Thursday, October 23, 2014

When things go wrong, the responsibility falls on the coach

Coaching is easy when things are going well.  You wear your nice jacket, smile a lot and say pleasant things like "nice ball" and "well done".

But what happens when things aren't going well?

Let's start with my personal rule number 1a.  When things go wrong, the responsibility falls on the coach.  Hopefully my attempt to explain why is clear.  Read this quote from Luiz Felipe Scolari.

This is what I believe and it works for me.  Reflection has become a big part of my process and this mindset makes it work better.  You may disagree, but read it anyway :)

Personally, I believe everything falls on the coach when it's not 100% perfect ... a negative encounter with a parent/official/player, a session that wasn't overly productive, even poor attendance at training.  But for this article, I am talking about the game.

Our Niagara College men's soccer program had a good year and the program has been moving in the right direction for the last three years.   But our last game for the 2014 season was a bad day.

We traveled to Ottawa to play Algonquin College in the quarter finals of the OCAA playoffs.   We won't talk about the first goal against, or the seventh.  We had a bad day.  (added Oct 27 ... it is of little consolation to me that Algonquin beat Sheridan and Humber Colleges to win the provincial championship on Oct 25)

I've been on both ends of such games and it isn't easy either way.  You want to win and lose gracefully, always.  But "things going well" and "success" are not always associated with winning and losing as there are times you coach a team that doesn't have the horses to beat the opponent you're currently playing.  Regardless of who you're playing and what your chances are, there are still things that could/should be happening that sometimes aren't.

I appreciate coaching with Rino Berardi in situations like this. We've been together since 1989 and for the most part, he was my first (and still one of my best) coaching teacher.  I've moved on in terms

Friday, September 26, 2014

Coaching and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Always learning.

Some coaches think their only job and concern is the sport they coach.  They're wrong.  Soccer is the last component of the job.

Is you show up with balls and cones, deliver a session then forget about your group until the next session,  any success or enjoyment will be short lived.

I've always known that, but, for some reason, I am finding myself learning new things as our Niagara College Knights soccer season progresses.

Knowing your player has been a big message for coaches the last ten years.   We've been dealing with the usual items that would involve players at the college age.  Let's put ourselves in LTPD mode and review the "Soccer for Life" development stage and what we know about this age group in this situation:
  • Potential social issues being new to college life and heavy into a sport before school even begins
  • For some, away from home for first time
  • Living away from parents, not always eating or sleeping as they should
  • Potential relationship issues
  • Potential family issues back home causing distractions
  • Potential financial issues
  • Pressures of academics for those in tougher courses
  • Commitment to club teams that are still in progress
  • Unable to manage time with academics and athletics.  Not realizing their title is "Student-Athlete" and not "Athlete"
At this age it's very easy to become insecure, especially if you were a very central part of your youth team and arrive to a program where everybody was a big wheel on their club team. It doesn't take much to feel

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Does "how" you play the game really matter?

Joga Bonito - Play Beautifully.

Does "how" you play the game really matter? 

This topic comes up often in soccer .  First you speak of the result, then how the game was played.  Was it beautiful?  Technical?  Ugly?  Sloppy? What was the style of play?

Do people really care how a sport is played?  Well, let's go back to 1972 and how the Soviet brand of hockey captured everybody's imagination.  With more European hockey appearing before us, many fell in love with their style.  And it continues to ruffle the feathers of some hockey dinosaurs in Canada.

For some people, the score is the only thing that matters, regardless of the level.  Even at the youth levels.  For those people I offer this:

FIFA Ranking as of Sept 10

When we visited the academy of Club Brugge in 2009 there was a U15 game going on.  The Academy director said to me, of their opponent, "Nobody likes that team because the players don't have ideas when

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The problem with overcoaching during games.

So difficult to let go ....

Your goal is for your players to learn and enjoy this game, not to act out your instructions like puppets or FIFA 2014  game avatars.

During training, your session delivers your content.  You work together through drills and exercises
to apply the content and observe their basic abilities.  You organize functional sessions to allow them to apply their techniques with the presence of opposition, and observe.  Assess their learning so far.

Getting into small sided games at training allows you to observe them in a game situation where you start to

Friday, July 18, 2014

How a grassroots coach can help a young referee

As a grassroots coach, it is your duty to help young referees develop a passion for officiating.

Sadly, many referees do not last past the first few years on the job.  All it takes is one comment from one bozo to make it a bad experience.  This is in all sports.

All three of my sons officiated at one point or another.  It was not uncommon for them to show up, drop their stuff on the side, be ignored, get the game sheets and start the game.

Young people are not small adults, they're young people.  They don't all have the social graces to break the ice and jump into conversation.
"Ensure that a young referee leaves the park wanting to officiate another game. "
Put yourself in their shoes.  There are two teams, probably 4-6 coaches in tracksuits that don't fit properly and an army of lawn chairs on the other side of the field... and the referee is all alone.

How can you help them?
  • Educate your parents on the importance of encouraging young referees and to not berate them for a missed call in a U9 game.
  • As an adult, you have some coercive power over a young adult.  Don't abuse that power.
  • When the referee arrives, welcome them, introduce yourself and your assistants.  Shake their hand, focus on them for a few minutes.
  • The referee should review everything with you.  If they don't have the confidence to address you, why don't you call the other coach over and help get that started for them.
  • PAY THEM, don't make them ask. 
  • If you know them personally, do not address them by name but as "Referee".  
  • If they don't bring it up, ask the referee if they would like volunteers to put a flag up if the ball goes over the touch line.
  • Confirm game parameters with the referee.  Ask, don't dictate, they're the ref.  Length of half, substitution rules, retreat line, etc.
  • Give them friendly reminders worded in a way that doesn't attack them .  "Referee, if you don't mind, can you remember to blow your whistle a little louder and state the call clearly.  My kids don't always pay attention and it helps me see who is learning and who needs extra reminders.  I really appreciate it."  If you don't have the skills to reword sentences, maybe it's best you just smiled and leave the official alone :)     
  • Keep calm during games.  If you yell at the referee once, you've given permission to your team parents for all of your parents to do it. 
  • At half, ask if they need a drink.  They're kids and kids forget to pack things.
  • Remind the referee to stay on the field after the game so the kids can shake their hand.  Some will quickly retreat to their bag on the side.
  • Ensure ALL of your players shake the referee's hand after a match.
  • If you have treats after your games, offer one to the referee. 
  • Before they leave, smile and politely ask if they have their pay envelope.  If you've coached enough then you have found the occasional envelope floating around with money in it.
  • The referee will walk through a gauntlet of adults on their way out.  It doesn't hurt for the occasional adult to say "Good job Ref!".  I would even suggest that you quietly appoint several parents to get that started.  It's contagious.
  • Ensure that a young referee leaves the park wanting to officiate another game.
  • If your club has a head referee, give them some constructive feedback on that official if you feel some is warranted.  Do not address that with the official yourself, it's not your place and not the time.
With each passing game, if coaches are helpful, the referee will take on more of the tasks themselves.
If our young officials do not stay in the game, the game will pay a dear price in the future.  Think about that before you decide to say something silly about a missed call in a game that will mean nothing to anybody in an hour's time.

If they stay in the game and develop, as does a player, they will learn to deal with the heat and stress of competition and be better equipped to handle it.

At the Welland Soccer Club we are fortunate.  Our head referee is always working with our young officials and provides periodic educational sessions and feedback.  He has taken the job beyond scheduling.

A referee who is passionate can explore the soccer world (updated link) the same way a player or coach can.  Help them along that path.