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.

TRAINING IN DISGUISE

20 Nov

You’re planning your next training session. You’re trying to decide which passing exercise to use. You also want to work on possession. It’s a good idea to get the goalie involved at some point. Don’t forget about tactics! And at the end of the week, everything you chose to work on is supposed to fit seamlessly into Saturday’s match. Right?

What if the ‘passing exercise’ you chose was actually a pattern that your team could replicate during the game? Not just mindless passing between a few cones. What if it was secretly ingraining certain movements into your players heads without them even knowing? Not just running from station to station. What if you disguised really important material as a fun, fast paced, competition style passing and finishing exercise? Instead of your players associating tactical training with standing around and being bored (speaking from experience).

What if I told you there was a way to do all of that stuff for an entire training session and still get out of there in less than an hour and a half? I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. I’m not an expert. Far from it!!! But everything I do relates to a bigger picture.

Here is one example that I used recently…

A five station passing exercise ending with a dribble back to the start. Rotate by following your pass. Turn it into a competition by setting up a mirror image of the same exercise just next to it. Compete to see how many times your team can complete the passing pattern perfectly using no more than two touches, receiving across their body, and dribbling the ball back to the start as fast as they can. Okay, it’s been introduced.

Same set up- but now instead of dribbling for competition, you include some shooting. You move the exercise to the penalty area. The last person in the exercise gets to rip a shot on goal. Each side keeps track of their goals. Want more? Add in a passing combination on top of the 18 between the player who made the 1st pass and the player who is shooting. Getting fun now, huh?

But how does this translate to the real game? By simply placing the cones in a certain area of the field, you begin to secretly train your players. For example, doing this near the goal. This is where it gets really fun! Remove the cones and place players in their actual positions. The first passer becomes the GK. Player 2 the holding mid. Player 3 the center back. 4 is the outside back. 5 is the attacking mid. Then, start explaining what they just spent the last 20 minutes actually doing.

By doing this passing exercise near the penalty area… they just spent 20 minutes (indirectly) building out of the back from a goal kick. They didn’t even know it! Light bulbs will begin appearing above all of your players heads as you explain.

RIOT PIG DRILL

I can’t even begin to tell you how beneficial it is to train like this. A few more quick examples…

That combo on top of the 18? Do you think that was just for fun? Or is that realistic as well? That drill serves a dual purpose. I build off of that with other exercises.

What about attacking patterns? Let’s use a triangle passing exercise. One station checks away before receiving the ball and playing a combo back to the first passer. The first passer then plays it diagonally to the 3rd player. It’s so simple, but effective. But here’s the trick that will help your players make the connection. Do this near your sideline right in front of your team bench. Now, put your winger, outside back, and attacking midfielder in their positions. You just worked on the winger losing their marker, creating space, and then using the space. BOOM!

The take away from this… choose your shit wisely. Don’t pluck a passing drill out of  a book and sandwich it in between your warm up and a keep away exercise. Make sure what you’re doing actually means something.

You are an artist. Each exercise you choose is a color. How you use it a brush stroke. And you’re painting a much bigger picture that is going to be displayed on game day.

LETS BE REAL

11 Nov

Some of you may have taken time to watch some of the videos of my team. I appreciate it. I spend countless hours watching videos of my team playing. I try to edit and post some of the ‘highlights’, but I spend just as much or more time re-watching all of our ‘lowlights’. Those ‘lowlights’ are where the gold is hidden. That’s the treasure!

A few posts back I said that I have very realistic expectations for my team based off of my philosophy and their abilities. I wasn’t lying. The videos that I post of my team, well, they’re as genuine as my expectations, but what I’m realizing is that I only post the good stuff. You guys haven’t seen anything but our highlights. I mean- it makes sense. Why would I post things that makes my team and I look bad? That’s stupid, right?

This train of thought was ignited when I read this:

“Honesty is the trait I value most in peers. Too many are in a constant state of spin to try to leverage their position. I don’t respect you.” -@Russcher

And then shortly after… I saw this video: http://youtu.be/HQlTpltQMJc

This training video is pathetic. It’s spin. Hype. Fluff. Crap. It looks like it was made for someone to show off their ‘possession product’ and boost their ego or coaching status. “HEY! LOOK AT ME. I CAN COACH POSSESSION!” To me it’s nothing more than a scam and it makes me angry. I could be wrong. I don’t know the team in the video. I don’t know anything about the club or this coach. It’s 11:30PM. I might just be tired and cranky.

This made me question my product, though. Am I part of the spin machine? I might be. But I have a solution (kind of).

I am going to show you a REAL video from one of our preseason training sessions. I didn’t tell the girls I was going to record them that day. They didn’t have time to fix their hair or make up. This was recorded days before I read that tweet and saw that other video. This is what my team REALLY looked like during this exercise:

 

Why am I showing this? Because I’m going to track our progress. I’m going to capture our highlights and our lowlights. And I am not going to keep them to myself. I’m telling you right now that we’re going to get better. I promise. We’re going to get better and I’m not going to instruct my girls to play ‘shadow defense’ when the camera is on and then put out a video that makes us look like wizards with the ball. Because I agree with every word in @Russcher’s tweet. Too many people fake it. And that doesn’t deserve respect.

Just wait… you’ll see!

 

 

 

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST

8 Nov

Tuesday was the start of tryouts for the high school team that I coach. We had it narrowed down to the final group of girls by Wednesday. On Thursday, we separated into Varsity and Junior Varsity teams. Boom. Three day process.

I notified the final group that they were in the program before the girls left the field Wednesday night, but did not tell them which team they were on. Later that night I sent them all an email. Here’s a couple pieces of it:

One thing that must be understood from the get go- the number one focus is the success of the Program at it’s highest level of competition (Varsity) and properly preparing players to reach that level in the future. Everyone must also understand that there are no individual successes within this Program. All decisions, on and off the field, will be made to benefit the Program as a whole. If everyone can place the success of the Program above all else, our goals will have a better chance of being achieved, no matter how high they are.

Our goal at RHS is to play REALLY good soccer. Returning players know that the bar is set fairly high… Which is a good thing! Both teams will talk about season expectations in the coming days. Coaches will be having conversations with players to identify specific individual expectations as well. There is a plan for every player that we have chosen this year and we intend on painting a very clear picture for everyone. By doing so, we increase our chances of success. I have provided a video from our 2012-2013 season as a reminder for returners of ‘how we play’… and newbies… take notes! You’re about to learn a whole new style.

http://youtu.be/DNqs0Fv6YaE

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Welcome to Righetti High School Girls Soccer 2013-2014!

I’m excited to share more with all of you as our high school season gets underway. First game is December 3rd. Wish us luck! :)

CLARITY

30 Oct

Long time Twitter friend, Ken Sweda, challenged me yesterday. He asked a very simple question that got under my skin. I don’t think that was his intention, but man, my wheels just couldn’t stop turning. It made me think about my entire coaching philosophy and all of my teaching methods. It sparked some serious self-observation.

This statement from my previous post didn’t sit well with Ken: 

If you’re thinking that because I am ‘telling [my players]’ what to do during the game means that they wouldn’t do it without my help, you’re wrong.

So Ken challenged that statement by asking me:

If my team is doing what I want, why say anything at all?

 

What follows are excerpts from the email that I sent to Ken, because trying to explain myself 140 characters at a time on Twitter just wasn’t cutting it:

I do feel as if my [players] were well prepared for those specific situations which they encountered (that I highlighted) and that they probably would have done the right things without me saying anything. And I think this is where we are having our disconnect. I should have said probably. Because why would I say anything at all if they definitely ‘get it’? That is where I was overzealous. I should have chosen my words more carefully.

Continuing on- it was a topic that was recently worked on, but hadn’t been HAMMERED in quite yet. And even though I feel like my team probably would have done those things, I was still vocal for two reasons:

1) Reminders for some

2) Reassurance for others

Pressing was a major topic in practice that week. Our team defense was well rehearsed and they did a good job of grasping the concept and executing during training. My loud echoing vocal cues during the game were reminders for some, and reassurance for others. I treated that game, like I treat all of my games, as an ‘extension of training’ from that particular week. So, my ‘yelling’ that week, and every week, was centered around themes that were either recently introduced to the team or major themes that we continually work on throughout our season. Of course, I sprinkle in the occasional ‘good job!’ and ‘go team!’ bullshit.

As [the players] become more and more familiar with something, my cues might change, increase or decrease in frequency and/or intensity. As I introduce new topics and ideas, new things take presidence on the sideline.

The main point that I was trying to get across in my post, which got lost, is that I am always trying to coach something. That something changes with the recent or major themes from training.

I thanked Ken for challenging me. It had been awhile since I had thought so deeply about anything. I learned a lot about myself yesterday. I thought about ‘my style’ of coaching and ‘my way’ of doing things all damn day! And after a day full of soul-searching, I concluded that I am still a bit naive, that my methods are sound, and most importantly… that I am on the right path.

Yesterday, I unintentionally found clarity.

SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN

29 Oct

Neither is word vomit.

There is a war right now.

One side believes that coaches should sit quietly during games and let the players demonstrate what they learned at practice during the week. The other side is vocal during games. Who is right? I don’t know…

But riddle me this…

A team practices twice a week and plays one game on the weekends. That is approximately 4 1/2 hours of total supervised soccer each week. But if you subtract 90 minutes from that, the 90 minutes that a coach is supposed to sit quiet on the sideline while his team plays, you get about 3 hours worth of supervised soccer during which the coach interacts with players and gives instruction. Now, if you’re anything like me, there are brief moments during practice that you aren’t barking orders. So that 3 hour estimate is actually pretty high, but we’ll stick with it for the sake of this example.

At the end of the month a team will have had approximately 12 hours of supervised soccer in which instructions were given. The team also played 4 games which equals about 6 hours worth of time the coach was watching, but not instructing. So the total time of supervised soccer is 18 hours, but during 1/3 of that time a coach is ‘supposed’ to be quiet and let his team attempt to display what they learned during the limited practice time they had during the week.

That makes no sense. Why would anyone waste 1/3 of their time just watching their team?

We need to change the way we view games here United States. Yes, they are games, but we need to treat them like extra training sessions.

Now, word vomit is not the golden ticket, but complete silence, in my opinion, is just wrong! What you say, how you say it, when you say it, who you say it to… those things are all part of why coaching is an art. You should not be trying to reinvent the wheel during the game from the sideline. You should be giving instructions that your team are familiar with. Your team should have a good understanding of the tactics and what they are expected to do. And like I discussed in my previous post, you need to know what to watch for in order to have an idea of what you should be saying.

Me? Well- I have my own style. My style is a loud, projected voice that echoes throughout the empty high school stadiums that my teams play in. The content that I relay always has substance and almost always relates to something my players already know. And if you’re thinking that because I am ‘telling them’ what to do during the game means that they wouldn’t do it without my help, you’re wrong.

Here is an example. Turn your volume up…

An organized press executed to near perfection in our very first game of the season last year after the very first kick off. I’m ‘telling my team what to do’ the entire time. But watch and listen again. Do you really think they are doing that just because I am telling them at that very moment? Or is it because they’ve been taught what to do and have worked through that situation many, many times before? My girls demonstrate a perfect press again around the 2:20 point in the video. Again, you can hear my voice.

Around 1:40 you can hear the other coach yell ‘Come on, White!’

Unfortunately, we lost 1-0 that night. Our teams play each other again to kickoff the high school season on December 3rd, 2013.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

28 Oct

What is one thing that the majority of youth  teams, clubs, and coaches fail at? 

Okay- that’s kind of a trick question. Sorry. 

Recording, analyzing, and reviewing matches and training sessions is one area that our soccer community absolutely does not understand. Honestly, it’s flat out ignored by most clubs and coaches. Those who are recording games aren’t doing so with the proper intention or looking for the right things. And those who are not recording, analyzing, and reviewing games are likely drawing conclusions about their performances driven by images in their heads of how they think their team played, which is likely a fallacy, and is doing quite a bit of harm. 

Just yesterday, I said on my Twitter that I have a very realistic image of how my team should play. It is a basic equation of: how I want my team to play (my philosophy) + what I can actually get out of my group of players. 

 

I bring this up because I believe that most coaches have an misconstrued image of their own teams. Why would teams continue to kick the shit out of the ball during games, but work on short passing drills during practices? Because the coach hasn’t identified the problem correctly, likely because he hasn’t spent time properly analyzing games and reviewing with his team. Most coaches base everything– practices, games, season plans, etc.– off of what they see in real time. And I don’t think coaches understand how difficult it is grasp everything as it happens in real time and then turn around and analyze it on the spot and then relay the solution to the team. And even if coaches do a good job of analyzing what they see in real time, from field level, right there on the spot, is that enough? No. What about everything they couldn’t see? 

A step further. 

Let’s say you are one of the few that actually watches video of your team. What are you watching for? Anything specific? Maybe you pick out individual moments of the game in which there were breakdowns. Or maybe you do the opposite and find the highlights of the game. Both good. But again, is it enough? No. 

Here is something concrete that you can take away from this post right now and begin using immediately. I’m dead serious! Do this:

1) Record your next game. 

2) Sit down and watch it, but first, grab your practice plans from the week before. That’s going to be what you watch for.

Explanation: Tuesday, you spent 30 minutes working on a passing combination on top of the 18 ending in a shot on goal. You’re going to watch and count how many times your team encounters that situation and how they deal with it.

3) Decide if your team is actually using what you worked on in practice the week before. 

Explanation: Did that passing exercise warrant 30 minutes of your Tuesday practice? Was that the problem? Did they use it frequently or even at all? Or did you guys have trouble building out of the back instead? Did you spend any time on building out of the back in your sessions? Did you even identify that as a problem? What should you really be spending your time on?

This will become an addiction if you take this seriously and want to do it right. Because now that you’ve recorded your games or training sessions you’ll be able to really study and refine your tactics and get a realistic idea of how your team is playing and what you can actually get out of them. You’ll be able to pause, rewind, and play through different moments as many times as you need in order to really understand what happened. 

Like this clip for example. I can’t even count how many times I have watched this clip.  

 

 

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