Soccer Articles

Can you keep it down please?

The more years of coaching I have under my belt, the more I realize how little I can do to help the team DURING a game. Now obviously there are things a coach can do that have a significant impact (who is on the field, what formation you play, finding match-ups that benefit the team) but ultimately, it is the 11 players who have the real impact.

When I first started out, as a 22 year old who was only 4 years older than the high school boy seniors on our team, I was very active on the sidelines, fearing to even look away for a second to grab a drink of water. I was constantly directing where the ball should go, along with making occasional comments to the referee. I think a gigantic problem with coaching, especially in soccer, are coaches who can't keep their mouths shut. I recently coached against a team who had a coach that was yelling so much, it was having an impact on MY PLAYERS! I literally had to wait to make my coaching points when he would take a quick breath before yelling something else. My players almost found it comical how much he was speaking. I was quick to remind my guys that if I ever sounded like that to them on the field, they can let me know immediately.

Soccer is not like March Madness. If you have been watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament, you will notice how much of an impact coaches have on the game. College basketball is a "coach's game", meaning that often in close games, the intelligence of a coach to think of a quick solution during a time-out has a huge advantage over the other coach. But soccer is different. There are no time-outs. There are really only 3 times when you can truly explain something to your team; pre-game, half-time, and post-game. There is no "icing the kicker". Can you imagine if you were able to call a timeout during a PK right before the opponent was about to make contact with the ball?!

It is the responsibility of the coach to use their training sessions to put the players into situations where they must identify a situation and solve the problem. When your team plays actual games, it is a live "test" to see if you have done your job. Regardless of the result, you will see exactly where your team is. If you do the work for them and yell every action that should happen, they are not learning and you are most likely making it worse for them. It also can also be contagious to the parents and players, resulting in everyone yelling things, whether they are wrong or right, during your games. I don't even think about complaining to referees anymore. Of course there will be situations from time to time, but it doesn't matter! I have taught my team that referees don't make good calls and bad calls, they set up situations for you to immediately deal with.

If you are coaching, it is important to make comments to your team, but if you are doing it constantly, you are just wasting breath. Here are a few other suggestions on ways to improve your team and their ability to analyze, think, and solve situations.

  • During halftime, let your team go off by themselves for a few minutes to get some time to rest. Encourage your team leaders to spark conversation about the game. This will get their brains warmed up and have them start to work out the issues before you even come over and start to talk!

  • When you do speak at halftime, make it short and simple. The more you say, the less of an impact you are having. Instead of making points, ask questions for the players to answer. When they answer, ask them to explain further in detail.

  • After games, I have my players send me "homework" assignments where they write a few paragraphs on the game...How did it go? What did we do well? What did we not do well? What do we need to work on?...You will be amazed at what the players can figure out themselves when you let them. Reading these individual comments will help you gain knowledge as well.

Soccer can be a very negative game. There is an unlimited amount of changes, decisions, situations, and problems. If your team listens to you extremely well, and they play well, consider this: What if you weren't there? Would they still be able to figure things out? If the answer is no, then you may want to keep it down, your players are trying to play!

Matt Weiss
Matt Weiss

Director of Soccer Matt was the head coach of the Olentangy Braves boy's program from 2011-2013 and is currently on the coaching staff for Ohio Wesleyan Men's soccer team, where they were an NCAA National Semi-Finalist in 2014. He has his USSF National D, NSCAA National Diploma and NSCAA GK 1 Diploma. He was also awarded Columbus Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and OCC Head Coach of the Year in 2012.

Posted by Administrator on Mon, 23 Mar 2015
tags:

Tryouts...Really?

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

Tryouts are part of club soccer and something any player who wants to participate must go through at some point in the current system of youth soccer. Throughout the country, club teams all have their own approach to selecting kids and placing them on teams for the upcoming year. Often, the identification process is influenced by the rules of the governing leagues or state associations, so players’ experiences may be different depending on where they live. These rules dictate when and how tryouts can be done and the manner in which organizations notify players about which team they made or did not make. Despite these differences, tryouts all share many of the same frustrations and anxiety saturated situations that make the experience less than ideal for the players and the their families.

A question I have about the tryout process… Is there a need for tryouts for majority of the kids who attend? You may be asking yourself what I mean. Let me explain. For most clubs, the majority of the kids at tryouts are kids who participated with the club the previous year. For the past 10 months, those players have been practicing and playing games with the same staff who is now “evaluating” them during a tryout to decide their placement for next season. Are these players spots going to be determined by their development over the past 10 months or by a few days of tryouts? Which makes more sense?

I would assume that the previous 10 months of coaching and watching those players practice and compete would be enough information to determine where they should be placed for next year. What are the same coaches going to see in an extra three days of tryouts (roughly 3 to 4 hours) that was missed throughout the entire previous year? If the club was organized in a way to allow all the coaches for a particular age group to interact and coach all the players in that age group over the course of the year, it would be very easy for those coaches to look at that group of players and decide where each player should be placed before going through any type of “tryout” process for the following season.

For these players at tryouts, what can they do to help or hurt their chances of making a certain level team? Does a player who struggled during the season get the nod to move up a team because of a good day at tryouts? Or vice versa? I cannot see a coach moving a kid down a team due to struggling at tryouts after having an outstanding year. If a coach or club’s approach with returning players is that their placement on teams is solely based on the tryout, and the previous year is not considered, then I can see a need for those players to "tryout" as it is an actual tryout since everyone is starting with a "clean slate" and performance in those couple of days will determine placement. Since this is not the case, there is not a real need for those players to go through that process. Nothing is gained or lost for those players, so to call it a “tryout” is misleading and can create the wrong impression of what is going on for both the players and parents. Players show up looking to show their best, but in reality, probably a lot has already been determined before showing up (and it should be).

Think of it from a different perspective. If you were a coach who wanted to be rehired to coach next year, how would the club determine whether or not to bring you back? I think we would want to be evaluated over our body of work from the entire year versus having the club bring coaches in for a couple days to to run a couple sessions, and based on those sessions, it is determined whether which teams we coach or not given a team to coach. As coaches, I think we would logically ask, "Why is my placement being based on a couple of training sessions, when a significantly more comprehensive amount of information is available to evaluate my performance as a coach?"

What about the “bubble” players? Even with these players, I think coaches have a pretty good idea of where they fall, and again, I do not think a couple days of tryouts make a difference for these players either. If players were close in ability during the season, I do not think it makes sense to use tryouts to set them apart. I think that is an easy way out for coaches or club. Instead of really sitting down and analyzing how each player did over the course of the year, strengths and weaknesses, potential for growth, attitude, consistency, etc… it is easier to just let the kids compete for one or two more days and pick who came out on top. Easier for us to say, “Hey, it was close, but this player had a better tryout” than “we took some time to really look at the season as a whole and this is what we decided.”

If those players are not at tryouts, we might lose them because they go to another club’s tryout. If a player wants to change clubs, they will change clubs. Having them attend your tryout does not stop that from happening. If the club has provided great value and experiences to the player over the course of the year, then why would the player leave? If the club did not, having the players attend tryouts just tries to limit options due to fear a player will leave because of not following through on what was promised previously. In short, that is not a good enough reason.

One of the HUGE benefits of this would be the ability for the staff to really focus on evaluating and working with new players. The coaches can spend extra time getting to know the players and families of kids who are trying out for the club for the first time. Working with them in a smaller group environment and being able to spend the limited time of tryouts really getting an understanding of the players’ abilities and goals. When there is a massive number of kids at tryouts, everyone gets lost in the crowd. Each player gets limited time on or around the ball and has much fewer opportunities to be evaluated by the staff. Even with more evaluators, often there is not enough information gained during the tryouts to really have a good evaluation to base a decision on how, where, and why to place a kid on a team. Often, with imperfect and incomplete information, there is a lot of “guessing” on where newer players should be placed or not placed, and there is more of a chance for error.

Even if you want the returning players to attend tryouts, why not be up front and let them know, that they are not being evaluated during that time. Those players’ evaluation and placement is based off the entire previous year, and not just a couple of days. It could be good to have the players there to interact with new players, and to see how new players interact with current players. But, the focus of the coaches can still be solely on the new players to try to gain as much insight about their current level of play and where a good place within the club would be for that player. It is a great service to provide for the kids who are showing an interest in your club or team.

Although this is a big change (or maybe not), it would not be that hard to implement, and I think it would be a welcomed change for players who are currently part of your club. It is tremendous customer service from the parent’s and player’s perspective. The club is saying, “We have done our job to coach and teach your child over the past year. We are very familiar with his or her abilities and will place him or her based on our observations over the past year.” If the player is nervous about placement, as many kids have an idea where they stand, they can take that time to look at another club as well, which they probably would do anyway. The tryout process is not a couple of days at the end of the year anymore, but instead a culmination of what a player has done over the course of the season. Now, when the season is over the player can relax, and trust the coaches to make the best decision based on what the player has done all year. I think we all would prefer to be evaluated in this manner, over what we have done over an extended period of time, versus just a couple days.

An even bolder idea would be for the clubs to offer spots before tryouts to all the current players. Then, tryouts are used to help each team meet its individual needs, and spaces left on the roster from players declining a spot. If a club is really focused on developing players, than it should not be that concerned about picking up better players at tryouts to make a team better. The club should be more concerned about continuing the development of its current players the following season. If the club or coach are confident in the current players’ potential for growth in their development system, than bringing in new players is not a priority or how the club relies on making teams better.

I think it is clear that tryouts are not just a way to place kids in appropriate level teams and competition (which is not always the case), but a way clubs battle with one another to try to make their teams better by recruiting players in from other clubs. Often clubs questions a player's “loyalty” when a player leaves their club for another for whatever reason. It is often in the context that the club has provided (although the player paid for) a tremendous experience and training to get better and the player “just leaves” after all these seasons.

But on the other hand, when a club cuts or demotes a player due to “better” players coming into the club, the “loyalty” question now comes from the player and parents. In their mind, they have committed to this club and its philosophy, and then just like that, they are moved off a team (they have grown close to) or cut from the club entirely. After the thousands of dollars, volunteer work and helping the club in various ways, they are shown the door or moved closer to it.

You may feel I am painting an unfair picture of the tryout process, but I think it is time we talk about the part of the process that gets swept under the rug or just accepted as “that is how we have always done it.” Being part of a club or team used to mean a lot more. Like most clubs, when you join, pay your dues, and put in the needed work to build the club and promote the club, better yourself within the club, and represent the club to your highest level, you would think the club would not show you the door as soon as someone comes along who has more value in their eyes.

If we are going to have tryouts, that is fine, but let’s at least do it in a way that does not make us look borderline reckless with the kids we work with all year round. The kids that are in your club, should not have to tryout for coaches who they have worked with all year long. You know where they stand, or you should. Let them know where they stand at the end of the year, and then let them decide what they want to do. During tryouts, focus your attention and resources and really evaluating and getting to know new players interested in the club. It will help to really know if A) the player is a good fit for the club and B) that the club is a good fit for the player by the added time given to observing the player and discussing the club’s philosophy/programs.

For your returning players, they should already know where they stand based on the 10 months of practices and games leading up to those tryouts. To make them feel like they are "trying out" for their placement for the following year seems illogical and unfair. The benefit of being part of the club the previous year(s) is that the coaches know these players already and there is no evaluation needed at that point. Those players, if they wish to return, can relax after all their hard work from the previous year and be placed accordingly. If they are returning, the end of the season does not mark the start of the most anxious time of the year, but time for a much needed vacation.

Is this an irrational attempt of changing a system? Maybe… but that is my idea. What is yours?

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Thu, 19 Mar 2015
tags:

Youth Team Rankings

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

This article is a plea for some sanity in the youth soccer system. There are a lot of good coaches and clubs out there trying to implement appropriate developmental plans for youth players who aspire to learn how to play the game. As coaches, we are told through US Soccer and other organizations that the focus at the younger age groups should be development and learning. The number of wins and losses are irrelevant at these age groups as the kids are just learning how to play. Although player's need to be taught how to step on the field to compete to try to win, it should be a pressure free environment where risk taking, creativity, free-flow of play with less coach direction, and proper ways to play should be encouraged. As coaches develop practice sessions and manage games for their players, the focus is to help them learn and develop with a goal being for the players to have the tools to compete at the older and senior level teams, and enjoy playing the game.

Well, if that is the case, I need someone to explain to me the need of a youth ranking system for U11 teams… for 10 year olds? Seriously, someone tell me what the value is to rank teams at this age group? What does that really mean? Most importantly, how does this promote a better youth soccer experience for the players and help the United States reach their mission of developing better soccer players?

If you can answer these questions with anything that could be seen as a rational response, and with the benefit of the kids (not parents or coaches in mind), than you are smarter than me (which is not an exclusive club). I have tried to understand the need and justify something like this being needed in our youth soccer system, but I have not found a way to do that.

How does a team get a number one ranking? The team has to win a lot of tournaments. I guess a team can consider being “successful” by winning a lot tournaments, but I would measure success about HOW those teams are winning those tournaments. I would measure success with a youth team by the level of GROW AND DEVELOPMENT IN EACH PLAYER. Now... show me that "ranking" for a team or club!

If a team is stepping on the field, with a development first approach, trying to play the game the right way, focusing on possessing the ball, giving all kids opportunities to contribute equally in the game, giving kids the chance to play and experience the game in different positions, encouraging them to take risks, and they win the game, than that is fantastic and should be applauded (and it is how it should be done).

But, I would make a hefty bet, that the teams that are winning many of these tournaments take a much different type of approach. An approach probably closer to the other side of the spectrum than what is being promoted as appropriate for these age groups by US Soccer and other coach education organizations and leaders. I would venture a guess that the team relies on a couple “special” players to be difference makers for the team. These players are relied on to score most of the goals, control the game, take all set pieces, and never come off the field. (I bet the team does not attend a tournament that one of these players would have to miss for personal reasons. Not worth going if you are not going to win, right?) While the rest of the team is probably made up of better than average players who are asked to get the “special” players the ball as quick as possible. The other players are never given the same responsibilities or given a chance to play that type of role on the “team.”

Kids on these teams probably all play in the same position the entire time. In order to win, it helps to have your players in the position they are best (at 11) to put the strongest line up on the field. Hard to have as much success when kids are placed in different roles to help work on their weaknesses in games, and challenge the player to develop an understanding of how to play the game in those positions. Although this would benefit the players’ develop, it could be catastrophic to keeping that number one ranking.

What type of players make up the best team at the country at U11? Is it a team full of kids who are already 6 ft tall while most of the other teams are still not nearly at the same physical maturity level? These teams are physically probably much superior than your average team, comprised of 10 year olds who have the speed, strength, and size of kids years older. Will this team still be able to compete, have as much success in five years down the road, when other teams are beginning to catch up physically to them? Was the team taught the technical and tactical skills required to play that game at the older age groups, or were they just focused on using what worked to win at U11?

I bet there is very little risk-taking during games on a team like this. If a player gets a ball in his team's penalty area, I bet the player is encouraged (screamed at) to “clear it” or get it out of “danger.” Having a player try to use his skills to control the ball and build out of the back or find a way to break the pressure and keep possession is not worth the cost of a possible goal when the goal is solely to win. Again, although that composure and skill development is key for the players to gain at the younger age groups, in order to be ranked number one, some things will need to be sacrificed. Again, how many teams can say they are the best U11 team in the country? Number one baby!!!

Though I do not blame the team or the coach for any of this (for the most part), as again, the team is playing in a system that rewards this type of play through these types of accolades. What system is out there to recognize and rank teams based on what the players are being taught and how well they are being prepared to play the game at the next level? Where is that measurement? Where is that ranking? That is a ranking that I would deeply care about because A) it would recognize the actual best coaches/clubs/programs and B) it would help parents see which organizations are actually worth the investment for the benefit of their child.

The youth system is creating an environment that is sending two very different messages. On one hand, the professional coaches and leaders of the soccer community (US Soccer) are telling youth coaches and parents to focus on development and teaching their players how to play the game. On the other hand, the coaches are trying to do that in an environment that will punish a club and team for not playing to win from a young age. Tournament wins and league championships are how you get your teams ranked and recognized as the top in the country. The system promotes, encourages, and rewards coaches, teams, and clubs to focus on the wrong things from the start!

For a team, that does not have all the impressive tournament wins as a youth team, who is part of a club who really believes in a “player first development model” and it is not just a tagline on the club’s website, it will be harder for them to move into more competitive leagues or be accepted into higher level tournaments at the older age groups because they do not have an impressive resume of tournament wins. Since the system is set up to punish coaches and teams who are not in it for wins from the get go and actually really want to help players learn how to play this game, what do we expect those coaches and clubs to do?

Am I saying that winning is an indication that a team is just playing for wins and not trying to develop players? No, if a team is winning, obviously that can be a great thing. It can be the result of how good of a job the coach is doing with helping each player on the team develop and learn the game. So for me, it is not an issue with winning. It is simply HOW a team is winning at the youth ages? As I have said before, development takes time, but there are plenty of short cuts to take with youth teams to win which takes no time at all.

I am sure there are some great U11 teams out there that play fantastic soccer, and are being prepared to play the game years down the road. A measure of that would be IF those teams are still winning as time passes when they get to the older senior level age groups. Should that not be the goal for all youth coaches, teams, and clubs? To help the players learn the game so they can come back and be better next year? It would be unfortunate to watch a team who was considered “high level” at one point, slowly fall behind each season, and never be able to get back to having the same success they experienced early on in their young careers.

If as a soccer community, as a nation, we are serious about making sweeping changes about the youth soccer system, to promote and encourage coaches to teach the game, this is one part of the system that needs to be eliminated. There is no need to rank teams at the younger age groups. You cannot promote a better playing and developmental experience for players, and promote a youth team ranking system at the same time. It immediately switches the focus for the players, parents, coaches, and clubs to a part of the game that does not matter at the youth level. Step on the field to compete, and try to win, but do it in a way that teaches the kids how to play the game. Do not do it so the team moves up a spot in the rankings.

For fun, I tried to find out where Barcelona’s U11 team ranked in the world. Unfortunately, I could not find that information. Either they like to keep it a secret, or they do not care.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Fri, 23 Jan 2015
tags:

Our Warped View of a Coach

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

When we think of great coaches, we are drawn to the greats that we watch on ESPN each week. They are the brilliant college and professional coaches who are exceptional strategic tacticians, who prepare their team each week to step on the field, compete, and win. They utilize their players strengths, place them in the right positions to use those strengths, and make sure the other team cannot expose their weaknesses. Their goal is to use their players, get them to play in a system, and win more games than they lose. That is what they get paid for, and frankly, not producing that result will find them quickly out of a job. These coaches are paid to win, and they approach the season with that goal in mind. Unfortunately, as coaches and parents, we watch these coaches and assume this is how a coach of 9 year olds should coach as well. We have a warped sense of what a "great coach" looks like because we tend to only study the ones who get paid to win. We know little about the ones who are the best at coaching with kids.

When a coach takes over a team of kids, is his primary job to evaluate these kids' strengths and weaknesses, find out which position they are best at, and then formulate a team system to give those kids the best chance of winning all season? When youth coaches do this, they are often praised. The coach's approach is one that helps professionals at the higher level keep their jobs, but is fundamentally backwards for kids in terms of their development and learning. It helps the team win, makes the coach look good, makes the kids look good, parents are happy, so it must be the right way to approach the season. I am sure there are not a lot of complaints to coaches who take this approach and finish the season on top.

But I believe the coach fails at his most important task when approaching his responsibility in this manner. He fails to actually teach. Let me give you an example...

I read a story about a basketball coach who asked his team to press when defending. When the other team inbounded the ball, he wanted his team to try to win the ball close to the basket for easy lay ups and shots close to the basket. On the surface, this sounds like great coaching. And fundamentally, the idea is not wrong. That is a part of the game. But the reason behind it was where the coach failed to do his job.

He had his team press because his players were not very good at handling the ball. They could not bring the ball up the court and they did not pass very well. When his team was forced to bring the ball up the court, they often lost it and gave up lots of points. Instead of teaching the players to improve their dribbling, passing, and challenging them to get better in this area, the coach chooses a different approach. He tried to hide his team's weakness by applying a very smart tactical plan which would help his team win more games and have more success (in terms of wins and losses).

This coach was proud of his team and their ability to execute his plan. They ended up winning the league championship. This in a lot of people's mind would be an example of high level coaching. Maybe this coach even won "Coach of the Year" for helping his team of players who were not that good individually achieve so much. But the sad truth is that this coach took the very easy, LAZY way, out and failed to actually coach.

If you have a team of players who cannot perform fundamental skills, or you have players on your team who individually struggle in certain areas of the game, COACHING IS NOT FINDING WAYS TO HIDE THOSE WEAKNESSES or helping the kids compensate for those weaknesses by tactical decisions you force them to make. Coaching, actual high level - youth coaching, is helping those kids improve on those areas. Your job is not to help them win. Your job is to help them learn how to play the game so they can win.

In the case of this story, I feel a coach who was truly concerned about helping those kids get better, would ask each player on that team to constantly work on their dribbling and passing, trying to bring the ball up the court in each and every game (not just practice), until the players learned how to do it. Now, that is something that would have lasted much longer than just a single season of success for the players. It would have much more value than the plastic trophy. They would have learned how to work to get better and what it takes to EARN success.

Now what do you think would have happened if the coach took the “development” approach? How do you think that would have been received by the parents? Most likely, as the players were taking their lumps, giving the ball away, and losing games, the coach would have received many emails or phone calls questioning why he kept making the kids try to dribble and pass the ball up the court. In the stands, the parents may have muttered to each other or under their breath, “This coach has no idea what he is doing! Can’t he see the issue? Why doesn’t he have the kids just….”

So, I do not put the blame on just the coach. At times, it is the coach perpetuating what the parents are expecting of the coach, or what a coach feels the parents are expecting him to do. Often a stray from our warped view of the role of a coach is not accepted well by the masses. Again, we have an idea that a coach is suppose to be the same type of guy or woman we see on ESPN, and we fail to see that a youth coach should act, teach, and interact with players in a much different way and have completely different goals for the group and each individual.

In this case, do I have any issue with a coach teaching his team how to press? No. I think kids playing a sport should learn all different ways to attack and defend. Pressing is part of basketball and kids should learn how to do that. My issue is simply with the reason behind it, and the motivation to make the kids play a certain way to avoid actually teaching them how to play the game and helping them get better. Short term success, a single season, is given more value than a longer term purpose and value of sports… to help kids learn how to learn, struggle, develop, and grow.

Now, the one thing that coaches who we love to watch on ESPN, and I look up to, that I try to adapt to my coaching with the players I work with is how those coaches help each player believe they are capable of doing much more than they think is possible. They understand how critical a player’s confidence and belief in their ability is to their performance on the field. They are experts at making sure their players are in the right mindset when faced with competition or an obstacle to overcome.

You should expect that from your youth coach. It is one of the most important things a coach can provide a young player. If a coach can instill in a player the mindset that skills can be learned and developed, to be confident in what they are capable of doing, and never be afraid to fail, that any type of REAL SUCCESS will require a large amount of failure, then the coach has given the player much more than any single win or trophy will come close to providing.

I have said it before... youth coaches are not paid to win games. They are paid to teach and develop young people using a sport. A youth coach should not act like or have the same goals as the coaches who get paid to win games; whose jobs depend on it. The approach is different because the goal is different. We need to stop confusing the two and assume our child’s coach should act the same. In fact, the more of a difference, the more strange it may look and feel, the more appropriate and better of a job the youth coach is doing.

We should not treat the kids like they are professional athletes, and we should not expect our youth coaches to act like they are coaching professional athletes.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 21 Jan 2015
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Uncommon to Achieve Uncommon

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

When successful people are studied, sometimes I think there is something that we miss. It is something that is glazed over as a “natural” part of the process of achieving their level of skill or rising to that level of success. We see these people as special or different than most, but we tell kids that if they work hard they can achieve the same things in life or in sports. Although I agree with this sentiment, and it is a good thing to encourage kids to work hard, at the same time, I believe that is also not true to some degree. By working hard, you will have a certain level of success and do better than if you did not work hard or even try, but to achieve success at an elite level, at anything, takes a very UNCOMMON type of effort that the majority of us are just not willing give.

Often hard work is mistaken for just trying or giving more effort than a person normally would in a given situation or over time. When most of us feel that we have “worked hard,” we really have not scratched the surface of how hard we need to work to reach an elite level on that particular task or towards our goal. Working hard at that level is an extremely uncomfortable state to be in most of the time, and most of us cannot tolerate the discomfort for long enough to get to that next level, a level beyond where we are currently comfortable.

On top of this, we have a misconception that hard work usually comes with instant gratification or rewards. We put in effort and immediately expect some type of reward or tangible item to show for the effort spent. Unfortunately, the harder the task, the less of a “reward” a person will see through the process. That is until the person has worked hard enough, for long enough, that the reward is actualized and another level of success has been achieved. On average, most of us quit way to early due to the first set back or stumble.

Many of us work hard to try to impress a coach, teammate, parent, friend, teacher, or boss, but those who really work hard never do it to try to impress anyone. Really, they just do not know any other way of doing things. It is what is necessary, so it becomes the norm for them. Although it is foreign, uncomfortable, and hard for us to do, and may even seem slightly excessive, for this type of individual, it is just their standard mode of operation. At some point, what we may consider as pain and discomfort, they find soothing and reassuring to what they are working towards. Maybe because they understand those are the indications they are heading in the right direction towards what they want to achieve? They know without the pain and discomfort they will never get to where they want to be, and for them, that result, would be intolerable. It would be a higher cost than the sacrifice needed to get there.

For these reasons, we cannot mistake effort for an uncommon effort and expect the same results. It is just not possible, and it is a mistake we often make. We ask ourselves and others to work hard to achieve great things, but we do not expect a necessary level of commitment to that hard work that is required to achieve great things. This is a key distinction that we need to make with kids.

When we tell kids that if they work hard they can do better on the soccer field, are we clearly defining what we mean by that? What are their goals and how hard will they need to work to achieve them? If we tell a player to work hard all season and he will earn more playing time, or move up a team, in a way, we can be setting that player up to fail. Why? Because we are not clearly showing the player what “working hard” means to achieve what he wants. The idea of working hard is different for each person, and his definition, or belief about what is required, could be way below what is actually required. While this player may see his hard work as enough, the other players he is competing against may consider that level of effort to be minimal. Thus, the player could be working hard by his definition, but not doing nearly enough to really help him overcome the obstacles ahead or surpass his competition.

As mentioned above, working hard will look and feel different for each player. What one player sees as working hard, another player could see as barely working at all or possibly working way too hard. Working hard is subjective, and how each person perceives that is different. This is a major reason for a difference in the level of success of players on the field (and off the field). Some players will just work harder than others, for longer, and see greater results and achieve more. Not all players will fit this mold, and that is ok. It is unreasonable to think that everyone will push themselves to the same level, and that is why a small percentage of players work their way to up to the top… a very small percentage. It is probably the same percentage of players who are willing to work at an uncommon level of effort to achieve an uncommon level of success.

Here is a quick story to illustrate my point… a mom of a player I had the pleasure of coaching called me very concerned one day. She told me her son is spending hours in the backyard each day with the soccer ball. He would just go in the back yard and then come into the house dripping with sweat after a couple of hours of working with the ball (juggling, dribbling, and passing against the side of the house). She was concerned about if it was too much for him, if it was safe for him to do that? I asked her if she was encouraging him or rewarding him somehow to get him to do that. She said no. In fact, she was trying to get him to come in the house and do other things, but he refused.

I told her to keep an eye on him to make sure he is not doing anything that can put himself in danger (not taking needed breaks or drinking enough water), but if he is doing that on his own free will then I would not be concerned. If he seems happy and is motivated to do that on his own, as long as it does not negatively affect other key areas of his life (with the understanding there is always some level of sacrifice), he will be fine.

This player in training, and obviously on his own, practiced with a very uncommon level of effort on a consistent basis. I know I did not train and practice to that degree, but I felt I worked hard as a player. But my level of working hard was not even close to this player’s effort. It was a completely different commitment level to the goal of getting better.

Over the years, this player was seen by many as a “special talent” as he was growing into an elite player. What people did not see is the amount of work he put in on his own and in training that others were not willing. For me, this is what made him “special” or uncommon. While others saw it as just a natural progression of a player born to play the game, I saw nothing natural about the progression as it was only possible due to his unnatural effort.

This player was recently signed by an MLS team and I am sure will continue to grow as a player, not because he is just that good, but because he is willing to work hard enough to be that good. Like other players at that level, they did not get their by chance or good fortune (even though we may like to believe so as it helps us feel better about it).

If we want to be honest with our kids, with the players we coach, we need to make sure we do not just point to elite athletes or very successful people and just say, “If you work hard, you can do the same thing.” Simply, that is not true. We are setting them up to fail. If we point to those people and really show a kid or a player what that person had to do to achieve what they achieved, then the player can make an honest assessment on whether or not they want to walk that same, very difficult, but fruitful, path to that elite level of success.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Tue, 20 Jan 2015
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