Monday, December 23, 2019

The Positives of Peer Pressure

"I believe peer pressure can be just as positive as it is negative. The pressure of performing well for the sake of your teammates has always driven me, even more than winning sometimes."
- Chris Taborn

Playing soccer at a high level for the majority of my youth career and college career, there's nothing that drove me more than competition, however, it may not be the type of competition you're thinking of. Most people get their competitive drive to win because they simply just don't want to lose, but my mindset was a bit different.

In college I read a book by Patrick Lecioni, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team"  and the theme behind the book were Lecioni's 5 dysfunctions that can hurt the success of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. It is a business book but I translated every word into my own world as a player who was part of a team, and that is when I gathered the idea of peer pressure being a positive function within a team setting.

The thing that drove me to win more than anything was playing for my teammates, and the (peer) pressure I would feel  was everything to me and it's where my competitive edge came from. I loved winning a match or trophy just as much as the next person, but knowing that my teammates had to trust me in goal to succeed took my game to another level. Some players looked for approval from coaches as a sign of trust, I looked to my players in front of me on the pitch because the feeling of letting them down was the worst!

Of the five dysfunctions from the book I didn't fear conflict because individuals within any team are going to disagree every once in a while. I was always committed, always held myself accountable (as in I was my harshest critic), and results mattered to me because I still was driven to win. However, the absence of trust was something I never wanted my teammates to have in me, so no matter if it was training, regular season match, or a final...I always wanted to show my players that they could trust in me.

Monday, November 25, 2019

College Coaching, Year 2

Now that my second year as a college assistant coach has come to an end, I finally have time to sit down and write about my experience this year. At first, I was going to write an overall synopsis of how the season went from the team and  coaching perspective. Instead, I'm going to write about the difference between last year and this year, and what I endured as a coach this year that I didn't last year.

Last year, I became the assistant right after I finished my college career so some of the guys I played with were still on the team and I felt more like a trainer than an actual coach at times. This year, however, we graduated many seniors the previous season which means this season we had a bunch of new faces (some where transfers and the rest freshman). So, already I had felt my role had changed from someone who was there to train the goalkeepers and help out the team, to having to step up and actually be more of a coach, especially to the newer players. And I would say this is the biggest change from my first season to my second season as an assistant coach.

Secondly, I expected this season to pick up right where the team left off the previous year, which was fighting for a conference title and getting a national bid. However, the team struggled this season and as a player or coach (club/college), this was the first time I had ever been apart of a team that lost so many games. As a youth club player, developmental academy players, high school, or collegiate player I was not used to losing and it was a real struggle for me. So, one big thing I had to manage was myself and my emotions so that I can make the proper adjustments per game or session for my players, and especially my goalkeepers.

Lastly, man/player management was a huge part of my development as a coach this year. In my first year as an assistant I personally knew many of the players on the team, so I didn't really have to man manage as much as I just had to train them and help them out with whatever questions they had. This year I had an entire new group of goalkeepers (except  for 1) and this was the first time I had to have the conversation of "why you're not starting" or "why you need to compete." On top of the rocky start the team had this year and some inner-squad quarrel that was going on, I had to quickly figure out how to man manage players. One reference I used was Sir Alex Ferguson's book, Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United, where he talks about how he man managed some of the world's most talented footballers, and the biggest take I had was that you cannot manage everyone the same to get the best out of them to make them competitive. So, although this wasn't the biggest change I had to make from year 1 to year 2, it certainly was the most challenging piece of coaching I endured.

Overall, this year from a team perspective the season did not go as we wanted or were planning at all. However, as a coach I learned so much and as tough as this year was I believe my development as a coach has grown. And I think that is the biggest thing to take away from this post, no matter if you're in the business world or a soccer coach, you should be always looking to develop and get better at your trade. I know I am a young coach with much to learn, but even a 65 year old coach should still be a student of the game, because even Sir Alex Ferguson didn't have all the answers.

Friday, July 19, 2019

USWNT, 2019 World & U.S. Champs!

There has been a lot of controversy of the United States Women's National Soccer Team before, during, and after this past 2019 World Cup in France. A few players, mainly Megan Rapinoe, have been put under heavy criticism during and after the World Cup about their comments and actions on the White House, equal pay, post-World Cup celebrations, etc... You name it, and they've been criticized on it, and now I want to give my opinion about this 2019 U.S. Women's National Soccer Team. I'm going to break this down into three sections of 1) Equal Pay, 2) White House comments, and 3) post-World Cup celebrations.

1) Equal Pay
First off, I am not going to sit here and type this issue like I know every detail of it, because I don't. I just want to give my opinion of the situation from research that I've been doing. According to the research, "Equal Pay" is not possible, not yet! It is not because the men bring in more money (because they haven't), but because as the economics show, there just is not enough investment in the women's game at this moment in time. I think Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the Women's National Team know this, which is why crying out for equal pay after a World Cup win is brilliant.

From a marketing point of view, the women know that every four years they get the biggest stage soccer has to offer, and during those 2-3 months they are doing everything they can to be heard. They know that equal pay will not come instantly, but they also know that being on the World's stage gives them a platform to try and connect and market to more investors and fans. I  think it's a brilliant marketing strategy, and it seems to be working. Whether good or bad, women's soccer has been discussed at the highest-level on a consistent basis over the past few months. I'm not sure if it will fade but this team is doing something special for the Women's game.

2) White House Comments
WHO CARES! There's plenty of athletes, NBA teams, and NFL teams who refused to go to the White House and they were praised for using their freedom of speech. The USWNT's response shouldn't be treated any different, because whether you agree with them or not, its literally their right to do whatever they want. I don't think the President will lose any sleep if Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan don't come to the White House, same as he didn't lose sleep when the Golden State Warriors refused to go.

3) Post World Cup Celebrations
Nobody should have a problem with their post World Cup celebrations because all athletes dance, chant, drink, and cheer after they win a championship. And the USWNT should be able to celebrate more because they didn't just win a domestic league, they won the highest level of international soccer you can play. Megan Rapinoe dancing on stage during a celebration of her team shouldn't be looked down on any more than J.R. Smith walking around with his shirt off and drinking a bottle of Hennessy during the Cleveland Cavaliers post NBA Championship celebration-parade, which everyone thought was hilarious and it was! Realistically these women only get a few months every 4 years to be the main focus of soccer, especially in the U.S., so they are just trying to have fun while it lasts.

Did I think the USWNT were the best and most consistent team at the 2019 Women's World Cup? Nope. Did I think they played the best soccer technically? I really didn't. Do I care about either one of those points? No, because it doesn't matter... They won the World Cup, and this being the most competitive the Women's World Cup has ever been, I think they have reason to celebrate. Some might say they got lucky in the knockout stages getting two penalty kicks to help them advance, but as Ernest Hemingway said, "You make your own luck." Lucky to get those two PKs? Maybe. But it was more important to be in those positions to make themselves lucky.

So, let the women celebrate because they earned it. And if you're all about "Equal Pay" and getting the ladies paid more, then make sure you're supporting the NWSL, buying USWNT and NWSL merchandise, posting about the women's league, and help them get their sales to go up so that investors recognize them. That is the best way these women will get paid, not fairly (because according to the economics they are already getting paid fairly), but making sure they are getting paid better.