soccer

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 πŸ˜‹. 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 πŸ“Ί 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 πŸ˜‹. 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.

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Sunday morning coffee with a little musing: Coaching youth sports is tough.

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Coaching youth sports is a thankless job. Well, it becomes thankless once you get into the competitive side of things. My only experience is with soccer but there is no doubt this story is common across the whole spectrum of youth sports.

Picture this. Two teams who had a stellar season. Both achieved greatness. Both finished in first place in their division. Both made it to nationals. You would think that there would be nothing but euphoria, right? Not the case. In both camps you had disgruntled parents and players. How do I know this? Well I still get information come my way from people who are still very much in the loop. I don’t have details but it always ends up being the same thing… threats by players (ie: parents) that they will leave the team if the coach doesn’t get replaced. I even heard that some players on the younger team will ‘strike’ if their current coach doesn’t get replaced for next season. That’s a new one. They must be unionized. Imagine, this on a team that lost ONE game all season long. Players. Why so serious?

From what I heard this week it appears these players will get their wish. Apparently the coach of the other disgruntled team will take over this disgruntled team. Four quarters for a dollar. Lol. That’s basically the solution the technical director of this club has for everything. As long as you are in his circle, he’ll just keep moving you from team to team until there are no other teams left for you to move to and piss off. Apparently he thinks information doesn’t get around. πŸ˜‹
I really don’t know what the issues on these two successful teams are but I can assume that the major one is playing time or lack of it for some of the players. And also what is perceived as favouritism. Obviously as a parent who is spending alot of $$$ for your child to be in high level soccer you are expecting to get your moneys worth. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen for some players. In high level ⚽, that’s just the way the ball rolls (See what I did there? 😁)
You have the starting 11. Usually that means the strongest 11 on the team and then you have the bench players. These are the players that will come off the bench but in all likelihood would never start a game or play an entire game. At times, given the game situation some of these bench players may not even get playing time. It’s tough. It’s tough on that player, it’s tough on the parents but it’s also tough on the coach (something that is always overlooked). Here’s the thing though and I experienced it first hand as well. When a coach spells this out at the parents meeting before the season starts, noone says a word. No parent comes out and says that it’s an unfair practice. Why? Because each parent thinks it won’t be their kid. The shit hits the fan when it becomes their kid that is being affected. And in the end the solution is always to leave for greener pastures. It’s never about working harder to see if as a player you can become that starter. Nowadays, It all boils down to entitlement. You expect everything without working for it. Sorry but not sorry. The pattern is always the same. Instead of working harder, said player starts to miss practice more frequently. Becomes unavailable for games. Especially the away games where the travel is far. Why the hell work hard for something when there is an easier solution? Not happy? No problem. Leave for greener pastures until that pasture too no longer is green.
I know both coaches. They work hard at this. They’ve been the coach for their respective team for a few years so I am sure there have been issues in one form or another for years. The one advantage is that if you’re in the technical directors circle and are basically a ‘yes man’ you are given the heads up and the benefit of the doubt so you get to last a few years with the team. Unfortunately for one the time was up; yes man or not. I am almost sure that for the coach that is being replaced it will be played out that it was his decision to step away on a high note πŸ˜‹. Doubt it.

PS: playing time isn’t the only issue facing youth coaches but if I got into it, this post would be a novel and no longer morning so I will just leave it at that as I am already pushing the whole ‘morning’ thing.

Lack of commitment + lack of support = Difficult season

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My daughters team is sandwiched between two age groups whose respective teams are having a great season. This team however is struggling. The last time this team had a stellar campaign was in 2015. I was their coach. Just putting it out there 😁. They have struggled since. As a matter of fact when the season started my daughter did not want me to go watch as they were struggling. At the half way point though we made a deal that I’d go watch only the home games. And if she felt she didn’t want me at any particular game I would not go.

Anyway, there is talent on this team. What it lacks is commitment. It doesn’t matter how good an individual player is, when there isn’t collective commitment it’s hard to succeed as a team. In a competitive environment, the biggest trigger to lack of commitment is lack of playing time. When a player doesn’t get playing time, their will to commit is nonexistent. In today’s generation it is very difficult to find young kids/young adults who are willing to fight it out and work hard toward achieving something. If they don’t get what they want, they won’t work for it. They either quit altogether or leave for ‘greener pastures’. There are very little values instilled nowadays. It’s want, want, want without working for it. It’s terrible.

Players, not getting the playing time you want? Parents, coaches, friends…Listen… @kobebryant talks about the mentality it takes to get what you want. @espnsbrother https://t.co/v7looolmpC

The other issue this team is facing is the lack of support from the technical director and also the coaches below and above this team. I was in the loop for many years. I know the drill. At the beginning of every season you get the defacto email from the TD that he and his staff will support any decision you make as a coach and will be there in general to support in any capacity. Bull, Fuckin’ Shit. The TD has shown very little interest in this team. I saw this lack of support back in 2015 when I coached the team. The difference then is that I knew what I was doing and the team was immensely successful πŸ˜πŸ‘. The other issue is the lack of support coming from the other two coaches that could be helping but are not. Both the coaches of the younger and older team have players that they can send to this team to help support but they don’t. Another thing that happens at the beginning of each season (atleast I think it still does) is that coaches are told that they must support the other teams in the club when required. That as coaches they should not refuse a request for players when it happens. Another resounding bull shit. Both these teams have players that don’t get alot of playing time with their respective teams that could be sent to help this team but the coaches refuse. Why? Because they are chasing first place. Terrible. And do you think anything gets done about it? Of course not. Who are we kidding. I feel for this teams coaching staff. It’s a terrible feeling when you don’t get support from those that ‘promised’ it would be there.

Can a team be defined by one player?

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Yes.

Literally that one answer could be my entire post but it won’t be 😁. We see it in professional sports all the time. I don’t think I need to name names. So it should not come as surprise that it happens in youth sports as well. This season is the first season where I have not been involved in youth coaching in any capacity. I have had a great summer so far πŸ˜‹. It doesn’t mean though that I am completely out of the loop. I still follow but to a lesser degree. There is this one team in our club that ‘on paper’ is having a stellar campaign. They are undefeated. Will probably end the season undefeated. Will most likely win the championship. And will in all likelihood head to nationals. So? Are they really that good a team? I don’t really know. I have not watched one game of theirs. I don’t have any reason to. However, just like on paper they look to be a great team, this paper also helps paint a different picture as well. A small time spent looking over all their matches so far and you can’t help but notice a certain pattern. Or i should say a certain player. Some simple math shows that if you subtract said player from the team and subtract all her goals this team would have a drastically different record. Night and day. She is not a home grown player and one could argue that if she had not come to this team they could have gotten another player of her calibre. Maybe. But impossible to predict that their record would be as good as it is right now. Clearly without her it wouldn’t be. Here’s what having such a player does though. This team’s record is getting noticed by other talented players currently on other teams who may be struggling. These players will show up next season with the hopes of being selected so they can be on a better team. Eventually the home grown players will be replaced with these out of club players and the team will become a bonafide powerhouse just like their 2 year older sibling sisters.

The irony with all this is that you will hear coaches and technical directors talk about ‘development’. That word is as useless as ‘transparent’. Ultimately it never really is about development. It’s about winning. Do you think that the coach of this talented player who has factored in every single game would sit her a game or more knowing that they have not yet clinched first? No. Way. That’s because it’s not about development. It’s about winning.

Yesterday was ‘pick a fight day’ on twitter

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On two separate occasions yesterday I found myself involved in interesting twitter interactions. Both soccer related. After the England/Sweden match I tweeted the following:

To which a guy with the twitter handle ‘Blessed‘ replied…

I followed that up with…

…and although u don’t see it his reply was ‘right back at you’ .. Using Joey for obvious reasons.

Here’s the thing my initial reply was going to be a lot different. Originally it was ‘wow. Brilliant comeback. I hope you didn’t hurt yourself coming up with that one. ‘ but I decided to take the high road (notice the hashtag). Look, even if England wins it and in all likelihood they will be in the final, it changes nothing about what I wrote. To this point it is accurate and the truth. Unfortunately…

At every tournament whether euro or world there is always a team that is destined. Maybe this year England is the team and they will bring it home. Their only real challenge will come in the final and you know what they say .. At any given match on any given day anything can happen. To this point they have not impressed. Yesterday my buddy disagreed that Sweden was not a strong opponent. He said that England did a great job shutting them down. I totally disagreed. Later he admitted that he has big money on England winning it all. Well, There. You. Go.

The second incident happened later in the day after I watched my daughters team beat the first place team in youth soccer (16s). The league has this MVP system in place where opposing coaches pick an MVP (2 for the winning team) from the opposing team at each game. The selections for our team chosen by the other coaches was in my opinion somewhat dubious. This same coaching staff last year after a match picked an MVP from my daughters team who was actually in a leg cast on the bench injured!!! πŸ˜‚. So excuse me if I have my doubts about their picks. Of course I tweeted this knowing very well one of the coaches would see it. We follow each other on twitter. We are certainly not drinking buddies as I am old enough to be his father but I think we have a mutual respect for each other. His response was that the MVP system is a joke and that no one really stood out on my daughters team. So they picked who they picked. Basically he said they picked the best of the worse, I guess. Some time later the other coach, who I don’t know, replied by writing ‘its better that I don’t respond to this…’ and then went on to give his two cents… isn’t that a response though? πŸ˜‚

Anyway his main argument, sarcastically, was that they then should have awarded the MVP to the player that blocked the most shots inside the 18 but that would have been hard since it was all 11 of them doing that. First off, I think blocking shots is part of the game, no? Any time you can help your goalie shouldn’t you? You see it in hockey all the time. Secondly, there is a player in the starting 11 whose job is literally to block shots and stop them from going in the net; the goalie. How can u possibly take a guy who doesn’t realize this seriously. πŸ˜‚ .. Then very late during the night their club assistant technical director also chimed in. He too regards the MVP system to be a joke. At the end of the day though who made this system a joke? Wouldn’t that be the coaches? So instead of taking the high road and being better than the ‘joke’ they aren’t. Instead they are just part of the pblm.

As you can see.. Not much fighting going on here… lol.. We all have opinions and that’s great and our right but I don’t waste too much time constantly engaging to the point where it will just inevitability degenerate into something stupid.

Oh and I won’t even get into it in this post but I love when the first line of defense from coaches is about their job being about ‘development’. So you can’t be bothered to make a fair and intelligent pick for MVP because Ur too busy ‘developing’ players. Lol. Jesus.

A Blessing In Disguise?

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Last night as I was walking past one of our local soccer fields it got me thinking about my recent years at the soccer club I spent a good 15 years at. Could my crossing paths with the current technical director of this club who literally destroyed my passion for youth soccer and coaching have been a blessing? In a crazy way I think it was. I mean at the time the shit went down obviously I didn’t see it that way but three years have passed and so in retrospect this revelation has actually come three years too late. You see, rather than just call it a day three years ago I actually returned and last year was on the coaching staff with the technical director himself. I mean think about this. Imagine getting fired from a paying job only to return to work for free for the person that FIRED YOU!! That has to be the dumbest thing anyone could ever do and yet I managed to do that. I even had someone tell me straight to my face ‘what are you thinking?’ ..I wish he had said it differently. Like ‘what is wronggggg with youuuu?’ a la Rajesh from big bang theory. Atleast I would have gotten a kick out of that.

Anyway, leaving this toxic environment has been the best thing to happen to me. I lead a stress free life. I mean let me rephrase that. I lead a stress free soccer life. Life outside of soccer still has its stresses. However I’ll take the life stresses over this toxic environment and all the shit it brings any day of the week. Now I simply live vicariously through my daughter. I go watch her play and stay away from everything that is toxic. Including some of the parents.

I Retired, Un-Retired for a New York Minute and Retired Again.

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A few months back I wrote about retiring from youth soccer after many, many years. During the off season I was approached to return for the 2018 season. After talking to my family I decided to go for one more season. Both my wife and daughter wanted me to. I gotta tell you it was very surprising that my wife was my biggest cheerleader since she’s been wanting me to get out for many years now. Anyway last November during a coach’s symposium I had a conversation with a coach who I consider a friend. We talked about a few things including my returning and he told me that I should return if I still have the passion for it. Otherwise I should never do it for someone else. Pretty simple, right? That really got me thinking about my last three years since I coached the U13s. I realized he was right. I returned not for me but for someone else. The fact is that since 2015 things haven’t really gone the way I thought they would go. That 2015 season was an eye opener and in the end thanks to this conversation I realize that I don’t have it in me any longer. So this past week I had a conversation with the technical director and current coach of the seniors team I was to return to and advised him that I want to stay retired. The conversation went well and he understood. Honestly, I feel so much weight lifted off my shoulders. So it was close. That expression ‘I tried to get out but they keep pulling me back in’ no longer applies to me! Phew. πŸ˜€

So i googled to find out how long a New York minute lasts… well, ok… my unretirement lasted longer but it adds to my post title, no? πŸ˜‹.