Thursday, February 16, 2017

THE COLD DAYS OF COACHING……WHERE WILL YOU TURN?



      DeAngelo Wiser

Often we learn of high profile coaches who step away from their respective games. It seems surprising and makes us wonder why these successful coaches didn’t want to continue the career they obviously loved.

Is there a common thread among them? Could the issue causing this loss of talent be alleviated, or relieved in part? How many other coaches in club, high school or college step away unnoticed due to suffering from the same condition?

Coaching can be a stressful career, and it requires wearing many hats. The variety of the demands is one of the allures of the job because it presents us challenges to solve and keeps every day fresh and new. Here are a few of those hats.

Visible Leader- In the spotlight at school, the community and during press conferences.  Being the leader of a team and patrolling the sidelines fuels that ego.

Strategist/Planner- Moving the X’s and O’s to our advantage during a game while matching wits with an opposing coach is stimulating and it allows us a plan to lead our team to success.

Counselor- Many challenges throughout the year on and off the field have little to do with our game, but have everything to do with the mental state of our players. Knowing and understanding this means the difference in success and failure.

Enforcer- Stepping in when needed to hold ourselves, our staff and our players accountable.  Our actions must match our words regardless of who is involved.

Parent- In a parent-like way, we are delighted to see our players succeed, and there are times when we  have to be totally honest as well.

Rock- That stoic and solid persona in the darkest of times after a big time loss, a parent issue, or a player does something out of character. Often the rock prefers to carry the load locked inside with no help from anyone.


Let’s focus on the “Rock.”  What situations require and take so much of us?

·        Big loss against a team you’re supposed to beat
·        Losing in the post season tournament when expectations are high
·        Player breaking a school or team rule
·        Heated parental confrontation
·        Losing control in a game and getting ejected
·        Player(s) who are self centered and care little about the team
·        Athletic Director or Administrator who does little to support your team
·        Newspaper or reporter who blasts your team regularly, or ignores it
·        Facilities that are subpar and in disrepair

We could name more, but I’m certain you’d agree these are tough to deal with. Granted some are in your control, and others can be dealt with in an appropriate manner. But will they leave scars? Will they heal quickly, or might you drag them around for a long time?

Many veteran coaches will tell you, “You can’t be thin skinned and do this job.” What exactly does that mean? If you’ve put your heart and soul into your team and your program, some situations are going to sting from time to time. Telling me I’m thin skinned doesn’t approach how I should handle the after effect of these situations.

Dealing with these challenges all alone can be the dark side of coaching. Those times in a career when something gets to the very core of who we are. It’s an area that isn’t talked about in coaching classes. Yes, the challenges are listed and some solutions are given, but no discussion about how to deal with absorbing it and taking this part of the job home with you every night.

As coaches we often hold some things in, never share the distress and blame, figuring it’s our fault and just wait for time to slowly pass so we can get over them. Is that the best way? Surely not.




So how can we deal with these challenges allowing us to move forward?

Mentor/Coaching Peer- Talking about the issue is usually a good first step. Share it with someone you trust who may have been in the same situation in their career. Just knowing that you’re not the first coach to deal with this challenge, and the fact that you’re not alone in carrying this burden can be a relief.

Athletic Director- If the load of the job is wearing you down, talk to your AD about delegating some of the responsibility and how best to prioritize the tasks required every day. AD’s are experienced in these situations and can  remind you that you’re not in this alone. They want you to succeed and be at your best mentally for your student athletes.

Parent/Player/Reporter/Team- If someone has upset you, set up a meeting with them and do your best to resolve the issue. They may not know what they’ve done, and if you were wrong, admit it. They need to know how you view the best way to move forward. Even if you don’t resolve the issue you’ll feel better for making the attempt.

Husband/Wife/Partner- Talk about the challenges of the day with those at home. While they may or may not understand every detail, just by sharing your feelings you will have released some of the stress of the day. Plus you may be surprised at their insight of how best to handle a situation and move forward. Keep in mind they care about you most.

24-Hour Rule- Wait 24 hours regardless of the situation before you act. If only someone had shared that with me. After a devastating loss I was totally washed out. After tossing all night long, I made the decision to resign the next morning figuring the loss was totally my fault. I didn’t even tell my wife. My team gathered in a classroom and after telling them I had let them down, I shared my decision. The look in their eyes was utter astonishment. What I failed to realize was the loss was devastating to them as well, and now in a selfish act I had hurt them even more. During the day I got a couple of heartfelt letters from players asking me to reconsider, as well as phone calls from several parents. My wife’s voice of reason, after learning what I had done, was the final assurance I needed to stay on. I am deeply indebted to players, parents and my wife for helping me see the truth. Had I shared my thoughts and feelings early I feel certain I wouldn’t have resigned in the first place.

Carrying a weight like this is tough, and many coaches, like myself, are often unwilling to share because they think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s quite the opposite. By sharing we show our strength to work through challenges and unload a burden that hinders us from being at our best for ourselves, our family and our players.

If you’ve faced these coaching challenges alone, you aren’t the first to keep everything locked inside, and you won’t be the last. Just know it’s a great feeling when you let it go by sharing it with those who can help.

I wish you and your team the best!









Saturday, February 4, 2017

WHAT WILL YOU LOOK FOR IN A PLAYER?


DeAngelo Wiser

In today’s sports world of ranking young players from 1-100, I’m often amazed at how a player or players ranked so high can seem to under perform with their new team.  Is it the ranking service, the coach, the dynamics of the team, the pressure, or the player?

Many times there’s no way of knowing, but just how are coaches evaluating players when they see them in action?  Seeing them play once or twice, or relying on a ranking service may or may not be a risky proposition.  There’s a lot to consider with scholarships and championships on the line.  Making a mistake with a player or players can cost a program dearly.

Having coached in high school and college, I believe the same principles apply at just about every level.  Those choices will impact us in the same way, just not as much in the public spotlight.  In that respect we have to consider what’s essential when evaluating players during tryouts.

WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST WHEN CHOOSING YOUR TEAM?

SKILL
ATHLETICISM
TACTICAL AWARENESS
ATTITUDE
COMPATIBILITY

Most of these are fairly easy to evaluate through drills and activities, or if you were able to see them briefly in a game with their former team.

Coaches will admit they know a good player when they see one, but in what respect?  There may be areas or traits that aren’t exposed at tryouts until you see them in practice and games, and then it may be too late.

SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS LOOK AT:

·        ADVERSTIY- Have you seen this player when times were tough, when he or she was behind in the score, their teammates weren’t performing, their own game was off that day? How did they react?  Can you live with that?  Can your team?

·        CHARACTER- How do they respond when things are going well or not.  How do they treat their teammates?  Are they a team player, or only concerned with themselves?

·        INTEGRITY- Are they a player of their word?  Do they stand up for what they believe in?  Will they always tell you the truth?  Can they be trusted?

·        ACADEMICS- Are they responsible in the classroom?  What’s their past history with respect to grades and discipline issues at school?  Will you spend a lot of time keeping them eligible?  Work ethic must be present in the classroom.

·        TRAINING- What type of work ethic do they have?  Are they a driven player or will you have to motivate them every minute of every day?  Are they capable?

·        CRITICISM/CRITIQUE- Are they able to take any suggestions/ideas you or your assistants have with an open mind and a willingness to improve?  How do they respond with body language and verbally?


HOW CAN YOU EVALUATE THESE TRAITS?

During tryouts set up challenging games and activities where each player is: 

ü Paired or teamed with a player or players of less ability.
ü Playing a game where their team is always a player down.
ü Paired or teamed with a player or players of greater ability.
ü Playing a game where their team is behind by one with little time on the clock and they are the only player who can score.  Or they’re the only player who can defend the only player who can score for the other team.
ü Unable to shoot, only pass.
ü Only allowed to defend.  Hops out of the game when their team has the ball.
ü The only player allowed to talk, or not, on their team.
ü The only player on their team that has to touch the opposite goal or end line when the ball is lost before hustling back and defending.
ü Only player that runs when their team loses.  Or the rest of the team runs when they make a mistake or miss a shot.

Seeing how they respond will tell you what you need to know, and the best avenue to take in developing their ability to respond under pressure as well as their technical skills.
There are many more activities that put players in pressure situations where their true Character shines through.  It requires no more effort from you.  Everything I’ve mentioned, and all the ideas you have, will also expose Skill, Athleticism, Tactical Awareness, Attitude and Compatibility.

Planning a great tryout session is the key to selecting the best players for your team.  Understanding where they stand now with the areas you feel are important will allow you to assist them become better players.  It will also give you the best idea of who performs best under pressure during key moments.   

Tryouts should expose more than outstanding skills, it should expose who you can count on when times are tough. As a coach you know the tough times are coming.

I wish you and your team the best! 




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wins and Losses, often A Mirage in Measuring Your Team



DeAngelo Wiser

How can you measure your team’s progress without figuring in wins and losses?
     
 Certainly wins and losses are how most people look at your team. But how do you measure your team?. Do you have information to assist you in knowing how much your team has progressed?
      
 It takes extra effort to find a different measurement tool, but isn’t going beyond the basics what you ask of your team? You may not think you have the time or resources, but building a program requires that you chart your team’s progress in order to adjust your plans when necessary. Realizing you’re on the right path or wrong path is a necessity. So, somehow you have to make it happen.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE RESOURCES?
    
 I know some teams have several managers charting different indicators of success for players during practice and games. You may not have that luxury. How about parents? They love to video their son or daughter. Why couldn’t they chart specific skills during the game, such as:  Quality crosses in the box, Number of passes, Quality runs forward, Switching the field, Dropping the ball back, Shutting down an opposing player, Saves, Assists, Shots on Goal, Number of runs forward, etc. You can determine the criteria based on position, importance, performance or outcome. 
     
 If you have more than one assistant coach, delegate some of the charting to them. Often during games, assistant coaches may not have specific duties other than to make recommendations about the game. Make use of their experience and knowledge. It’s always nice if a former player volunteers, and certainly they can help as well. 

RANKING YOUR PLAYERS
      
Measuring your team may be pretty easy with respect to how the top players have progressed, and how the bottom players have not. If I asked you to rank your players right now, could you do it?  I’m guessing you said yes. As a coach, it’s pretty easy to rank the top 3 or 4 players and the bottom 3 or 4 players. But what separates the middle players, your largest group? This group may be the key to your team reaching its goals. What goals have you set for this group or individuals? You know your top players need to be challenged every day and your bottom players need skill work and repetition. What do your middle players need? Do you know? Is their progress obscured by the demands you place on training your top and bottom players?


HOW CAN YOU BEGIN TO MEASURE YOUR PLAYERS’ PROGRESS?

GOAL SETTING (This is an example of what you can use)

Blue Hornet Soccer:    

We must have a destination, something to accomplish in soccer, to gain confidence and become successful as the season progresses as an individual and a team. What those achievements or goals are is up to us, but without a map we won’t arrive. As you decide on your goals as an individual, remember it’s good to aspire for greatness as an individual in a team sport. Through your personal commitment and sacrifice to achieve your goals you’ll improve your team and inspire teammates to become better. You simply won’t settle for second best! Goals can be simple to come up with, such as goals scored, saves, assists, etc., but what if you’re an outside midfielder.  What personal game related soccer goals could you come up with?  What about: 
           
            Winning the ball back in 3 passes or less when the opposition steals the ball. 
Making 12 quality runs to the endline every game. 
Replacing the defender on your side every time they attack. 
Delivering 6 crosses in the box each game.
Play 6 quality passes into space behind our opponents defenders
Switching the point of attack or dropping the ball back 5 times a game.

Remember, goals must be specific, attainable and measurable. 
      
Simply saying I’m going to play better tonight, I’m going to score more goals this year, I’m going to hustle more this year, isn’t realistic.  Players who have those goals are letting themselves off the hook, and not pushing themselves to their full potential.  It’s the easy way out, and more often than not will end up in frustration.  
    
 Have your parents, a friend or someone on the bench record your efforts each game, and evaluate your progress.  Your goals may be too high, or may need adjusting upward.  Goal setting is a continuous process for the hungry player who wants to improve themselves and their team.  Ask a coach if you need assistance coming up with several goals.

In groups of three (group should be diverse with respect to positions), come up with four specific goals for:

Strikers-
Defenders- (Outside and Central)- Some goals may be the same.
Goalkeepers-
Midfielders- (Outside and Central)- Some goals may be the same.

*Remember these can be practice and or game related.
    
 At our next meeting we’ll discuss all the goals listed, decide which ones meet our criteria, what it takes to achieve them and you’ll be asked to list your four for the season.  After reviewing them, as a staff, we’ll sit down with each of you and discuss your goals so that we all agree on your best path for success.

Next week our topic is “Team Goals”
      
Start thinking about our team goals.  What we’re committed to accomplish together.  What we’re willing to sacrifice to make it a reality, and how we’ll get there.  Being specific and settling for nothing less is the key.  In our groups we’ll come up with the goals we can all agree on.
     
 Here are some examples of team goals.  They’re not inclusive of every idea.  Be creative and discuss what you want our team to accomplish.  Keep in mind that goals have no substance without dedication and commitment to make them a reality.  The foundation must be laid by every player doing their part, while encouraging and holding others accountable to do theirs. 

Goals are words that long to live and breathe, giving them life, with your determination.

TEAM GOALS

10-QUALITY CROSSES IN THE BOX
10-WINNING THE BALL BACK IN 3 PASSES OR LESS
10-QUALITY RUNS TO THE BACK POST
8- CORNER KICKS
10-SWITCHING THE POINT OF ATTACK
10-SHOTS ON GOAL
8-SHOTS ON FRAME
100 % ORGANIZATION IN OUR DEFENSIVE THIRD.
TAKE HOME THE DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP
TAKE HOME THE REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
TAKE HOME AND CELEBRATE A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
REPRESENT OUR SCHOOL AND FAMILY WITH DIGNITY AND INTEGRITY
ENCOURAGE AND CHALLENGE MY TEAMMATES AT ALL TIMES
PLAY EVERY GAME LIKE IT’S THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
PRACTICE EVERYDAY WITH THE SAME INTENSITY AND PASSION AS A GAME
RESPECT EVERY OPPONENT

As always, I appreciate your commitment, dedication and effort for our team.
Coach ___________________
     

   
 Every player on your team needs specific goals to achieve and a map to get there. It’s your job to provide the leadership necessary to attain those goals. When players are asked to formulate goals for themselves it creates a personal responsibility and accountability for them to accomplish. Guiding your players will allow them to grow and feel they did it by themselves.  That should be your goal!

I wish you and your team the best!