Opposing Views

I read a lot of soccer articles. From experts, amateurs, coaches, parents, fans & organizations… I. I came across one titled “Why parents criticise coaches coaches” (interesting enough?) Most of the coaches I admire most, the ones that had a positive influence on me early on and mentor(ed) back then and still do-  They all were all quick to note a recurring theme – adaptability, learning something from everyone, not being set in “one way”/”all-knowing”. I was sitting in a coaching course a few months ago, the instructor was arguably one of the top coaches in the state- National A License, successful college coach, director/foundation layer at some of top clubs in Georgia, etc. One of the things that hit home to me that day was this: “Always be willing to change your beliefs, your methods of training and be willing to learn- the game is always changing and everything related to it is “good better best”. If a player has a decision to make- they can make good ones, better ones and the best ones..” If you have success as a coach, it can be easy to be set in your ways, closed off or stubborn with what you know or how you teach it, but you have to constantly be striving to be better, every good drill you have, you can evaluate it or tweak in to be better. I’ve been coaching 25 years and saw something at a U6 rec coaches practice that I really liked, and I stole it. As soon as you aren’t willing to change your mind or seek out more, someone else will that will pass you by” In short, that was a pretty humbling thought someone who is 10x the coach I am in experience and pedigree was engaged enough to be at a U6 rec practice with the mindset of “today I might learn something.” If he has that type of attitude and approach to the game then I sure as hell can. Today this country is starstruck obsessed with the idea that an international coach trains my kid. The internet is littered with big-money blogs of euro academy secrets training plans, anyone with an accent is glorified and the most successful camp in the country is titled “British Soccer Camp”, while their are plenty of incredible International coaches that have the credibility, knowledge and do a wonderful job, it has become something that gives credibility that people take advantage of to make money (about like anything else). Imagine someone living in Spain and becoming giddy about “my kids baseball coach is an American, we’re really excited.” So what? that doesn’t blanket the entire region as knowing anything about the sport? even if you were great at it, that still doesn’t mean you can coach it. I run across so many blogs all the time like this one here… with a philosophy of “this is fact” instead of “here’s my perspective.” “if you’re on the receiving end you have to close your ears to the comments and just let the critics get on with it.” So essentially you believe that all criticism is to be ignored? and/or dismissed? and you expect your players to handle your constructive criticism in the exact opposite way? interesting. Criticism by definition is “evaluation or analysis of work, performance or the like, in order to develop or improve”. Criticism is a form of communication, in its purest form- its feedback for what you’re doing for them, at the very least- it gets something out in the open, a chance to explain your strategy and ask they trust your judgement. Any time the exchange or talk happens in an appropriate setting (not right after the game at the bench, on the sidelines or over the phone) that eventually can open up channels for a coach to relate and develop trust, mutual respect and relationships. If those aren’t important (which the club attitude of ‘take it or leave it’ is rampant in the U.S.) that’s fine – but your “training” or long-term process may be done before it ever gets started; the games attrition at the youth level as early as U10 is nuts, it’s a merry-go-round circus during tryouts. Aren’t we as coaches always evaluating ourselves? isn’t the game always changing and our job to be open minded in order to improve? is there a “right way”? I don’t believe so. I think it’s important to not send that message, many coaches walk a fine line between being confident in their abilities vs. arrogant and narcissistic. “I was at a coaching session last week and all around me coaches were being critical. Rather than write the session down and create something new from it, they just wanted an excuse to say “I’m better than you”. Don’t take it so personally, basically that’s the same mindset that you as a coach are relaying to your parents by dismissing them as idiots isn’t it? I tend to hear criticism constantly and a lot of it comes from the parents at the side of the pitch. If their son or daughter has not played well, they think the coach hasn’t been doing his job properly. If their son or daughter is substituted, the coach hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. Again, seems to me like you are really knee-jerk about reacting to this. Certainly many coaches are more refined as far as developing a philosophy for what they want to do and how they want their team to play the game- If you coach higher level soccer you should have the education and experience; you should be confident in what you’re doing, believe in and seeing out that process correct? It’s not 0% (coaches)-100% (players) fault during failure is it? clearly our job is to see that players grow, (development/improve) we are accountable for that even when we are not, that’s in the job description. When you come off as know-all-soccer-god vs. maybe “I’m constantly seeking better ways to train my team, see growth and see marked improvement, I take accountability for that”. One makes kids roll their eyes – the other makes many want to run into a brick wall for you. It’s the “us” approach vs. the “you (guys do this) vs. me (because I said so)” The “us” approach shows more commitment to them vs. own personal ego; it motivates players to want to complete against other and grow. It involves and engages them in the learning process in a proactive way vs. a lecture. Coaching is more than Xs and Os and Licenses… It’s about developing a culture, within players, parents and community. Everyone taking a little criticism, all 3 taking the approach of good or bad- “I can get better, I will get better, If its meant to be, its up to me.” In reality, it really doesn’t matter what you know does it? what any coach ‘knows’? It’s 100% completely about what they (the player) know, how you can motivate them to teach/train themselves to become better. In my limited experience- I believe the most effective way for players to get better is anyone that can inspire them to want/work towards that themselves. It all starts wi want to know/work towards. “criticism is easy to make but your achievements are not. And it’s easier to deal with criticism when you realise the reasons behind it.” Follow your own advice, if you want your parents and players to embrace this core value – maybe come across as more receptive to listening to other people, or at least caring enough to listen, hearing someone evnt to you should b “You are doing a great job so don’t let them put you off. It is because you have given up your time and taken on the role of coach that you have been thrust into the limelight and unfortunately a lot of people will resent your position of importance.” Wait wait wait… so you are insinuating that all coaches are ‘doing a great job’? impossible and entirely not true, especially when many youth coaches are compensated well for their time, mileage, boarding etc. “limelight” by definition is “the spotlight, center of public attention” I don’t think that’s true to anyone (except maybe you) or that someone will resent you for “how important” you are. They may redirect attention to you, point fingers or blame you for it all, but that affects their children/family and future… if anyone covets a “level/position of importance” and seeks the “limelight” of coaching youth soccer they probably aren’t very good in first place. When I first started coaching I remember that one of my teams went through a sticky patch in the middle of the season, having started out with four straight wins. After one game a parent came up to me and told me that he had spoken to a few of the other dads and they had decided my tactics were wrong. I was taken aback and rushed home to go through my notes and think about what they had said. My tactics hadn’t changed but the players were on a steep learning curve and some aspects of their play were just beginning to come through. At that time I felt quite nervous about the score in games – not like now, when I look at how well the team played before I even think about the score. Nice pat to yourself on the back there, subtle but well played. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with parents, listened to a completely ridiculous or vague strategy or some advice they want to share… (one of my all time rec favorites is “we just need to spread out and pass more!”) held in a laugh and turned it into a discussion. The alternative is a season changer “IM RIGHT YOUR WRONG!” arguing-with-a-wall knock-down senseless argument. The language you use to respond to criticism is vitally important. I’ve always turned it into a Q&A and throwback “ok, so your saying you would like us to see X done more? what improvements can we make in training for this, not just on gameday? I see your side of it, I get what you are saying, this is why I did it this way.” 95% of the time they can’t continue the conversation, they’ll tap out… but turning your words into action show you can listen to feedback, they in turn will be receptive to feedback/requests you may ask of them in the future. Responses like this make many more friends than enemies. Most parents just want to be heard and respected (like coach). After all- the parents are the consumer; they are investing time, money, energy, family time etc. into their kids & their activities… right or wrong, smart, dumb, irrational or reasonable- they care like you. “In attacking me the dads had come up with reasons why their kids hadn’t won the game, but it was their problem, not mine. Now that I understand why people criticize, I no longer feel nervous about what parents think of me.” You cared so little that you went home and wrote an entire blog about how little you cared and crowned yourself king. 🙂