Now Playing Tracks

Book Report: The Man Watching by Tim Crothers

I love to read, and I recently just finished “The Man Watching” by Tim Crothers, a biography of Anson Dorrance.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, and I know it’s not a new release, but I really enjoyed reading this book about one of the greatest soccer coaches in the USA.  There are obviously amazing things about this man’s life, but I wanted to focus on some of the coaching themes I gleened from this book.

One of the main things I got from the story of Anson was his consistencey in holding the players at UNC to a higher standard, and never letting them settle for second best.  The competitive cauldron that he sets up in training, and the constant encouragement to be better shows the passion of this man.

And maybe that’s what it comes down to, passion.  Here is a guy who has coached at the same school for 32 years, and he still has the passion of a first year coach.  He is motivated to give a hundred percent, and to hold his players to that standard day in and day out, year after year.  Of any coach he could say he’s achieved what he set out to achieve and can take it easy now, but he pushes and pushes until his players hate his guts.  And the result is a soccer team with a tradition unlike any other in the history of sports.

Another thing I found so interesting about this man was how unique his leadership style was.  Here is a guy that has everything planned out in his practices, constantly grading and scoring his players through training sessions, and they can’t hardly show up for a game on time.  Gives me hope that there are coaches out there who have amazing results, but still might not be “perfect” in the eyes of the world.  But it works for him.  Another sign of his great leadership quality is the fact that he’s surrounded himself with people who are strong in areas he’s weak.  He knows he’s not the most organized man in the world, and he has an administrative assistant that keeps him on schedule as much as possible.  He has a statstician who handles the numbers and recording for him.  An assistant coach that is very relational with the team and will sit and listen to them and lend a shoulder to cry on.  Anson knows his weaknesses and his strengths and found people to help fill the gaps.

Great book!  If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it.  Something for everyone in this book about leadership, overcoming adversity, and building a tradition of excellence and success.

What do you think of Anson Dorrance?  Have you heard him speak or read any of his books?

Developing a Coaching Philosophy

In my class we have just finished talking about writing a coaching philosophy, and I thought that it would be good to mention something here about it as well.

Having a written coaching philosophy in place is like having a rutter for the ship, it gives us direction and purpose to our profession.  It also can help us to be efficient in how we use our time and energy. 

First, we need to be self-aware.  So many coaches write out philosophies that sound good, or that they idealize themselves to be, but it’s not who they are.  Be true to yourself!  Every coach should want to grow, but there is a difference between setting objectives and just being off base.  What values are most important to you?  What do they have to do with your profession?

Second is to determine what your view is on competition.  What place does it play for the level that you want to coach at?  In general there are two main competitive views; 1) to win, 2) to help athletes develop.  When we focus on winning the outcome is the objective.  When we focus on development the process is the objective, and winning should come if we do a good job on development.  This will be the foundation of your philosophy.

Third we need to establish a personal philosophy of how to motivate our athletes.  Will we use punishment?  Will we work with them to set goals?  Will we use intersquad competitions?  Is it on our athletes to be motivated or is it our responsibility as a coach? 

Fourth is to establish your style of play.  Do you want to possess the ball? Counter attack?  Defend zonally or man mark?  Etc.  Then you need to establish what are the pillars or skill set your athletes will need to be successful in this style.

And finally, what role will character development play into your coaching?  Athletics reveals character, it doesn’t inately develop it.  We need to be intentional as coaches about developing character in our athletes.  After you’ve decided how important this is to you, define what your role is in developing character in your team.  Set a strategy for achieving character development in your athletes.

Any other thoughts on developing a coaching philosophy?

Preparing for the Season

Coaching is a tireless job.  Preparations seem to never stop for the upcoming seasons.  At the collegiate level we are constantly recruiting and preparing for future seasons that we might not even have completed schedules for.

But on a more practical level “preseason” begins with my post season player meetings.  I actually just got done with my last player meeting today, and it’s an evolving process for me.

How do you evaluate the effectiveness of a season?  How are players appropriately debriefed?  How do you set to the tone for the new and upcoming season?

Here is the evolution I’ve personally taken with player evaluations…

2002- As an assistant coach I sat in on some of the post-season player evaluations we did.  Mostly the head coach pointed out to the players what he saw from them and opened it up for the players to vent about their season.

2005- My first year as a head coach, I debriefed my players and asked them to set three goals for themselves related to soccer for the upcoming competitive season.

2006- I started using a form I stole from a fellow coach (with permission).  The players had to take the form home and have it filled out when they returned for their post-season meeting.  The form covered several areas for short term (in college August of the upcoming year), midrange goals (approx. 3 years), and long term goals (6-10 years).  The goals were supposed to be wholistic, not just related to soccer.   The players are asked to set goals academically, athletically, and basic goals they want to see achieved in their lives.

Present Day- I still use an updated version of this form.  I’ve found that it does a great job of tackling several things.

  • Goals need to have a time limitation!  What’s the point of having a goal without having a deadline?  So we’ve established that short term goals are set to be achieved by the beginning of the upcoming season (approx. mid-August).  Midrange goals I’ve established as the time table they have until they graduate with their bachelors’ degrees (I think it’s important for college students to think about that last year and what they want to achieve by the end of the collegiate career).  And long term we’ve left as 6-10 years down the road.
  • Goals need to be wholistic.  I like that our players set goals for academics and life.  Some players set GPA goals, deciding majors, spiritual goals, and relationship goals.  This shows our players that we care more about them as a whole person rather than just an athlete.  And, it helps the athletes prioritize soccer in the big picture of their lives.
  • Identify obstacles to achieving success!  At the beginning of each season we try to help our athletes identify what the other teams are going to do to stop our attacks, or to break down our defensive shape, and why not in goal setting.  The biggest challenge I’ve noticed in goal setting for soccer players is they meet a challenge and don’t know how to overcome it so they give up.  Identifying that we will have obstacles to success and establishing a game plan to overcome is a great psychological victory!
  • Goals need to be written and shared!  It’s too easy to give up on our goals when we don’t put them down on paper and share them with our teammates.  There’s no accountability if they’re in our head.  Each of my players turns a goal setting form into me, and I photocopy it and give them a copy to leave in their lockers.  For our individual meetings in August I pull these sheets back out and confront the players with them.

These are just a couple things I have learned about goal setting with our players.  After we have individual meetings with the team we sit down as a community and set goals for the upcoming season as a unit nine months in advance.

This is important to put all of our off-season work into perspective.

How about you?  What do you do for goal setting with your team?  I’d also be very interested to hear from club coaches on how you tackle this with your teams.  I coach a club team in the off-season and I find it very challenging to establish goals.

Building a Community

One of the best things I’ve enjoyed about this career is the fraternity of coaches I’ve met in the last nine years.  Every convention, coaching course, showcase, and tournament we find time to sit and enjoy exploring this great profession we’ve all chosen.

What is it about sitting down with other coaches to swap training activities, coaching philosophies, stories of sport psychology, and the great memories we’ve created working with young people?  I enjoy attending and teaching at coaching courses because the outcome is the same; I get to learn from other coaches who work with a wide range of ages and competitive levels during lunches and breaks.  It’s a great profession when you’ve never learned enough and can always glean something from your peers.

That’s why I wanted to start this blog.  I wanted to give coaches a place that we can come together and share with one another to help us grow as individuals and become better coaches in our profession.  This is a place where you are encouraged to share!  You are the expert, and you have something to offer the rest.  If we work together than we can make an even better impact on the players that we work with.

We make Tumblr themes