Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading

vacation's overVacation’s over. I’ve been on vacation for the past week which means I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit, but not writing, blogging or tweeting. I know I’ve missed some interesting stuff, but I’ve also had a chance to read some books and catch up on articles and magazines I’ve been putting aside.

Back to work I go.

Coaching Book :

In honor of March Madness I read John Feinstein’s book The Legend’s Club

In the past, I have read and enjoyed other Feinstein books including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled

Continue reading “Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading”

What does it take to win a championship?

What does it take to win a championship? Ricky Master Coach is up with an interview of Randy Waldrum, the very successful Head Coach of the Notre Dame women’s soccer program, as well as the U-23 head coach.

The interview covers a spectrum of topics, but here are Waldrum’s keys to a championship:

In 2010 Notre Dame won the National Championship. What are the key ingredients to winning National Championships?  

First and foremost, you must have good players!  But in addition you need to have a team that all believes in each other and share a common goal.  Players that don’t play all the time need to understand they are important to the teams success whether they start or not.  They push that player in front of them, and support the team which is extremely important.  Those that start have to recognize their role and understand that it’s a total team effort that gets you to that championship level.  Team chemistry is extremely important.  That willingness to work and fight for each other, as well as the willingness to hold each other accountable in all aspects are a couple of qualities a championship team has to have.  You also have to have your team playing it’s best soccer at the right time of the season, in the end.  All these are things that help win championships. The players have to “buy in” to your coaching philosophy and into the way you want them to play.  They have to be convinced that this is the best way.  As a coach, you must give your team the belief and confidence that they will be successful every time they step on the field, because they are prepared for that particular moment.  These are a few of the things that must happen to win championships.


Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson The Sport Review via Compfight

What makes Sir Alex Ferguson the Manchester United Manager such a successful and remarkable coach? Roger Bennett, who blogs at “The Relegation Zone” sheds some light on the iconic coach in his review of a new case study written by Harvard Business Professor Anita Elberse entitled, “Managing Manchester United.”

Bennet puts Ferguson’s success in context:

“The United manager celebrates his 26th year on the job while those around him appear as secure as a kindergartener’s milk teeth. Thirty percent of Premier League managers last less than a year. Since Ferguson was appointed in 1986, Manchester City have had 19 men fill the role. Liverpool have had 10. As he approaches his 71st birthday, Sir Alex has defied countless predictions of his demise, and in Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City, battled enough rivals to fill out a comic-book movie franchise. “

Longevity of this sort, not to mention results, does not happen by accident. Bennett details what separates the manager from others, highlighting Ferguson’ great strengths and his complexity. He is at once a very mature leader, considered fair by staff as well as players, but he also admits to being controlling.  He leads by building clear structures within the the organization and develops athletes within the club, but also comes across as very adaptable and open to new ideas.

One consistency within the portrait is Ferguson’s belief in creating a structure to build upon. He quotes Ferguson:

“The first thought for 99 percent of newly appointed managers is to make sure they win — to survive,” Ferguson is quoted in the report. “They bring experienced players in, often from their previous clubs. But I think it is important to build a structure for a football club — not just a football team. You need a foundation. And there is nothing better than seeing a young player make it to the first team.”

This reminds me of some of other great coaches, like the great Bill Walsh , or legendary Stanford basketball coach Tara Vanderveer who also built their programs systematically and with an emphasis on organization.

I enjoyed reading the case study itself. His early years both as a player and those spent developing Manchester United where he had to change the culture and build a new foundation, are among the most interesting. Definitely worth reading the case study itself.

“Managing Manchester United” is available for purchase for only $6.99 at the Harvard Business Review.

Building Culture

Gary Curneen is up at Just Football with the final segment of a three-part series on Jose Mourinho, the Coach of Real Madrid.  It’s an enjoyable and laudatory recap of the teachings from an NSCAA special topics course; within it are a handful of important points any leader or coach will find valuable.

Part I of the series focuses on Mourinho’s approach to coaching, particularly leadership and building team culture. Relationships, with staff and players are central to his core philosophy:

“Mourinho then asked his staff how long they have been working together. When one informed him that it has been since 2001, Mourinho then explained that he and his staff have worked with many players over the past 12 years, but when they move on to another club, they never view the player as an ex-player.

Instead, once you play for Mourinho and his staff, you are always one of ‘theirs’. “Forever is forever”, he told us. This is a unique bond that is not evident in professional football. Again, by creating this bond with the players, he can get top performances for a long period of time.”

Part II  focuses on a training session and will be interesting to soccer coaches primarily.

Part III  contains two key points which are useful to coaches, but transcend any one sport:

The first lesson, a coach should envision how he wants a team to play then create the training sessions that will get them there. Here’s a quote:

“Mourinho explained that the selection of training exercises should always be consistent with the way you would like to play. “You can’t create a contradiction with the idea you want for the game.” Mourinho added, “If your team does not play from the back during the game, do not incorporate this in to your exercises.”

He went on to answer what the rest of the world has always questioned: where does he get his training drills/exercises?

”Don’t go to books or websites. First decide how you want to play. Think about it and sleep on it. From that idea, the exercise then arrives.”

The second key point here is the balance between the amount of details coaches require to succeed and the proper amount to provide to players. Plain and simple coaches need to steep themselves in every detail, but players require significantly less to succeed.

Money quote:

The attention to detail in these reports was always of the highest degree because that is the base of how you prepare for a match, Morais explained.

However, Mourinho was quick to point out that the information given to the players could not be as detailed. “Do not give thousands of information pieces to players.” Mourinho added, “It has to be short and objective.”

Head over to Just Football to read the full series.



“Courage to be Patient”

Christian Lavers, the President of the ECNL, weighs in on player development in an interesting article,”The Courage to be Patient.”

He addresses the difficulties and the value of implementing a long-term player development strategy in each club and throughout our youth system.

None of his prescriptions are simple; many require smart, knowledgeable thoughtful coaches who have the time to devote to study and planning as well as implementation. They all require maturity and leadership.

Each of his ideas need to be unpacked, studied, and debated as we improve our developmental system in the U.S.

Here’s just one quote,

“It is very difficult to:

  1. Create a solid developmental plan based on study, research, and experience,
  2. Continually assess its impact and adjust it accordingly without abandoning fundamental principles, and
  3. All the while resisting continual pressure from the critics that inevitably arise when immediate (or even short-term) glory isn’t immediately captured. 

The individuals that can do all these things over the long-term – that truly have “the courage to be patient” – are rare. 

Those that are around now need to be identified and empowered, and those that have this potential for the future need to be mentored and supported.  Each additional coach with this courage will slowly close the gap between American potential and reality – and will help elevate the quality of soccer eventually at every level.”

The entire article, published at Soccer Nation, is worth a read. You can find the article here.

Coaching is Repetition. Don’t be afraid to Repeat.

A coach recently indicated to me that he was working extra hard to have something unique and original to do with his team each week in training.

He always wanted to provide new games. I asked him why? If your players are always getting new training games then they are probably spending a lot of time learning the “drill” versus learning the game of soccer.

On the other hand if you repeat games and exercises weekly they get more comfortable.

They can then focus on what you are teaching about soccer because they are comfortable with their training environment.

Learning is often about repetition.

We have to teach the same points many times.

We have to say the same thing many times.

It is OK to go ahead and use the same training environments–to repeat your games–until you think the players have maxed out their learnings with it or are getting bored.

You can also continue to develop games so that the decisions and responsibilities get more and more complex.

Keep them challenged and neither bored no frustrated. And, you’ll have a winning environment.