Blogpost, self-reliance

A Fat Coach Is A Bad Coach?

It was proposed as a thought experiment at a coaching course that I attended. The coaches in attendance were asked to imagine that another coach at their club show up to every practice smoking a cigarette. What should be done? The answers ranged from removing the coach completely to a discussion about appropriate behavior. Then the coaches were asked to consider what actions should be taken if a coach is overweight. The prompt was used to spark debate among the participants. I was reminded of this last night when one of my favorite pundits mentioned on Twitter that it bothers him when professional managers are unfit. He got a large number of negative comments and I think deleted the tweet. My intent is not to start a huge debate nor to get lambasted on Twitter. More than anything, I’m looking to unpack this idea with a bit more than 140 characters (or however many it is now).

A coach’s job is to influence her/his players regardless of the level. Whenever thinking about the subject, I always consider Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence.” It breaks people’s ability to persuade into six principles: Reciprocity, Commitment/Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity. Although it is not the end all be all to influence, it creates a simple model for dissecting people’s ability to persuade.

Taking the discussion back to coaches, making a blanket statement about any one characteristic being bad or good is probably inaccurate. The question becomes whether or not the coach is able to achieve desired outcomes with her/his players. In the professional ranks, the desired result is more victories than defeats. At the youth level it could be a variety of things: skill development, character building, physical fitness, or a variety of other possible outcomes.

The professional coach is the easier discussion. Does it matter if a professional coach is overweight? Probably not. As long as she/he is performing at a level commensurate with the desires of the club management, then it isn’t all that relevant. Players who are at or near their athletic peak will not particularly be looking to their coach to be a physical role model. It may help or hinder their ability to influence their players in specific area around diet and fitness. However other authorities can be brought in to handle that aspect. It’s the wielding of the other principles of influence in other areas that determine the worth of a professional coach.

The discussion of a youth coach brings in a multitude of variables that muddy the waters. Youth coaches can be role models to their players on a variety levels. Their appearance is a form of social proof. A message that is subliminally received is “at a certain point in adulthood, exercise/fitness is not as much of a priority.” The amount to which that aspect will influence is unknowable considering all of the other influences in children’s lives. Our fast food culture is much more complicit in that area than any one individual. Hopefully an overweight coach is delivering in a variety of other ways that influence the players in a positive manner. Reducing a coach down to one characteristic is not a fair estimation of their overall value. So a fat coach does not make a bad coach. Nor does a slender coach make a good one.

The final bit of consideration that I would offer here is a revisit to the 6 principles of influence. Although I believe that people can be over weight and be a good coach, I’m overweight at the moment and I’ll leave the other part up to my players. The idea I’d like to visit is, can any of us be the best coach that we can be while carrying around that extra bit of ourselves? We ask our players regularly to give their best to the team but do we respond in kind?

Reciprocity – Is it possible to give back to our young players the energy, enthusiasm and effort that they put in?

Consistency/Commitment – Are we staying consistent with the values that we profess to our teams about the importance of fitness and commitment to the team? Perhaps a team looks a lot more like a family.

Social proof – Are we adding to an already broken cultural model of what adulthood looks like?

Authority – Are we harkening back to a “do as I say, not as I do” ethos of leadership? Because if we know what’s best, then why aren’t we doing better?

Liking – Do we like ourselves enough to have people emulate us? It’s an interesting question.

Scarcity – There is a shelf life on this existence that we have. Should the message be that we are trying to conserve the precious resource of time through better decisions or toss it with all of the other disposable things in this world?

All of these questions have personal answers. Blanket statements rarely work. The only thing that I’m sure a coach should never be is abusive. Beyond that, the shades of grey are infinite. Each of us must look ourselves in the mirror and also imagine the view of us from the people that we coach. If you like what you see, carry on. If not, then change. No one is going to force it on you because they have their own baggage. As a coach, you are intended to be a leader. The most important person for all of us to lead is ourselves!

Team on 7! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, TEAM!


self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer Life Balance – The Defensive Half

This video explains the “boundaries” of the defensive half as they relate to life. The dimensions of a soccer field matter. While there are parameters for the boundaries in soccer, the parameters in which most of us live are determined by us. Showing up to a field that was too short or too wide or too narrow would cause an uproar by players and coaches. We all set up the field that we are playing on. Many of us do so in a way that guarantees that we will struggle and/or lose. If you want to understand completely what I’m talking about, check out the video below. Or read the description. Both have their value but the video has the visual representations of the content.

The life that each of us leads has boundaries. A standard life does not exist. We all have advantages or disadvantages based upon our organization or lack in our life. There are places that some people can reach that others cannot. With that in mind, each of us can do things to make our playing area to our advantage. This particular set of boundaries deal with the “Defensive Half.” These are adjustments that can be made to your personal “field” that will help protect your goal.

The Sidelines

Breathing – It’s a concept that I cover with individuals quite often. The question “What is the most important thing that you’re going to do today?” get s a variety of answers but it is the same for all of us. Breathing is the most important part of our survival. Yet we overlook it regularly. This is not a call for people to start paying more attention to their individual breaths. It is a call for a breath practice. Most of our maintenance oriented activities are done, once, twice or thrice per day. The same should be happening for a breath practice. My personal preference is the Wim Hof technique. It’s not for everyone and NEVER DO IT AROUND WATER! But it gives you a place to start. Once or twice per day for about ten minutes is all that it takes. The benefits of a breath practice are multiple but the main component deals with your ability to bring yourself from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. Getting from your “fight/flight/freeze” response to “rest/digest” is a skill that needs to be developed rather than hoped for.

Hydration – YES! I am aware that these first few are simply survival necessities. Unfortunately (or fortunately) due to our overwhelming success as a species, we rarely have to consider our survival. Therefore we need to consider these for their optimization. Getting more out of your body and mind is completely dependent upon the ingredients and predispositions that you give your body to work with. In the realm of hydration, you are looking to consume half your body weight in ounces. The math is not overly difficult. It is simply about finding the right container to use for measurement. The 8 glasses per day rule is a bit too arbitrary. A 12oz glass x 8 glasses would be 96 total ounces. This is fine for someone around 190 lbs but might be a bit much for a 140 lbs kid. Finding the right container in order to track your hydration is really almost half the battle.

Diet/Fuel – The word diet has been mangled for decades now. It does not mean a weight loss program. More than anything else it is the food that you habitually eat. There are so many possibilities out there that could work for you. The only suggestion that I will make on this subject is to see what actually works for you, not what you want to work. I’d love for an ice cream and pizza diet to get me into optimal shape but it’s just not going to happen. So find something that balances both your nutritional needs and the reality of your life. Choosing to be a vegetarian could be the answer but if it is only going to make you miserable, don’t do it. Fuel your body with food, don’t feed your cravings at all times. The food industry has spent decades making things delicious with barely a scrap of nutritional value. Craving those foods is not an indication that you are a bad person. Give yourself a break and take time to figure out what truly works for you.

Shelter (Mental Safety) – The list of basic human needs continues with a slight twist. Very few of us are likely to succumb to the environment because of a lack of shelter/housing. However in a modern context we live an increasingly large part of our existence in the mental space. Therefore the ability to have mental shelter from “elements” is a crucial part of our boundaries. Much like food, water and oxygen, having a daily practice within this space that sets us up for success is important. Unlike the other survival needs, this is less apparent. Many people live in an unsafe mental space due to their focus or lack of control of that focus. Journaling is just one of the many techniques that can be used in order to get the mind to focus on things that are advantageous to the individual rather than the outside world. My suggestion would be to have a practice of not using any electronics for at least 30 minutes in the morning. That time can be used to establish a focus on the things that are important to you rather than others.

Sleep – This is another area that is of supreme importance but the needs of each individual vary greatly. So I am not going to give many suggestions here other than to say that your sleep should be regular. Length may vary based on the individual but having a regular bedtime and wakeup time can be a game changer. Also try as best as you can to avoid electronics for at least 30 minutes prior to falling asleep. It can help with falling asleep and also gives you time to set your intentions for the next day.

If you didn’t watch the video first, you might be wondering, “what is the goal that I’m protecting?” You’re protecting against drops in self-esteem. Having all of these boundaries set up correctly can create a space where it is unlikely or even impossible for the world to make you feel bad about yourself. The most important relationship that you have is with yourself. All of these daily practices help to keep others away from your goal – the way you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself.

Hopefully this discussion has been helpful. Leave a comment below with any thoughts or additions. This concept is not done. There is another half of the field to go but let me know if I missed anything on this side.





50UThere are plenty of nicknames for the police.  The most common comes from the city of Chicago where the badges were made out of copper.  So eventually the name “copper” became associated with the job.  That of course got shortened to the word “Cop”.  Whether it is the fuzz, popo, Five – O or any other version, the code is usually developed by someone who is doing something wrong and trying to hide the discussion of the over-watching force.  So with all of that code in mind, it is probably time to Five – O – U.

In a combination of code for police and text speech, I’m suggesting that you police yourself.  It’s easy to put the responsibility onto someone or something else.  Police, parents, teachers, trainers, coaches and so many other overseers can be used to keep us away from our lesser self.  However the only person that is there 24/7/365 is YOU!  So the absolute best person to put on watch is you….”BUT THAT’S HARD!” I can hear it now.  The cries from the people that are only half committed scream through the silence of inaction.  Somehow we delude ourselves into believing that the time when we’re on our own counts less or not at all.  Those calories don’t count, the skipped reps or workouts don’t count, the lies that I tell myself or others about what I’ve done or not done DON’T Count!  This is at least partially true because in many cases our internal police have been asleep on the job for so long, they don’t even recognize the things that should count.

So the challenge has been put forth, Five – O – U!  Police yourself!  You’re the one who reaps all of the rewards and pays all of the prices.  If there are people who care more about your results than you do, take a long hard look at what you’re doing because there is an imbalance somewhere.  Remember that you can only control one person in this world and you should!

Make today great because you can!



Delicious Poison

Princess Bride“I’ve spent the past few years building up an immunity to iocane powder!” -The Dread Pirate Roberts/Wesley

It was a strategic maneuver.  Obviously Wesley knew that at some point he would be faced with a situation where drinking poison would save his life.  However since iocane is odorless and tasteless, the experience was not done for enjoyment but rather protection.  If Wesley had been alive in modern or realistic times, he would have had a greater number of choices to kill Vizzini.  It just would have taken years and not moments to kill him using a soft drink, ultraviolet sun-rays, fast-food and stress-laden office job.  If you haven’t understood any of this post yet, stop everything and watch “The Princess Bride” right now!

Now that you’re back or never left, it should be obvious to most that our lives are full of possible poisons.  Some can be instantaneous killers.  Others take years to grab hold and choke the life out of people.  Why are we surrounded by so much poison?  Because we want to be!  We really don’t want the literal or figurative death that they carry but it is usually an unwanted side-effect to some deliciousness.   I use the word delicious to describe some positive feeling sensation associated with a negative action or product.  It does not specifically have to be a food/drink.

The delicious moment trumps the long term poisonous effect.  It is all over our society: food, drink, relationships, entertainment and the list goes on.  I’m sure that it is not impossible but it would definitely be difficult to go “poison free”.  So I would not ask that of anyone.  Since I mainly write this blog to challenge myself, the challenge that I lay before you and I is to give up two delicious poisons this week.  Tuesday (8/25) to Tuesday (9/1).  Leave a comment with your two and be honest with yourself and me if you drop the ball.  It’s not failure, it’s data!  You’ve learned something about yourself.  My two poisons are: Iced Tea and ice cream.  I also promise to leave a comment if I fall short.  People who know me will recognize the difficulty of this.  Can you give up Facebook, unnecessary cellphone use, your anger, that cup of coffee or cigarette?

“Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” -Vizzini