A Book Review of “The Man Watching” by Tim Crothers

Posted: February 6, 2011 in Book Review, Coaching Philosophy, Psychology

I love to read, and I recently finished “The Man Watching” by Tim Crothers, a biography of Anson Dorrance (head women’s coach at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
I’d heard a lot about this book, and I know it’s not a new release, but I really enjoyed reading this book about one of the greatest soccer coaches in the USA. There are obviously amazing things about this man’s life, but I wanted to focus on some of the coaching themes I gleened from this book.
One of the main things I enjoyed about the story of Anson’s life was his consistency in holding players at UNC to a higher standard, and never letting them settle for second best. The competitive cauldron that he sets up in training, and the constant encouragement to be better shows the passion of this man.
And maybe that’s what it comes down to, passion. Here is a guy who has coached at the same school for 32 years, and he still has the passion of a first year coach. He is motivated to give a hundred percent, and to hold his players to that standard day in and day out, year after year. Of any coach he could say he’s achieved what he set out to achieve and can take it easy now, but he pushes and pushes until his players hate his guts. And the result is a soccer team with a tradition unlike any other in the history of college sports.
Another thing I found so interesting about this man was how unique his leadership style was. Here is a guy that has everything planned out in his practices, constantly grading and scoring his players through training sessions, and they can’t hardly show up for a game on time. Gives me hope that there are coaches out there who have amazing results, but still might not be “perfect” in the eyes of the world. But it works for him. Another sign of his great leadership is the humility to surround himself with people who are strong in the areas of his weaknesses. He knows he’s not the most organized man in the world, and he has an administrative assistant that keeps him on schedule as much as possible. He has a statstician who handles the numbers and grading that creates the competitive cauldron. An assistant coach that is very relational with the team and will sit and listen to them and lend a shoulder to cry on after the head coach reminds her of the standard they failed to maintain. Anson knows his weaknesses and his strengths and found the people to help fill those gaps.
Great book! If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. Something for everyone in this book about leadership, overcoming adversity, and building a tradition of excellence and success.
What do you think of Anson Dorrance? Have you heard him speak or read any of his books?

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Comments
  1. val says:

    Great book, interesting read, and in some ways a big help to me in my coaching career.

    I coach girls, travel teams currently, but at the time I read it I aspired to coach HS soccer (in between reading the book and now, I did get the job at our local parochial school, but then I lost it, but that’s another story). I wanted to see how he put a program together.

    And in reading it, I discovered that I don’t want his level of success. There are many anecdotes I remember from the book, but I cannot remember any to support my contention that I got from this book that Anson Dorrance is too much of a dick for my liking. Even if I’m challenging kids, and have their best interests in heart, I’m not going to speak to kids like he does, nor would I tolerate anyone talking to me that way.

    I guess success is its own reward, but the profile of Dorrance helped me to feel that much more comfortable in my own skin. And for that reason alone, this was a great read.

  2. I agree with you on some level. I don’t necessarily know if it’s his personality that is the key to his success, but his drive and his passion helped him to succeed in spite of his short comings and strengths.

    There have obviously been some very successful coaches with different personalities than Anson Dorrance, and he is a unique guy. But the thing that is undeniable is his passion for the game and his drive to continually want to be better.

    I do not have this type of personality, but I think there are some things that I’ve gleaned from this book that I would like to see myself grow in. I want my players to see how passionate I am about this game, and to feed on that. I think too often my athletes feel like I’m more interested in maintaining the status quo as long as everyone is comfortable. But if I want my players to grow as people and as athletes they need to be pushed and challenged some. Working out is painful at times, but it means our body is being pushed and honed to be more fit.

    Dorrance is definitely an interesting guy, and he has some quirks. He’s a person that I respect for his drive and perseverance, but at the same time I hope I learn from some of the mistakes that he made as well.

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