A PIG, NO MORE.

27 Jul

The Riot Pig was initially a medium to express my unfiltered opinions about soccer. I think exceeded my expectations by reaching a much broader, yet still small, audience than I ever could have imagined.

It’s been a fun project. But missing out on a potential job opportunity because of my aggressive and unapologetic persona has kind of pushed me into a new direction. My views are still much the same. I’ve simply realized that I don’t need to tell the entire world exactly how I feel- rather a select few in much more personal way.

The content on The Riot Pig will live on until next May when the website subscription expires.

My next project, in conjunction with my ruthless pursuit of a new coaching position, is much more professional and approachable. I look forward to sharing everything with you in the very near future.

Thank you all for following my journey as a young coach and a young man. All of your support is greatly appreciated.

 

-John

 

 

AH-HA! AN INFORMAL COACHING EDUMACATION STORY

15 Jul

United States Soccer Federation, it’s regional and state affiliates, and several other organizations offer plenty of opportunities to receive coaching education. The price tags vary. So does the content.

Are they worth the money? The time? The energy? The bruises from going up against other out of shape coaches during the scrimmages? Not sure if I can tell you yes or no.

A couple of years ago, I was at a tournament in Irvine, CA with the college club team that I was coaching at the time (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo). I knew there was a U11 team training just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I had been staying that weekend. I had several players traveling with me that could care less about watching these little kids practice. But I dragged them along with me anyway. They slept on the grass after going to get Carl’s Jr. (Hardy’s for you East Coasters) while I sat as close to the touchline as I possibly could. That was probably one of my greatest moments of my coaching career and will forever be engrained in my memory.

It was the first time I got to see Brian Kleiban work. The first time I shook Gary Kleiban’s hand. The 3four3 movement had already changed my life… but this moment… this was the moment that it actually came to life. (read more about that day here: Coaching Soccer is an Art)

For me, this was the single most educational day I have ever had. And to them, it was just another Sunday.

What I’ve done since then is take advantage of every opportunity like these that I possibly can. Driving long distances to watch other coaches train. Getting up early at tournaments and going to watch different teams play. Re-watching high level games online and on TV over and over again. YouTube has also been a good friend to me. The free or cheap stuff is where I’ve learned the most. Non-traditional and informal education opportunities have provided the most benefits for me.

It’s been a fun and wild ride. Here’s a few worth mentioning:

-Regularly watched Cal Poly-SLO  Men’s and Women’s Div. 1 teams train at 7AM (30 minute commute at the buttcrack of dawn!)

-Driven 3 hours just to watch Barcelona USA (now Chivas USA) U13’s practice and play tournaments

-Posed as a photographer to gain access to private United States Youth National Team U18 training camps (thanks J.R.)

-Driven 3 hours to watch private United States Youth National Team U14 training camps from the bushes/parking lot

-Attended professional training sessions and posed as media or staff in order to gain access

But here is what I want to know…

When did you have your AH-HA moment? What did you see, hear, or read that influenced you to become the coach that you are today? Or are you still waiting for this moment to happen? And what are you doing now to further your education?

Some of you are familiar with my #letstalksoccer Twitter challenge. I want to hear you guys talk about what has shaped you into the coach you are today. Make a 3 minute video and talk about your experiences. Post it on Twitter and tag some other coaches. Let’s have fun with this one.

On that note, I’m going to start packing my bag and get ready to head to Los Angeles to watch a youth camp tomorrow morning. Seven hours of driving to watch three hours of training. So excited!

 

KNOW YOUR PURPOSE

14 Jul

Short and sweet one tonight, folks.

What if I told you there is one very simple thing that is holding you back from being great at whatever it is that you want to be? No joke. It’s so simple.

Here is an excerpt from a travel blog that I follow:

What’s your purpose? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years time? What’s that special something only you have to offer and why do you want it?

My blog is written by me, a soccer coach. I think it’s safe to assume my readers are also coaches. Maybe we share a common goal? S0 let’s warp this theme to fit some things in the coaching realm that might help us all.

Without a clear and defined purpose… you’re lost. In coaching, soccer specifically, everything you do revolves around your philosophy. Do you have one yet? Giving your philosophy the appropriate amount of time and attention is a lot more important, and difficult, than most coaches think.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you what bullet points A, B, and C should be. In fact, I’m not even going to write much more of anything.

You’re philosophy is a reflection of you.

If you bleed for this game, your philosophy will be written in red. If you haven’t defined yourself and your goals, don’t worry,  you still have plenty of blood left and plenty of time to do so. But just understand that if your goal is to become a master of something, anything, you have to be working within your own uniquely defined philosophy for many, many hours, days, and years before you will truly be a master.  Better late than never, but you should start now.

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLAINING THE CUES

7 Jul

Most of us coaches have ‘day jobs’ that pay the bills. I work for two different wine companies at the moment. At one my official job title is: Right-Hand Brainstormer. My boss calls herself the Head Banana.

My job is to create ideas to help drive customers to our wine tasting room and to make sure they leave satisfied. I spend a good portion of my day doing one thing… thinking! Then blowing up my bosses phone with text messages rambling on about all of the cool ideas I had during the day.

I’m fortunate to have a job that actually pays me to think. The rest of my free time is spent thinking of ideas that will probably never show any financial return. Because most of those ideas are soccer related. Like the idea I had seven months ago about me turning my camera on and just talking about soccer. You know how many videos I produced from that idea? One. A stupid teaser video of me acting like I was talking about soccer with some cheesy background music announcing that more videos would be coming. The concept needed tweaking and I wasn’t able to give the project the love it needed at the time.

I recently revisited the idea, though. I’ve started to slowly release certain things via my new Instagram account (@thatcroatiancoach). It’s all part of a re-branding experiment I’m going to try. It’s also the start of me making a more serious attempt to

1) Test my own soccer knowledge and fine tune my philosophy

2) Share my views with more people in an interactive and extremely personal way

My recent activity on Twitter and Instagram has sparked some good conversations with coaches that are eager to learn more. One topic that’s been brought up quite a bit is forward movement by the outside backs.

What I decided to do is make a video breaking down a sequence from one of our games last Winter and explaining the cues for the movements by the different players.

No need to keep typing… here is my first attempt at making an idea of mine come to life!

DON’T JUST STAND THERE… DO SOMETHING!

11 May

Layering your coaching content can be a very difficult thing. If you get it right, or even partially right, you’ll see some pretty cool results.

A few years ago I set out on a mission to transform an already winning and dominant team into a freaking powerhouse. I started with baby steps… and continued with baby steps… all the way until the very end. The hardest part was usually waiting to teach certain things because the TEAM was not ready for them yet. The team hadn’t come close to mastering the previous step, so there was no point in moving onto something different.

The first year we focused almost entirely on possession… ball retention, circulation, and retrieving it once we lost it. Lots of small rondo type drills and lots of bigger keep away games. We started to introduce patterns, but not too heavily. In my second season with the team we introduced ‘losing your man’ in a couple of simple passing exercises coupled with lots full field patterns that backed that theme. We also damn near perfected our short goal kicks that season. You could tell everything was sinking in. But It wasn’t until the third season that we really got to start doing some fun stuff.

The basic principles of our possession based system had been hammered home and the team was ready and willing to learn more. Because we had kept relatively similar themes at each and every practice throughout the first two years, the girls were extremely familiar with everything, even after taking time off to go play with their club teams (most of the girls played for me during club season) and because we did things in baby steps it allowed them even more time to get comfortable with everything and let it really sink in.

When we revisited and began to hammer home ‘losing your man’ in our third season… we saw progress pretty quick. Most of the focus was on our wingers. It was their job to lose their marker and receive the ball under little or no pressure, or even better, going towards goal. The second or third game of our third season was basically a clinic on how to make the other teams outside backs spin in circles. We ended up winning 6-0 against a team that was in the division finals the year before. That quick progress allowed us to eventually move on and introduce movement from our outside backs.

We’re all pretty familiar with defenders who just stand near midfield and don’t do anything besides kick the ball when it comes near them. I don’t think mine have ever been like that, but until this third season, we never really gave them a ton of details about getting involved in the attack and starting their runs from near midfield and ending up going towards goal or putting in crosses.

So I introduced a couple of different things:

1) When the holding mid received it and was facing forward… outside back(s) take off and go full speed while the winger checks away and then back towards the ball.

2) When the center backs received it under no pressure with time and space and took touches forward… outside back(s) take off and go full speed while the winger checks away and then back towards the ball.

The first challenge was getting them to recognize these moments and when they should take off. They picked up on it pretty quick though. The second challenge was getting them to recognize these moments 2-3 seconds before they would even happen. Recognizing when to stop back pedaling and expanding towards the sideline and to turn their hips and start sprinting up the field. And then recognizing when it’s not on and to get back in the right spot. That was a big challenge. They did okay with it.

Not going to lie… It was pretty cool to see it happening in games. I was going through some videos of our third season and stumbled across some moments where you could actually see the wheels turning with our outside backs. That sparked this quick post and video clip.

I’d like to dig deeper in our footage someday and show off some other moments of the girls executing this. Who knows if I’ll ever get around to it though. For now, enjoy these quick clips and ask questions, make comments, and critique!

http://youtu.be/myh1HGVcTOs

 

 

 

 

A DIFFERENT PIG

7 May

Knowledge is a powerful thing.

The whole purpose of starting The Riot Pig was to educate. To spread bits of knowledge that I once longed for as a very young and new coach. To share experiences from my journey because I knew someone else out there would have the same questions that I once did.

Things never really panned out the way I had planned. Instead, The Riot Pig became a platform for self discovery. It became a place to vent.

WordPress notified me that my subscription was almost up and I didn’t act on it at first. In fact, I let it expire. Not knowing if I would be able to get everything back, I paid the measly $26 to renew my domain name and linger online for a bit longer. Thankfully, all of my content was revived. I realized that there is value in what I had shared. Those old blog posts will someday be mementos- notes from a young coach drowning in an internet tidal wave of information.

But I can assure you The Riot Pig will die, and fry, and be eaten up by some of my next projects. I’m thankful I started this site. Mostly because of the stuff you don’t see. The articles and ideas hidden in my ‘saved drafts’ which turned out to be more of a drawing board than anything else have sparked something inside of me that I hope I go forward with.

I look forward to introducing you all to a different Pig in the future but for now… this is where I’ll play.

 

 

 

 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

28 Jan

MY INSPIRATION FOR THIS POST: http://youtu.be/LuHS87Orrtc

Marketing is like magic. The job of marketing gurus is to position themselves on your shoulders like little angels and devils, whispering bullshit into your ears.

“You need something, but you don’t know why. Let me tell you.”

“Before you get that one thing you need, you should buy this first. Where is your Visa?”

“You got what you needed, but if you buy this too, you’ll be much happier. Trust me!”

Marketing schemes orbit around this commonly used fallacy that there is a “secret ingredient” missing from your life and if you had it, things would be so much nicer, easier, better, more enjoyable, etc… but you have to pay to get it.

Like that breakthrough technology used in those heated rear seats in your 2014 Honda that no one else has… (you sure about that Honda salesman?). And sometimes people are asking you to pay to just to hear what that ingredient is, then pay again to get something to help you get that other thing into your life! Fuck, man.

Here is the problem: there are no secret ingredients! NONE!

There is no magical potion that you can drop in your teams Gatorade at half time that will transform them all into mini Ronaldinhos. Do not let anyone fool you! They are marketing to you for a reason! They want your money!

Need some easy examples? Don’t ever fall for shit like this:

Example 1, Example 2, Example 3

Want to know who some of the biggest culprits are?

Okay, pay me $10 and I’ll show you!

Just kidding, I’ll let you have these for free:

Biggest of the big culprits, a pretty big culprit, expensive culprits, and the one I fell for a few years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, learning more about something is always a good thing. But in today’s world there are no secrets. The entire Coerver Coaching Methodology is available on YouTube. You don’t need to waste a weekend listening to them tell you how to do sole taps and pull backs in person, but if you’d like to waste your weekend… just watch that shit for free online from the comfort of your own home.

The marketing team at Coerver has done a great job at hyping that fallacy that they have a secret to sell you. Newsflash… you can get just as good by kicking a ball against a wall on the side of your house as you can with the bullshit in their videos. The secret ingredient is actually GETTING OFF YOUR ASS AND KICKING THE BALL AGAINST THE WALL ON THE SIDE OF YOUR HOUSE! Did you need to pay $500 to figure that out? No.

Seven day residency courses in LA led by unsuccessful American coaches are valuable to some… not to me, though.

Here are the things you should look for if your searching for coaching education:

1) Is it a series of things that cost more with each progression? If this is the case… head for the exit immediately! You’re going to get to the grand finale and feel like you were robbed… because again… there is no secret waiting for you at the end. Sort of like the USSF Coaching Education Licenses… E > D > C > B > A  and then boom… you’re a master? Hmmm… I don’t think so. But I have heard that people have made some good friends at coaching courses!

**I think Alexi Lalas has his USSF B license if that helps anyone write off the legitimacy of those courses.

2) Can you get the same type of information for free somewhere else? This is a big one for me. I’ve gotten most of my soccer education for free. I’ve spent a lot of time watching games online and on TV (price: whatever Comcast charged me) and watching training sessions in person, some online as well. That meme “the game is the best teacher” is true in the sense that if you watch enough games and practices AND dissect the shit out of them, you’re going to learn a lot.

**Aside from that usage of the meme… I don’t believe in it.

With tools like Google and cable TV… you have access to just about everything you need to teach yourself.

If you’re looking to INTERACT with people with common ideas and become part of a community of coaches, then I could recommend one place worth paying for. But again, I could also recommend a couple of free options as well, Twitter being one of them.

My advice is to be careful what you pay for. Just remember, it’s not magic… it’s marketing!

 

 

THE SCOUTING REPORT

16 Dec

I can’t remember where I read or heard it, but somewhere along my journey of coaching education, this idea was implanted in my head:

WHAT YOU WORK ON IN PRACTICE IS HOW YOUR TEAM SHOULD PLAY. IT IS WHAT THEY KNOW. YOU SHOULD NOT SWITCH TO SOMETHING DIFFERENT IF YOUR TEAM IS UNFAMILIAR WITH IT.

I knew my team was up against some stiff competition in a recent tournament. I had heard rumors that they had players in the USYNT player pool on their roster. Come to find out, it was just ODP (psh! Big deal!) and a couple of other girls who had locked up scholarships to some big name D1 colleges (psh!!!! Even less of a big deal!!!!) annnnnd the majority of their roster played on premier level ECNL or SCDSL teams which have state and national championships up the ying yang… okay… all of these things are kind of a big deal.

Without knowing who these girls were or what positions they played, I just trained my team the way we always train, worked on some of our strengths, and prepared to play ‘our style’. We didn’t know what type of formation the other team would line up in or how they would defend or attack. We were basically going down there blind. And you know what, we still did okay.

But I left wondering what things would have looked like if I had known more about the team we were up against? Would I have prepared my team differently? What if I knew they played stopper/sweeper a week in advance? Would I have told my team to play less short passes and opt for a few more direct balls? What if I knew their number 10 was a right footed baller? Would I have still started a sophomore [holding mid converted to] center back? I don’t know.

The one thing that was not an option to me was making drastic changes that my players were unfamiliar with. A 10 minute halftime was not enough to recreate our wheel. The better solution to me was continuing to play the way we had trained and that we were comfortable with because it wasn’t hurting us, but we weren’t necessarily dominating like we were used to. Then, in the future, introducing my team to one or two more systems so we can make in game switches if needed. Keep in mind- high school season is roughly 3 months long. We don’t have a ton of time to work on our go to system… so learning multiple is a BIG challenge.

I was fortunate to have a quick round table discussion the night before that game with my assistant coach, a team parent, and my coaching mentor, Gary Kleiban. We touched on the subject briefly.

What would it be like if you could actually scout other teams at the youth level? What it be like if each teams information was as public as say, FC Barcelona? Or Manchester United? Gary mentioned the other side of the coin- it could be a good thing that the other team doesn’t know your tactics. They don’t know how to prepare for you either.

This subject is difficult to me. But this is the type of conversation I think us coaches should be engaging in more often. So- let’s kick around some ideas. What do you guys think about all of this?

I’M BORED

11 Dec

If your players are bored, don’t automatically blame them.

First, look at what you’re teaching, or how you’re delivering it. Crazy thought, huh? The coach might be the person who is in the wrong?!? Yeah, right!

It’s true, though. You might not even know that your players are bored. Keeping them ‘engaged’ by doing stepovers and scissors around those infamous imaginary defenders or running from line to line in those passing exercises might only be masking their boredom simply by keeping them busy. Your sessions might be loaded with powerful tactical info- but the transmission from your brain to theirs might be more like a supernoway than a superhighway.

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.

I have no scientific proof or professional studies to back my next statement. I am speaking from personal experience when I say this:

Kids, at all levels, love to play the game. Coaches, at all levels, that don’t know how to teach the game, are the ones who ruin it for them.

Straight forward and to the point. And it’s the truth.

 

A VERY DIFFERENT SET OF LENSES

26 Nov

I realized something tonight. I realized it while I was leaving our practice and discussing our “4v4+3 neutrals” exercise with our brand new assistant coach. She complimented the girls and said she was impressed by the amount of one touch passes they were able to complete. The conversation then turned into talking about how the ‘core’ of our team has been together for more than two years now and how beneficial it is to have girls that are not only very familiar with each other, but very familiar with the exercises that use at our practices.

Long story short… I ended up apologizing to our new assistant coach. Not because I was mean to her or anything, but because I realized she probably had absolutely no idea what our team was doing during most of the exercise. I mean… she wasn’t in complete darkness. I had given her the practice plan, discussed some things with her prior to practice, but I was leaving soooo much out… completely on accident.

The movements, the language, the reasoning behind certain actions… Jeez.What was I thinking?

I just forgot that it was her first time seeing us do this stuff. It made me think back to when I first started teaching this style of soccer to these girls. It made me think about how much the vocabulary has changed. It made me think about how the focus has changed. Honestly- it made me think about how bad we were, myself included, when we were first getting started.

Below you’re going to see two videos. One is much longer than the other. I’m not sure what you’re going to take away from watching either of them. But I guarantee you that what I (and my players) see and what you see are going to be two completely different things. Because we look at it through a very different set of lenses. What we do in our 4v4+3 drill is the result of multiple years of training a certain way. It’s the result of adopting and adapting to a very specific philosophy that belongs only to us. Our philosophy is unique and no one else can recreate it. I’m not sure that anyone would even want to. It’s our own style. I love it. It’s not perfect, but I absolutely love it.

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