Archive for April, 2008

My Team

I am continually amazed at the progress of my team of little ones. Although, I suppose I can’t call them my “little” ones any more. Last night’s game reminded me of just how far they have come both as individual players, as a team, and as people in general.

They played short one player last night. So, not only did they have no substitutions, they actually had one less player on the field than the other team. I saw passing. I saw teamwork. I saw them give up the ball to another teammate who had a better angle for shot on goal. I saw things and have seen things in them that I could not have taught them as a coach. They learned this stuff on their own. Trust, teamwork, unselfishness…all the things that we try and try to drill into them during practice and training both on and off the field. And, in the end, they learn it on their own.

And now, sadly, after my third year with these boys, I must send them on their way without me. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I have to bid my team farewell after this Spring season. They have come so far. When I put this team together, they were a motley bunch of scrappers. Spirited and determined to win, I taught them as best I could. I’ve loved them all like my own son. I hope that even after we part ways, I will always be “Coach” to them because they will always be “my Hooligans”. 🙂

One of the reasons I coach is not to try to raise up the next generation of professional soccer players (even though I think most of them could if they really wanted to) but to raise up a generation of the next soccer coaches. I want my guys to have a great experience in The Game so that, when they have kids of their own, they will want to raise up the next generation of soccer players. So, if I can teach them one more thing, it will be in the spirit of a very good Irish friend of mine. He once told me “At this [young] age, TEACH THEM TO PLAY. Then, when they get older, TEACH THEM TO WIN.” Too often kids and parents expect teams to win and they get so focused on winning that they forget to teach The Game. There is plenty of time to learn how to win. But we need to teach them to play when they are young and not focus so much on the winning part. That will come with time. Be patient. Focus on the things that my young team has learned on their own: teamwork, fair play, composure, passing, Heart/Desire/Passion. Well…maybe I helped them a little bit. 😉 We are, after all, a team.

By the way…we won our game last night 5 to 3. Nice job guys!


April 11, 2008 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

The Great Ones

What is it that sets apart some players as, what I like to call, The Great Ones? Players like Eric Cantona, George Best, Pele, and, now Christiano Ronaldo have a huge amount of talent to be sure. But, is that all there is to it? I’ve coached kids with little talent and watched them blossom into very skilled players. There must be more than skill involved with this game.

I suggest that the foundations of this game are Passion, Desire, and Heart. Without these, skills are nothing. With these foundations, Great Ones are developed – not born.

I recently had the opportunity to watch two very good teams play each other. The skills of the players on the field were fairly equal. But, in the end, the match went to the team that did not quit when they made mistakes. In this case, the winning team showed heart. They never gave up. Even when they were ahead, they always played their best game possible.

What are we as coaches and players if we do not have a passion for what we do? Why are you coaching/playing if it is not your passion? If you are coaching without passion, you may want to consider realigning your priorities. Maybe it’s time you took a hiatus. I see players all the time at practice and during training going slow, walking, not giving it 100% on the training field. When I ask them why, most of the time their response is that this is just practice. I encourage all the players I coach to practice like they play. If they are not practicing like they should play, they are wasting your time and theirs. Play with passion.

What about desire? It would almost seem like desire and passion are the same thing. In fact, they go hand in hand. But, while passion is the quality of a person to constantly strive to perform to the utmost of their ability, it is desire that will carry them the furthest. Desire is the quality to want to constantly improve. To constantly outperform yourself. Daily personal training, getting up from the sofa to make it to a training session on time, getting up at 6 AM to take the early morning run to improve your stamina, these are all driven by desire.

I see this all the time: a highly skilled player who is missing one or more of these qualities who consistently rely solely on their skills to carry them through. But, I have said it before and I stand behind what I say now, that I would rather have a team full of low or mediocre skilled players with Passion, Heart, and Desire than I would have a team full of highly skilled, unmotivated players. Think about it this way, the motivated player will push themselves to greatness and eventually surpass the gifted player in skill due to their constant practice. The gifted player who is unmotivated will stagnate and eventually lose interest in The Game altogether.

What are the 4 components of The Game? Physical, Psychological, Technical, and Tactical. Without the foundations of Passion, Desire, and Heart for these components to stand on, no player will ever truly excel. You could have the most gifted player in the world. Strong, fast, great skills, smart….but if they break down after a mistake, they are not an asset but a liability on the field and on the team. Nothing breaks the spirit of a team like negativity.

So, as parents and coaches, how can we encourage Passion, Desire, and Heart?

Well, Passion comes when our players are having fun. Make sure you make some time in their busy schedule so that they can have some fun playing soccer. Encourage pick-up games in the back yard with their friends. Think up small games that are fun that they can play anytime, anywhere.

You can build Desire in them by playing with them. Challenge them to a juggling contest. See how far they can accomplish a legal throw-in. See how many times it takes to chip a ball into a garbage can. Doing this will spark them to challenge themselves.

Heart is maybe the most important one. When they get discouraged, don’t let them take themselves too seriously. It’s too easy to give up after a lousy game. Coaches, before/during/after a match, make sure we aren’t taking things too seriously. Put things into perspective for them. Parents, don’t let them get down after making mistakes! Highlight the good things they did. They’ll remember the mistakes all on their own and coaches will help them to improve at practices. Coaches, remind them that we are all doing our best and that we all have a lot to improve on. If we didn’t, we’d be playing/coaching in the English Premiere League. 🙂

That’s all for now. Keep it real. Keep it fun.

April 2, 2008 at 4:35 am Leave a comment

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