Coaching is like Landscaping

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a big yard and every weekend my brothers and I were responsible for its maintenance. Now, when I drive to different facilities, I often see houses that have beautiful, eye catching front yards. The grass is in pristine condition and the flowers of all shapes and sizes compliment each other. A lot of people just drive by these houses and marvel at the beauty without giving thought to how those yards actually came to be. Like these eye catching yards, we often only see the final product while watching top level soccer games without realizing the time and sacrifice that went into how these players came to be.

Landscapers don't just throw together a bunch of rocks, flowers, and mulch and hope for the best. How do you want your yard to look?

After talking to a lot of youth team coaches about their playing style, comments are consistently made about defending as unit while playing quickly and purposefully on offense. It always sounds great, but what we rarely hear or see is “How” they are going to accomplish this. Like constructing a beautiful front yard, there are many questions that have to be answered in the early stages of team and player development. The importance of starting from the end and working backwards is crucial. Think about how you want your team to look. What is your end goal? 

Landscapers can have the same goals of how they want their yard to look but many variables can lead to a completely different process. HOW are you going to accomplish your end goal? 

The beauty of coaching is that once you have your end goal, there are a plethora of ways to accomplish it. With that being said, it is essential that you honestly evaluate yourself as a coach and the personalities of every player you have. To me, the process is the most crucial, fun, and stressful part of coaching but it serves to separate the best coaches from the good coaches. It takes constant internal and external reflection with the humility to know when something is not working and the willingness to change it. Reflection can be a time consuming part of the process but extremely necessary. Do not just watch your past game or practice and think about what went well or did not go well. Instead dive deeper. WHY didn’t we play well? WHY was one player successful, while another was not? 

Landscapers can plant the seeds and know how they want the flowers to look but without constant maintenance, they will not flourish. All seeds have the same opportunity to grow but every plant is different, HOW are you going to accommodate each one?

After you answer the surface questions in your reflection, the next step is planning HOW you are going to make changes. Is it the practice environment? Is it the overall team dynamic? Are certain players not responding to your coaching style?

All these questions and more must be answered for everyone to be successful. Like flowers who need more sunlight and water than others, players are all different and if their individual, diverse needs are not met, that player can crumble. Therefore, constant reflection is of the utmost importance. Without definitively knowing what every player needs to be successful, you cannot truly differentiate instruction the most efficient way possible. Some players will grow quickly and significantly under your system but what about the others? 

Landscapers can build you a beautiful yard and give you all the tools and guidance you need to maintain its aesthetically pleasing appeal, but the rest is up to the owner. 

The most frustrating part of coaching is that you can do everything in your power to put each player in a position where they can reach their full potential but there is an element of success that has to be internal. Each player must be intrinsically motivated to be successful and be willing to go above and beyond to achieve their goals. Even the best coaches cannot intrinsically motivate a player because that type of motivation must come from within. The best way to accomplish this is through selflessness. Allow each player to feel a sense of autonomy and feel as though they are the driving force behind their success. A good coach can perfectly plan and conduct a practice session but the like a beautiful constructed front yard, the best ones change the way you think and feel. 

- Mike Matera

Beestera Soccer Training

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