Friday, March 16, 2012

Coaching Resources for LTPD

The Canadian Soccer Association and Ontario Soccer Association continue to produce quality resources for coaches as we all take this journey through Long Term Player Development together.

They have posted several brochures for coaches to help them plan and understand the development stage they are currently coaching.

Hopefully the soccer community continues to stay enthusiastic about LTPD and it's potential benefits.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coaching your own child. Smart? Crazy?

Somebody said something to me once that I will never forget: "Everybody watches two kids during a game; their own and the coach's"

How true.

I have always enjoyed coaching my children, but there are a lot of potential issues accompanying the role of parent-coach.

Is it fair to you?  Is it fair to your child?  There is a cold hard fact that nobody can escape ... the coach's child is NEVER good enough or TOO strong.  Not even the greatest parent coach ever, Walter Gretzky, could escape the pressures that eventually caused his son Wayne to move to Toronto at the tender age of 14.
"Everybody watches two kids during a game; their own and the coach's"
Coaching when your son is not on the team is much easier to handle than when he is on the team.  That's a gimme.  And the juggling act you do with playing time, tryouts, etc is an art form that few have mastered.

But there is a great joy in coaching your child.  With all three of my sons, at one point or another, I was able to work with them and their friends to make them all better players and hopefully enjoy the game.  I took 21 boys to Europe in 2009 (including my 2 oldest sons) , as well as organized many weekend tournaments over the years.  I tried to attend those events as a "coach" and not a father.

For my sons, hopefully they have had a moment or two or more where they know or heard their friends enjoyed playing when I coached.

For me, I get to see my sons interact with their friends and play and, hopefully, I was able to leave my "dad" hat at home for that short time.

There is a reality and that is people who enjoy coaching and have children playing may not have the time to coach unless it is their child's team.  For a few years I coached 2 teams (district and club) while all three of my boys played travel soccer.  I am still standing (and married) but it wasn't easy.  I still coach programs where my children are not involved over and above my son's club duties.

There are things you expose yourself to when you coach your child:
  • Your spouse having to hear grief in the cheering section.
  • The possibility that your child may not belong in the group.
  • Keep an even emotion when dealing with injuries or dirty play when your injured player may or may not be your child.
  • Setting a terrible example for the kids, and embarrassing your child in the process.
  • Discipline issues where your child is involved with other players.
  • Your child being the one not working hard at training.
  • Cutting your child's friends during tryouts.
In 24 years of coaching, only two players have ever quit my team after being signed.  One was my oldest son.  That was at U12.  He still played travel soccer (rec level) at U17.  For a few years I was coaching the first team in his age group and he was playing on the second.  When my youngest told me he was thinking of not playing I told him to ask his older brother how many times I tried to convince him to come back to which he quickly replied "zero".  They all know that I will continue coaching and there is no pressure on them to play if they don't want to.

Coaching my children has been a very positive experience for me.   The "you and your son" card has only been thrown at me a few times but I find ways to move on.  I coached before my boys started playing and will continue after they are done, but for the short time in my coaching career when they passed through the system I am glad I was on the bench for some of those years. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Team organization/structure

Organizing the team is a major priority for me every season.  I tell people I run teams as a benevolent dictatorship because I am not big on committees, straw polls, votes, etc.  But I do like everything taken care of so the business of coaching is made easier and the players can see their parents contributing and setting a good example.

The motto is "Player Centred, Coach Driven, Community Supported".  This is part of where the "parents" part of the community comes into play.

I am careful to not put parents in a position where they are involved in the inter-personal relations (politics) of a team.  See the section on parent-reps below, for example.

Coaching at the college level, everything but the coaching is taken care of by the Athletic department.  That is very nice. 
"the players can see their parents contributing and setting a good example."
The club teams I coach usually look like this:

Bench during games
1 Head Coach and 1 or 2 Assistant coaches.  If it's 2, one has to be a non-parent.
I don't like 4 people on a bench.   Too much potential to turn into a circus and too many instructions coming from the side.

Coaching staff plus extra help when needed.  This year we will be involving more parents for various reasons.

Some coaches enjoy having a manager.   I'm not big on it because I like to organize games and practices on a whim and make the announcement.  To organize games I have to contact peers in the sport and by the time I tell the manager who to contact and they make the call and call me back ... I might as well call myself.  Finances are handled by somebody else so there is little for a manager to do.
This is my sticking point that is sometimes seen as too picky.  NO CASH.  Two people handle the team finances with a chequing account that requires 2 signatures.  The bank account is opened at a bank that neither party deals with.  The two treasurers are not married to each other or to either coach.  Parental contributions and payments out are all made by cheque.  I have always been sensitive about the handling of team money, but more so after hearing that a friend of ours had her reputation attacked (about 10 years ago) on a hockey team for which she was the lone treasurer.  With 2 people signing and all cheques, there is very little room for untraceable transactions.

Why an account at a bank where neither treasurer deals?  Well, if somebody bounces a cheque to the team and the account goes overdraft, the funds could be automatically transferred from their personal affairs.  Or, reverse, if one of the treasurers has a personal account that goes overdraft the team account can be used to move money over by the bank.

Game Day Crew
We have a group of parents who set up our tent and bench etc etc.   It's a good vehicle for getting parents involved and it's a useful and appreciated function.

Social events
We appoint parents to organize social events (team dinner at a tournament, year end party, etc).

Somebody organizes snacks/refreshments for after each game.  This might be as simple as assigning a family for each game.

I usually bring the balls and cones but it's not a bad idea if you have somebody who is there every time.  My fear is balls arrive a bit flat or something left behind, etc.

Team Website
I have a very basic team website at that has a schedule only.  I don't want a site that's too fancy with pictures and player names because of the heightened awareness of privacy issues, children's safety, etc.  Some teams have them and that's great if they want that.  I prefer not too.

Family relationships between coaches and players
In 24 years of coaching, I have only had my own children on my team for 8 seasons.  It's easier to coach without them, but enjoyable coaching them.  Paradoxical I guess, but true.  I do not like coaching staffs where there are too many dads.  If I were to bring an official third coach to this team it would be a non-parent as coach Coach Paul and I both have sons playing.  We play against teams that have 4 dads on the bench and I don't envy them.  I also don't have any of the players as friends on FaceBook (or anybody under 19 years old for that matter).


If I do have a major hole in my structure it's conflict resolution.  I usually take the attitude that if something was terribly wrong, just come talk to me.  I've never had a confrontation but the door is always open.  For some organizations, they want a procedure followed.  Until our club has a formal procedure in place, I will keep it informal.

Hockey teams in Welland have what's called a "parent-rep" to handle conflicts if necessary.  I was a parent-rep for 5 seasons at different age groups.  During that time I had to handle 3 conflicts, all that could have been settled by calling the coach or meeting with them.  Hockey is formal.  During those meetings we had 2 parents reps, 4-man coaching staff and both parents.  An 8-person meeting for minor hockey?  I felt like I was at The Hague trying a war criminal.

Team organization and development is a never ending process and I like to think I am open to new ideas.  I made quite a few changes to my structures after serving as a parent-rep for one of my son's hockey coaches.  Coach Scott Doan let me do my thing while sharing his requirements with me, helping me reshape how my club teams function.