Friday, December 30, 2011

LTPD in Hockey

Holy Cow!  It was so exciting to see the Dec 2011 OMHA magazine "Hometown Hockey" print a story on LTPD .  The digital version of the magazine is not up yet.

If there is any group out there opposed to this, it's the "traditional" hockey people.  They would be shocked to know hockey was one of the first sports on board.

Hockey Canada has a link to their LTPD structure but the OMHA does not.

A previous post on this site "An article I wrote defending LTAD/LTPD " (Dec 10, 2011) addressed this issue.

The funny thing about LTPD is we had to give it a name to sell it.  Other countries call it "the way we've always trained our athletes and win medals and continue to beat Canada at everything" program.

Thursday Clinic 8 of 8

I had to miss the last session of our Thursday clinics for a funeral visitation.  I did not know him personally but he was the grandfather of somebody very close to us.   I discovered the deceased was a football man and die-hard Celtic supporter, so might have forgiven me for going to the clinic.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Assistant Coaches

To be an effective coach I require a suitable assistant who fits my requirements and be able to offer an worthwhile experience to them in return.

I am amazed at how people underestimate the importance of a good assistant coach.

There is nothing I've cherished more over the years than a good assistant coach.  I've been blessed over the years because I've been picky.

I've always hand selected them and never just asked for a volunteer.  At the same time, I've never walked into a situation where an assistant was selected for me.

All of my assistants over the years have brought something of value to the team.  One year I went half a season without an assistant until I found one suitable for the situation.

My current assistant, Paul, has been great.  He has a very decent understanding of the game.  He has good vision and he respects the boys' efforts.  When you are watching the game, the clock and the bench you tend to miss things.  Paul notices and makes suggestions.  Paul has taken good care of himself and that lends to credibility with the boys when it's time to demonstrate a new task.  He's a police officer and a good family man, so he also serves as a solid role model for the boys.

I have several criteria when I am searching for an assistant:
  • Honest enough to not just say "yes" to everything I suggest
  • Something to offer the team/players
  • Knowledge for me to learn to from
  • Willing to learn
  • The team must have something to offer the assistant (soccer knowledge/experience/enjoyment)
  • Compatible with me (humour/attitude/philosophy)
  • Committed
I've seen coaches call early season parent meetings and ask "Who wants to be an assistant coach?" I watch in disbelief when it happens and hope everything works out.

Over the years I've seen some disgruntled assistants undermine coaches' efforts and watched teams implode as a result, but that has been the exception and not the rule.  Fortunately, I've never had that problem.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Schedule Released for Winter Training

I put our schedule together for January tryouts/training and I am excited to get back.

We always take November and December off.  It's a good break for the kids and the coaches.  Some continue training elsewhere and play in leagues.

Our intention is to give everybody all the information they need before tryouts resume.  Timelines, expectations, commitment and possible budget are some things the parents will have in their hands before we reconvene.  The more they know, the less surprises afterwards.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great article on "Free Play"

I read a great article by Rick Fenoglio, Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science, Manchester Metropolitian University, Cheshire.

He is the co-founder of an organization called Give Us Back Our Game. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good luck Simon

It's always good to hear news about former players.

Simon Gatti has made us all proud.  Montreal has invited him to their MLS camp in Mexico in January.

My friend Rino and I coached Simon when he was U9, U10 and U11.  We called him "The King".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Did I have the right attitude?

We had preliminary tryouts in October and will continue in January.  This week a parent of a prospective player told me they had an offer for a spot on another team and asked what they should  do.

I told him I would not say but did remind him who the son was up against and basically told him to take the job or take his chances.  If he had a 0.00% chance of making one of our two teams I would have told him so.

I've had parents present that situation to me in the past.  I never say they are going to make our team, but I have told some parents it might be wise to take the other spot.  That's the extent of my possible answers.  If they are stuck in the middle I remind them that I am not going to make a decision for them.

It's a problem when every team is running tryouts over different time frames.  I could easily say this type of parental dilemma is not my problem, but that's not a statement I am comfortable with.  But I have to protect our process and be fair to the group in tryouts.

I hope parents have a "plan b" in their pocket when they are attending multiple tryouts.

This goes hand-in-hand with my lack of comfort in recruiting when it comes to youth soccer.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book: A Beautiful Game

For my birthday, my sister Maria gave me a book called A Beautiful Game: The World's Greatest Players and How Soccer Changed Their Lives .

The book is full of fantastic photos and great stories.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much we gave this to our boys team as their year end gift this past fall.  I think some of the dads liked it more than the boys.

Thursday Clinic 7 of 8

Last night we delivered session 7 of 8 of our clinic.  I have to say it was the most productive and successful session we've had so far.

The main theme was to look for the penetrating pass. 
  • We started with a basic keep-away warm-up.  You can never play too much keep-away. 
  • We followed it with a flowing 2-touch passing drill that demanded quicker passes, good first touch and lots of movement to be successful. 
  • That was followed by a 4v2 game that required quick-early-accurate passes to score. 
  • We then played a larger 10v10 version of the game where the field is broken into 4 zones, field width.  The players are organized 5 per zone with the opposition between you and your teammates.  So 5 yellow/5 red/5 yellow/5 red.  You score by moving the ball into the other zone where your teammates are. 
We ended with a 5v5+GK game (with offside) with the focus being on the pentrating pass.  If a forward pass is not available then turn and keep possession using support.

The question of the night was "Can I go forward?"  Yes?  Go (Dribble/Pass/Shoot)  No?  Turn and use support.

Coaching points were:
  • First look/touch forward
  • Putting the ball between and behind defenders
  • Quick-early-accurate passes
  • Support players ahead of the ball looking to get between and behind defenders
  • Support players behind the ball have enough room to make a forward first touch
During the 10v10 version (4 zones) of the game a player on the opposing team could come into your zone to pressure the ball.  This is where we saw the players were getting the idea of working to keep possession if they had no forward play.

Next week we wrap up. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Philosophy for summer 2012

Re: 1999 boys team.

We started the process of developing a philosophy for our program for 2012.  This will involve Paul my assistant and the coaches from our second team.  I look forward to publishing it when it's finalized.

I think it's important to lay the season plan down before tryouts and give parents as much information as possible.  The more they know in advance the less they can complain about afterwards.

Making Ethical Decisions course

I completed the course Making Ethical Decisions on Monday night.  It was delivered through the NCCP.  Monday's course was online and that was a different experience in itself.  There were 10 coaches as students from different sports.  We had soccer, hockey, volleyball, snowboarding, gymnastics, fencing and 2 teachers who coach various sports.

I think it's great that teachers want to improve as coaches over and above simply supervising the activity.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I find recruiting disheartening.

A very nice man who coaches at our club has lost a bunch of his players to a “higher level” team in the next town.  It’s a shame because this coach is a quality individual who runs an organized program.  Our players need role models and he is a good one.  He found new players to take their spots and is moving forward but it’s still discouraging that the girls left en masse.  They did not leave for a dislike of their coach, they just think they’re moving up.

If there is one thing I am looking forward to with the implementation of LTPD, it’s the possible/inevitable decrease in recruiting at young ages.  Recruiting starts at U8 and gets worse from there.

Decent players are being lured away from good coaches by recruiters who are promising their team will “clean up” with trophies.  There are stories in Niagara of teams paying for a player’s registration and in Toronto of gas money being paid.  CRAZY.

I don’t recruit and I don’t stop people from recruiting my players.  Hey, if you think the grass is greener somewhere else, here’s your card.  If you come back the following year, no hard feelings, but you will have to try out.  Either way, I enjoyed coaching you and I wish you all the best. 

The player's happiness is paramount so if I know a player is unhappy, I would help their parents find a situation to satisfy the player's needs.  But that's a different topic.

"Recruiting starts at U8 and gets worse from there."

My goal is to have the program speak for itself.

Parents who are being lured need to ask themselves some questions:

1.     If the coach already has a team and promises you a spot, who is getting bumped?  Will you get bumped when that same coach finds a player better than your child?

2.     If your child plays for a recruiter, do you not wonder what that recruiter promised the new kid?  How does the treatment of the new player compare to the treatment of the players already on that team?

3.     If you left your team for greener grass and you are not happy, how do you explain to the next prospective coach that you are looking for your third team in three years?

4.     Are you prepared for your original coach/club to not take your child back?  Maybe the spot was filled by another player who is too nice or too good to bump.

5.     If you were unhappy with your last coach, how do the parents of your new team know you will not be unhappy on their team?

6.     Have you ever watched your prospective coach during a game or run a practice? 

In 23 years I’ve lost one player to active recruiting.  And that was OK.  I’ve only engaged in recruiting a player once, who was a new player on our B team about 6 years back.  He was an out-of-town player, had an attendance issue with us and didn’t play much.  But if I had played him to appease/endear him it would have caused the rest of my team to implode.  He was treated like everybody else and ended up leaving the following year.  My first and hopefully last experience with that kind of recruiting.  I will say he was a great kid and I do regret not having a full season to work with him.

My middle son switched teams 5 years ago and played there for three years.  We were not recruited.  He asked for a change of scenery, he knew a lot of the boys on the team in St Catharines and played there.  It was a good experience with little pressure.

I don’t judge recruiters or parents looking for a better situation.  I think if more investigative type questions were asked by both sides, far less recruiting would happen, or at least far less uninformed recruiting.

I know people who are gifted coaches and great people and switching to them would be justifiable if the situation was right.  It's the recruiters who offer very little other than a team of recruited players that irk me. 

A last thought ... my friends who are gifted coaches and great people don't really need to recruit as the players migrate to them naturally.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An article I wrote defending LTAD/LTPD

I wrote this article in response to an article published in the Welland Tribune on October 27.

This is my submission in it's entirety.  The Tribune edited it to fit their space and kept the general meaning, but they did remove some parts.

Brian Lilley’s article of October 28 was a weak attempt to convey the general philosophy being adapted by many sport federations in Canada.

He is criticizing the patience being preached by the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) framework developed by Sport Canada.  This framework is a compilation of the best program points from around the world as well as extensive consultations, and it’s final version is being integrated into programs of other countries.  Lilley criticizes the need for higher training:game ratio.   This is the biggest difference between North American sports and the rest of the world.

LTAD in it’s generic form is broken down into seven stages addressing the elite and recreational streams for athletes.  Canadian Soccer, Hockey Canada, Baseball Canada and Canada Basketball have adopted this framework and tailored it to their respective sports.  In total, 56 national sport organizations have already adopted LTAD.

The environment presented at various LTAD stages fall in line with the physical/mental development stages of the athlete.  At every stage, coaches and organizers will know more about the athlete they are dealing with and what types of programs will benefit them the most.

Patience and methodology are being preached but also systematically implemented by the environments set up at each stage.  A refreshing byproduct of toning down the value of standings early on will be the inevitable decrease in the effect of any politics that happens at local club levels.  Less standings does not mean the elimination of competition.

Games will still be played.  Young players will still want to score goals, defend and make the nice plays. It’s the structure up to age 12 that is being targeted.

There are some basic problems that need to be addressed  for the younger age groups: poor environments for development, lack of mastery of fundamentals, lack of proper coaching information  and adult competitive values imposed on young athletes, to name a few.

Lilley and many others argue that things are OK the way they are in sports.  That’s an interesting attitude seeing that we are not consistently competitive in all but one sport.  The public outcry when we fail at Olympic games is deafening.  The lack of federal funding and proper programming gives journalists their collective topic of the day.  He plays the trite line of people who are afraid of change “when I was a kid ...”.  Well, when we were kids hockey players did not wear face masks, wet soccer balls weighted 10 pounds and 8-year-old basketball players shot at 10ft baskets.  It’s time to move forward.

His main argument is that there is too much interference in the new framework.  If you read it closely and think about what it’s saying, it’s actually reducing the interference and elements that impede development.

Ask your child’s coach if they wished for  one more training session per week to be able to address specific problems and improve on individual techniques.  Ask your organization if they feel they would retain more coaches if the environment was set up for more success for players and coaches alike.

Think of the environment up to age 12.  Lopsided house league drafts.  Shortening the bench.  Arguments with officials.  Players statistics.  Not enough training.  Poor coaching.  Inefficient use of facilities.  The big trophy.  Parental influence.  Driving 90 minutes to and from a game on a school night.  Recruiting by inferior coaches.  Smaller October/November/December children left behind at age 7.  All these factors impede true system-wide development of players and coaches.  Wonderful moments happen in sports every day , and would still happen with or without the craziness our younger athletes are exposed to.

If you were ever involved in travel sports, ask yourself this:  If a travel team for a certain age group was first picked at 12 years old (instead of 8 years old) after all the eligible players had received the same fundamental training by a qualified coach, would the same players still be selected?

If you want to read about development of young athletes and students, check out “The Talent Code” (Daniel Coyle) and “Outliers: The Story of Success” (Malcolm Gladwell).

For more information on LTAD, visit or the website for the national governing body for your favourite sport.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book: Whose Puck is it Anyway?

I just finished reading a book called "Whose Puck is it, Anyway?".  The book chronicles the season of a Novice AAA hockey team coached by Ed Arnold and assisted by Steve Larmer and Greg Millen.  Yes, two former NHL stars as assistants.  The coaching staff decided to take a hands off, no pressure approach to coaching. It was a very interesting read.

Coaching hockey in Canada is no easy task.  Everybody is an expert.

Making Ethical Decisions (Course)

I just signed up to take "Making Ethical Decisions" which is part of my requirements for delivering courses for Ontario Soccer.  It's Monday night and I am taking the online version.

I enjoy those types of courses so I am looking forward to it.

Thursday Night Clinic 6 of 8

Tonight was the 6th of 8 Thursday night sessions I run at the Welland Soccer Club.

We reviewed opening up with the ball and then we coached and rehearsed movements after passing the ball to support that is behind you.

The picture we painted was the player in possession facing his own net while being pressured from behind. After passing the ball back to a teammate, we reviewed possible subsequent moments of support to turn that into a 2v1 going forward again.

Some got it. Some didn't. But they all will before 8 weeks are done.  I wasn't overly happy with how tonight went but I know it will sink in.  With 30 kids at different levels on the same floor, some will not be in a position to demonstrate their learning right away.

More players are opening up more consistently.  That was encouraging.

I told Coach Rick that I wasn't leaving the field with a great feeling but he is very good with perspective.

Next week we are going to work on penetrating passes. Partly for more game intelligence and to stop always passing to a player's feet, but also to force them to properly strike a through ball. Points will be simple. Quick Early Accurate passes that get between and behind the defenders as soon as possible.

Some very frustrating things happen in Canada. The kids don't play often enough and when we do play the defensive pressure is not there to force the team in possession to be better. Passes don't have enough pace. First touch is weak. Decision making is not the best. Players are not forced to move to an oncoming ball.

I tell everybody this story. When we were in Italy in 2005, my boys played soccer on the street with the local boys all day for 3 weeks except for the 6 days we were traveling. By the time we left, they were in the habit using their bodies to establish their space before the ball arrived, moving the ball quicker (to avoid getting hacked), defending with a bit more intensity and generally playing smarter. When we came home they were flying for 3 weeks then it all went back to normal. The same thing happened when we took our 1994 boys team to Holland in 2009 for 12 days. Oh well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Great Course on OSA site

Ontario Soccer has a great online course that anybody can take for free. It's called Respect in Soccer and can be accessed here: . It takes about 2 hours. If you coach, it's a great refresher on where your head should be. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Read about LTPD

Have you been following the development of Long Term Player Development in Canada and Ontario?

Friday, December 2, 2011

My family's involvement

Other than me, my family is very involved in sports. All three of my sons play travel soccer at various levels (U13, U17, U18), ski and play hockey. Two of my nephews play travel soccer at U9 and U10. My brother and sister also played at competitive levels during their youth.

I have 2 other nephews who are involved in basketball, baseball, martial arts and hockey.

Thursday Clinic 5 of 8

On Thursday nights I deliver a clinic to boys and girls U12-14. There are up to 30 players in attendance and we run this on the indfoor field at the Welland Soccer Club. Most aspire to play travel soccer the following summer. The skill level spectrum of this group is very wide.

The way I have this organized is:
-Warm-up related to the session
-Introduce or rehearse a concept
-4v4 games
-Introduce another concept progressing from the first
-4v4 games
-7v7 full field to finish off

Last night we reviewed and stressed first touch away from pressure and opening-up when receiving. It's basic, but many do not do this as a matter of habit.

The gentlemen who work with me on this are great guys. I stress to them to let the kids play, only coach what they see and try to keep the coaching focused on the topic of the night. it's very tempting to coach everything, but that kills the session. Too much talking, too much info, not enough playing.

If it was my team specifically I would do more technical work but these players are all training with their respective teams already.

Young players rehearse and develop specific techniques but very few of them actually know how to "play". My goal for this 8 session clinic was to give them more ideas to try during games.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Start of my blog

Well, this is the start of my first blog. Somebody said once that if it wasn't written about, it never happened.

The last two seasons have been very busy with my being in teachers college and working that, in reflection, I am not 100% satisfied with what I've given my 1999 boys team. They are improving but they deserve nothing less than the best. I started this blog to keep an ongoing reflection with our 1999 boys program.  Other soccer activities will also be in the journal.

I took this team over in 2010 when they were entering U11. It wasn't something I planned to do but it's been very OK to date.

We are taking training slowly with our 1999 first and second teams and look forward to reconvening in January. I have some ideas for this group that I will expand on once we get started in January.

My assistant coach for this team is Coach Paul.  Paul is a Sargent with the Niagara Regional Police Service and a man the kids are lucky to know.

I've had some good coaches and good men work with me over 23 years.  I hope to expand a bit on all of them during this project.