Brian White was the first draft pick taken by the New York Red Bulls in the 2018 MLS Draft. In this conversation we talk about some of the things that set him apart as an athlete and the transition to life as a professional athlete.
This episode I got the chance to talk to Brad Nein, Coach and Blogger who works with kids and coaches in order to make a better experience of soccer. We discuss his beginnings, his dissertation and many other topics. To find out more about Brad and what he does, go to http://www.educatedcoaches.com or http://www.sweetfeetsoccer.org.
It’s far off in the future but it will be here in a developmental instant. Although the World Cup of 2026 is almost a decade away, the present is the only place where we can impact the future. Recognizing that Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams may be the “veterans” of that team gives the extremely realistic picture that while our future could be bright, it is in our best interest to make it brighter. The loftier heights of the sport world are not reached by the individual but rather by a cultural movement that serves as a base to raise the many. So the US soccer needs to realize that it’s chess, not kick ball.
The reason is that our soccer culture has gotten extremely effective at creating only pawns. Christian Pulisic is an anomaly as an American player because of his versatility and vision. Generally speaking the youth systems of the country are extremely effective at creating players who can make the next pass and not much else. A slightly dumbed down version of the beautiful game where creativity is superseded by practicality. Although pawns are necessary in the game of chess, they are unable to win the game on their own. The major pieces, like rooks and queens, give the best possibility for victory because they are dynamic and possibly game changing. Opponents must fear them because they are unpredictable. They are in the right spots because they think five moves ahead from where the play is right now. And that’s what we all need to do with the game.
The recognition that right now is not the goal. The goal looms in front of us in the distance but we can’t reach it playing kick ball. We need to be playing chess, developing rooks, queens, bishops and even knights. Seeing a path that leads to eventual checkmate will only come if we are developing enough quality pieces, not pawns for our small game.
Head Coach, Evan Weller, has been building the soccer program at Phillipsburg High School for the past 16 years. This conversation highlights some of the components to their success and thoughts beyond the lines of the field.
In this brief solo talk, I discuss some of the things that I believe are being missed in our current soccer culture. Even they may be the most pressing and most apparent, they seem to be the most overlooked. Send in your thoughts and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org today.
It 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!
I’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.