's" face when I finished relating this story to him.

The Game is My Test.

I saw a former player this past week and while reminiscing he mentioned how much he appreciated my approach to coaching in games. He was thankful that I was not one of those coaches who paced the sidelines constantly yelling instructions and / or berating players for every mistake made. "I don't know if you appreciate the confidence you instilled in me by just silently standing there watching us play."

I almost laughed out loud for many others have commented that I am too quiet and don't coach enough during games. Without directly saying so those people have hinted I don't do enough to motivate players during games. Then it occurred to me the people offering these criticisms have all been adults.  Parents, an athletic director and even my own wife, lol. 

I have explained my in-game coaching philosophy to many of those people in five simple words, The game is my test.


Analyzing the Game

Contrary to what some people may think I do not have multiple personality disorder.
Bet that opening statement got your attention, didn’t it? People do sometimes see very different sides of me at soccer matches. While I am usually pretty laidback there are times I get a “little”excitable. There is a rational and simple explanation for this. Watching a soccer match and analyzing a soccer match are two very different things. Most times when I watch a match I am analyzing it. I cannot help myself. This is the laidback person people most often see. However, there are times when the fan inside of me emerges and I do become a “little”more animated and vociferous. It is the analytical mode that I wish to write about today.


Being fair.

There invariably comes a time each season when a player will have a conflict with the soccer schedule and some other aspect of his life. This is true in both club and high school soccer.  As a young soccer coach, having a player miss practice time or a match to attend some other activity was very frustrating for me. Not only that, when such an incident would happen it created some very difficult situations to deal with. I have very specific rules for what is to be considered an excused or unexcused absence.  In either case, the athlete risks losing his starting or rotational position.

I freely acknowledge that parents loath this stance I take in regards to absences. Each year I seem to have a discussion with parents of a player who will miss practice and or games about losing their place in the lineup or rotation. The parents invariably feel I am punishing the player for attending the non-soccer activity.  A few years ago a parent went so far as to suggest I was being vindictive for the player being disloyal to the soccer team. This is absolutely untrue!  Unfortunately the emotional level was heated and the parent did not want to listen to the rest of the story.  It wasn't for almost two weeks later until I had the opportunity to fully explain the TEAM perspective of the players absence.

Yes, players do lose their starting spots and or rotational position when they choose another activity over soccer. However, this is not a punishment levied against them for having done so. Absolutely not!  Someone has to move into the starting lineup or rotational position in the absence of the player.  In fact, if a non-starter rotational player becomes the starter, this then creates an opening for a new player to enter the playing rotation, does it not?  Someone(s) is going to take the minutes of the missing player.

I consider the new starter to be receiving a reward for being present. I consider the new player entering the rotation to being rewarded with an opportunity to make his mark.

The player who chose to miss time with the soccer team should hold no expectation whatsoever that his place will be held for him. If the replacement player performs well, he will continue to enjoy the rewards of both his effort and loyalty to the team.  The player who missed time will be provided every opportunity to regain a starting position or a position in the rotation, but he will not be given anything including the spot in the lineup or rotation he voluntarily relinquished.

When a player and or parent complain it's not fair for the player to lose his spot for missing soccer activities, I ask if it is fair for the player who assumed the missing players role to lose his new spot in light of his being present to seize the opportunity?

It is all about being fair.

Only too often fairness is only considered from one side while other perspectives are not considered or are ignored.