Archive for January, 2012

I’m taking an undergraduate course at the university this semester for personal growth and interest.  The class is called “Sports in Society” and it explores the relationship between athletics and the social structure and culture.

Today we were discussing the controversy of sport.  Each student was supposed to pick a topic that they felt was an issue of discussion in modern society and pick a stance to defend.  Through the conversations we had in class it came up that soccer was not viewed as a serious sport in the United States.  I kept my mouth shut since I didn’t want this to become a debate on what soccer is and is not.  But the instructor called on me to voice my opinion as a soccer fan.

The issue being discussed was revenue and TV rights, and of course soccer is not rated as one of the more popular sports in our society, but I feel it is growing (see my post “Is Soccer Growing in the US”).  As the discussion grew I felt that soccer was viewed by most of the class as a not only a second-rate sport, but not even something to be considered seriously as a market in the USA.

Well, when someone asks me what my opinion is then I feel that I am obligated to share it.  However in this setting I didn’t see it as doing much good.   pulled out a few of my statistics, but the fact is soccer in the USA is one of the fastest growing elements in the sports market.  Increased viewership on television and the MLS passing up the NBA and NHL for highest average attendance to become the new #3 sport in the USA behind football and baseball with 17,000+ fans for every home game.  I discussed the fact that American Football would not even come close to generating income in the rest of the world outside of the USA and Canada compared to the revenue generate soccer.

It doesn’t surprise me that people still feel this way about my sport, but it bothers me that we are so slow in breaking down the labels and presuppositions our country has about this beautiful sport.

So my question to the readers is this, what do you do to help change this?

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The Annual NSCAA Convention is one of my favorite events.  I haven’t had the privilege of attending as often as I’d like because of distance and cost, but when ever I’ve been able to attend it has been an enjoyable event.

I love learning, and I enjoy this fraternity of coaches in our profession.  It’s one of the greatest benefits of this career and I would recommend to anyone to pursue any opportunities that arise to get involved and get around other coaches.

This years event had several highlights for me.  I’m just going to run through the highlights, but hopefully will have time to put down specific notes later on from sessions that I really got a lot out of.

The convention started off for me when I attended a panel discussion that included Anson Dorrance, Jay Martin, Janet Redfield and others as they covered developing the mental side of coaching.  It was a great session that covered topics such as the complete athlete, competitive caldron, quantitative measurements, and leadership.  The experience sitting on that panel alone would have been enough to make the convention worth while.

I attended several field sessions that seemed more geared towards attacking in the final third this year.  Clinicians like Paul Power (U-15 Manchester City FC coach), Tom Sermanni (Australian Women’s National Team coach), Peter Vermes (Sporting KC coach), Albertin Montoya (U-17 USA Women’s National Team coach), Shellas Hyndman (FC Dallas coach and personal favorite), and Tony DiCicco (former USA Women’s National Team coach).  Good content from most of the sessions, and I took something away from every person.

But this year I learned a lot from the lectures.  One of my favorites was a session led by Dave Dilanni (Head Women’s Coach at Grand Valley State) on the topic of creating a competitive environment at your university.  It was great not only because of the content he covered, but after every topic he would have us discuss what we would do at our own schools in that area with the coaches sitting at our tables.  Took a lot away from this session.

Another highlighted lecture for me was Martin Rennie’s (Vancouver Whitecaps coach) discussion on his journey from the corporate world to coaching in the Premier Development League, and finally all the way to coaching in the MLS.  It was great information because he discussed his personal coaching philosophy, key points to building a culture of success, and personal lessons on leadership.

I was also honored to be asked to sit on a panel for a session on how to get into coaching.  It was a small seminar held in conjunction with the national convention that was geared towards young or aspiring coaches.  The seminar was hosted by Deb Raber (Head Women’s Coach at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) and Gary Cook (Head Boy’s Coach at Wilbraham & Monson Academy), both NSCAA National Academy staff members.  I sat in on some of the sessions throughout the day and it was great to see the NSCAA offer a course like this that was helping young coaches think about the paths they want to take to get into coaching.  The finished with a panel discussion including myself, Simon Nee (Director of Recruiting for the New York Red Bulls) and Theresa Echtermeyer (DOC for Highland Ranch Soccer Association and also a National Staff member of the NSCAA).  We simply shared our stories about how we got into coaching and then it was opened to questions from the audience.  Definitely a highlight for me to be sitting with three national staff members and a professional ranks coach.

And finally, the biggest highlight of the convention this year was the opportunities I had to talk with so many experienced coaches.  The first was Dave Brandt (Head Men’s Coach at US Naval Academy) who helped orchestrate the success at Messiah College on the men’s side.  He agreed to sit down with us for 1.5 hours to discuss his coaching philosophy, methods, and tactical system.  I think it ‘s great when a coach with experience like that is willing to sit down and “talk shop” with people he doesn’t even know.  Also had the privilege of talking to Doug Williamson (Asst Director of Education and Coaching Development for the NSCAA), Shellas Hyndman (FC Dallas coach), Dr. Tiffany Jones (President of X-Factor Performance Consulting), Rick McKinley (Director of the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy), Simon Clements (Exact Sports) and so many friends and peers.

Great event, very enjoyable, and hopefully I can digest everything I learned and become a better coach because of the experience.

Coaching licensing has always been an issue in leagues and associations around the world.  Here in the US it is a particularly strong debate because in the “Big Four” sports coaches don’t have a licensing program like we do in soccer.  The athletic culture in the US is to hire coaches based on experience and past success.

So how should we view soccer associations that mandate specific licensing levels to determine paid, or even volunteer coaching positions?

Coaching education gives us a framework of how to teach the game.  It lays out a progression and thought process that is supposed to be a guide to use, not a rigid mold that everything must fit into.  In all honesty when I first started taking the coaching courses I had never heard of the progressive method; simple to complex.  It was a revelation to me, because the coaches I had worked for and played under had never used it.

Coaching education by experience is spotty, and very random.  It really depends on who the coaches are that you had the opportunity working with and observing.  Hopefully in a person’s career they have the opportunity to work with some very quality coaches, but some may not.

Coaching education like the NSCAA and USSF courses give us a consistent standard of information that is communicated about the game.  Does an “A” License coach or a Premier Diploma GUARANTEE that you are qualified to coach at a high level and are capable of teaching the game; no.  BUT it does mean you have a resource of information and the association or club that highers this coach can be confident that they have been exposed to a minimum of information related to the game.  And that this person has been evaluated on several different occasions by some of the better coaches in our country.

The problem is when you come upon a coach who is quality because of their personal experiences but has not been fortunate enough to pursue the licensing available.  Whether because of finances (our licensing structure is VERY expensive at the residential level), or because of location (some states and areas of the country just don’t have the resources or the staff to offer courses) this person may not have the mandated diplomas or licenses.  And unfortunately this person would probably be denied opportunities even though they are a great coach.  Hopefully hiring processes and references will allow this person to be noticed, but it can’t be guaranteed.

To me it is the same as our educational process in careers.  Does a bachelors degree in education guarantee that my teachers were of the highest quality and would be excellent in teaching?  No, but at least we know that our teachers have a base of knowledge to draw from and have passed certain standards laid out.  Education is important, and hopefully this process of learning also continues and we keep growing as professionals.

So are we better off as a sport because our mandated coaching education?  I think so.  Personally I’ve loved the opportunity to learn from other coaches that I would never have the opportunity to meet any other way, and I’m not just talking about the instructors.  There are candidates that I’ve been blessed to get to know because we were taking a license together.  It’s a great process, and something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in my development as a coach.  It is something I’m so passionate about that I have joined the ranks of instructing coaching courses to try and be that resources of development for others.

Quote of the Day

Posted: January 10, 2012 in Coaching Philosophy, Psychology

“Talent doesn’t and won’t ever be the factor that sets you apart.  When you are at the Final Four, everyone is talented, everyone can play.  There needs to be another factor that sets you apart.  For us, it is being detailed in all apsects of our lives.” – Leah Sipe (Former player at Messiah College)

The New Year seems to always be a good time to reflect on the past year and evaluate goals for the upcoming year.  So it would be a good time to discuss proper goal setting for 2012.

I like to have our players set long-term goals (about 10 years away), mid-range goals (4-5 years), and short-term goals (this next year).  We have them set goals in three areas: life, academics, and soccer.  Life goals are things you want to see in your personal life in relationships, spiritually, or work.  Academic goals apply specifically to our players because we want them to be focused on why they are in college.  Not only setting goals for a specific GPA, but finding a career-related internship, or applying for graduate school.  Finally soccer goals are related to their playing career.  Specific marks on the fitness tests, making the varsity team or the starting 11, and hopefully some goals related to the success of our team in the upcoming seasons.

For my personal goal setting I’ve broken down my goals into three main categories as well: spiritual, life, and career goals.  Spiritual goals are related to my walk with Christ and being the spiritual leader of my family and my team.  Life goals are related to my health, personal growth, and my relationship with my wife and friends.  Career goals are obviously related to things I’d like to accomplish in my program, or related to club and other outside coaching interests.

Finally I want to discuss some rules related to goal setting that I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Goals must be specific, measurable, and written down.  Goals that are not measurable might as well not be goals.  We need to know when we’ve achieved a goal or missed the mark.  Instead of saying, “I want to improve my fitness” we should say, “I want to be able to run a 5K in under 21 minutes.”  Make it something that is specific and you know you’ve hit it.  Then write them down!  Nothing is worse than taking the time to set goals and then forgetting them.
  • They must have an established time limit or deadline.  Goals that don’t have a deadline are bound to be pushed to the wayside and put off because they don’t seem important or urgent.  Having a time limit on our goals forces us to establish a sensible plan of action to address them.
  • Goals must be attainable, but they need to stress us.  In the field of exercise science we have what’s called the Overload Principle.  Our bodies need to be stressed and overloaded to see improvement.  You don’t physically train at a rate that doesn’t take any exertion, you push yourself so you start to see improvements and the work rate becomes easier.  It’s the same way with our goals, we need to set realistic goals that are attainable, but that will stretch us to grow and improve ourselves.
  • We need to keep our goals in a prominent place so we can see them on a regular basis and be reminded of them.  It’s the same reason we write the goals down, so we are constantly reminded of them and keep striving for them.
  • When we achieve our goals, or miss the target, we need to re-evaluate the process and seek council from others to consider what we need to change the next time around.  Asking mentors to help us walk through the process and offer any wisdom and insight can be an invaluable process.  They might have a point of view that is extremely valuable, or experience in this same area that would help us side-step unforeseen challenges.  Set up a periodic time to evaluate your goals and your process of achieving these goals.  New Years seems to be the natural time to do this, but we should have periodic times throughout the year as well.

I hope you all have a blessed and prosperous 2012.  We should always be striving for more, and stretching ourselves to new heights.

The New Year means the latest NSCAA National Convention is around the corner!  This is one of the events that I really enjoy attending.  And this year I’ve been asked to sit on a panel for the new seminar series “So You Want to be a Soccer Coach” Saturday afternoon!

The convention is a great opportunity for us to stretch ourselves as coaches and to enjoy this great coaching community.  One of the perks is getting together with coaches I’ve gotten to know over the years through coaching courses and ODP and catch up on life.

If you’re debating going to the convention just commit to going.  There are a ton of great sessions and coaches with ten times the experience I’ll ever have willing to share their knowledge.  Couldn’t think of a better investment in one’s career and personal development.