Simple words of pure genius!
"When I was younger
I was trying to do what I wanted to do,
not what the game wanted me to do."
 ~ Thierry Henry ~

Oh if only I could impart this wisdom to every player I coach!  This knowledge is something all the best players I have coached possessed and understood. It's what has separated the true soccer players from the highly skilled gifted athletes who never reached their full potential on the pitch. 


Lead yourself.

In our locale there is a political rift between the mayor and the president of the local chapter of the NAACP.  Their feuding has boiled over into the local social media in a purely negative manner. I find the whole thing terribly embarrassing and can only wonder what others must think of our community.

As I pondered this situation it occurred to me the quality of leadership can be found to be lacking. Believe it or not, that is not a condemnation of either of the primary individuals involved in this on-going dispute. Rather, it's simply an acknowledgment that leadership has many levels and a certain diligence must be put into the process of leading if we are to have the best possible leadership.

What in the world does this have to do with soccer?

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Everyday is a Tryout

Everyday is a tryout is a mantra I repeat to my teams on an almost daily basis. My teams are a strange combination of dictatorship and meritocracy. I strive to give as much ownership of the team as possible to the players while retaining final say on certain matters to preserve order for the common good. Sometimes I wonder if the message being sent is the same as the message being received.

Everyday is a tryout. Four words that can define a process, a life even. They go to the very heart of what has become known as the daily grind. What you earned yesterday should be but a platform for what you will earn today. What you earn today is the starting point for tomorrow's growth.  This is what a meritocracy is.  This is what life is.

I have begun meeting with potential leaders of next years team. These are the players who have expressed interest in being captains. What I am seeking to determine is which of this group understand everyday is a tryout. Who among them understand that leadership is an action word, a verb, long before it becomes a noun?

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Quality of play is never an accident;

Quality of play is always a result of 

high intention

sincere effort

intelligent direction


skillful execution.

Quality of play represents the wise choice of many alternatives,

the experience gained from many hours mastering the craft.

Quality of play also marks the search for an ideal 

after necessity has been satisfied 

and mere usefulness achieved.

Quality of play is what makes the game beautiful. 

It Couldn't Be Done

It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edgar A. Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


Club Coaches and High School Coaches

I am both a club soccer coach and a high school soccer coach.

Mine is not a unique situation. 

Over the last few months I have repeatedly been asked the question of which I prefer to coach, club or high school.  My response has remained the same, both.   While soccer is constant, club and high school each present unique challenges and unique opportunities.  I am not setting out to compose a compare and contrast essay on club and high school soccer. There will be elements of that present in the article, but my main goal is to help the layman understand the life of a coach.

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Club or School?

If your expectation was to read my thoughts on the battle between high school and club soccer you might be disappointed. I am going to take this to the grass roots level. Where I live, each school district has a youth soccer program for children K - 8th grade.  The club scene is rather muddled - they come and go with the exception of Grand Lake United which has been around seemingly forever.

One of the newer clubs on the local scene is making a big push for youth players to abandon their school oriented soccer programs and play only for their club. I believe this is a huge and monumental mistake. They are asking children to specialize in a single sport at an age when they should be exploring all sports ... and other avenues of interest as well. They need to be kids, not little future college athletes in training.  Trust me, for the overwhelming majority of these kids will never receive a scholarship to play in college.  See here:  College Soccer Scholarships: The Facts

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Year two is getting underway.

When I took over the Lima Senior boys soccer program I knew there were things that needed to change if we were to advance to the next level. As is the case when change is encountered I also knew there would be resistance to the changes I wanted to bring to the program. I anticipated there would be excitement for a new approach and new direction and there was. These are all accepted dynamics that will be present anytime a new coach takes over.

All in all, the first season went about as expected. That is, we were able to begin the process of redefining the program. That process met with resistance from some.  Some embraced the new approach and were eager to pursue a new direction.  We had the best season in perhaps 12-15 years and some said ever although I think that might be a bit ambitious.

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I have this general idea for an article based loosely on gaining experience in coaching. It's not completely formulated so, we'll see where this goes.  lol.

As I watched a new coach conduct a training session my mind drifted back to my first solo practice sessions as a coach. I remember having spent the night before preparing. The head coach would be absent from practice the next day and his instructions were short and sweet - "We need to work on off-the-ball movement."   Well, okay then.  This was pre-Internet days and I was reliant on the coaching books and videos I had for ideas. I selected a basic three team transitioning drill that I felt fit my needs, I tweaked it a bit to better fit the team I was working with.  I know I put in at least 3 hours planning for the next day's one and half hour practice session.  I wanted to be prepared.

I have fond memories of that day in part because the smiles on the players faces told me they were having a good time and the exercises I had chosen, including the featured 3 team transition game, went smoothly. I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish in the training session and prepared to achieve it.

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High Character. Leadership. Standards.

In the context of team sports, I believe the word leadership refers primarily to high character. That is, the people who are positive leaders think of and act intentionally on behalf of the team.  They commit to using their leadership abilities to engage in the call to progress in the process. This is accomplished by building up and strengthening the quality of relationships between teammates which in turn strengthens the quality of teamwork through the development of trust among team membership.

There is no such thing as a team not having leadership.  Every team has leadership. It is only the quality of leadership that can be called into question.  In the absence of strong high character leadership, self-serving negative leadership will be the standard.

Leaders set the standards by which the team will be judged. If the leadership will not adhere to the higher standards set for the team, there can be no expectation for the team membership to adhere to even the lowest of team's standards.  The higher the standards team leadership holds itself to the higher the standards they can reasonably expect to hold their teammates to.

The question then becomes, what are the standards your leadership will set for their team?

The Second Team

In my day they were called second string. Second team, second unit, it doesn't really matter what the designation for these players is.  What is important is the vital role these players play on winning teams.

There can be no question starters play a key role in a teams performance, but so too does a team's substitutes. Players on the second unit may not often be directly responsible for winning goals, but they also cannot be responsible for allowing game winning goals. 
So what do substitutes need to bring to their teams when their chance to play comes?


If all you ever do ...

If all you ever do
is all you've ever done,
then all you'll ever get 
is all you've ever got.

I have done some small business consulting over the years. I enjoy the process of identifying why I have been called in to help a business.  The owner always recognizes their business is struggling but are often too closely involved to fully comprehend why their business is struggling.  Sometimes they have ideas and I am asked to help find a solution that will improve a particular aspect of their business. Other times, it's more like they throw their hands into the air in general exasperation and figuratively scream "Help!"  Invariably there is a reluctance to implement changes to the extent needed and they end up doing pretty much what they have been doing all along. Throughout the process I often hear "this is how we became successful" to which I reply "it's also why your business is struggling now."

In two recent situations both were losing customers at an alarming rate.  The customers were going to competitors. The question to be asked and answered was, why?  The answers were similar in both situations.  Failing infrastructure and what could only be labeled as aggressively abusive customer service.  Yes, I just wrote that. Customer service could be difficult to work with and was driving customers away.  If this is beginning to sound like an episode of Bar Rescue, that's because that's basically what it is.

I watched as an owner of a long established business was forced to eventually shut his doors.  He refused to listen to advice from his family, his employees and people like me who he asked for help. In the end, he refused to change and so lost the family business.  I am currently watching the slow death of another long standing business under similar circumstances. They have lost upwards of 50% of their customer base in recent years. They seem to believe they have a product that sells itself even as reality is telling them they do not.  People tired of dealing with poor customer service are finding similar products to be more to their liking.  It's a shame.

Change is not a bad thing.

Most of the people I work for in these situations agree that change is not a bad thing. They are looking to me to help them identify changes to make that will restore their business to a former more prosperous status. Many are even open to personnel changes. At least in terms of reassigning people if not actually firing anyone. But what happens when it is the person in charge who actually needs to go?

Jon Taffer, the bar consultant from Bar Rescue often mentions he must first fix a relationship or a person before he can fix the bar.  This idea is not isolated to failing bars. It can hold true for any type of business ... or sports team. And as can be seen when Mr. Taffer revisits bars from previous shows the personal aspect of failing cannot always be fixed. Sometimes when this has happened I have had the business owner inquire as to my interest in buying him out. I have not done so to date, but that is subject to change going forward. In fact, I am facing a time in my life where rather significant change seems to be on the menu. It's difficult to let go of of what I have loved to do for so many years, but changes are dictating that I may have no other choice.  I am an odd mix of fearful and excited about the prospect. I am drawing from my experiences with small business and conducting soccer camps these past many years to guide me.  Change, it is a coming and I am learning to embrace it early rather than fight it for I wish to save what I have rather than risk losing it all.