Better People make Better ...

In James Kerr’s book “Legacy” there is a phrase used repeatedly that has stuck with me: “Better people make better All Blacks”.  The original context inferred this was about populating the All Blacks with the right kind of people.  Be it administration, coaches or players: better people makes better All Blacks.  Common sense, right? Weed out those who don’t buy-in and replace them with those who are all-in. As I finished reading the book I came to realize it’s so much more than that.

I have been working at a high school that has some truly outstanding educators on staff yet the school is not viewed favorably on state report cards. This has been on my mind for much of the last two years. Why doesn’t the school perform better on state tests than it does?  I can ask the same about the schools soccer program I have led. A common theme (in my mind) is that best and brightest students (/athletes) do not make those around them better. In a general sense, they tend to settle for and into the norm.

Why is that?

I do not profess to have all the answers, but that phrase from the book keeps rattling around my brain: Better people make better ...

A public school system pretty much takes any student and it can be very difficult to cull the student population.  I’m walking a slippery slope here and so I want to be clear that there are truly quality people in this school - adults and students alike.  But could they be better? And should a stronger focus be on improving the people? Not exchanging them for others, just improving on what is here. Invest in and take care of the people in your organization for better people make better ...

This, then, is what I believe James Kerr’s message is. At least in part. Invest in the people for better people make better ...  students, better athletes, et al. If students lack social graces and are rude, inconsiderate towards both peers and adults, can we not make an effort to help them improve in these areas.  For instance, as players report to practice there is an expectation, a standard, that they will greet each of their teammates and coaches with a handshake and small talk.  Could this not be carried over to each classroom each period? It would take but a couple of minutes ... time invested in the people. For better people make better ...

I have proposed starting a Gentlemen’s Club at the school modeled off successful programs at other schools. Basically a club that focuses on social graces, how to tie a tie and other things that can impact self-esteem and confidence ... improving the people.  Would this then positively impact state test scores?

Better people make better All Blacks
Better people make better Fairlawn Jets
Better people make better soccer players.

If we improve the people, raise their self-esteem and confidence they become better people and by extension better students, better soccer players and so on.  This seems a simple formula and one easily implemented.  Seems likely to be worth the effort, does it not?  What say you?


Moving on.

I made the decision to move on from Fairlawn High School with some reluctance.  I had accepted the positions there because 1) my wife was changing careers and we needed the extra income and 2) because I wanted to continue coaching soccer. Fairlawn offered me both a position in the school and the head soccer coach position for which I remain extremely grateful. I have come to love the work and many of my co-workers.  The coaching has been interesting: perhaps my most disappointing year of coaching followed by the most rewarding year of coaching I have had in a long time.

I'm not going to dwell on the negatives here other than to say there were some: selfish players, helicopter parents - typical obstacles found anywhere and everywhere.

I want to focus on the positives. First the work aspects: Amber, Chris, Cory, Jodi, Jason ... truly outstanding educators. These folks go above and beyond in service to the young people entrusted to them. Each is willing to build teacher / pupil relationships that put students at ease and facilitate learning. I've learned so much from each of them.

The players.  I must admit that after the 2017 season I seriously considered hanging up the whistle and clipboard. That season had been so disastrous that the ability of the program to survive was in doubt.  The very real threat of the program folding is ultimately what kept me in the coaching game. I prayed on it and felt God had brought me to Fairlawn to navigate a terrible season and persevere through at least the next season to lay a foundation that could be built upon. We have succeeded in doing this. The program has grown from 4 players this time last year to an estimated 22 players for the 2019 season.

The credit is only partially mine. The majority of credit goes to the following players: Lucas and Leeann were our seniors and both did a remarkable job in stabilizing a floundering program. That will be their legacy to Fairlawn soccer. And quite a legacy it is. Grace, Seth, Katie and Payton were the underclassmen who stepped forward to provide leadership to the team. They were positive in the face of almost overwhelming adversity and understood our success was measured through continuous improvement in the process.  These six individuals demonstrated maturity, character, dedication and positivity well beyond their years. Their teammates followed their lead. They will each enjoy success in life because of these traits and collectively he four who return can lead the Fairlawn soccer program to the next level.

My wife is enjoying her new work as CFO of a non-profit and I have found new employment with Van Wert City Schools / the Western Buckeye Educational Services Center.  I will be coaching men's soccer at Van Wert and am looking forward to the challenge. When I took over the Lima Central Catholic girls program they had never had a winning season in its 11 years of existence. That was preperation for this next adventure as I'm not sure Van Wert has enjoyed a winning season in its 24(?) years of existence. I am really looking forward to the challenge.

I am going to remember the lessons learned from my time at Fairlawn. The successes and the failures alike. So very much learned that can be applied going forward. I am especially going to remember the people. Those mentioned previously and people like Miss Betty, Betsy, Shelly, Deb, Gail, Todd, JT, Yolanda, Erin, Thersa, Darren, Karen and so many more.

I have a stated goal of wanting to learn something new each and every day and they all helped fulfill this goal over the last two years. I am sure I have missed a few, my apologies. This is one of the hazards of trying to name so many.

Most importantly, I wish to thank Caleb Puckett, the young man I was primarily charged to work with at Fairlawn. Caleb has been a daily inspiration to me and in truth was the deciding factor in my returning to Fairlawn this year. He is Developmentally Disabled or so they tell me. What Caleb actually is, is unique. He processes information differently than you or I. He is most definitely not dumb, just slow in doing things conventionally. He is quite smart and has a strong desire to learn. The progress he made these two years has been amazing. Until he ran up against calculus and trigonometry he mastered every academic challenge presented to him. And in fact, he was doing okay in those subjects before the decision was made to focus on more practical math, or math Caleb will need to be able to perform routinely in daily life.  Such a rewarding experience for me. I thank God for having had this experience.

And now, I am moving on.  Moving on to the next adventure.


LEGACY by James Kerr

On the recommendation of a friend the book Legacy by James Kerr was among the books I bought myself for Christmas. I finally got around to reading it and discovered it was as “unputdownable” as Bloomberg reviewed it to be.   I think one reason I put off reading it was because I am a soccer coach and this is a book about the All Blacks rugby team. Only, it’s not about rugby at all.  It’s about culture and leadership. It’s about life.

A personal strength of mine lies in building soccer programs.  Not just a team, but the program.  And not a rebuild either.  I truly enjoy taking a program that maybe has not had on-the-field success and helping them find that elusive success. Another way to frame this is to say I have a knack for taking a program and team to the next level.  This invariably entails improving the programs / teams culture by infusing it with positivity and giving it my confidence. THIS is what Legacy is all about.

The book is not in a bullet pointed step by step format on how to do things the right way, but it is in a coherent format that touches on the basics, or the core, concepts, ideas and philosophies that lead to success.  The All Blacks are the vehicle used to relate the values that drive success. And, along this journey I discovered I’ve been doing a lot of things right in accordance with the book. There are also things, many things, I have learned through reading this book. These I will be sharing with the programs and teams I work with going forward.  Thank you Mr. James Kerr.  Much appreciated.


A brief look inside our Pace of Play Camps

Combining the Keys to Pace of Play, Sequence of Touches and the Four Elements of the Game of Soccer are essential to playing fast soccer. This is a THINKING man’s game.

Keys to Pace of Play
·        Be in your teammate’s vision early

·        Know your next play before your first touch

·        Be a back footed player
Do not close your hips to the passer
Keep your hips open to as much of the field as possible.
Heels to touch when playing in wide channels

·        Play the way you face

Sequence of Touches – Two touch play with the inside of the foot. Toes up heel down only
·        Right / Right
·        Right / Left
·        Left / Left
·        Left / Right

The Four Elements of the Game of Soccer

·        Penetration

·        Depth

·        Width

·        Mobility

There's more, of course.  We build activities around these ideas.

Remember these things.

If you don't go after what you want,

you will never get what you want.

If you don't ask,

the answer is always no.

If you don't step forward, 

you never advance and improve.

Champion Behavior

The culture precedes positive results.

Champions behave like champions

before they’re champions;

they have a winning standard of performance

before they are winners.

– Bill Walsh

If all your teammates ...

If all your teammates …

… Communicated as you do
… Sacrificed as you do
… Encouraged as you do
… Cared as you do
… Worked as you do
… Had the same attitude as you do
… Treated others as you do,

Would your team be better or worse?