He Put His Arm Around Me And.Held My.Hand.Watching.A.Movie Being a "Contrarian" When Coaching Youth Football

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Being a "Contrarian" When Coaching Youth Football

Wading upstream when coaching youth soccer

Many “mature” soccer programs, which have been around for 10+ years or more, often have entrenched features. Many times it’s almost as if some of these clubs have their own identity or even a “brand”. Most leagues are made up of different identifiable “brands” or clubs. Everyone has their own unique personality and way of doing things.

Most youth soccer leagues consist of a variety of these unique “brands”. There is usually a friendly and sometimes almost unfriendly and unhealthy competition between the coaches of the various clubs.

nature of the beast

As most of you coaches know, it takes quite a bit of time and effort to maintain a youth soccer program. While most of the “heavy lifting” is done by the “parent coaches”, for there to be long-term stability there needs to be continuity and that means some leadership that remains beyond the “life span” of their children’s participation. Unfortunately, for most organizations, these types of resources are somewhat limited. Thank God for these people, without them we would all have to start from scratch every few years.

Unfortunately, some of those that have been around for a long time also bring with them unnecessary baggage that actually hinders the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Some of these well meaning coaches will train against you and they don’t like change or anything that makes their organization look bad. They will always be your biggest critics. Any kind of “change” means they’ll have to learn how to protect a new program or defend against techniques they’ve never seen before.

be a little different

My teams are the most photographed, studied and talked about in the league we play in because we manage something much different than anyone else, we consistently score a lot of points and we consistently win. I’m sure these opposing coaches are tired of hearing from parents; “Why can’t we make or score the kind of points the Eagles do? Or why don’t we have those cool football plays like the Eagles? Or why can’t you pass the ball to as many players as the Eagles. Or why can’t our kids block and tackle and play Defense like the eagles do?” They are tired of hearing it and sometimes their frustration and embarrassment is visible. Unfortunately, if these coaches can’t stop you, they will often try to cheapen you or become the king of the excuse makers.

We get to hear so many interesting stories from you trainers via e-mail, phone and in person at the clinics. That’s probably the most fun part of me doing this, listening to these amazing stories and in some cases being able to help in a small way. Some of the situations you have to deal with are really difficult and stupid in my opinion. There is often selfishness and back covering in youth football at so many levels. While there are fantastic leagues with great and committed people who reach out to kids all over the country, on the other hand there are also small, egotistical and bigoted “human barriers”.

In several private clinics in the last few months I had the privilege of working with several quality organizations and several groups of simply outstanding trainers. Coaches who were not only great X’s and O’s, but guys who were in youth soccer for the right reasons. Some of the things I saw: teams overflowing with kids, everyone returning to play (great retention numbers), passionate coaches, open-minded and committed coaching staffs. They were universally respected and admired by their children, a very easy group of children to work with. You can just tell, the kids loved playing the game, they couldn’t wait to start soccer practice and they hated it when practice was over. In fact, one group of coaches was able to get a group of 20 or so players together overnight for practice the next day. It was right in the middle of baseball and lacrosse season, you know they’re doing something right when they can.

A youth soccer drama is unfolding

One story I have to share with you that was told to me in the “off hours” discussions at one of these clinics I did recently by a trainer who put our system in last year for the first time:. After the classroom clinic and field demonstrations, we went with the coaching staff to a local restaurant for lunch. One of the more demonstrative coaches animatedly shared with the team some very humorous stories of his first season running My Offense. Last season he was at a game scouting an opponent and heard some of the coaches from his opponent for the next few weeks, talking about his team. The opposing coaches had no idea our friend was a coach as they unbeknownst to him bragged about how they were going to crush his team the following week. These opposing coaches seemed to be so happy about how they were going to stop this “stupid” offense and easily blow up the wedge game and everything else for that matter. There was and how it had no chance of working against their defense. In fact these coaches engaged our friend in conversation, they demonstrated to him how the linemen would drop low and join together, again sarcastically mocking the attack until the end. Imagine their shock and horror the following week when they saw that same coach come out for the coach’s presentation and flip a coin.

Our friend is quite a story teller, he is one of those guys who is all laughs and can put you on the edge of your seat, you know the guy, the life of the party. While he was telling the story he was a flurry of activity, standing up, sitting down, moving around the table, hands waving, voice rising and falling, and of course lots of smiles and laughter. The results of the game were almost as interesting as how the story was told. When the game started a friend of ours got a little excited and decided he was going to start with the wedge game to see if this other team really had all the answers to back up their coaches bravado. The first offensive snap went for a 70 yard touchdown, the coach smiled a little and was quite happy. After holding the other team to a 3-and-out, the next play of our group of friends: you guessed it, a 63-yard touchdown. On the inside, our hero was beaming, throwing his fist in the air, silencing his ill-informed naysayers, but on the outside he was calm and confident, with maybe a hint of a knowing smile on his face.

He considered running the wedge every play in that first half to prove a point, but was the better man and walked away from what must have been a pretty tempting course of action. By half time the score was 35-0 and our hero eliminated the dogs to make the final 42-7. At the end of his story I joined the crowd in a roar of laughter that must have been so loud it startled some of the restaurant patrons. Thank God it was Florida and we were in a pretty low spot that this group frequents. I think I laughed so hard some of my lungs are still on the floor somewhere in that restaurant. These weren’t his only critics, in the end his team finished an improbable 14-1. They beat at least 7 teams that had much more talent than his team, based on the game tapes I watched. It was a magical season for a youth football team that lacked a winning tradition and excellent coaching.

While I have met some of this team’s coaching staff several times (very quality guys), I have never met this coach. Our acquaintance consisted of a warm heterosexual embrace, something that comes from sharing a relationship or shared experience. I’m always a little surprised by the warm receptions I get from people I’ve never met. But being a Midwesterner, for me that’s one of the biggest benefits of doing what I do.

Know that it may come your way

Be prepared, that’s what I’m trying to convey to you. When you don’t run the exact same thing as most of the teams in your league, you can be the target of some hitting. If you have more talent than anyone in your league, it makes a lot of sense to run exactly what everyone else is running if it makes you happy. But when you don’t measure up, when you don’t have the best talent, how can you compete with the same things as most of your rivals? When you score a lot of points and win a lot of games like many or most of our teams do, unfortunately the jealousy of some will show. Stay the course, but know that these attacks may come your way.

Eventually many of our hero’s curious and critics in this story now take his team seriously. When you have success, it cannot be ignored, no matter how much someone would like it. The teams in this club that have run our system have gone 23-1 combined and now other teams in the club are looking to adopt some of what they are doing. I know this coach is eternally grateful to Coach (KMJ) for bringing this system to this organization. I’m sure the parents are glad that the coach was open enough to listen to the coach (KMJ) who was investigating. Learned and brought his attention to the system as well. Mind you, I don’t take credit for the success of this team, the coaches and players did a simply superb job, their execution was almost flawless.

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