Soccer Articles

Go Fishing for Defenders

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

One of my favorite things to watch a player do on the field is to “bait” a defender into biting at a move or feint and then quickly taking the space the defender left. I love watching a player confidently move the ball towards a defender and set the defender up to miss the ball. What makes it so enjoyable? It is not a very common skill among youth players, so we do not see it that often. Yes, kids know different moves and feints, but very few really know how to use those moves to set defenders up to fail. Many can perform a “step over” but they do not know the best time to do it to get the defender to lunge for the ball. Like when someone goes fishing, you cannot just throw your line in the water. It is critical to know where to fish, when to fish, and use the right bait in order to catch a lot of fish.

When working with players on the ability to take defenders on and beat them with the soccer ball, there is often a great display of skill moves and creativity which is great to see. With that said, often, this is a lot of “activity without purpose” on the ball. Players need to have a variety of moves they can use to beat defenders, and be confident to use those moves, but more importantly, the players need to understand why and when to use them. This will be different for each player based on their strengths and weaknesses, but each move should be done with purpose.

For example, if a player is doing a “fake – take” when they lunge past the ball with one foot and then take it with the other foot past the defender, a pretty basic move that is very effective, does the player know why they faked left or right? Or does the player always go in the same direction when performing that move? We want a player to recognize space or an opportunity to move the ball forward behind the defender, but the player needs to try to get the defender to step out of the space the players wants to attack. If the player wants to attack to the left, will the player fake to the right to move the defender and then take the open space? Often, the player just does the move and then attacks in the opposite direction without much regard for what the defender is doing or where the space is on the field.

I have asked players before, “Why did you go that direction?” Normally, they do not have a reason, but it is special to hear a player explain where the space was on the field and how he was trying to get in to it. It shows a tremendous understanding of the game and ability to translate “skill moves” into a practical and effective way to beat defenders in the game. This is when moves become very useful for players and the game becomes much easier because the player realizes a critical part of the game. Simply, the defender cannot take away all the space on the field. There is always something exposed that can be attacked.

Simple concept, but players do not realize it. The defender can only take away the space he is currently standing. By using moves and feints, a player can move a defender out of space that the player on the ball wants to attack. As the defender “bites” on a player pretending to move or pass in one direction, the player easily can move in the opposite direction with the ball. The player sees the game as simple as moving the defender in one direction to go the other. Like playing chess, and “baiting” someone to take your Pawn, but by doing so, it exposes the other player’s Queen.

This is a different approach than most players take. As many players will just throw a barrage of moves at a defender, but really have no purpose or direction to any of the movement and effort. After all the fancy foot work, the player is still in front of the defender with the ball. More often than not, all that unneeded activity creates more opportunity for the attacking player to make a mistake and lose control of the ball, making it easier for the defender to to win the ball and gain possession. I want players to be creative and crafty on the ball, but that does not mean complicated. Often, creative and crafty is a simple, but unexpected, movement with purpose.

When it is with a purpose, and players recognize opportunities to use moves at the right times, it is like fishing in the right spot, at the right time of day, and with the right bait. You are more likely to beat the defender, just like you are more likely to catch a fish. Having a fishing pole and bait does not make you a great fisherman, just like knowing a bunch of skill moves does not make you a great player in 1v1 situations. Knowing how to use the tools in the right way is the key difference between being average and being great. As players need to develop the skill level to perform various moves with the ball, those skills then need to be put into context so they understand how, where, and why “to fish” with them in the game.

Like a veteran fisherman will tell you, there are not a set of rules about how and where to fish to get the best results. Often decisions are made by instinct and experience over a lot of practice and time improving their craft. For players, this is true as well. There are no set rules about how to use skill moves and feints in games. It is about finding the way it works best for the player. Over many attempts, successful and not, players can develop an understanding of how best to use the skill moves they learn. This is a key reason why it is important players are given the freedom to try those moves often in practice and games.

Eventually, those decisions are not even really decisions. At the speed in which the game moves, players will need to react almost subconsciously to what is happening around them and utilize the needed move without thinking about it. That only comes from a lot of time and experience trying skill moves in real game situations, and getting the feedback from the game on what works. Players begin to pick up on cues and movements of defenders which trigger a reaction that is appropriate and helps the player beat the defender or keep possession.

Think of it this way… when a defender steps in front of a player to win the ball, the player cuts the ball back away from the defender without a long thought process of, “Oh, here comes the defender, which foot should I use to cut this ball away from the defender and which way should I go?” It just happens based off of visual cues and what the player has learned over the years of playing. It becomes an automated response which appears to give the player more time and increases their speed of play. Without any hesitation or pause, the player makes a move. This is why at the professional level, it may seem that the players have a lot of time and space on the field, but in reality, the decisions are being made so quickly that it only appears they have more time.

Not only do we want players to learn a variety of skill moves and be confident in their use, we want players to develop an understanding of how to use them. When players understand why and how to implement skill moves in a game, it makes it very easy for them to “bait” defenders in and “catch” them out of position. Only through constant repetition, meaningful practice, and encouragement from the coach using guided teaching methods, can players begin to figure out how best to utilize their ability to beat a player in a game.

Overtime, they will become expert fisherman with a “wall of defenders” to show off all their best catches.

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, 24 Apr 2015
tags:

Play, Learn, & Create

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

When coaching soccer, it is easy to get caught up in all the technical and tactical aspects of the game that you want your players to learn, and all are skill areas I am sure the players need to know very well to have success on the field. We know we want the players to learn those skills, but how do we approach teaching it to them, or a better question, how will the kids approach learning those skills? It is the approach that kids take to learning new skills that we need to pay attention to so we know how to teach it to assist in the process of learning. During a training sessions, I know the kids will want to play and that is how they will learn. How will I know if they picked up the skills? They will demonstrate a strong understanding, a mastery of those skills, once they are able to create things I did not ask them to do on their own without any direction.

Play is a great word because it can be used to describe so many different things. It can be used describe almost any situation or activity in which an individual, of any age, is doing what they want, when they want, and enjoying it. It can be done alone or in a group (small or large). Usually play involves very little structure or rules, but it still usually always has a distinct goal or purpose. Often one of the goals of “play” is to get better at whatever is being done. This is true even though someone playing would not probably point to that as being the reason, which is a great thing, and why play is so valuable.

For example, when I was a kid, we built ramps and rode our bikes off them in the street. Now we were playing, and definitely having a lot of fun, but at the same time, there was this internal push to get better at jumping off that ramp. Once we could go over one ramp and land it consistently without falling, then we wanted to go off an even higher and steeper ramp, even when we knew we would fall much more often and fail the first time we tried. If we kept going over the same ramp, at the same height, over and over, it would eventually get boring and we would not want to do it anymore. As kids, we did not think of it this way. We just did not want to be bored, and it is fun to be challenged. Even though we were not consciously doing it to get better, each time we reached a certain level, we tried to do a little bit more. It made it more fun, and it helped us get better. The fun usually can be found just outside where we are comfortable.

At the same time we were making ramps higher, just going over them and landing was no longer all we wanted to do. We could do that...now what? Well, how about a twist of the handle bars, or try to spin around in the air? I am not saying we never got hurt, but we were playing, having fun, and without anyone pushing us to do so, we were trying to get better... and we got better.

Think of a kid’s video game. If they completed a level and then just had to repeat it again, they would probably not want to play it very long. Although the game itself is fun, it is only fun because there is another challenge around the corner. When do kids stop playing a video game, usually when they have beaten every level or there is nothing left to accomplish.

Play is a critical part of a player’s development because it is the foundation of how we learn anything. It is nature’s coach, and the way we were born to discover our limits and surpass them. We did it as kids, and still might do it as adults in some aspects of our lives. When you think of a training session, play must be involved heavily within the session for kids to learn. We need to create that experience within each session to ensure the same sense of enjoyment and internal drive to try new and challenging skills is present as it is essential for learning and growth.

Now, when you play, there is a process in which you take to learn. You learn what works and what does not as you fail and succeed at the task. Let’s go back to my experience jumping over ramps on my bike as a kid. We fell off our bikes, got bruises, and were too scared at times to try something new. We would “inch” into new jumps or more challenging tricks. We failed a lot more often than we succeed. We “wrecked” the bikes and our bodies... at first, but than we landed more often on two wheels rather than our face. But after each fall, we thought about what went wrong, tried to fix it,and tried it again. This was the benefit of the “play.” There was no one there to say, “Don’t do that” or “Don’t try that again.” There was also no one there trying to talk us out of trying something. Trying to convince us we were not good enough or it was too risky. We determined what we were going to try again, how we were going to do it, and when we were ready. This is how we learned.

At practice or in a soccer game, it is the same. Things do NOT work a lot more often than they do work. The worst thing as coaches we can do is take the “play” out of the game, and tell kids not to try difficult skills, things just beyond their current level, again, and again, and again when they play. After each failure, we need to be the voice that helps them correct the mistakes, as well as the voice that tells them to try it again. The same fear free environment that we all are part of when we play needs to be created by coaches on the soccer field. It is the natural way the players learn new skills. We cannot expect players to play just beyond their current abilities while at the same time criticizing and chastising them after every mistake. The mistakes should not just be expected and welcomed, they should be a sign to both the coach and the player, that learning is taking place and development is in the process. The play is being used to learn. Frankly, when kids come to practice and expect a mistake free day, or focus on not making mistakes, they are no longer “playing” and that key element needed to learn is lost. It becomes more of a scripted environment, a staged reenactment of playing soccer, and the kids are just trying to memorize their lines to avoid any “boos” from the crowd (a coach or parent).

Now, once the learning is happening, and the skills and confidence are improving, players will then feel comfortable to create with their new knowledge and skills. That is the evidence that every coach should be looking for to see if their players truly understand the concepts being taught. Once the players take those skills and start doing what they want with them, things that the coach did not even ask them to do, the players are demonstrating a strong understanding and confidence with those skills. Their competency is on full display.

Don’t believe me? One of the most common things I hear coaches say is (me included), “The kids did great with this (skill/concept) in training, but never use it in the game.” Well, this is exactly why. In a scripted controlled environment, they can repeat what you are asking them to do. But in the unpredictable environment of the game, the players do not really have enough understanding to create using those skills in that environment. This is why games are the key times for coaches to observe what the players are doing and not doing, what has been learned or not learned. A lack of a skill used in a game that was the focus of training the week leading up to the game shows a lack of competency in those skill areas. I would suggest more “play” in training to help deepen the understanding.

This is the natural progression of getting better at anything without really thinking about trying to get better at it. We play. Through our playing, we consistently try to push our abilities by doing more difficult or challenging things that make the play more fun. We explore the unknown possibilities of our actions. It is where excitement and fun reside, and where learning finds its home. As the learning takes hold, and the knowledge and skills deepen, we enter into the best part of play... the ability to create. The ability to create starts the process over. It provides a new way to play, new things to learn, and then new things to create.. and the cycle continues.

If there is a training session format that I could recommend to all coaches, this would be it. It is the most natural, it is the most effective, and it is the one that we all enjoy. Let the kids play to learn, and then let them create with what they learned. In a training environment, the coach is the facilitator of the play, and does not have to be an inhibitor of it when teaching. While still giving instruction and providing correction, you allow the kids to play and challenge themselves beyond their current abilities. Then, you can sit back and enjoy watching them create beautiful pictures on the field on their own. Through play, your players learned, and now they can create when they play.

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, 17 Apr 2015
tags:

If you're not Going to Teach, Why Coach?

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

It is a simple question to address a serious problem among youth coaches. Many people want to coach and enjoy doing it most of the time, but are not really interested in actually teaching the game. They may want to support the kids, encourage them, be their “buddy”, but a lot of those feelings come to a screeching halt the moment a child or a team begins to struggle. Immediately, the blame for the struggle falls on the players. According to the coach, the players are not focusing enough, not working hard enough, or just simply are not capable of “getting it” due to their current level. It is not considered whether or not there is something THE COACH can do differently to HELP or TEACH the players. It is just assumed the kids are incapable or have made a choice that they do not want to learn.

It would be nice if children did exactly what is asked, and they all learn in the same way and at the same pace. If a coach could just say, “do this” or “learn that” and each kid is magically fully capable of performing, coaching would be a much easier profession. Of course, that would not be coaching or teaching. It would be simply “telling” and expecting immediate compliance, and that is not the world we live in. In the world we live in the sky is blue, and kids (like adults) are all very different and often do not do exactly what is asked or meet our expectations right away. The world we live in requires coaches to TEACH to help kids improve. It requires patients, creativity, empathy, and a firm belief that every child is capable of learning what you are teaching. It requires the coach to be willing to consistently examine and critique his approach to decide if it is the best way to reach the players.

Is that not what we ask of the players? Is it acceptable for a player to try something once, fail, and then quit trying? Is it acceptable for the player to pass the blame on to someone else or just assume they cannot do it? For players to learn and develop they must take different approaches, and give themselves time to practice the skills coaches are trying to teach them. If the coach gives up before the player has learned it, why would we expect the players to continue try on their own? For a coach to quit when it gets hard, or to refuse to do what is difficult, does not set a good example for the players. When an approach does not work, it should not immediately be put on the kids and made to be their fault. When it does not work, the coach should find another way. He never quits… as that is the same expectation he has for his players.

“You have not taught until they have learned." – John Wooden

We are too quick to blame the kids or assume it is something they are doing, or not doing, without taking a second to look in the mirror and decide if WE CAN DO BETTER. That is coaching, that is teaching, and that is what kids, who look for us for support, deserve. If you are not willing to do that or are not really interested in teaching, than why coach? Teaching by definition is helping someone do something or learning something that previously was beyond their reach. That is not an easy task no matter what the subject. If you are really interested in teaching, than you not only EXPECT there to be struggle and setbacks, but you know they are necessary to accomplish your goal. Without a certain level of discomfort and uncertainty, there is never any growth.

Now, if you are in the “well some kids just do not want to learn” camp, then you really have stumbled into the wrong profession. It is just an excuse. That is it. An easy cliché to fall back on when something you try does not work or a player is making it more difficult than you would prefer. A real teacher will never fall back on this reasoning because it does not make sense. It is not at the core of what a teacher or coach is all about. It goes against everything educators stand for. A coach believing a kid does not want to learn, is like an artist believing something cannot be drawn or a scientist believing some problems cannot be solved.

Why do I believe that? Because we all are born wanting to learn. It is what we do from an early age. We are constantly interacting and trying to better understand our world around us from the day we are born. We are built to learn and grow, and I have not met anyone who really does not want to continue to grow in some capacity. In my time in schools and at the soccer field, I have met plenty of coaches and teachers who are not that interested in teaching, but I have not met a single child who did not want to learn.

If you are looking for a group of players who already have all the needed skills, who already know what is needed to know about the game, and who will put up little to no resistance along the way, then you want to be a babysitter, not a coach (or teacher). Real teaching is a battle, and I do not mean that in the normal sense. It is not a battle between the teacher and students or the coach and the players. It is a battle between the coach and himself. It is the battle between the part of the coach who wants to do it his way and the side who knows he needs to do it differently to help the kids. It is the battle between making excuses and finding solutions. It is the battle between blaming circumstances and changing the situation. It is the battle between ego and expertise.

So I go back to my original question. If you are not really interested in teaching, why coach? If you do not want to take the time to do all you can to help each player learn and grow, are not willing to roll up your sleeves and go to work, accept setbacks, learn from failure, be creative and grow your ability to reach kids, then why put yourself through the stress of coaching? Some may say they just like to coach kids, but “just being there” is not enough and it does not equate to coaching. You cannot just show up and the kids will get better. Just like the kids cannot just show up and get better. They have to put in effort and focus on the task at hand, but the coach is the one who has the ability to create an environment for that to happen.

Every kid can be reached, every kid can learn, every kid can be inspired to want more and expect more, but it requires a coach… a teacher, who is willing to do everything necessary to help that child find his path and reason. That is what a coach does. That is, by definition, our job.

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, 10 Apr 2015
tags:

Balance Development and Winning?

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

It is parent teacher conference night at your child’s school. Excited to hear about what your child has been doing so far this year, you enter the classroom with the other parents and wait to meet the teacher. As you are waiting, you look around the room at all the posters on the walls and notes on the board. It looks like the kids have been busy, and it is a great environment for your child to learn and grow. You see different lesson plans, motivational quotes on the wall, and the entire classroom looks very organized. Impressed with what you see, you assume your child has a great teacher this year.

The teacher enters the room and heads right to the front of the class, like he does every day, and prepares to address the parents. The teacher scans the room and welcomes the parents saying, “Thank you all for coming. It has been a great start of the year and I think you will be impressed with what we are doing each day in this classroom.”

The teacher walks over to a switch on the wall to dim the lights. Turning on his IPAD, a PowerPoint presentation comes up on the big screen in the front of the room. The first slide reads, “Welcome to Mr. Smith’s Classroom.” The teacher begins by talking a little about himself and his teaching experience. Again, everything sounds great, and you are impressed with his credentials. On the next slide, Mr. Smith introduces his approach to teaching the kids this year. He describes his focus with the kids as a “balance between learning and getting high test scores.”

A stunned silence consumes the room and as you look around, you can see other parents who share your same perplexed look. The silence is broken by a mom blurting out, “What does that mean?” With confidence, the teacher replies, “Well through the year we will be doing as much learning as possible, but will need to take time to make sure your child gets high test scores as well. So, at times, I will be skipping some “less important” things to focus more time on making sure your child will score higher on the test. We will spend time on test taking strategies and focus only on what will be asked on the test. This will take away from some other things they need to learn, but their test scores will be higher.”

Bewildered by what you just heard, you raise your hand quickly. When called upon, you ask, “I thought the point of school was to teach and for my kid to learn. Shouldn’t that be the only priority for you?” The teacher quickly snaps back, “You want your child to fail the test?”

Although this is a hypothetical (that might not be that hypothetical anymore), the point of it is to show how ridiculous such an approach would be in the classroom. But as a coach, I consistently read articles and hear coaches talk about a legitimate need to balance development and winning with their teams. It makes as much sense as a teacher defending a need to balance a child learning and getting high test scores in the classroom.

Like a teacher, the critical job of a youth coach is to teach and develop young kids. Each day, each practice (or lesson), is about what the players need to learn today that will help them learn what they need to learn tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. Just like in the classroom, on the soccer field, or in any sport, the goal is to learn and get better. The goal is for the kids to have the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of a subject in order to continue to grow. The hope is that their ability overtime will vastly exceed our own. I hope our goal is not as naive and short-sighted as just doing well on a test or winning a game. The focus of anyone who is trusted to teach young kids should be much bigger and more influential on the kids’ entire lives.

Besides, and not to openly state the obvious, but when learning and development is truly the goal of the approach, the top priority, higher test scores or winning will occur naturally overtime because the kids are actually learning and getting better. But the reverse, taking the backwards approach by focusing on only teaching to a test or to get a win, the kids often do not learn much or grow much further beyond their current abilities and skills.

If a teacher teaches to a test, in essence the teacher is asking the kids to memorize material and regurgitate it back when asked in multiple-choice format. A kid can do well on the test by memorizing the material but have no true understanding of the information and will most likely forget it quickly afterwards. The same is true on the soccer field.

A coach can have the players play in a manner that will help them win without really teaching and giving them a better understanding of how to play the game. Strategies like, “Kick it forward up field” or “just kick it out” are ways to help getter better results without the kids learning much. Not letting the kids take risks and try skills in games is a way to avoid mistakes that lead to a team getting scored on. A fast, aggressive, big and strong, group of 9 year olds who just kick the ball forward and chase after it, who rarely try to pass or control the ball, and who avoid taking risks WILL WIN A LOT. But at the end of the season, despite a shelf full of trophies, there will be little improvement or grow.

Some coaches may say the balance is in when, or the situation, that the team tries to play the right way versus just trying to win the game. If it is a “big game” like a championship game in a tournament or a “rival club,” they will coach the game differently. They will coach the game to get the win than to teach. The other games that do not “mean as much,” the coaches let the kids try to play the game more, allow them to take more risks and work on weaknesses of each player and the team.

For me this is why there is no such thing as a balance between winning and development. In this example, that coaches give all the time, shows a severe lack of balance. In reality, the coaches are teaching their players skills and how to play the game, but when it “really counts” the players are not given the chance to use the skill taught. The only time the coach is allowing the players to try to play the game in a way to help them develop is when the game is easy enough to ensure a win. That is not a balance. It is very strong bias towards getting a win. So, in both situations, the focus is still winning. It is never about the development, as it never gets to be the priority. If it was the priority, the “stakes” of the game would be irrelevant. The focus of the coach would always be the same.

The next time your child brings home an “A” on a test, ask him to explain what he learned or the information the test was about. You may be a surprised by the response or lack of response depending on the approach leading up to the test. The next time your child wins a soccer game, ask him, “What did you get better at today?” Again, depending on the approach, there might not be a good answer.

We become fixated on measuring success in artificial ways that give us a false sense of accomplishment or indication of growth. When in reality, the only measure of success and growth that is accurate is IF you can do something you could not do before, understand something that was previously beyond your comprehension, or attained the tools to use that skill and knowledge together in way you could not before.

There is no need for balance between development and winning. Just teach and develop players. If that is your goal, the winning will take care of itself (in time). More importantly, your impact on the players will last much longer than a single win or single season. When a coach talks about a balance between winning and development, all I hear is “I really do not understand the point of my job.” The “balance” is just a somewhat ridiculous way to try to hide the fact that the coach is not that interested in teaching and developing players as much as the final score of each game.

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, 9 Apr 2015
tags:

Effort vs. Skill

Written by Matt Weiss

I have always been intrigued about some of the more dominant teams and programs and finding similarities in coaching styles, player characteristics and more. I decided to focus on UCONN Women's Basketball and UNC Women's Soccer, who coincidentally, have both had their coach for almost 30 years. Before I begin talking about the work ethic and talent of these programs, here are just a few of their accomplishments.

UCONN Women's Basketball

  • Coach Geno Auriemma

  • 9 NCAA Championships

  • Overall record of 879-133

UNC Women's Soccer

  • Coach Anson Dorrance

  • 21 NCAA Championships

  • Overall record of 625-28-20

When I look at these dominant programs, I notice that one of the biggest differences between them and everyone else is their consistent effort and drive to compete. And it isn't just something that they show in games, but every time they step on the training ground. If you ever visit a UCONN practice, sometimes you will see the offense going against six or seven defenders (you only are allowed to play with 5 players). Coach Geno does this because "that's how, ultimately, the best learning takes place. When you're really put in uncomfortable situations, where you're given very little information in the beginning, and you've got to figure out the rest. I think sometimes we spoon feed information to people, so they don't have to think of anything on their own. I think you really can find out a lot about players when you stack the odds against them. And you see what their reaction is. It's almost, ok, what's the look in their eye? Ahh — this kid's a fighter."

What I like most about Anson and Geno is that they have the power to drive players, and teams, to their absolute limits. One of the most important things that they evaluate is effort vs. skill. Would you rather have an average player who always plays 100%, or a skillful player who plays when she feels like it? Even if both athletes yield the same probability of winning, the player who always plays 100% becomes a contagious characteristic for her teammates. Both basketball and soccer are team-oriented sports so when you have more players who are inclined to compete everyday, that alone will drive player's performances higher. Do this over a 4 year college career, and you have gone from good to great.

Obviously coaches should focus on building player's skills and efforts but which is more important? If you have skill and little effort, you rarely reach your potential. If you have effort and little skill, you are trying your hardest, and will gradually improve overall. Increasing your skill will not improve your effort, but increasing your effort will improve your skill.

Anson Dorrance is famously known for his competitive training sessions. He and his staff make virtually every activity a "win or lose" game and they keep track of each player's records throughout the entire year. He will frequently post the top players in the program, based on this ranking as an on-going challenge to see who can stay at the top. I am sure he could easily list his top 15 most talented players on paper, but when competition is on the line, it doesn't always reward you based on your natural skills, but rather your will to win. When you find players who can manage and grow both of these areas, you will probably find success in their development more often than failure.

Both of these coaches are excellent examples of leaders who use work ethic as the driving factor in player and team development. I once read that you should "always praise effort, not talent". If you have a standout player who is an excellent finisher, try to focus on giving them positive reinforcement for the work they did in order to get the shot off. This will help the player recognize that when they put the effort in, it gives them more opportunities to display their talent.

Even when you look back at yourself as a soccer player, how many times have you heard someone say "If I could go back to playing in middle school, I would try so much harder." Nobody ever says if they went back, they would "be so much more skilled". The skill would come along with the effort and work rate, and nobody brings that out in players better than Anson and Geno.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 25 Mar 2015
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