Friday, September 7, 2012

U13 Boys - end of our season

It will be tough to not spend more time with a great bunch of boys.

Our season ended last night.  We didn't win many games but I still say being with this group was time well spent.  The parents were very supportive, all year long, and the boys attitude was positive.

I have to put some time between last night's game and rethinking the U13 season that's now over.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reflecting at the end of a season

Players win and coaches lose.  It's that simple.

When I heard former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou say that in an interview 20 years ago, it stuck like glue.

Your final assessment of how a season went does not always boil down to wins and losses, but you have to take an honest look at how you did in terms of being a coach.  You have to look at the failing moments and see where you could have done better.  Blaming the players is not an option.  That's what Alou's statement meant to me.

My stronger coaching mentors also had the same approach.

At the end of summer 2012, I will find myself at 2 extremes.  My U13 boys team will finish last and my U17 boys team may finish first.  Reflecting after both seasons have ended will be educational for me and, I hope, formative in my approaches in 2013.

Every year I ask myself the same sort of questions:
  • Do I enjoy coaching this team?
  • Am I the right coach for this group of players?
  • Did I present the information in a way they were able to learn from me?
  • Did they improve as individuals and as a team?
  • Did the players enjoy themselves?  Do they still want to play soccer next year?
  • Are they motivated to play with me as the head coach? 
  • How was attendance?
  • Do I still have something to teach them?
  • Is my voice becoming background noise?Are they still listening?
  • Can I conduct an honest and open tryout after spending an entire season with the same group of players?
  • Do the parents trust me to continue coaching their children?
My personal belief is that when you feel you are above self-analysis and honest reflection, you're finished.   To assume you are the right person for the job without evaluating yourself says that you are not willing to subject yourself to the same scrutiny as your players.

Reflecting does not mean you look for a reason to quit.  It tells you where you need to make adjustments to your delivery and to make sure your players are getting the very best you have to offer.  The end result might be that you remove yourself from that situation, but that's not the intention.

I will share my personal reflections for each team when the seasons end.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Niagara College - Video doesn't lie

After your game-time emotions and distractions subside, it's time to watch the video to see what REALLY happened during the game.

Last Thursday we had our first pre-season game at Seneca College.  We are still in tryouts and I had 8 players and a second GK on the bench.

During the game I saw a lot of things I liked and some things I didn't.  But I was also watching the clock, making sure everybody got a chance to audition and just managing the game.

A young man captured the game for us on video for me to watch afterwards.  It's always sobering to review the game a few hours later. Did we really give the ball away that many times?  Was that player really not as good as I thought he was?  Did that other player's energy during the game really hide that he was out of position as much as he was?  Was that other guys really second to the ball every time?

For younger players, video use is hit and miss.  I've done it a few times but I never really felt the urge to utilize it.  For the older players, where the game is faster and more is going on, it's a great tool.  For me, it's easier because I have other skills and tools to move that video to a DVD for easy and quick replay.

You do need to sort out a few things set before capturing a game on video:
  • What are you going to review with the video? 
  • Do you have a useful vantage point to shoot from for the sport you are reviewing?
  • Are you depending on other people to prepare the video for you to watch afterwards?
  • Are your players going to watch it? 
  • Who is going to see it?  Coaches?  Players?  For the same purpose?
From a player's viewpoint, video can be scary.  Sometimes the coach's direction is not sinking in or you don't believe them.  Seeing it on video might reveal you are not the player you though you were and you are seeing the shortcomings that people have been telling you about for a while.

It's also a positive tool where you can emphasize the good things players do and let them visualize doing it again and again.

Regardless of the use, as you move up the ranks and the game gets faster, video is that objective set of eyes watching that doesn't have a kid on the team or a vested interest in the result of the game.

Another byproduct of video for older guys is I see bad habits that remind me to address it with the younger players.

The college has made a camera available to me and we have the manpower to run it, so I plan to continue using it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

U17 - the importance of mental toughness

The most important part of the game for a player to manage is the 6" space between their ears.

Last night we had an implosion so severe I think the moon moved 10m closer to the Earth.

Our U17 boys had an interesting game.  By some crazy soccer we went down 3-0 by half-time.  Some joking and talking at half-time we agreed that it would be very cool when we come back to win 4-3.  What else could we do?  We had to let them vent for a few minutes and collect themselves.  The boys knew they were off their games and it was either going to get worse or better.  Simple.

This was a rare 7pm game and arrivals to the field were close to game time.  We used the first 15 minutes of the game as our warm-up :)

Our positioning was OK, we were just a half-second late to every ball.

Anyway, we started the second half with a goal that was called back 5 minutes in.  The boys started bickering a bit and the other team was being chirpy, getting under the skin of our boys.  We then scored 2 goals in 15 minutes and it looked like we were going to have an interesting finish.

A few questionable calls later and some well timed comments from their opponents sent our boys over the edge.  Our boys were so pre-occupied with the officials and the other team that they forgot to finish the job at hand.  Poor decisions on the ball, sloppy/lazy defending, desperation runs, excellent/excessive cheering from the other team's families and smart play by our opponents led to our downfall. 

We ended up losing 3-2.  The good news is that when the game was over our guys had the look on their faces that they knew what had happened ... they were hooked, played with, then reeled in.

I feel that no lesson would have been learned had they come back and won.  These boys will be fixing my brakes, filling my cavities and handling my finances some day.  They need lessons with respect to staying focused.

Staying focused not only keeps you on task and playing your game ... if you're opponent is trying to distract you, you might actually knock them off their game in frustration.

There are several key factors involved in helping you overcome distractions: 
  • mastery of fundamentals of your sport
  • deep knowledge of your job on the field
  • experience
  • confidence in yourself and trust in your teammates
  • high fitness level
  • using training to rehearse and learn from mistakes of previous games
  • controlled breathing
We need to build an appreciation for the focused athlete and stop glamourizing the outbursts and tantrums that we see on "Top 10" lists on sports newscast.

This is something that will have to be addressed next session as we have 2 games left and a first place finish still possible.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Niagara College Tryouts - Still going

Being a parent and former player directly affects how I run tryouts.

Our college tryouts have ballooned to an outrageous number.  I would have never guessed that 56 players would have come out for a shot.

As a former player, I remember what it was like going to Mohawk College by myself in August to tryout for Varsity Soccer, and how well I was treated.

As a parent, I always watched with interest with respect to how coaches carried out their tryouts by their own methods.  I also watched my sons' reactions after being selected or released.  I didn't always agree with how tryouts were conducted but I did respect the fact that the coach did what they felt was fair.

Right now, as I deal with young men coming to me from out of town, my own son is trying out for Varsity Lacrosse at the University of Guelph.  I am very interested to hear about his experiences over the week and see what I can integrate into my own methods.

Sometimes I hear parents complain about tryouts, fairness, timing, etc, ... and all I can think is "you have NO clue".  Every coach I know works to make sure tryouts are fair and respectful.  It may not appear that way and everybody has a different idea of fair, but the thought and will is there.

Right now we are at 30 players left of 56.  By next Tuesday I expect to be down to 22.  Some boys are dealing with the realization that they are not as good, fast and/or strong as they thought they were in high school.  Others are coming to tryouts while trying to settle into a new town and not knowing anybody.  This program is their first impression of Niagara College and I have to make sure it's professional and hospitable.

My goal for the players who do not get selected is that they have a better realization of what's required to play at this level and they learned something they can take back to their regular program.  I want those players to keep playing and hopefully want to coach one day.  To support LTPD, I have to present a situation that makes them want to be Active for Life.

This Thursday, we have a pre-season game at Seneca College then an Intra-squad game next Tuesday.  The team should be complete after Tuesday.