Thursday, January 24, 2013

The name of the game is people

How can you coach if you don't get along with people?  While I am on the topic, how can you do anything if you don't get along with people?

I shared a car ride with a teacher friend and the topic came up of why somebody would teach when they don't like kids.

I tell people my mentors taught me how to coach, but my father taught me how to be a coach.  He's a get-along guy and whatever people skills I have, I got from him.

So many jobs and activities involve getting along with so many people, how could/do you survive if you lack those skills?  And if you don't like people, why do spend your time performing functions that have you interacting.

As a coach, there is an endless line of people in your world:
  • your players!
  • parents
  • assistants
  • officials
  • opponents
  • sponsors
  • suppliers
  • club executive
  • media
My good friend Rino and I coached together for a long time and we had a list of coaches we didn't enjoy coaching against.   Why?  It wasn't about competition.  It was because they were cold, towards us and our players.

In youth sports, one of the most important things that we can teach our players is how to get along with people.   At the rep level, your players see you have your opening conversation with officials and chatting up the other players while you check their books.  Before and after the game your players see you make small talk with parents.  After the game you are interacting with the coach and players of the next team coming on the field, of coming off the game before you.  When the game is over your players see how you greet and congratulate your opponents.  Somewhere in the mix of all the get-along time, you find time to coach.

There are days when you are not in the mood to be cordial and hospitable.  When the kids are around you get in the mood.

As you move up the ladder and age groups, your game face and intensity levels might adjust to the environment, but your ability to interact is still important.  Canada's Men's National Team coach doesn't have to give Mr Freezies to the coach of Mexico after their game, but he does have to interact with airport, hotel, stadium and game staff as well as media, agents, club coaches, etc.

Getting along with people is not only the proper example and tone to set for your players, it's also smart coaching (good for business as we say).   More doors open up for your team if your group is known as co-operative and hospitable.  Setting up friendlies, invitations to events, player retention, etc, are all improved when you have a good rapport with the world.

If your people skills are fake and used to manipulate, then it's only a matter of time before you are discovered and forced to move on.  Rats are easy to smell.

It's not about an alterior motive, sportsmanship or some cliché about love.  It's simply about getting along and making your coaching experience more successful and pleasant.

If you do need an alterior motive, here it is: it WILL make you a better coach.  It will make you better at ANYTHING you do; teacher, parent, entrepreneur, auto mechanic, etc.

It never ends ... people are EVERYWHERE!   Smile.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Soccer: U11/12 Learn to Train, second session

With the week-one kinks well behind us, week two was a good session to build from.

On Tuesday night our U11/U12 player program continued at the Welland Soccer Club at the Youngs Sportsplex.  Or, as we like to say The Youngs Sportsplex, HOME OF THE WELLAND SOCCER CLUB.  :)

Tuesday's session was again delivered using the LTPD guideline for the Learn to Train stage.  Warmup/SSG/Technical/SSG/Cool Down.

We started our warmup by establishing 4 squares again, one small ball drill in each and the players move through each square, 1 minute each.  After the first 4 minutes, we stopped for 60 seconds to give them quick reminders for each square then started again.   The warm-up was much more productive tonight now that they know the sequence.  The 4 drills in the square were:
  • One-touch passing with a partner
  • Toss - thigh - volley with a partner
  • Toss - volley with a partner
  • Toss ball in the air and bring down with thigh to feet into a short dribble
We then went to small sided games, 5v5, reminding the players what we did last week.  Look-touch-look-play.  Some showed signs of carrying last week's progress into this week.

Our technical was working on turns.  We organizing the players into 10 groups of 3 and executing 3 turns with a lot of repetitions.  Bottom of the foot, inside chop and outside chop.

Before getting back into our small sided games we gave the players ideas where turns can be used during games.  We talked about how using our eyes gives us the information we need to decide if we need to turn:
  • Are we running out of room?
  • Are we being closed down by an opponent?
  • Am I heading for the touch or goal line?
It was nice to see a lot of the players trying more turns after the technical portion of the session.  As a coach, seeing a player using one of their turns tells me they are aware and thinking during the game and trying to express themselves through their ideas.

Our cool down was every player with their own ball juggling.  Simple.

Next week, I am going to introduce 2 more turns during the warm-up.  I will discuss our session with coaches Colum and Nilan before deciding on the technical portion.

I was happy with the session tonight.  I was able to get there earlier than usual and calmly set up before the stampede of people arrived at 5:45-6pm.  A lot of people have questions and information as it gets closer to start time.  Once the clock strikes 5:45 it's a mob scene in that building.  Awesome.

We put pinnies on the players right away to get into the games a little quicker and started at 6:00pm sharp.  A few players were late but the assistants did a great job getting them into colours and groups.

There were a few too many balls laying around but they never got in the way.  It just looked messy.  We also had more balls than usual stroll into the neighbour's field and  I will have to think about that over the next week.

The facility was full again and that creates a real buzz in the building.  Lots of soccer.

I look forward to this program progressing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Soccer: U4 Active Start session - letter given to parents

We had our second Active Start session on Saturday morning.  Parents came ready to work this morning.  And they brought their children with them.

I thought it would be tough to sell patience to the parents ... I was wrong.  For the most part.

The layout of the session, according to LTPD, works.  Every week I will add new things and continue to push the boundaries, but keep it age appropriate.

There was one thing that I realized Saturday.  For the second time over two programs I had a parent tell me we should be having full games , etc.  I must have answered them with confidence because the conversation was short and their child was still participating in what we were doing.  I shared some info with the parents and I hope they take the time to find out more about what we are doing.  I

Their early support may be based in the fact that they trust me and my experience.  It's new territory for some of them, especially those who were involved in sports before.  I want their ongoing support to be base on knowledge and information that they gathered on their own.

January 19, 2013

Attention: Parents of U4 players

My name is Frank DeChellis and I am facilitating the Welland Soccer Club’s U4 program this term.   I am a member of the club’s Technical Staff and a Learning Facilitator with the Ontario Soccer Association.  Over the years, I’ve worked with players of all ages and levels, but the U4 players put a smile on my face that lasts until dinner. 

This program will be conducted using the Canadian Soccer Association’s Long Term Development Program (LTPD) as a guideline.  This group is at the “Active Start” stage.

For more information on LTPD and Active Start, please go to .  You can also visit to see Canada Sport for Life’s resources on Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD).

While your web browser is open, take a few minutes to research “physical literacy”.  Concern about Physical Literacy grows every year as children play outside less.  Don’t assume all children are able to run, jump, kick, tumble, catch, throw and climb. 

Our program is about having as many children do as many of the activities as possible, with an adult as their partner.  The adult partner is the key to success.  As the children age we increase their time with other players, but U4 is about their development and quality time with their favourite person in the world, you.

Every session we will address physical literacy, soccer movements, soccer techniques and small games.  Intermixed with our exercises will be a lot of “high fives”, positive comments and drink breaks.

My invitation to you: watch how the sessions are delivered and consider becoming an Active Start coach.   Experience in sports is an asset, but not necessary.  And there is a short “Active Start” course by the Ontario Soccer Association to arm you with the information and resources needed.

If you feel that becoming an Active Start coach is a good fit for you, let’s chat.  I can see you thinking about it already. 

Please, feel free to ask me questions regarding this program or soccer for your child.  Administrative questions should be directed to the desk in the lobby.

Yours Truly,

Frank DeChellis

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

U14 House League indoor soccer

For the first time in a LONG time, I am coaching house league indoor soccer.

I avoid coaching indoor soccer and my son is very OK with that.  In his words "Dad, you're the kind of guy who is a good coach for teams that practice and have games and that kind of stuff.  Indoor is not for you".

The real reason I avoid it is that I have been involved with our club for a long time.  The last two times I had house league teams (always random) we did very well, so the conspiracy theories begin.  So I park my rear-end on the parents' side and enjoy myself.

It's a once/week co-ed affair with games only.  The kids really enjoy it and I love that my sons enjoy playing it.   The club called last week to say one of the hired help will coach this team and my son then told me that now it's OK for me to coach.  He's very nice to me that way :)

We had our second game tonight.  It's 9v9 on half field, with 6'x18' goals.  Our last facility had boards around the field, so it's a switch this year.

Our team has nice kids on it and they actually try to play with ideas.  With the removal of the boards the players have to be concerned with putting the ball out of play so they work harder to control it.  For me, it's even playing time, revolving positions and not intense.

For the players, it's competition with a score clock, so it's all out... but civilized.

The only time they hear my "coaching" voice it's to remind players to get back when we don't have the ball.  Other than that, I try to cheer as much as I can with the occasional funny guy moment.  They know how I am now and are not afraid to ask if they can try certain positions.  And they ask about all of them, not just striker/forward.  I admire that.

Officially, I don't coach as much as I facilitate their recreation ... but I will admit to having them playing 2-3 touch soccer and moving the ball around quickly.  It's not pretty, but their eyes are going up, the ball is moving and everybody is involved.  We are set up as 3-3-2 to make it simple and we've given 8 of the 15 players a chance to be our centre midfielder, so far.

You didn't really think I wasn't going to "coach", even if quietly.  ;)

The house league coaches job is to foster a life-long love for the game and keep the environment enjoyable.

This league is great.  It's pure fun for the kids and loose for 99% of the parents (you still get the occasional nut).  A lot of players get to play with their friends for the first time since U6 (separated by travel and house league during the summer) and it creates a lot of very good individual moments for every player there.  Coaches are casual with each other and the referee, and that sets the tone for everybody.

Travel leagues look to raise the level of each player and hopefully harvest some of Canada's future.  League like this Wednesday night U14 co-ed indoor league will foster a player's passion to keep playing well into adulthood and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

New group for U11/12 program

Tuesday night was session #1 of 10 with a new group in the U11-U12 age group.

The club's player programs started this week and I was assigned the Tuesday night U11/12 co-ed group.  The sessions are at the new Youngs Sportsplex and we are using 1/4 of the field.

That night, the joint was jumpin'!  We had our session on 1/4 field, another coach (from Niagara Falls SC)  was sharing his team's space with a GK session and the entire other 1/2 field was being used by another team training (Pelham SC).  It's nice to see the place busy and nice to see the other clubs coming in and renting the field.

Our group has 30-32 players and 2 assistant coaches.  The group is in the Learn to Train stage of LTPD.   Some of the girls are past Learn to Train, but I will treat them all as the same group.  It's a combination of travel and house-league level players.

Last night I took a diagnostic approach, wanting to have a look at what we are working with.  But I also wanted them to get something out of the session.

We started with a warm-up that involved 4 squares, each with a different ball warm-up.  We did one minute/square and did the circuit twice.  There was very little coaching the first time through then a few tips the second time through.

Our next exercise was a passing square, where players pass to the next corner and go to that same corner to receive the next ball through.  The exercise was done as 2 touch only and in both directions.  It's a very basic exercise, but it set the stage for what I wanted in our small-sided game.

We didn't over coach it.  For receiving: body position on angle and away from corner cones, first touch towards next target, 2 touch play.  Nice and simple.   For the ball to move around the outside of the cones it became clear to them that the passes had to be quick.

The field was then organized for 3 small sided games using pugg netts.  the teams were organized 5v5 and the condition of the game was 2-touch soccer and "one-time" panic kicks were heavily discouraged.

Every game had a coach present who gently reminded the players to play 2-touch and remind them when a one-time strike popped it's unwanted head.  For the most part players were getting the hang of playing 2-touch and the ball was making it's way to every player in the game.
After a short water break, another coach and I joined each game, one at a time.  We were promoting the idea of looking before and after the first touch, looking to make smarter plays in possession.  While we were playing with each team we were gently massaging the shape and encouraging players to support behind the ball.  By the time we got through each game all 6 teams were using their last player as support and moving to support them after the pass. 

After the session, we gathered them together for a few minutes to ask them to try a small ball control sequence at home before our next session.  My intention is to give them "home work" each week, something small and easy that keeps a ball on their foot.

What would I change next week?
  • Moving players into 4 games with smaller teams, for more involvement.
  • Easier exercises in the 4 squares.  One of them was a little too difficult for them.
Did they players learn/improve?
  • Their game play was better at the end than it was at the beginning.
  • Some of the players who struggled during the technical drill slowly improved during the game.
Did they play enough?
  • LTPD suggests 50% of the session for this stage be small-sided-games and it was.
  • Our involvement in each game as we went around showed us each player was playing and not hiding, which was nice to see.
  • LTPD suggests training be 45-70 minutes in length. We went 80 minutes on a 90 minute field allotment. 
  • I broke the order of warm-up/game/technical/game because I saw that all players were not there and didn't want to keep re-arranging teams the first night.  A lot of players arrived late.
How was I feeling?
  • Admittedly, I was tired after a long, busy day, but the players were ready to play and I knew some of them from previous encounters, so we got along quite well and it was enjoyable for me.  
  • The facility was busy and loud with balls flying everywhere.  It was annoying more than it was distracting, but I was happy to see the place so alive with soccer.
  • My voice was raspy, getting over a cold,  but coaches Colum and Nilan are not shy and kept their groups moving without my needing to speak too much.
  • I was a little frustrated before the session started, not knowing where we were setting up but that disappeared once the setup is complete and the players start to arrive.  This problem has been fixed for next time.
How was the help?
  • Coach Nilan and Coach Colum coach travel soccer at our club and were both actively involved with the players.
  • A player from my college squad was also there and decided to join us and was very helpful.  He's worked camps for his home club of Milton Soccer Club, so I knew he was experienced.
  • There was confusion as to where we were situated in our busy complex so time was tight and I didn't fully brief them on the plan, although I gave them a hardcopy.  They caught on very quickly.
Did I accomplish everything on my plan?
  • No.  We had some organizational kinks to work out with the size of group and I took it a bit slower once I read their overall level.  But we did play quite a bit and we improvised a bit during the game, with the coaches jumping in to give advice.
  • The plan was a guide and not carved in stone.  When you have 30-32 players you work the session to stay productive.
Now that they know the general format of the warm-up, we're able to get productive sooner next week.