Monday, December 14, 2015

A Letter to New Sports Parents; Enjoy the Ride!

Sports Parents
Dear Parents,

You are about to embark on a journey through the world of sports with your children.  Whether it's at the grassroots or "rep" level, one way or another, it will be memorable.

If you go in expecting the worst, you will miss something very special.

You only get one chance to be a sports parent.  Don't blow it.  How you enjoy the experience directly impacts how your child will feel about sports.

Enjoy the sunny days with other parents while your children play their game.

If you live above 45'N Latitude, enjoy the chill at the ice rink at 6am.  If you don't realize it

Monday, December 7, 2015

Skiing, skateboarding and why kids don't need adults.

On New Year's Eve, December 31, 2014, I spent the night with my nephew, Antonio, on the slopes of Holiday Valley.  He enjoys skiing and decided to give Snowboarding a try that night.

I am blessed to say that I have three sons and five nephews.  I have watched them all try and play different sports and been on the slopes with all of them.   (The youngest is only 9 months as of today, so we will be patient with him.)  They all ski except my youngest son, who snowboards. They are all pretty good and enjoy being on the hills.

They have also spent time on skateboards.  Skateboarding and Skiing provide an interesting insight into the mind of young people.  And a sobering lesson for adult coaches.

All of the boys have confidence in their bodies through success in other activities.  To use current terms, they all have a high degree of physical literacy.

Between the seven of them, there were, maybe, two hours of formal, professional instruction for their snow sports.  There was zero formal instruction for their skateboards.

My three sons could all "drop in" on their skateboards and they were not out-of-place at a skate park.   They were making ramps, grinding rails, quarter-pipes, etc on our street.  When I went outside to offer my two cents, their reaction was not exactly Christian-like.

They ditch us on the slopes on the first chance they get.   The most popular places are the terrain parks because they know we won't go there and they are with their own kind, expressing themselves and free to fail. (I go to watch from a distance, and I am impressed every time)

WAIT!  How did they learn how to ski and skateboard without a coach?  How is that possible?  Between YouTube, Tony Hawk on xBox and Blink 182 on their iPods, they had their coaching.  A lot of band-aids and ice packs led to their comfort level.  At the skate park they showed each other how to perform tricks, and happy to share.  They imitated the pros as best they could and were not afraid to try again after failing (and falling).  They have no issues with subsequent attempts being tried while bleeding or bruised.

The same went for the ski slopes. Snowboarding was a rebellious break away from the culture of skiing through age, styles, attitudes and approach.  That culture has crept over to the young people skiing.

Ask kids why they like skateboarding and you can translate their answers to a few common thoughts ... fun, freedom and no adults.  That's not entirely true.  We pay for the decks, trucks, bearings and the "sick" wheels.

How did they learn without proper coaching?

We could flip that around and say they learn our team sports IN SPITE OF OUR INTERFERENCE.

Our children's imagination, courage and ability to learn should not be a surprise to us.  We were like that.  The only difference is our generation's parents allowed us to be like that.

If an athlete did take a deeper interest in something self-taught I would/could argue that they would need a coach to refine their technique to compete in a high-performance environment.

My suggestion to you is to take this mentality, embrace the built-in imagination and competence of our players and leave a part of training just for them and see what transpires.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Are you sure you want to "coach to win"?

coach to win
"I'm a winner"

I have interviewed, supervised and mentored a lot of coaches and this declaration has been made more than once.

Most coaches are not involved in truly competitive situations.  And most are involved in age groups where "winning" shouldn't be the mandate.  Chances are most coaches or parents reading this are not in competitive situations.

You need to ask yourself a big question ... do you REALLY want to coach to win?  Even if you wanted to, can you coach to win?

Winning is not a sin.  Wanting to win is not a sin.  But the environment must be conducive to this coaching philosophy.  I coach at the college level and the environment is that of coaching to win.  I

Monday, July 6, 2015

Is your team's depth chart fluid or did you get it 100% right on day 1?

Every coach has a pecking order of some kind.  It's usually unofficial at the amateur level, but every coach has one.  If you want to deny it, go ahead, but you know I'm right.

My son has played on hockey teams where the same five guys started EVERY game for seven months. Same power play unit, some penalty kill unit, every week, every game. That coach must have it gotten right on day one.  What a genius! (my son was a goalie, so I got to watch this phenomenon with an unbiased viewpoint)

As a soccer coach, if your starting 11 is not up for grabs every week and if there is no movement, you're not doing your job.  All of the years I've been coaching with my friend Rino, we always had conversations on how the top 11 players keeps changing over the course of a season.  It's your indication that your team's culture is alive and well.

Monday, June 29, 2015

When will your team be ready to teach the "offside trap"

Nothing stirs emotions in a soccer game more than the breach and subsequent call involving Law 11, offside.

Yesterday, my friend who was the Assistant Referee at our last match, was interrogating me as to why we were trying the offside trap in a game we were losing.  I pointed out to him that once we got it, the goals against

Friday, May 22, 2015

Your Goal This Summer ... Learn Law 11!

I like Law 11, also known as the "offside" rule.  It reminds you that people are actually watching the game.

You know the scenario.  It happens every time.

A pass is made.  The flag goes up.  The whistle blows.  Supporters of the offending team will collectively proclaim "Ah ref ... there's NO WAY that was offside".  If the flag doesn't go up, the defending team will be supported by claims of a missed offside or a blind referee (or both).

Let's start with some education:

First, your players.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ban the 4-4-2!

Just kidding, but I am happy that I caught your attention.

The 4-4-2 system of play.  Why so popular in all the wrong places?

I see it everywhere ... high school, house league, wee lads, senior men, etc.

The truth is very few coaches know how to coach it and very few players can handle it.

Don't believe me?  Next time you watch a game, see if you can detect 3 lines straight across the pitch. Four defenders, four midfielder and two strikers. Straight across, as if positioned by a surveying crew. Big wide gaps that a cargo ship can pass through, just waiting for opponents to drop balls in to and get behind your players.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New "rules" for North American soccer.

One of the first things people say about soccer when they move to North America is "why so many rules?"

Boards and committees usually institute rules in reaction to somebody trying something sneaky, so most rules tell you what you "cannot" do.   You can't do this and you can't do that.  Our kids are bombarded with what they can't do.

I am flexing my muscle and influence as an unknown, amateur, online author and changing the tune by implementing a new set of rules for North American soccer.

We can leave the "Rules and regulations" to the people who administer soccer.  I don't envy those people as their work always deals with negative issues.   I guess with the hundreds of thousands of players registered, there should be some structure or semblance of order.

My rules revolve around building our game's culture.

I submit these for immediate adoption by the CSA and USSF.  These are all things you can or must do.  No "cannot" or "shall not".

These focus mostly on U13 and below, but are universally applicable.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hey Coach, if you've never made a mistake, YOU'RE LYING!

You're born, you die, and in between you make a lot of mistakes.

I'm confident or arrogant enough to say that I think I'm a pretty good coach.  I can also start another journal with more content if I reflected on all the mistakes I've made.  Those mistakes have shaped me more than any successes. 

(I made a conscious decision to spare you of all the clichés that pertain to making mistakes.  You're welcome.)

The more you plan, the more you coach and the more "what-ifs" you rehearse in advance, your chance of erring decreases. But it still happens.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

No cell phones at church. Or soccer.

There is a little sign before you enter our church "Please turn your cell phone off".  Then you sit down and during the pre-mass announcements, they mention it again "We remind you to please turn your cell phones off".

As she read it, I was thinking "who has their cell phone in church?", but it's easy to forget and your child probably had their's in their pocket.

Then my thoughts went to coaches who have their cell phones in their hands during training.  And actively texting.  Or a coffee.  Or, way offside, a cigarette.

What message are you sending your players?  Are you too busy to be there? 

Can you actively and freely demonstrate, as good coaches do, holding a coffee or cell phone?  Will your phone fall out of your pocket? Will you be distracted everytime it vibrates?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

We need to go Deeper Than the Four Corner Model

We always talk about the Four Corner Model when we speak of player development.  To give more to our players and get more out of them, we need to go deeper.

This weekend at the 2015 Ontario Soccer Association’s Soccer Development Conference, the Four Corner Model came up many times.  It’s great , it gives you targets to move your program towards and reminds you of the fact that you are dealing with a developing human being, not just a soccer player.   

But is it enough?

What if everything the child is involved in uses the Four Corner Model properly, but they are all doing it independently? Are we maximizing what the child can experience and their development?  We need to tap into what's going on elsewhere in their life to help the soccer, and vice verse. 
For the purpose of this article, I will use the world “sport” but please take it to mean any activity where your child engages in some form of recreation, including but not limited to music, art. Outdoor exploration, etc.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why Centre-Backs in Soccer can be Called Upon to Save Society.

There are many personalities that exist out there who feel they can make a difference in our world.

It takes all kinds to make a society function, but very few can be looked upon as being able to solve society's problems.  Those who play Centre-Back (CB) on soccer teams are some of those select few.  You know who they are and you know what I'm talking about.  

This is about real centre backs, not wannabees who think they can do the job.  Sometimes a player who is struggling to fit into a line-up declares themselves a centre back.  Wrong.  It's not a position, it's a raison d'être, a passion, sometimes a sickness.  People can slip into the spot and tactically/technically carry out the duties, but that doesn't make them a centre back.   Sometimes they will morph into a true centre back, sometimes they won't.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The importance of a positive Grassroots experience

We can't lose if everybody wins.

During the Grassroots stages, up to U12, our children are growing at incredible and varying rates and on many fronts.  We have to be mindful of their development and environment at home, school, playground and socially.  Our children need a holistic approach and attitude from everybody who affects them.  Sometimes, people in sport think they are exempt from this, as if they are in a different realm. They're wrong.  Very wrong.

Something went off the rails at some point.  We demote and discard a kid because they couldn't make a travel team at 8 years old .  We accept the  " Oct-Nov-Dec" baby theory and believe it as a fact of life and move on.  Did anybody ever consider that the systems in place are what caused the late year baby hoopla?  When a child is no longer

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is very RIGHT with Canadian Soccer?

Numerous articles have been written over the past ten years about what's wrong or missing in Canadian soccer.  And I would agree with many of their points.

But what about what's right with Canadian Soccer? Is it that bad?  If it was, why are so many people playing and coaching?

I know we are not rippin' it up  (I wish we were) when it comes to International competition, but does that mean there is nothing worthwhile on a daily basis?

Some people need you to believe there is nothing right with Canadian soccer and they have the fix.  Some recruit-crazy youth coaches want you to believe that whatever is wrong with Canadian soccer is not wrong at their club and what they have that's right doesn't exist anywhere else.

For me, I have trouble seeing a lot of wrong in the big picture.  I've played a lot, worked with 1000s of players, met their wonderful parents,  mentored coaches and been mentored, succeeded, failed, laughed, smiled, cried, yelled, been

Monday, February 2, 2015

A great coaching skill - LISTENING

Did you hear that?  Or are you too busy being "in charge"?

A lot of people mistaken coaching as strictly passing on what you know to the player.  Through robotic session delivery and long-winded game speeches, coaching can easily become like radio, transmitting only, never receiving.

When coaching, the flow of information has to be bi-directional, regardless of the age, gender or level.

Players have something to say and if you're not listening, you're missing out on very important indicators when it comes to assessing your group.

Stopping to listen is not a sign of weakness, but failing to listen is.  Allowing information to flow back to you and processing it properly will deepen your understanding of what your doing and strengthen the level of trust with your players.  It will raise your level of understanding with respect to the age and level you are working with.  (By using the information available through LTPD resources, you can build off the information already compiled by others.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

The importance of choosing a good assistant coach

We've all seen the moment and it makes me gasp in horror.

A coach is hosting a parent meeting and openly asks the question "Who wants to be my assistant coach?".

For me, this is my most difficult decision, sometimes more difficult than picking the team.

You are the architect and the facilitator of your program.  It's done for the players, but it has your name on it.

Your assistant has to be somebody who is ready to help, ready to suggest, but never forget that you are the one who has to answer for the program.

I've been in games and watched opposing assistants make complete fools of their head coach and team. We had opposing assistants turn their focus on us trying "get us off our game".  Seriously?  My