Blogpost

Would You Know a Good Ref If You Saw One?

refereeToday my son’s game had an extremely good referee group.  The center referee and his two linesmen called the game very well.  Despite the fact that they did a great job and got the majority of the calls right (even the ones that went against my son’s team), there were still complaints from parents.  Which made me wonder if people really have any idea what makes for a good referee or if they just want calls to go in their team’s favor?  Here are some thoughts to consider.

The level matters – Recognize that the job of a referee changes as the age and the level of play changes.  At the lowest levels, the referee is part of a learning process.  Their job is more about managing the understanding of the game rather than calling “fouls”.  Often the sidelines are complaining about things that are poor body control and not actually a foul.  The higher levels require much more reading of the flow of the game.  A good referee will identify possible problems developing in the play.  Their use of cards, advantage, player discussions and fouls called/not called will depend largely upon their reading of the game and individual’s roles within in it.  So as you are watching a game, give some thought as to the level of soccer being played and what the referee’s role truly is at that level.

Perspective matters – By design, referees are intended to be a neutral third party at the game.  So they are not carrying the bias that most of us bring to the game.  Their decisions are based upon what they see and not what they feel.  This creates another issue for most fans because their vantage point is completely different from that of the referee’s.  So it is not only possible but actually completely accurate to say that fans and referees have seen a different game.  Most of the time this is done with no instant replay, no VAR with different camera angles.  This is done live with twenty two players running in all directions and possibly screening the view.  Despite these major obstacles, perfection is the standard that many expect.

The Laws are the Laws – A good referee will call the game based on the laws of the game, not public perception of what the laws are.  There are many things that are commonly shouted from fans or even coaches about things that do not apply to the Laws of the game.  “Winning the ball” for example does not make a player immune from having a foul called against them.  If the play is deemed to be reckless, then a foul is appropriate regardless of who won the ball.  A large number of players, fans and coaches have only a cursory knowledge of the Laws that are based more on hearsay rather than actual study.

Obviously this is just a small sample but each is worth considering.  The game requires referees and the good ones need to be identified, praised and promoted.  I fear that many people involved in the soccer world would not be able to identify a good referee if they saw one.  That is unfortunate because that means that people are unable to see past their own desires.  Most of the soccer played in this country is youth soccer.  Therefore the majority of children are getting a skewed view of right and wrong.  Right means in my favor and wrong means anything else.  The ability to be objective could be lost.

Blogpost

An Open Letter to My Future Players

To Whom It May Concern:

VESPhotoI am your new coach.  That’s a role that I take very seriously.  It’s a mixture of teacher, mentor, psychologist, personal trainer, confidant and many other jobs that coalesce into a position of great possible influence.  The word possible is in there because people are put into roles like this every day but just because someone leads does not mean that anyone will follow.  A position of power does not make someone a leader.  Leaders must be willing to go first.  My hope is that I am able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am.

At this point, I could list all of my past experiences and accolades but they are only slightly relevant.  Prior success is not a guarantee of future success.  Also that term is something that we will have to define together.  So what am I offering?  Commitment…  A similar commitment to the ones that I make to my wife and children.  I take it that seriously.  The commitment to do what I believe is best in the long run.  Not particularly today.  Not the things that are easy.  Not the things that most people would do but rather the things that few people would do.  Things that may lose games but improve lives.  Ultimately that is the game that I care the most about: LIFE.  Eventually everyone’s playing career comes to an end.  The things that we carry with us after the games are over are the true victories.  The friends, confidence, self-discipline, self-awareness, and so many others are the trophies that we not only carry with us but can rely upon for years to come.  In the end, your ability to control a ball will probably amount to very little but your ability to control yourself will give you everything.

So where do we go from here?  Forward!  We are going to take the necessary steps in order to prepare for what lies ahead.  There is no way to predict what those things might be.  Every team and every season is different.  So we will do our best to anticipate the challenges and prepare for them.  We will endure hardships.  Face opponents external and internal.  Enjoy the successes but no matter what it will be done together.  Every one of us will contribute to whatever we accomplish.  From the starting captain, all the way down to the last person on the bench of the lowest level team, we all have something to give.  It may not be goals, saves or minutes but there is value in all of it.

I could go on but rather than talking about starting, we should just start.  So for now, let me just say that I am extremely excited to be working with you.

See you soon!

Coach

P.S.  Below is something that I wrote a few months back.  Not sure how it will play into my plans but I’m putting it here for your consideration.

“Toward Full Stature”

I go out today in search of victory,

Not over the opponent who stands in front of me

But the lesser self that resides within me

Before I can conquer anyone or anything else

I must first conquer and control myself

And if today I am able to stand victorious,

I know that tomorrow will bring a new challenge

Each day my ability to stand tall will be tested

But I am confident that I will reach my full stature

Blogpost

Borrowed Time

PokerOur concept of time is messed up to a certain extent.  Not the measurement of time.  Seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. are effective units to use for measuring time.  It is our relationship with it that may be in need of a revamp.  Perhaps I am only speaking for myself but I generally don’t think that I’m so unique to have a completely new thought.  Time is something that in our younger years we waste so often it is as if we believe that there is an infinite supply for us.  Then as we get older, we lament its passing, wishing that we had some of that wasted time back.  It seems that the only people who truly grasp the limited resource which they have are the people who have a brush with their own mortality.  There are a multitude of stories including George Lucas, Franck Ribery and so many others who gained clarity from a near death experience.

For me, I was too young.  Too young to remember and I never got the lesson.  When I was two and a half, I had meningitis.  I almost died.  Despite knowing this story since I was a kid, it never really sunk in that I was working with borrowed time.  At this moment I am forty one years into a lease on a life that easily could have passed by already.  So what does one do with this realization, even if it comes extremely late?  Like so many things in this world, the first thing is most likely to be grateful.  None of us is owed anything in the world.  So gratitude for all that has sprung out of that borrowed time is the most natural course.  Then comes the projection forward.  If you’re playing with house money, do you play it conservative only betting on the best odds?  Or do you look for some long shots that would pay off big because let’s face it you were supposed to be cashed out long ago?  I’m sure that you had a gut feeling about what you would tell me to do.  The question is can you follow your own advice?

We’re all living on borrowed time.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve beaten a terminal disease or been healthy as a horse since birth.  It’s not completely up to us when we cash out.  So with that little bit of clarity from your gut, you need to decide, what are you doing with the chips that you have today?  There’s no particularly wrong answer, just an answer that’s right for you.

Deal ’em!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer Karma

IMG_3939Our beliefs tend to color or almost define our worlds.  The thoughts that we hold most dear are the filters through which we cyphon our experiences and produce meaning.  Recognizing this would make one think that people would be deliberate in the creation of their beliefs.  Unfortunately this is rarely true.  People’s beliefs are often a mismatch of heritage and circumstances.  This haphazard approach is bound to lead to disaster more often than not.  I’m not here to offer a complete belief system but rather one small sample: Soccer Karma!

I’m a huge believer in soccer karma.  It is a term that I may have coined (or stolen, not sure!).  The concept is simple.  On the soccer field, if you give a good ball, you’re going to get a good ball.  Meaning that if you give a quality pass to a teammate, they’re going to give you a quality one back.  This is of course, not completely accurate.  It’s completely possible that you give a good ball and get a crap one back!  This is true.  However the belief matters more than the reality.  If I believe that my intent is going to have positive returns, I’m more likely to put effort in that direction.  That effort will eventually influence those around me, especially if we all believe the same thing.  This belief acts a ratchet that brings positive returns.

For years now, I’ve been professing the positives of this belief system.  While I know that it has paid dividends for my players and teams on the field, my hope has always been that the metaphors of our sport are not lost on those who play it.  The moment that we step off of the field, we are being released out into a larger venue with bigger stakes and uncertain scoring.  Regardless of that, the belief system can be applied with equal effectiveness.  If enough of us believe in it, then we truly can make life “a beautiful game”.

Blogpost

Steam Is Contagious

Huryk-LukeIt was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example.  I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania.  The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game.  One team was extremely adept at the offside trap.  Late in the game, there was a corner kick.  The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up.  The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal.  He shot.  The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post.  The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored.  The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense.  The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic.  He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc.  As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game.  I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.”  He responded, “I know it was the right call!  I’m just blowing off some steam.”

In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation.  It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher.  The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it.  There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion.  We need them to live and color our lives.  However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic.  The word was chosen very deliberately.  REASON!  The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions.  Referees become demons.  Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere.  This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person.  However it seems to have become a societal norm.

The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision.  The ability to see what is right in front of our faces.  Children.  Children who are looking at us for how to act.  Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives.  When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do.  You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand.  You don’t see the bigger picture.  You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with.  Those things aren’t done because they’re hard.  They require effort, judgement and self-control.  These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.

So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe!  Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you.  Put your focus on that.  Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult.  AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING!  So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.

See you on the field!

Pete

 

Blogpost

Medals, Trophies and Tombstones

IMG_3917I’ve been extremely fortunate through the years to have won some medals and trophies, either individually or as part of a collective.  Most of them are in a box in my basement or in a display case that I don’t have direct access to.  Medals and trophies are all pretty similar.  They usually have a name of an individual or group, a year and the indication of some accomplishment.  As I was thinking about the trophies that teams and individuals are going to reach for this season, I realized that trophies are the tombstones of our past accomplishments.

They do not actually say anything about who we are in this very moment.  Instead they are a reminder of our former self.  Usually that persona is embellished by a form of nostalgia or selective memory.  This is actually not the worst thing in the world if it is employed correctly.  The idea is not to intoxicate ourselves with the image of our past self.  Deluding ourselves into believing that we are better than the flesh and blood that presently exists.  It needs to be used as a stepping stone toward something else.  If we worship our past achievements, they become ghosts.  If we use them as an indicator of our capabilities, then they become fuel for a fire within and path to possibility.

So don’t let your past self die without leaving an inheritance.  Make sure that your trophies are not tombstones but rather mile markers on a path that takes you to higher and higher heights.  You are always the product!  And there is no quicker way to the grave than to believe that all of your best days are behind you.

Keep climbing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You’re Prehistoric!

cavemanWe live in a modern world but humans are prehistoric creatures.  Obviously we have acquired skills and knowledge that our ancestors did not have.  So I am not suggesting that we are on their level in that respect but I do want to point out that we are using the same hardware.  The same brain structure that caused us to run from saber-toothed tigers is now tasked with managing a world that moves faster than we were intended to go.  We’re overwhelmed and stressed because we created an environment that stresses and overwhelms our prehistoric brains.  This is not a blog to suggest that we go back to living in caves.  Rather it is intended to point out the fact that there are limits on our bandwidth, therefore we must manage ourselves so the prehistoric brain does not go into overload.

The odd irony to our situation is actually that in a modern world, very few things are trying to kill you.  This is an important thing to realize.  Our prehistoric brain’s major functions were centered around keeping the self and the species alive.  So things like fear and sex were major priorities, while general happiness was farther down the list.  The world that we live in requires very little self/species preservation.  Despite this fact, the “wiring” for the old world is still intact.  So a modern “threat” feels very much like a situation of life or death without any of the true peril.  The signals will continue to be sent in this fashion, until we are willing to “re-wire” ourselves.

This process is not like the re-wiring of house.  It doesn’t require a professional or a lot of money but it does require time.  Humans generally don’t change without time and/or major incentives.  A methodical approach to managing your mind can go a long way to creating a better life for you.  Regular practice at calming your prehistoric brain will go a long way.  Taking the time to recognize that your response to situations is not based on what will help but rather things that are pre-programmed will help you to re-program those responses.  Remember that you don’t have to act like a caveman even if you have the same operating system as one.

Go make history by reprogramming your prehistoric systems!

Pete

Blogpost

It’s Not You! It’s Me! (But It’s Really You)

CostanzaGeorge Costanza would not accept it! Upon being dumped by a significant other, she tried to employ the most common of breakup cushioning. “It’s not you! It’s me!” This is an age old ploy to deflect a super direct hit to the ego of the person being dumped. Rather than telling the person the real reasons that they no longer want to be with you, the softener is used.  While it may cushion the short term blow, it does nothing for the long term development of the person as a viable mate.  Costanza, as usual, is an outlier in his stance on “It’s not you!  It’s me!”  He doesn’t want to hear it.  He wants to know that it is his fault that the relationship is falling apart.  While a little aggressive in his approach, maybe it’s time to learn from George.

The finger of blame is wielded around like an oscillating sprinkler head.  It blankets the surrounding area effectively enough but the source never becomes a target.  It creates a two-fold problem that compounds over time.  People, who are unable to hear the truth of their shortcomings, never get beyond them.  Despite being adept at avoiding the mirror’s reflection, they usually become better at noticing the faults of others.  From a perch of perfection, the mere mortals that surround you seem almost foolish in their daily mistakes.  So the cycle of delusion and dispersion continues.  Until there is that extremely uncomfortable face to face meeting with the reality of imperfection.

The way to combat this is to cut it off at the beginning.  Assume that it’s you!  At least partially, if not wholly.  You’re to blame.  You didn’t do enough or did too much.  Put it onto yourself first because at least then you’re in control of it.  You can change something: an action, a habit, a relationship or even just your outlook.  When you take total responsibility for yourself and the things you can control, you’ll find yourself on much more stable ground to influence the people around you to do the same.  You’re not a victim!  You’re a contributor!  If all you have to contribute is blame and excuses, then you’re going to end up alone on your perch of perfection.  Waiting for it to fall!

Pete

 

Blogpost

I’ll Go For You!

L-Photo9-dog-sniffing-locker-1During my sophomore year of college, my two younger brothers were in high school together.  One was a senior and the other was a freshman.  At one point during the school year, there were “Drug sniffing” dogs brought in to do a search of the school.  Students stayed in their classes while the school was swept.  If your locker was tagged, you were supposed to report to the office in order to have your locker searched.  My freshman brother’s locker had a tag on it.  Completely panicked, he went and found his senior brother.  One question from the senior brother, “Do you have any drugs in your locker?”  The response was “no”.  The senior brother went straight to the office and reported that his locker had been tagged.  He brought the officials to the locker for it to be searched.  The school officials questioned whether this was really his locker or not because it was in a freshman hallway.  My brother was adamant!  This is my locker!  Upon being opened and searched, the locker did not contain any drugs.  There was however a half eaten box of crackers at the bottom which the dog must have smelled.  I wasn’t there and no one has discussed that incident for years but I still get choked up when thinking about it.

As I am going through preseason as a coach, I am always trying to instill in my players through my words and my actions, the exact sentiment that my younger brother displayed that day.  I’LL GO FOR YOU!  The idea that I’ll put myself in harm’s way for the good of others.  It’s one of the main reasons why I’m still involved in sports after all of these years.  It’s not the championships, trophies or victories.  It’s those moments when you can truly see that people throughout the team have that simple idea tattooed on their brains “I’ll go for you!”  I’ll give you everything that I’ve got and then some because I know that you’d do the same for me.

The ironic thing is that this has become so very rare in our society but the teams that I’ve seen do the best had this.  People are usually worried about what’s in it for them and when will they get their due.  In my experience, it seems to be that when you are willing to give everything and expect nothing, is exactly the time when you get more than your due.  This can be a difficult concept for a large group of people to buy into but when they do, it can be magical.

The best example of this idea that I’ve ever heard of was when Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers had his father pass away.  There was some doubt whether or not he’d play the next game.  It’s not his decision to play that I find extraordinary but rather his teammates commitment to him.  In this video clip about the game at 2:19 Donald Driver (Wide Receiver) describes exactly what I’ve been talking about.  “Whatever he throws, we catch.”  In a time of pain for their teammate, they were not going to let him fail.  That’s what being a teammate and a family member is about.

Now don’t misread my words!  Not everyone deserves everything you’ve got but if no one is willing to go first then we all lose.  So be the one who is willing to give into the unknown.  Tell the people who truly matter with both your words and your actions; “I’LL GO FOR YOU!”  Most of the time you’ll find, they’ll go for you too!

Go team!

Pete

Uncategorized

I’m Afraid to Try

“You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me.  I’m loner Dottie, A REBEL!” -Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)

DannyZukoThis line is from the quite ridiculous but still entertaining Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  And it was co-opted by the band The Get Up Kids as a song title in the 90’s.  The song outlines one perspective of a short term love affair where the singer refuses to give the relationship a chance.  In his own words, “because I’m afraid to try.”  It’s an old story that probably precedes Danny Zuko in Grease.  Boy meets girl.  Boy likes girls.  Boy wants to leave while things are still fun and casual because a relationship is just too much work.

It’s applicable to so many things but relationships are possibly the easiest target.  In a world where Tinder and OkCupid are facilitators of the present dating scene, this mindset will probably get more widespread.  The fast and easy wins out over the slow build (which is perceived as a grind).  Of course this is only perception.  Reality holds millions of possibilities.  For many, a life with one person is a much more joyous existence than the shallowness of singles life.  Regardless of which way you lean, it’s not really the point.  The point is the actual words.  “I’m afraid to try!”  It’s not, “I’m afraid to commit!” or “I’m afraid that I’ll get hurt!”  It’s “I’m afraid to try!”

This is probably the most dangerous thing that I see from not just young people but people in general.  There is a fear of trying.  Putting yourself out there has the perception of being difficult.  And in the younger generation, it is chastised because for some reason “try hard” is now an insult.  Much like nerd or geek of the past, this is a completely idiotic strategy as a culture.  Demean those who excel in order to make the average feel better about themselves.  (But I digress)  The thing is that people have become so accustomed to guarantees that effort toward an unknown is just too scary.  There’s no point in following a rainbow because a pot of gold is not waiting for us.

It’s time to buck the trend.  TRYING (no offense to Yoda!) is often the point.  Finding our limits.  Pressing up against what is possible.  Discovering new territory is exactly the point!  Imagine where we would be if through history, we were this risk averse.  We’d be dead!  Hunters wouldn’t have had any assurances of catching any prey, so why go out to hunt?

Your survival and progress as human being depends on THE TRY!  So go out there today with the intention and determination to try.  It doesn’t need to be something monumental.  It just needs to be outside of your comfort zone.  An experiment, an attempt, a risk, a small gamble.  That’s the only way to move forward.  One little try at a time.  And I’ll suggest that you deny the teenage ridicule by TRYING HARD!

Have a great day people!

Pete