Tag Archives: sports

Lost Too Many To Prioritize Winning

tombstoneI don’t feel comfortable sharing their names as I have not asked for parental permission. Nor would I ask because these people have definitely suffered enough.  In my almost twenty years of coaching, I’ve lost no less than five former players to suicide, drugs/alcohol and avoidable accidents.  This may not be statistically significant to some but it is something that I carry with me always.  In the eyes of many, the job of a coach is to direct an individual or group in technique and tactics in order to win a particular contest.

While this may encapsulate what coaching is for some, I can define coaching in one word: PROGRESS!  When broken down to the molecular level, this is what coaches should be striving for.  The progress of an individual or a group in not only their sport of choice but also as people.  At some levels, progress is measured by winning and it should be.  Professional athletes and coaches are in the business of competition/entertainment.  Their business model is dependent upon the sale of tickets, jerseys, food, etc. and winning is a key ingredient in that equation.  The problem is that the base blocks of the pyramid are not supposed to look like to the top block or “pyramidion”.  Basically 99% of all soccer played in the world is either true recreation or competitive recreation.  The previous statement will probably stick in the craw of many people but this fact should be embraced rather than lamented.

Recreation is the main reason that athletics came to be.  The battlefield was given up for the athletic field, where defeat did not mean death.  Therefore the “vanquished” could improve and RECREATE themselves into a better version.  Progress as an athlete meant facing your shortcomings.  That self-analysis is a skill that overflows into everyday life.  Recognizing one’s own weaknesses is not weakness.  It is actually strength because it allows the individual the possibility of progress.  Pain + Reflection = Progress is a formula coined by Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates).  In it lies the secret that so many of us continually overlook.  Failure is a key component to progress.  Those who are unwilling or unable to see their own faults cannot hope to move past them.  Since coaching is about progress and failure is a necessary ingredient to progress, then winning can’t be the point.

Having lost so many former players, I know all too well that the results of today’s game matter little compared to the results of a lifetime.  The point is not to win the game but rather to have a dynasty of days that have been won by moving forward.  So take the long term view with yourself and those that you care about.  Decide that short term wins that lead to long term loss are not in your game plan.  Recreate yourself regularly and recognize that the only person that you’re competing with is you.

Have great day!


Subtly The Best

MostBestAt one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something.  I surely felt like they did during my childhood.  Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA.  You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point.  It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate.  As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.

Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here.  Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out.  Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.

Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle.  Smile a little more.  Be a little more patient.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Home-runs can win games but so can singles.  If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.

The Power of a Poor Start

RockyMy soccer career started on a team called the Orange Crushers. I didn’t know what “irony” was at seven years old but our name epitomized it. We crushed nothing and it seemed as though our purpose in the league was for us to be crushed by others. My memories of that season are a complete blur except for one game. In one of our final games of the season, we won and I scored. I was so glad when it happened. The other team from town, Blue Bombers, was filled with friends and classmates and they were undefeated. So that lone victory was important for me because I’d received some ribbing at school.  Perhaps that lone victory kept me hanging on despite the poor start to my soccer career.

As the years went on, there was a slow dance that went on between winning and I. One year my team would be a success. The next we were knocked back down a peg. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had figured out who I was as a player. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t quit. That was my first year as a complete “success”. Conference and County Championships were the first two real trophies that any of my teams had ever won. As I thought back to that team, I realized that not one player from the Blue Bombers remained. They had all stopped playing soccer or switched to other sports.

Knowing how to lose and not quit or to persevere through tough times are skills that you acquire from a poor start. These skills are invaluable because no one maintains success forever. Using memories of our failures as stepping-stones is the way we make a staircase toward our success. The examples of poor starts are woven throughout the history of the United States. Lincoln, Ford and Carnegie are three that instantly pop to mind but one of my favorites from the present day is Stallone.

When Sylvester Stallone sold the script of Rocky, the studio wanted to make the film but with someone else playing Rocky. At the time he was completely broke and refused a series of offers from the studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stuck to his guns. He knew how to survive and live with failure but he saw this film as his one ticket to ultimate success. So with very long odds, he bet on himself and won. I used to watch the Rocky films regularly when I was in high school. Later I learned just how much the movies mirror Stallone’s life. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tells his son that life is about “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My guess is Stallone learned this early and never forgot.

A poor start is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be embraced. The power of a poor start comes in the fact that you know where you began is not where you’re going to end. The power of a poor start comes from realizing that failure did not put poison inside you, it put fire inside you. The only negative to a poor start is if you quit and make your start, your end.

It’s ok to start poorly, if you finish strong.


Fantasy Football

IMG_20170805_0001Fantasy sports are a popular pass time for many people.  It is no longer a young male adult game but something that any sports fan can attempt.  For me, the only one that has ever held my attention was fantasy football.  The scoring is easy to follow and the games are only once per week.   The concept behind fantasy sports is a simple one, try to compile the best team that you can in order to earn the most points each week.  There are many different perspectives on drafting players but the overwhelming concept is filling your team with as many “superstars/point getters” as you possibly can.

I have friends and colleagues who spend hours or even days planning out their draft selections.  These choices are important.  Getting the right players off the bench each week and into the game is the key to survival.  It is natural for players to be dropped to the bench or even released from the team when more desirable players are available.

It’s easy to see when talking about sports and fantasy that compiling the best team in order to win is important.  That you would drop players that are holding you back and look to add players that will bring you forward.  Why don’t we do the same thing with our friends and acquaintances?

In many ways our friends are part of our team.  They not only support us but they also shape us.  There are acceptable norms within relationships.  Depending on your friend group, it may be unacceptable for you to smoke cigarettes.  Or if you are part of a different group, it may be expected that you smoke.  These acceptable norms are not limited to simple things like smoking.  They extend out to your expectations of life.

When you add a player like Tom Brady to your fantasy team, you do it because he is going to get you closer to what you want because he’s an all-star.  Take a look at your friends.  Are they all-stars?  Are they helping you get to where you want to go?  Do they hold you back?

Like it or not, your friends are influencing who you are.  Did you pick them consciously and for the right reasons?  Are you going in the same direction?  Can you get where you want to go with them around?

Perhaps some of your friends need to be put on the bench or cut from the team.  This should not be a decision that is made quickly.  People can serve all kinds of purposes, so do your homework on why your friends are your friends.

Also in a very real sense the internet has made fantasy football possible when it comes to the people who influence you.  In the past, you might have been limited to your town or school.  Now you can listen to leaders of almost any kind, speak about almost any topic.  Who are you listening to today?

Choose wisely!


The Sport of the 21st Century

MonroeThe 20th Century of the United States was largely dominated by an industrial economy.  The US rode the wave of the industrial revolution into prominence on the world stage.  Factories flourished thanks to interchangeable parts and largely interchangeable people.  Most workers in the 20th Century were able to earn a substantial living by doing simple repetitive tasks under the orders of their bosses.

In this system, it is no wonder that the sport of the century was Football.  In so many ways, football was representative of the American way.  It was progressive.  Moving forward was success and moving backward was failure.  It mirrored our historical land acquisition with its own “land acquisition”.  The decisions were made by a few bosses and executed by largely  interchangeable people.  The sport was the perfect corollary for the industrial age and both served the country well in their time.

Now that the industrial age has passed and we have moved into what many are calling the “Connection Economy”.  The people who create value in the market place are not interchangeable cogs in a vast machinery.  Cogs can be replaced, automated or outsourced to other countries.  True value in the modern economy is created by an individual whose contributions are irreplaceable and unique.

This change begs for a different representation in sport.  The football model of “run the play” holds little value when the rules of the game change so quickly.  Soccer’s flexibility and subjectivity require that players deal with complex problems and must make individual decisions for the betterment of the collective.  Since each player is a decision maker, principles rather than directives are the dictating forces.  No one person is in control.  Therefore players must learn to control themselves and direct themselves in an uncertain environment.

The beautiful game will become “America’s Game”.  It is just a matter of time.

Can The Next USSF President Undo Trump Damage?

Make American Soccer Great!

The election of a new USSF President is almost upon us.  Although the holder of this post may not be as recognized as the President of the United States, the impact of soccer on the world is not a thing to be discounted.  It has both started and ended violence.  So with this decision looming in the near future, what impact will the new POTUSSF have on the sport and the country at large?

To the general public, the answer would most definitely be “none”.  It is an absurd thought to give this decision anything more than a passing glance on their newsfeed.  This is an organization that specializes in a sport that garners almost complete indifference from most of its populace.  It’s national power would, to the average citizen, rank somewhere around that of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America.  Mostly kids and adults running around to get medals and club patches.  While that characterization might be accurate on certain levels, it completely discounts several factors that could have a tsunami type affect based on this relative flap of a butterfly’s wing.

Perception Is Reality

It’s often not pretty but the perception of truth often has greater staying power than the actual truth.  At the moment, the United States has an international perception problem.  Regardless of your personal feelings about Donald Trump, his policies or his impact on the United States; he is projecting many of the characteristics most disliked about Americans.  His overall agenda to “Make America Great Again” seems to come with the postscript, “non-Americans watch out.”  Despite being only one man, the President has the dubious responsibility of being a partial personification of what the United States is.  Mr. Trump’s actions, statements and Tweets may be his own but they also belong to all Americans when viewed from afar.

The Butterfly’s Wing

Eight candidates are being considered with varying degrees of experience, personal motive and leadership potential.  While I’ll keep my personal preference on candidates completely out of this, the worst thing that the voters could do in these circumstances would be to elect on celebrity rather than ability.  The reason being that the perception of the USSF and its new President has very real implications in a short period of time.  The selection of the host for the 2026 World Cup will be made on June 13th.  While the North American Triad of the USA, Mexico and Canada may seem like a sure thing when pitted against Morocco, small nations have dealt us unlikely defeat recently (and I won’t bring up Qatar either).

Winning the bid to host the 2026 World Cup is one of the crucial components to a successful Presidency for any of these candidates.  Failure to secure this bid is not just bad for soccer, it is bad for this country.

In the mind of the general citizen of the United State in 2018, the World Cup is nothing more than a soccer tournament.  It’s a fun diversion at best and non-factor for most.  However in an even more interconnected world of 2026, it is a spotlight shining directly onto the United States.  This event gives us the opportunity to be gracious hosts to the world.  While seemingly trivial from the inside, this role could be crucial to change an international perception of a nation that exports entertainment and soldiers under a leader of singular self-interest.  As news becomes more dependent on the “man on the street”, it is conceivable (if not) probable that brand America’s reputation in the remote corners of the world will depend on the personal experiences of a group of soccer fans supporting their team in egocentric America.

Stirring the Melting Pot

In addition to the World Cup bid, the new President will at the very least have an influence over the involvement of Hispanic communities in US soccer.  The recent loss of Jonathan Gonzalez to the Mexican National Team system is not so much a loss of talent but a loss of contact.  The roots of many Hispanic Americans in this country run deep.  US history is so inextricably intertwined with that of Hispanic heritage that a number of our states and cities have Spanish names (regardless of how we pronounce them).  The involvement of Hispanic players, coaches and fans (or lack thereof) in US soccer will be another key to US soccer counteracting the more pervasive American perceived ethos.

While soccer does not possess the ability to cure all that ails this country, it can be a catalyst for positive change.  The leadership that is selected must realize the importance of this game, not only as a sport but a form of quasi religion that can galvanize the people under its spell.  With this power comes great responsibility, here’s to hoping that the lesser of the two presidents is able to learn from the missteps of the commander in chief.  “Let’s Make American Soccer Great!”

Thanks for reading!


PS – Historically speaking, host nations seem to have a greater likelihood of winning the World Cup.  With young players like Pulisic and Adams being in their mid twenties in 2026, there’s a fighter’s chance.

Everything But…

IMG_3064In this extremely fast paced world, it’s easy to get distracted from that which is important in favor of that which seems important.  It is the reason why we make shopping lists and set reminders for ourselves.  Getting caught up in the moment is not only normal, it seems to be a way of life.  Despite all of the technological and societal distractions, it would seem as though we might have accidentally thrown out all of our babies in order to make room for more bathwater.  Perhaps it is time to decide what is truly important and focus on it.

There are plenty of people who will get married this year.  They will painstaking search for a great venue, a photographer, delicious food, the right guest-list and register for the perfect gifts.  But before they did all of that hard work, they forgot to find someone worth spending their life with.

We have access to amazing communication devices in our pockets and at our fingertips.  There is the capability to reach the other side of the world, translate to almost any language and do it instantaneously.  But we rarely say things that mean much of anything.  There is so much coming at us that it all becomes devalued.  We tend to only listen in order to respond, not to understand or empathize.

Students and teachers are no longer bound by the bricks in the walls of their buildings.  All facts are available at a moment’s notice and the greatest minds are within reach.  Yet our young people are worried about grades that will soon not matter and facts that have little value.  The word educate comes from the root educe which means to bring out or develop.  The cramming information in might not be the best way to draw out our young people’s genius.

These are just three examples where we seem to be so caught up in the process that we have forgotten why the process was invented.  When broken down to the core, the world is a relatively simple place.  We are here to survive first.  Once that is taken care of we look to progress and we do both more effectively together.  So get back to the core of what you do and why it is done at all.    If you are in school, then learn, regardless of the grades.  If you’re in a relationship, then relate, give of yourself and be willing to be changed.  The superficialities of life can only sustain us for so long.  Our true progress depends on depth of experience and it needs to be found again.  Right now are you focused on ANYTHING BUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER?



Soccer in American Football Terms: Offside

It has come to that time of year where many American football* fans are without a team to root for until the Super Bowl when they hope for good commercials.  If you are a soccer fan and have a football fan in your life who is interested in learning about soccer, then I have some tips below.  (NOTE: Do not try to convert the unwilling football fan.  Save your energy for the father-in-law who has grand-kids that play.  Trying to convert the uninterested usually backfires.)

The most incomprehensible thing about soccer to most football fans that I’ve spoken to is the offside rule.  Luckily there is a pretty easy way to convey the concept using football terms.  The key is to take the rule that they already understand and tweak it to help them understand the soccer equivalent.  If you’re not a football person, you might first need to brush up your understanding of the carrying game first.

Offside in football is a foul in which a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. This foul occurs simultaneously with the snap. Unlike offensive players, defensive players are not compelled to come to a set position before the snap.


In soccer there is no line of scrimmage nor a “snap” of the ball.  Since the ball is almost continuously in play, the rule is a bit harder to police but understanding is all that we’re aiming for now.  First of all, only offensive players can be called offside and only in their offensive half of the field (nearest the goal they intend to score on).  The line for offside is not a fixed yard line but rather it moves with the last defender** equivalent to the defensive position of safety. (See Below)


So since the ball is almost always in play, offensive players are moving around and can even cross the offside line.  A call of offside is made when an offensive player is in an offside position and the ball is played toward him or her.  In football terms, the wide receiver cannot run past the invisible yard line of the safety until the ball is thrown by the quarterback.  So the timing of streak (go), post and corner routes need to be timed very well.  If the ball is not passed before the intended receiver gets by the “safety”, he’ll be offside.  Curl and comeback routes can be effective in keeping a player onside.  But if he is offside at the time of the pass, receiving the ball in an offside position doesn’t matter (like a defensive lineman who tries to jump back as the ball is snapped).

The Receiver on the 15 yard line is onside at the time of the pass.
The player in the end-zone is offside because he’s beyond the last defender at the time of the pass.

The player possessing the ball cannot be offside.  So a player can dribble through the offside line.  Therefore if the quarterback or running back carry the ball forward, they are not offside.


That pretty much sums it up.  If I’ve missed anything, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll adjust it.  Pass this information along to a football fan that cares to learn.

* I don’t like using the term American football but I do it to avoid confusion.  I also dislike using one sport to explain another but have done this

**This statement is partially false.  The last defender needs to have the goalkeeper behind them.  This is something that soccer fans and even referees get wrong from time to time.  Two defenders (one usually being the goalkeeper) need to be between the offender and the goal line.  If the goalkeeper goes out of the goal a far distance, one defender is not enough to keep an offensive player onside.

Missing From the Story

MissingStories are an integral part of our society and have been for thousands of years.  Whether the Odyssey, the Bible, Star Wars or Romeo & Juliet, the stories of the present and past have almost all been intended to tell us something.  Not particularly something about the past although many are historical in nature.  More often than not, stories are trying to tell us something about the human condition.  Although a form of entertainment, they can also be instructive.

Characters are not just imaginary people to play make believe for us real humans.  They represent a myriad of possible traits, life courses and mindsets.  Whether Han Solo, Jesus, the Lorax or Hector, each one offers the gift of possibility.  The idea of a life slightly different from our own.  They offer themselves up in front of us on the screen or the page in order for us to judge them and their value.  At that point their power or lack there of is left up to us.

What’s missing from the story is you.  If you only admire the heroism of Han Solo or the kindness of Jesus but never transfer it into your own life, then these characters truly are lifeless.  However, if you’re willing to take up their plight from the page, then they truly do live.  It is not enough for heroism, kindness and love to exist in movies and books because evil and hatred are alive in the real world.  So if you truly love a movie or book, then show it by becoming an actor.  A person who acts in the stead of those imaginary people.  The world is waiting for your story to be told and you’re the only thing that’s missing.

Act today!


Bad Gladiators Died

gladiatorIt wasn’t a 100% binary equation.  Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”.  Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death.  Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died.  I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner.  Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case.  Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators.  While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes.  Gladiators got good because they had to.  Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.

By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to.  A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go.  However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward.  The same holds for an individual.  What is at stake for you today?  Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie?  Or is nothing at stake today?  Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday?  Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly.  Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber.  The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword.  That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake.  So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!