As you settle in for the holiday season and take an extended break from the soccer pitch, I wanted to let you know how grateful I am for the work you do to make the children’s soccer experience such a positive one. I’m humbled by the hours each of you volunteer and feel very fortunate to serve as your Director of Coaching.
In a previous blog piece I had mentioned that I typically spend much of my “off-seasons” recharging the batteries for the coming year and going back through new and old videos, past curriculums, books, etc. in an effort to refine and enhance the product and experience we offer our players. Several coaches asked me to offer some recommendations on my personal favorites so here goes:
Most Impactful Book on Coaching Perspective
InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives by Joe Ehrmann
“One of the great myths in America is that sports build character. They can and they should. Indeed, sports may be the perfect venue in which to build character. But sports don’t build character unless a coach possesses character and intentionally teaches it. Sports can team with ethics and character and spirituality; virtuous coaching can integrate the body with the heart, the mind, and the soul.”
~ Joe Ehrmann
This is a very, very powerful book. Ehrmann believes there are two types of coaches, transactional (coach first, team second) and transformational (nurturing and transformational with the coaches needs met by meeting the needs of the players). He challenges the modern definition of what it means to be a man and how we can use sports as a platform to make a better society. At times a very difficult read due to personal experiences the author shares, but a really wonderful book on perspective and how important the role of coach and mentor is in society.
Three Favorite Soccer Books:
The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures by Gianluca Vialli and Gabriel Marcotti
“A good manager has to have convictions, but those convictions must not be certainties. What’s the difference? A certainty is immutable, it’s a dogma. A conviction is a belief that, based on the circumstances, may or may not change. It’s something on which you can build. As you grow as a manager, you learn and better yourself and re-evaluate your convictions. What may have been true before may no longer be true now. And so, because you have convictions and not certainties, you are ready to change your system. It may be because your opponents have started playing in a certain way or because you have a different set of players or maybe the weather conditions. Whatever it is, being able to change your convictions is a sign of intelligence. I know it’s a cliché, but, ultimately, the great coach is the one whose formation maximizes the strengths of his players.”
~ Marcello Lippi
This book compares soccer culture and player development philosophies on the European Continent vs Great Britian. Some wonderful insights into the game from many of the top coaches in the profession (Lippi, Mourinho, Ferguson, Wenger, Capello, etc.).
Ajax Barcelona Cruyff: The ABC of an Obstinate Maestro Frits By Barend and Henk Van Dorp
“I never practice tricks. I play very simply. That’s what it’s all about. Playing simple football is the hardest thing. That’s the problem of all you trainers. Simple play is also the most beautiful. How often do you see a pass of more than 40 metres when 20 metres is enough? Or a one-two in the penalty area when there are seven people around you when a simple wide pass around the seven would be a solution? The solution that seems the simplest is in fact the most difficult one.”
~ Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff is one of the most influential players, coaches and thinkers in the game’s history. He was the centerpiece to Rinus Michaels Dutch teams that played “total football” and helped establish the Barcelona Academy as well as being Pep Guardiola’s coach at Barca. His influence is widespread in the modern game. This book came about from interviews with Cruyff over three decades as both a player and manager and was released as a celebration of his 50th birthday. You cannot help gaining a deeper knowledge of the game by reading this book.
Teambuilding: the road to success by Rinus Michels
“Team tactical coaching demands that the coach is able to break down and analyze the match in team tactical components. In other words, how the “football orchestra” operates harmonically in defense, during the build-up and in the attack. You must be able to “read the game”; thus competently analyzing is a must… Which training exercises should I choose to work on our shortcomings? How can I perfect the team tactical guidelines and thus the tactical variations? How can I make my training as meaningful as possible?”
~ Rinus Michels
If you like a dry book, this one’s for you! This book really opened my eyes to all the various aspects of coaching and the tactical considerations for a coach to consider when working with a high level team. I only include this on my list since it is a book I would return to each preseason as a refresher when I coached at the college level. It would be totally inappropriate for a coach that isn’t working in the 11v11 format to try to apply these concepts, but I wanted to include Michels’ book on my list since it had a great impact on me and how I view the game.
Best Take on Talent Identification
The Gold Mine Effect: Crack the Secrets of High Performance by Rasmus Ankersen
“Athletes don’t respond well to too much information. You must only give them a minimum. If one of my athletes has a problem I don’t necessarily tell them so. Instead I get them to train in a way that I think will solve it, without making them aware of it. The last thing I want them to think ahead of an important competition is that they have a problem. There is a feel good factor you have to be aware of.”
~ Colm O’Connell “Godfather of Kenyan Running”
“In the 2010/11 Champions League, the world’s finest club tournament, 79 Brazilians had time on the pitch, compared to only 25 Britain’s, 26 Germans and 49 Spaniards- and not a single Brazilian team takes part in the competition!”
The Gold Mine Effect explores how in eight different areas of the world there is an inordinate amount of talent produced to a particular sport. Why and how do these “Gold Mines” develop? What are the takeaways we can apply to our own coaching to create our own Gold Mines? One concept that I found of particular interest was the idea of identifying “talent that whispers”. Can we look past our player’s current performance and project who will be better in 6 months, 2 years, etc.? The Gold Mine Effect covers a lot of ground and offers some interesting insight on a players Mindset (Carol Dweck), the concept of grit, the 10,000 hour rule and plenty more. It’s a very enjoyable read.
Favorite Book on Leadership
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Steve Walsh
“My Standard of Performance- the values and beliefs within it- guided everything I did in my work at San Francisco and are defined as follows:
Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement; demonstrate respect for each person in the organization and the work he or she does; be deeply committed to learning and teaching, which means increasing my own expertise; be fair; demonstrate character; honor the direct connection between details and improvement, and relentlessly seek the latter; show self-control, especially where it counts-under pressure; demonstrate and prize loyalty; use positive language and have a positive attitude; take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of the effort; be willing to go the extra distance for the organization; deal appropriately with victory and defeat, adulation and humiliation (don’t get crazy with victory nor dysfunctional with loss); promote internal communication that is both open and substantive (especially under stress); seek poise in myself and those I lead; put the team’s welfare and priorities ahead of my own; maintain an ongoing level of concentration and focus that is abnormally high; and make sacrifice and commitment the organization’s trademark.”
~ Bill Walsh
A superb book on how to build, sustain, and lead an organization. This book offers an inside look at Walsh, his leadership style and all the intricacies a leader must deal with when running a high performing franchise at the highest of levels. It covers in-depth how to plan and prepare, how to respond to set-back’s, establishing core principles and the necessity of surrounding yourself with good people. This book delves into the many set-back’s Walsh faced along the way to becoming the architect of the West Coast offense and revolutionizing professional football. His tenure with the 49ers began with back to back losing seasons (2-14 followed by 6-10) before winning his first of three Superbowls in his third season. Without the self-belief, guiding core principles and grit to work his way through adversity, Walsh would never have accomplished bringing a new brand of football to the NFL.
Outstanding Blog on Youth Sports
John O’Sullivan, Founder of the Changing the Game project, offers a really wonderful perspective on how to return youth sports back to the kids. John is passionate and consistent in his message that we are dealing with kids, not little adults and this being the case, we coaches need to have a player-centric approach and allow the children to be the major decision makers of what they want to pursue. John is a proponent of the multi-sport athlete and is anti-early specialization. Like any good blog, I don’t agree with each and every one of John’s viewpoints, but I always find myself reflecting on his material again and again. Certainly worth subscribing to John’s newsletter.
There are many other books and blogs that have impacted and helped shape my coaching philosophy, but the list above stands out in that they are ones that I often return to many times over the course of a season/year when I’m re-evaluating or affirming my approach.
Thanks again for all the time you dedicate to the soccer players of Lexington and the community as a whole. Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!