fair play

Youth soccer and how the reward system is whacked

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There are plenty of examples to choose from but I will write about one that is near and dear to me. Not really.
I wrote about this team in another post. This is a team whose last year’s success was defined by one player. I don’t want to name names but for the sake of this post let’s call this player ‘Magalie’. They won their league, the cup and fell just short of winning nationals. Without ‘Magalie’ they definitely would not have achieved what they did. I did not watch one season game but u don’t need to be a math whiz to see that if u removed all of her stats the team record would have been drastically different. I did watch all their matches at nationals. Some a couple times. Watching those matches only confirmed what I already knew which is that the team isn’t really that good. During the matches ‘Magalie’ was off or shut down, the rest of the team had no solutions and were rendered ineffective. In the final, BC exposed them for what they are which is not very good (more later in this post). It was a one sided match and had BC had good finishers the score would have been a rout. In the end the team was awarded ‘team of the year’ and the coach got ‘coach of the year’. Deserving? Maybe on the team level, maybe, but coach? Why? Because he acquired a star player? Certainly not.
Anyway, flashback a few years when a certain coach was asked to take the reigns of a team that also had a ‘star’ player and that over the years was winning because of this star player. The only difference here was that once he accepted the coaching gig he was told that the star player, along with a 2nd star-ish player would be moved to the older team and that he’d have no access to them for the entire season. 👀… oh, I see what you did there Mr Technical Director! Ok, challenge accepted. Could this coach convince this team that they would be just fine without the star players? He sure did. He made them believe and they achieved greatness. Undefeated. First place. Championship. Was this achievement recognized? Hell no. At the very least, at the club level both team and/or coach should have been recognized. Instead the team’s achievement was actually played down by the club technical director. Played down!!! Why? He obviously expected the season to play out differently without the star player. And there lies the problem. The reward system is misplaced. What shouldn’t be rewarded is and what should, isn’t.
This season ‘Magalie’ was moved up to the older squad that over the last few seasons has been nothing better than a middle of the pack team. This year they are in first and have already qualified for nationals with games to spare. Coincidence? I think not. In all likelihood this means a team of the year and possibly a coach of the year. Again it begs the question… Deserving? No. Atleast not on the coach side.
Btw the team ‘Magalie’ played for last season now sits at middle of the pack with a .500 record this season. Remember this is the team that had one loss last season, won the division, cup and got to the finals at nationals. Coincidence? I think not. Just saying.

Sunday morning coffee with a little musing: transparency and fair play

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Anyone who has been reading my posts might start to think I am having a hard time letting go 😋. After many years I stepped back from youth soccer last season. However I still have a foot in the door because my daughter still plays competitively. My guess for many, including my daughter, is that it will their last year. I mean they’re going to turn 17 and for many there will be nowhere else to go after this so there is no incentive to continue.
Even though I am not active any more in any capacity information still finds its way to me. If it’s not through my daughter, it’s my wife or some other parent. I am truly glad that I am out of this toxic environment. Honestly wish I had done it sooner or better yet never.
Over the many years, no matter who the technical director was, as coaches we were always reminded of two things: transparency and fair play. I mean we were taught many things but these two items were drilled into our heads by the TD. The problem with this is that some technical directors are like 📺 evangelists. What’s that expression? Do as I say not as I do.
In an ideal world you are supposed to apply both at 100% but it’s impossible to do when the Technical Director himself doesn’t follow through on it either at 100%.
Here are two examples where both transparency and fair play can be applied.
1) as coaches we’re told never to guarantee a spot to a returning or new player during the tryout period.
2) As coaches we’re told that when it comes down to finalizing the roster and you have players with similar skills look to choose the player that showed commitment during the tryouts.
Easier said than done. It basically never happens.
Case in point this winter. There is a player on my daughter’s team who is a multi sport player. As a family they’ve made it clear for years now which sport that takes priority. It’s the other one 😋. These past fews years they’ve shown very little commitment to soccer during the winter months. It’s hard to do when your other sport is hockey but at the same time there should be some degree of compromise which from what I gather there isn’t much of. Here’s the kicker. She was guaranteed a spot early on in the winter in writing (rookie mistake on the coach’s part) and while she has missed a significant amount of training sessions she continues to play full games. And these are just meaningless matches. Is she a great player? No. But I will say she is a decent soccer player. Having said that though there are better skilled players on this team that have shown more commitment that deserve a spot on the team ahead of her.
I coached this team four years ago and alot can and has happened since. I can tell you this much though. Four years ago during a winter tryout session I was pulled aside by the current technical director and was told to cut this player from the team. She was one of three he wanted me to cut. I chose not to cut any of the three. Again, I know that alot can change in four years but now, even for the technical director, she’s untouchable. There is something called principle and some folks have a hard time with that starting with the guy at the top.
I am sure some of you honed in on the fact that I had an opportunity to cut this player four years ago and didn’t. The explanation is pretty simple and straightforward. Going in as a first year coach with the team I made the decision beforehand that I would not cut any player. I wanted to give every player a chance to prove themselves during the summer season. At one point during the winter session a very skilled player from another club came wanting to tryout. When it came down to finalizing the roster, this new player deserved a spot and so I pleaded with the technical director to allow me to carry an extra player so I wouldn’t have to cut anyone. He wouldn’t have any of it so at the 11th hour I cut a player who was not as skilled and who for the better part of the winter tryout period was injured. A difficult decision but it was the correct decision.

Youth Soccer At Its Finest

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At the beginning of the 2015 season I got a phone call from the technical director of our soccer club. He wanted me to take my daughter’s team for the 2015 season. Quite frankly I was incredibly surprised. So much so that I didn’t give him an answer right then and there. The fact is I was actually looking to move away from coaching altogether.. I had been doing it for so many years. Anyway, the first thing I needed to do was ask my daughter if she would be ok with it. The other reason I found this phone call to be surprising is that this TD’s main mandate and what he always preaches about is that he wants to eliminate (where he can) having parents coaching their own kid. So again imagine my surprise when he called, offered me my daughter’s team and told me it would be a good experience for me AND my daughter. A bit contradictory to his philosophy, no?
Anyway, my daughter was ecstatic about the idea so I jumped on board. I was still apprehensive because I had some big shoes to fill but I decided to take it on. Almost immediately I found out I would lose our two top players to the older age group and that I would not have access to them whatsoever during our season. I won’t lie. I wasn’t too happy with that but that anger lasted a split second. I realized I had a great challenge and opportunity at my hands. Teach this team how to play like a team.
Long story short, I did just that. I got them to believe in themselves individually. I got them to believe that every time they stepped on the field any of the 10 players could score. In fact, unlike previous years it was difficult for our opponents to shut down any one player because at any given match it could be someone else who did the scoring. The proof was in how well the goals were distributed.
I honestly don’t think anyone, including the TD, thought this team would succeed considering the loss of the 2 stronger players. Not only did we succeed, we actually surpassed expectations.. undefeated, 2 goals against, first place and championship. I will go as far as saying that it actually irked some people.
The girls got accolades for their efforts from anyone and everyone… and rightfully so.. I was blessed with being told I was being replaced for the 2016 season. The reasons? As hypocritical as they can get. Pure manure being tossed in my direction. Garbage. I kept reminding the TD that I was a parent on this team before being coach and long enough to see all kinds of shit happen and to boot I was on the board for many years where I heard all kinds of stories about coaches and the nonsense that occurred.. coaches that still coach today..it fell on deaf ears. HYPOCRITE !!! From the club President I got the ‘it’s a thankless job’ email.. ya.. it should be thankless because of the parents .. i mean, let’s face it you will never make EVERY parent happy.. that’s par for the course..it should however, not be a thankless job because of the technical director who should be there to support volunteer coaches and all we do.
The bottom line is that there is this circle that exists.. and I get that this exists everywhere but if you are not in this circle forget about it. It doesn’t matter what u do, how good u do it, how hard you work, if u’re not in, u’re not in. Plain and simple.

Take a look at this nonsense…

One of the things I stressed with the teams over the years of my coaching is the need to respect your opponent. To the girls I always told them that when they stepped on the field, their opponent needed to understand very quickly that they would not be successful in beating us. However, there always had to be respect. When I knew that our opponent was weak I would tell the girls that after a certain amount of goals we’d stop scoring. We would work instead on the areas of our game. That’s how things should be done. A 16-0 score line? That’s how things shouldn’t be done. I wasn’t at the match so maybe i shouldn’t pass judgment but I am sure things could have been handled differently. I am sure. This garbage of course is acceptable and you know why??? That circle I wrote of. That circle.