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Creating a Culture With Your Training Session

Creating a Culture with your Training Sessions

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“What is your coaching Philosophy?” It’s a question that permeates our interviews here at the Skyline office and in our coaches training. It seems like a simple question, this is what we do for a living after all. In actuality, it’s the most complex and difficult question for any coach to truly answer. It’s such a multifaceted and loaded question that when asked it, I could spend 30 minutes answering it and still not touch the surface of what I want to say. A coach without a philosophy is like an artist without purpose.

So many coaches can go out and run a decent session, but to truly go out and make a difference, you have to have a sound philosophy. This means searching deep and asking yourself, “What do I want to accomplish from being a coach”? Many coaches feel that they are above this question and see it as a formality they have to answer. They throw out names like “Rinus Michels” and buzzwords like “player development” because those are things soccer people respond to. Yet, when you watch their sessions and see them coach, they lack something. Their kids are getting decent training. The parents are content. The results are good enough on Saturdays, but when you look out on the team, you see there’s one thing missing, a good team culture.

A good team culture is the most important thing in order to accomplish your season goals. A team culture turns a decent session into a great session. It turns content parents, to exuberant parents. It turns results from good enough, to unstoppable. Now this is not to say some teams don’t have a culture, because all teams do, but it’s about what kind of culture you’ve created as a coach. When I look out at a session or a game, it’s the first thing I notice. I look deeply at the team and ask myself, “What is this team about?”

A team’s culture comes from the coach and a sound philosophy. When players took the pitch for Alex Ferguson, they didn’t have a single doubt of what the team culture was. It was a culture built around standards. The one ideal Skyline aims to provide to our trainers and coaches is there’s a difference between coaches, and drill facilitators. Drill facilitators set up 4 cones and say “Knock the ball around a bit, lads.” Coaches, they get in there and coach. A coach is a soccer educator; getting on a child’s level and engaging them and relating with them. Someone who runs a practice without standards is just a drill facilitator.

What kind of team culture do you create with your teams?

When I was a kid growing up, I played on some fantastic teams. I played in the highest level tournaments in the country at 9 years old. We were a team full of kids that were undersized, too young, and inexperienced. We went years without losing a game. I’ll never forget when I learned why my youth teams had so much success.

I went back for a summer camp at 15 and played with a majority of my old team. Our same coach from when we were kids was running the camp, after having left at U12. Some of the kids from this pool of 30 or so hadn’t really amounted to much. They were average players, some had washed out of the club system and just stuck with high school. Others turned into bench players on mediocre teams. It’s the nature of the game when you get older, at least that’s what most coaches would tell you.

Within 35 minutes of the 3 hour session on the first day of camp, these average  players, or castoffs, were playing on same field with kids from the ODP Regional team. They weren’t just playing with them though, they were “putting them in the popcorn machine” as my old coach would say. The entire week would go by with this same instance of these castoff players taking on superstars and torching them. This pushed the successful kids even harder, which pushed the castoffs even harder till the end of the camp when the camp “Top Gun” was awarded. The player that won the prestigious award (which I still covet to this day) was nothing more than a left footed high school player, who beat out 10 kids that went on to play Division I college soccer, and various other stars of the town. I was standing next to the kid when the coach asked him “Why can’t you turn it on like that for your team?” The answer has stuck with me since that day, and will for the rest of my life.

“I’m only good in this environment.”

You see, the culture created by this coach was such that kids could focus on one thing when they walked in between the two white lines- soccer. “Take care of the game, and the game will take care of the kids”, I remember him saying all the time. It’s something I carry with me into my philosophy every single day. It’s this type of environment that this coach created that breeds confidence and risk taking, and something I aim to replicate in every session I run.

Big time soccer people look at me when I have a boombox out at practice, and they scoff. Big time soccer people look at how intense I am, how demanding I am, and they say “lighten up, they’re kids.” Big time soccer people look at my sessions and say “They’re too simple.”

I say, let them be big time soccer people, I’ll be a coach who creates an environment where the soccer speaks for itself.

I aim to create an environment where kids come out to a session to work extremely hard, but have a total blast doing it. It was best explained by a current U10 player at Skyline when he went home to his dad and said “It was the most intense session I’ve ever had… but I learned a ton and had a blast.” It’s an environment where you can have a blast doing the footwork routine to a disco playlist from 1978, at the same time of being pushed to the brink of what your game can do. That’s the culture I aim to create with every session.

When you coach a team, you build a culture with them whether you know it or not. The question you have to ask yourself is, “what environment do I want”?

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