Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do your players trust you?

There is a side to trust that I don't understand.  If players do not trust a coach, why do they stay?

What I am referring to is not a level of trust where you are revered like a cult leader.  That is not healthy.  I am referring to a healthy working relationship.

I can honestly say that parents/players have trusted me for the most part over all these years and they've stuck around.  And they made the right decision.   I've had a few that didn't trust me and left.  And they made the right decision too.
Should a parent expect their child to have a coach they can trust?  YES!  Learning something new requires players to step out of their comfort zone for a short while.  If they do not feel the environment will allow them to safely expose themselves while learning, they will never develop.  By "safely exposing" I mean putting themselves in a position where they might make a mistake and receive constructive encouragement and feedback to achieve success.  An environment that eliminates the fear of failure is what you want.

A player who trusts you will work harder and extend themselves into areas unknown with less apprehension.  If you have a team of players who trust you and they all work harder and support each other ... guess what?

What are your motives when you coach?  Do the players believe what you say and believe IN what you say?

There is another aspect to being a trusted coach.  Are your assistants comfortable supporting your philosophies at training and games?  Is your club comfortable referring prospective players to you or defending you?  Are your parents comfortable referring you to other parents?

What if somebody shows doubt?  Is that a lack of trust?  I say NO.  People will have doubts, but every time you prove the doubt wrong you raise the level of trust.

Put the soccer, sports and coaching aside for a second.  Think of what it does to a child's impression of the world every time they meet an adult they can't trust.  If you coach at school and are trusted, think of what it does for a student's receptiveness in class if they discover that their teachers are trustworthy. 

For me, I need players and parents to trust me.  I've converted struggling players to positions where they excelled well into adulthood.  I've made some mistakes, but not enough to lose trust and confidence in myself when trying to help players succeed.  I've had 2 teams in 24 seasons where the group, as a whole, did not trust me and I removed myself at the end of the season.  There was no friction or broken relationships, but there was not a sufficient level of trust either.

My goal is simple: I want every player to have success in soccer when they play outside of my program (school soccer, high school, winter league, college/university, adult, another club or as a guest player).  I need players to believe that is my motive when I try things to make them more successful as an individual.

Why is trust important?
  • For your program to supported by club/community
  • For your program to be supported by parents
  • To keep players interested in coming
  • To lower as many of the players' learning barriers as possible
  • To make coaching more enjoyable
What builds trust?
  • Share your philosophy 
  • Staying true to your philosophy
  • Communicate and answer questions promptly
  • Be empathetic
  • Be organized
  • Make sure everything you do is for the players' benefit
  • Be sincere in your willingness to adjust for the betterment of the players
  • Be prompt in supplying information to stakeholders  (players/club/league/parents)
Every coach needs to ask themselves "Do the players trust me?" If not, why not?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

U10 Boys - Coach John at it again

Our second team coach, Coach John, is also coaching the U10 boys.  It's enjoyable watching/hearing him think his way through doing this a second time.  We talk about his new adventure all the time and I like how he is approaching the season.  Get as many players as many minutes as possible ensuring they are all moving in the same direction.

John is an elementary school teacher and has a good handle on young athletes.  He is a well known goalkeeper and has played local club and University level soccer.  It's a small world because John played with my brother in their youth club days.

John has been with the 1999 boys since we started their program at U9 (his fifth year).

The 2002 boys team experienced a coaching change this season with Coach John going from the parent side to the bench.  Last year's coach took his boys to another club in another city.

Hopefully the 2002 parents understand that John has been through this process already and they trust him to do what he feels will make them all better players. 

It's difficult having Coach John as the 1999 second team coach.  The boys really like him and some are A-OK with being on the second team, even if we select them for the first team.  That is a tongue-in-cheek comment as it only cements his reputation as a good guy and good coach.  Some parents left last year because they felt he wasn't coaching with enough venom, going for the "big win".  I hope they found what they were looking for.  Be careful what you wish for ... because you might get it.

I hope John has a fun season with his new team.  It's a great age-group to coach and I look forward to watching their progress.

As a side note, Coach John and his sons have EXCELLENT soccer hair.  You can't coach that.

U13 - Week off after tryouts

After running tryouts for 5 weeks we decided to give the boys a week off.  The season starts the last week of May, tryouts are over, a lot of boys have hockey playoffs and basketball tournaments so we thought a break would not hurt anybody.

To be honest, I am always emotionally drained after the tryout process and the break isn't hurting me either.

Our first and second team will train together when possible and we will use those sessions to work on individual skills.  I think our first few sessions will be just our team so they can get a feel for the group.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

U17 - bringing out creativity

Today I had a chance to work with the U17 boys group again.  Technically speaking, as a group they are not that refined but they are good young men who are very athletic and enjoy playing with each other.  They had some very entertaining matches last summer.  The boys come from varied levels of play at different clubs and formed the core of this team around 2009.

The coaches with this group, Ben, Loris and Venanzio have done a good job making good soccer available to these players.  I coached Loris somewhere around 1992/1993 when he was U17/U18.

At this point, with these boys, you want to keep them interested in the game and help them to learn how to incorporate creativity and athleticism into their play.  A lot of boys are over-coached for too long and tend to be robotic and predictable when they play.  Because boys don't play soccer on the streets in Canada, we have the double duty of working on fundamentals and developing creativity while they are with us.

Today we did a lot of one-touch work with movement.  To keep the ball moving and compensate for the occasional errant pass, players needs to be willing to be flexible in how they played the ball.  Your desire is to be able to open up and make a nice simple pass with the inside of your foot.  We all know that in a game there are so many variables and situations that you gain more helping players discover all their tools rather than force them into one or two specific techniques.

To be creative on the fly you need, at the very least, the ability to play the ball with all parts of both feet (inside/outside/heel/laces/soul) and have very good footwork.  So younger players need to work on those skills and develop the mechanics for those movements.  Then, at some point, a player can catch defenders off guard by playing a penetrating pass with the outside of their foot or play a wall-pass in the air with their laces, etc.

When you are learning, it's very important to master the fundamentals and proper execution of each technique.  This gives the foundation for the players incorporating their athleticism and personal "flair" to solve problems on the field.

Give them problems to solve on their own and give them the freedom to solve the problems their way.  Make suggestions and use various teaching methods to draw answers from them, but you can't command creativity.

People watch professional sports and wonder "how do they do that so instinctively."  A few years back Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov put together a sweet sequence of passes ending in a beautiful goal for the Detroit Red Wings.  The sportscaster after the show asked how they think of those things on the fly and Yzerman replied "We rehearsed that play a 100x at practice".

I like the following three statements:


(I've seen this before but worded differently.  I got this version from

U13 - Two teams announced today

Saturday we announced our two teams for 2012.  There might be changes/additions along the way, but for the most part the teams are there.  We have 30 players between the two squads, including three goalkeepers.

The two teams play in the First and Fourth division.  I made contact with some of the players who I thought would have questions and did my best to answer them quickly.

We did have one boy who was selected for the first team but wanted to stay with the second team because of social bonds he's forged with that group.  The boys are only 13 years old so that's A-OK and he will be left alone.

I used to call everybody and have long conversations.  Then I tried to personally meet with each person but that doesn't work because there is no office space or desk at the field.  I tried letters but that was weak.  What I've done the last few years is post a list on our team site.  You have to understand and respect that parents love their children and don't want to see them hurt.  When you have face-to-face meetings, parents try to soften the blow and ask for things such as "will you call him up?".  Half the time the answer is no, but if you say that in front of the player, it's like they're getting released again.  There is no need to kick somebody twice.

I am always ready to answer questions once the team list is posted.  The "truth" seems to be the easiest way in dealing with players who did not get selected for their desired spots. 

In 23 years I've been attacked three times and lost one friend for not selecting a player.  Not surprisingly, all via email.  I don't attack back and answer the specific questions asked.  They can keep attacking but I will not give them the satisfaction of answering that bell.  I leave their emotional outbursts out of the conversation and stick to core of the discussion, the player.

By this point in my life, I've been through about 45 tryouts as a coach and at least 30 as a parent of three males athlete sons.   It doesn't get any easier.  What makes it more difficult is I have a philosophical problem with tryouts at the young ages (See Jan 28).  Of those 45 coached tryouts, 9 involved one of my sons which is tricky business.

I try to protect myself and the process by laying out dates and procedures in advance and I work hard to not deviate unless something unavoidable comes along (snow storm).

The day passed peacefully and another round of trials is in the history books.  I have no problem facing any of the players when the tryouts are done.