Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Belichick is both film critic and tutor

Video analysis is an important piece of the evaluation process for a coaching staff, and is also an invaluable teaching tool.

In relation to the use of video, I always tell our players that 'you have what I thought, what you thought, and the truth...because video NEVER lies.'

The ability to show critical analysis of what went wrong in the previous match or training session, as well as areas of improvement from the previous week, is an invaluable way to help your players grow and develop.

No coach in the National Football League is more renown for his use of video analysis than Bill Belichick,who is known as "The Belistrator" by his players.

Jackie MacMullen writes of Belichick's roles as both film critic and tutor.

New England Patriots safety James Ihedigbo crouched in his seat, attempting to make himself as tiny and as indistinguishable as possible.

He knew what was coming.

Coach Bill Belichick clicked off the lights and rolled the film.

James Ihedigbo looked bad in his matchup against Santana Moss in December ... and he's still hearing about it. "So now we're going to watch a double reverse," said Belichick, launching into his weekly film analysis, which former linebacker Mike Vrabel gleefully revealed earned the coach the nickname "The Belistrator."

The play on the screen was painfully familiar. Just one day earlier, the Patriots slipped past the Washington Redskins 34-27, but not before Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan suckered the Patriots by calling for a double reverse. Quarterback Rex Grossman handed off to running back Roy Helu, who pitched it to receiver Brandon Banks, who tossed a 49-yard touchdown pass to an untouched Santana Moss.

"As you can see clearly here," said Belichick, slowing the game action to an excruciating crawl, "this is where Ihedigbo gets beat."

Ihedigbo, slinking farther down in his chair, squirmed uncomfortably as his coach skewered his performance.

("They ran the double reverse in Cover 2. I bit on it, and got caught. I blew the coverage," Ihedigbo later lamented.)

"So this is how you DON'T defend the double reverse," Belichick said as he showed it again.

And again. And again and again.

"Well, at least that's over with," said Ihedigbo, in his first year with the Patriots, when Belichick finally moved on.

His friends in the secondary erupted with laughter.

"James," one of his teammates informed him, "it's just beginning."

"They were right," Ihedigbo later confirmed. "Bill ran that play for weeks. He kept bringing it up: 'Now see, this is where Ihedigbo got caught deep.'

"After a while, it became more generic. It was, 'Hey, we might see a double reverse this week like we did against Washington.' And there I am, up on the screen, in the wrong place all over again."

The Belistrator is an equal-opportunity humiliator. He doesn't care if you are a young safety or a first-ballot Hall of Famer; if you mess up, he's going to hold you accountable.

And then he's going to degrade you.

Former linebacker Don Davis was a popular and revered figure in New England's locker room. He was a pastor who coordinated Bible study groups for the players and proved to be a tireless worker on the field and in the weight room. He even earned the offseason conditioning award.

"So there's this one play that made Don look really bad," Vrabel recalled. "Bill showed it a few times then said, 'Offseason award winner, my ass. You look like a cow on ice.' Tedy [Bruschi] and I were in the back laughing our butts off.

Even superstars like Tom Brady can be frequent targets of Bill Belichick's film-room barbs."Of course, it's only funny until it happens to you."

Belichick's current and former players and coaches say his vicious film critiques have been part of his motivational arsenal for as long as they can remember. The roots of the tactic are murky -- Belichick declined a request to be interviewed for this story -- but the desired impact has been well documented.

"It was very, very effective," said Brad Seely, the former Patriots and current San Francisco 49ers special teams coach. "Just look at the former players who have been gone a few years and can still describe it in vivid detail."

Seely said he rarely knew in advance what Belichick had prepared for the dreaded Monday meeting.

"We all were as anxious as the players to see what Bill came up with," Seely said. "Those sessions were always quite enlightening."

Past Patriots veterans fondly remember the time Tom Brady uncharacteristically threw a weak, fluttering pass. As they left the stadium, Brady announced, "Bring the popcorn. I'll be the star of tomorrow's show." Sure enough, when the lights were dimmed and the film began rolling, there was Brady in technicolor, tossing a wounded duck up for grabs -- over and over again.

In that instance, the coach let the picture tell the story. Then he clicked on the lights and announced, "I've seen better passes thrown at Foxborough High School."

The Brady lowlights have been frequent and biting through the years. Belichick stresses the need to never leave points on the board and whenever his quarterback does, he's treated to his own personal film festival. The clips include bad reads, interceptions and poorly timed bombs, such as one in 2009, when Brady overthrew Randy Moss as he streaked toward the end zone.

"As you can see," the Belistrator pointed out, "Randy is wide open. The defense let him go. Not that we can hit him, though. Right, Tom?"

Picking on Ihedigbo is one thing; embarrassing the face of the franchise would seem to be another matter entirely.

It isn't.

"The message was always clear," Bruschi said. "No one was off limits. That's why you had to respect it."

"None of us are immune from his coaching," Stephen Gostkowski added.

Not even the kicker. In Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, the Patriots had just scored on a Laurence Maroney 1-yard run when Gostkowski kicked off -- and the ball sailed out of bounds.

That critical error gave the Giants optimal field position at their own 40-yard line. Gostkowski had to sit through weeks and weeks of replays of his stray kick, as well as Eli Manning's ensuing 38-yard pass to Amani Toomer that placed the Giants inside New England's 20-yard line. New York did not score on that drive because Ellis Hobbs picked off a Manning pass, but footage of that play is never shown. The Belistrator always ends the clip with the Giants seemingly ready to cash in on Gostkowski's miscue.

For a split second, Gostkowski actually thought he might escape the humiliating film sessions, since his mistake occurred during the season finale.

Ah, no.

"Bill teed it up the first week the following season," Gostkowski said. "He reminded me of that kick almost every day. He has a way of putting pressure on you so you accept any challenge he puts out there.

"He never forgets anything. He still brings up plays from when he was a coach with the Giants and the Browns. Those meetings are like an NFL history lesson."

Monday, January 30, 2012

The true definition of victory

"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour—his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious." - Vince Lombardi

Nothing feels better than taking on a challenge by working to the full extent of your physical abilities, and lying there exhausted after you've defeated it.

To me, that's the true definition of victory. The great competitors are able to do that, and in all facets of their lives.

Schiano is dedicated to the cause

Greg Schiano has been taking on challenges his whole life, and where his recent task of rebuilding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL is daunting, the former Rutgers University coach is up for the task.

Mike Miello coached high school football in New Jersey for 43 years. He was old-school, the type of coach unlikely to deviate from his principles. One of his basic tenets: Freshmen didn't play on the varsity squad at Ramapo High.

But one year his team found itself thin up front. Assistant coaches suggested it was time to do the unthinkable. A baby-faced but tough-nosed freshman was turning heads at practice, and it was time to promote him, they implored Miello.

"I said, 'Are you kidding? He's a freshman!' '' Miello said Friday. "Well, I gave in, and we started him on the offensive line. By the fourth game of the season, he was starting both ways."

That kid was Schiano. But the feat wasn't a result of elite talent or athleticism, though he had a measure of both. It stemmed from Schiano's uncompromising effort and dedication to the craft.

"He made a study of the game of football," Miello said.

That's Schiano. Anything he does, big or small, he devotes every fiber of his being to it.

His next mission? Turning around the 4-12 Bucs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Attitude & Enthusiasm the key for Welbeck

Sir Alex Ferguson on 21-year old phenom Danny Welbeck, and how his attitude, effort and enthusiasm has led to his key role in one of the best teams in the world -

"He has a good attitude but then he should - he's a young player with an opportunity at Manchester United. That's one of the reasons you pick these players, because they show their temperament as they come through the youth teams and the reserves. I'm always confident about their temperament, their attitude to the game and their enthusiasm to play."

Manchester United-Arsenal game draws 1.3M

The first live telecast of an English Premier League game on a United States over-the-air network was seen by 1.3 million viewers last weekend, more than double the high for previous broadcasts on cable television.

Fox says Thursday that Manchester United's 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday received a 0.8 rating and 2 share.

The 11 a.m. ET telecast drew a lower rating than three delayed broadcasts on Fox earlier this season, which averaged a 1.1. Those matches were aired before or after NFL games, depending on the market.

ESPN's high of 528,000 viewers was set in December 2010 for the Manchester United-Arsenal game. Fox Soccer's high of 418,000 was set in the February 2011 Chelsea-Liverpool match.

The rating is the percentage of television households tuned to a broadcast, and the share is the percentage watching among the households with TVs on at the time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Make yourself unique to rise from the crowd

The way we do business is changing fast and in order to keep up, your entire mentality about work has to change just as quickly.

Unfortunately, most people aren't adapting fast enough to this change in the workplace, says marketing guru Seth Godin in an interview with the Canadian talk show "George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight" (via Pragmatic Capitalism).

According to the founder of Squidoo.com and author or 13 books, the current "recession is a forever recession" because it's the end of the industrial age, which also means the end of the average worker.

"For 80 years, you got a job, you did what you were told and you retired," says the former vice president of direct marketing at Yahoo! People are raised on this idea that if they pay their taxes and do what they're told, there's some kind of safety net, or pension plan that's waiting for them.

But the days when people were able to get above average pay for average work are over.

If you're the average person out there doing average work, there's going to be someone else out there doing the exact same thing as you, but cheaper. Now that the industrial economy is over, you should forget about doing things just because it's assigned to you, or "never mind the race to the top, you'll be racing to the bottom."

However, if you're different somehow and have made yourself unique, people will find you and pay you more, Godin says.

Instead of waiting around for someone to tell you that you matter, take your career into your own hands. In other words, don't wait for someone else to pick you and pick yourself! If you have a book, you don't need a publisher to approve you, you can publish it yourself. It's no longer about waiting for some big corporation to choose you. We've arrived at an age where you choose yourself.

Barker to lead NSCAA Coaching Education

Ian Barker has been a star in soccer coaching education here in the United States, and yesterday was offered the ultimate opportunity in that arena when he was selected as the Director of Coaching Education for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“Ian is the perfect choice to lead the NSCAA’s coaching education program to new heights,” said Cummings. “He brings to us extensive experience in coaching education at both the state and national level, which is complemented by his experience as a candidate and instructor in the NSCAA’s coaching education system. His unique background provides him with the kind of perspective required to assess where soccer coaching education currently stands. This will be a valuable asset as he charts a new course that will continue to grow the NSCAA’s influence in this critical area.”

Barker joins the NSCAA staff after serving at multiple levels of soccer here in the US.

He was the top assistant coach for Jim Launder at the University of Wisconsin from 1989-97, helping the Badgers to four NCAA tournament appearances in a five-year span. The 1995 team won the Big 10 title and claimed the NCAA national championship. He recently served as the men’s soccer coach at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

Barker’s coaching education credentials are impressive. He has served as a staff instructor for US Soccer’s coaching education program since 1999, teaching both state and nationally hosted residential licenses. He has also instructed the National Youth License for US Youth Soccer. From 1997 through 2007, he also served as Director of Coaching and Player Development for the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA).

As the assistant head coach for US Youth Soccer’s Region II Boys Olympic Development Program, he has led teams on international tours in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland.

Barker earned his first coaching badge while in college with the English FA’s Preliminary Award in 1986, before moving to the US in 1987. He earned his USSF A License in 1995. He holds the NSCAA’s Premier Diploma and was part of the inaugural class to receive the NSCAA Master Coach Diploma in 2006.

I've had the chance to work with Ian on different occasions through the USYSA Region II ODP program, and he is a consummate professional with a passion for teaching the game. He is the ideal choice to lead the world's largest coaching organization into a new era of coaching education.

Williams to lead US Under-17s

Richie Williams has been a winner at every level he's competed at as a player - winning national championships as a youth player and collegian; winning MLS Cups with DC United; capped by the full US National team. He's coached at all levels in our country - as a youth coach with the US Under-18 national team; as a collegiate coach at the University of Virginia; as an MLS assistant and interim head coach.

You can now add Under-17 national team coach to his long resume, as he was named to oversee U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach the U.S. U-17 men's national team and be with the players full-time in the Residency Program," Williams said in a statement. "It is a great responsibility as the players kick off the cycle toward the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, but it is also an excellent platform for introducing them in more detail to the philosophies and style of play that are being integrated throughout the national team programs."

"Richie is an ideal candidate to guide the development of our young national team players while also preparing the team during the next year to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "His experience as a player and coach at the highest levels will allow him to continue to provide a professional environment for the players in our U-17 Residency Program."

Williams has been mentored by the likes of Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Manfred Schelscheidt, and has competed at the highest of levels as both a player and coach. Congratulations to a young American coach who has worked his way up the ladder the right way, and now represents our country in developing our future full national team stars.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Enthusiasm drives Spurrier

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" is the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, but it also could be the life credo for 'the Head Ball Coach', Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier's success on the college football field speaks for itself, and is second only to Bear Bryant in SEC victories. Bryant amassed 159 SEC wins, a record most in this league consider to be unbreakable. Between successful stops at the University of Florida and now at the University of South Carolina, Spurrier has 116.

To put that total in perspective, the next closest active coach in the SEC is Alabama's Nick Saban, who has 64 SEC wins.

Spurrier, who's already the all-time winningest coach at Florida with 122 wins, is just 10 wins away from also becoming South Carolina's all-time winningest coach.

You can't have that level of success at places like Florida, South Carolina and at Duke (yes, Duke University) without having a high level of energy and enthusiasm.

Chris Low of ESPN writes of how Spurrier is even more excited about the future than he is about recalling his accomplished past.

Not only did the Gamecocks win 11 games for the first time in school history, but they also won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time. They swept Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee for the second consecutive season. It was South Carolina's third straight win over bitter rival Clemson, the first time that's happened since 1968 to 1970.

Here's the best news for South Carolina fans: As proud as Spurrier is of what the Gamecocks have accomplished in his seven years on the job, his focus is squarely on the future.

He's as committed as ever to winning an SEC championship at South Carolina.

So while others may wonder how much longer he will keep coaching, Spurrier's attitude is that his work is far from finished.

He's having a blast and doesn't mind saying that he feels rejuvenated in a lot of ways.

"I like being the coach where they've done something for the first time ever," Spurrier said. "It's just a special thrill to do something that's never been done before, and here at South Carolina, we have so many opportunities to do that, so many.

"I knew the history here and what little tradition was here when I took the job, and that's really what was appealing to me. I was thinking, 'Man, look at all these firsts we can achieve.' Gosh, South Carolina had never even won a game in Knoxville in its history, never won in the Swamp, never won 11 games, never won nine or more games back to back," he said.

"The record against Tennessee and Florida in 13 years was one win and 25 losses. Now, we're 7-7 and swept Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee the last two years and are 8-0 against those guys. I think Lou [Holtz] was 3-21 in his six years against those four."

South Carolina's recruiting the past few years has been excellent, and the Gamecocks have been able to keep the best players in-state at home.

When you close down the borders and bring in highly regarded players such as Stephon Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman, Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney, you're going to win a lot of games.

That run is set to continue this year with receiver Shaq Roland of Lexington, S.C., committed to the Gamecocks. Roland was Mr. Football this year in the state and rated by ESPN as the No. 5 receiver prospect in the country.

While Spurrier isn't ready to say that South Carolina has it rolling like Florida did in the 1990s when he guided the Gators to four straight SEC championships, he's convinced that the Gamecocks are moving in the right direction.

"We're not quite there yet, but we can potentially be pretty good because the recruiting has gone so well and guys are sticking," Spurrier said. "We still haven't won the SEC, and that's our goal here, to win the first ever SEC championship.

"We've got to avoid that year of taking a step back. History shows that teams that haven't ever won much, once they have that one big year, they go in the jar after that. Lou won nine games one year and followed it up with a 5-7 record after that Outback Bowl win. So I promise you we'll be on their butts."

I reminded Spurrier that he told me three or four years ago that 66 was about as long as he wanted to go in coaching.

He joked that he didn't think he'd even make it to 66 after the Gamecocks' woeful showings in the Outback Bowl following the 2008 season and the PapaJohns.com Bowl following the 2009 season.

"Well, it was a lot more fun coaching this team, and I don't mind saying that," Spurrier said. "The other thing is the recruiting. We're signing good players and more quality kids. It's a better quality of young men. They're on time, doing the things they're supposed to be doing and taking care of the things they're supposed to be taking care of.

"Clowney made a 2.9 his first semester, so he's coming around."

Following a brief pause, Spurrier cracked, "He's going to have three big years for us."

Despite approaching 70, Spurrier said he's in better shape now than he was 20 years ago. And the truth is that he could easily pass for someone in his mid-50s.

"Age is a funny thing," Spurrier said. "As we all know, it's just a number. I read something the other day that 60 is yesterday's 40, so I guess 66 is yesterday's 46. But, health-wise, gosh, I feel about the same. I work out six days a week and try to eat correctly and all that kind of stuff.

"And, hey, I can still remember all the plays and remember everybody's name."

I was always from the school of thought that enthusiasm is infectuous - a leader can project his or her level of enthusiasm onto those around them. If that's the case, look for continued energy, enthusiasm and wins at the University of South Carolina and for Steve Spurrier.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Remembering Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity, died Sunday of lung cancer at the age of 85.

Paterno's legacy was clearly tarnished by the terrible tragedy of child abuse and his inability to manage and prevent it, but that shouldn't totally overshadow his positive influence on their university and players who competed for him.

Ivan Maisel of ESPN writes of how Paterno will be remembered.

In the span of 12 weeks, Joe Paterno transformed from beloved Penn State icon to Rorschach test on child abuse to ailing victim. His fate, the one that awaits us all, arrived with charitable swiftness. As tough as Paterno could be, at 85 years of age he proved no match for cancer.

Paul (Bear) Bryant, the man whose career victory record Paterno surpassed in 2001, famously died only four weeks after he coached his 323rd college football victory. Paterno lasted eight weeks longer after he won No. 409. Unlike Bryant, the former Alabama coach whose life and legend are venerated to this day, Paterno lived out his final days as the subject of controversy.

A man's death demands that we look to his life -- not just the last 12 weeks, swollen and inflamed by the heat of the vengeful -- but 62 years of coaching young men at one university. A legacy covers more than 12 weeks.

There comes a time in the life cycle of every momentous news story when the coverage of it stops being about the subject. It happens after the news stops registering on the Richter scale. The basics are established. The tectonic plates stop shifting. If the facts change at all, they are subtle aftershocks, not of the degree that topple buildings, or political leaders, or iconic football coaches.

Little more than a week ago, Paterno provided Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post his last public word on his role in the failure to prevent Jerry Sandusky, his former assistant coach, from allegedly molesting young boys. Paterno's critics read his response as nothing more than the defense of an indefensible lapse in judgment, the inadequate rebuttal of a man who could have and should have done more.

The crimes at stake here are two clicks past heinous. Penn State, not to mention the entire State College community, mishandled the Sandusky case in a way that will haunt town and gown for many, many years. People are angry. They want a pound of flesh.

And that anger has fueled the pumps that continue to spew vitriol at Paterno, even as the justice system in Pennsylvania continues to exonerate him.

Even as he continued to say he wished that he had done more.

Even as Paterno sat in a wheelchair, recovering from a broken pelvis, his body wracked by the chemo and radiation to which he subjected himself. Cancer took its own pound of flesh anyway.

The Sandusky case has rubbed raw all of us who have children, or once were children. Paterno, the most powerful man on campus, is one more person who looked and did not see, who listened and failed to hear. He told the Post this month what he said in November. He wished he had done more. It is ineffably sad.

But it should not cancel all that came before it. It should zero out neither Paterno's six decades of achievement at Penn State nor his lifetime of leadership and beneficence at the university.

When a leader is fallen and vulnerable, the enemies and victims who have waited for him to weaken will seize the moment, safe in the knowledge that at last they may air their grievances without fear of reprisal. In the past 12 weeks, one story has emerged. A former Penn State official told The Wall Street Journal that Paterno intervened to keep the campus judicial system from judging his players. It is not a flattering story.

No one else has come forward. No other evidence has surfaced that would suggest Paterno the man cannot match Paterno the legend. That evidence may arise.

Yet a legion of men, who know him much better than any of his critics, continues to defend him. Some are gray of hair and round of stomach, others are younger than Paterno's five children. All of them wore blue and white. They arose to stand by his side when Paterno no longer could stand up for himself. Paterno was the coach who molded them. He instilled a beacon of light to guide them in their lives. He was the man who made them men.

The Sandusky scandal has revealed that Joe Paterno missed in real time what may be seen so plainly in hindsight. The scandal has cast a shadow over a brilliant coaching life. But even the darkest of eclipses are temporary. To say that this scandal should obscure all that came before it ignores the meaning of legacy.

The 409 victories, while record-setting, are not the full measure of the man. The young men he left behind, the campus to which he devoted his life, a campus whose leaders shoved him aside in the panicky, feverish days after the scandal broke, also give testimony to the life of Joseph Vincent Paterno.

The whole of his life renders the seismology of modern-day journalism moot. The facts of a 62-year coaching career were shaken. They did not topple over.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ferguson talks about factors of his success

Sir Alex Ferguson recently celebrated his 25th season at Manchester United, and turned 70 last month. In an interview with Claire Bloomfield for the British online magazine Sabotage Times, Ferguson recently reflected on how the game, and his job, had changed over the years.

What were the major factors in your life that ensured your success?

A. Good teachers. When I was at school, I had a fantastic teacher who inspired me. The next thing is to create standards. The second part is practice and creating standards. The tactical ability will maybe come later. The most important thing at that age is practice and the time to practice.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learning How To Be A Pro

Being a professional has less to do with getting paid, and more to do with the proper attitude and approach. The adjustment for young professionals making a jump to the next level from college normally starts with how quickly they can apply that approach, and adapt to those demands.

Training camp is only two days old, but it’s never too early for the Columbus Crew's veterans to administer advice to the rookies about preparing for the many, many months ahead.

That’s because it’s common for players in their first year out of college to get off to vigorous starts before their performances begin to suffer during the longer and more strenuous MLS season.

“With camp starting now, by the time we get to March and our first month of games, that’s almost a whole college season for some teams,” said Ethan Finlay, the Crew’s first-round 2012 SuperDraft pick from Creighton. “It’s different at this level. It’s something you have to pace yourself for.”

Coach Robert Warzycha said the staff keeps an eye on the young players for mental and physical fatigue.

“Sometimes they don’t understand that we are trying to save them and make sure the season goes smooth because if they overdo it, they get injured,” he said. “It’s tough for every single college player. We can monitor their work but obviously it’s up to them how they’re going to do and how they are going to take it.”

Midfielder Kirk Urso, a rookie from North Carolina, has discussed the situation with many of his former college teammates that turned pro and is hoping to avoid problems they’ve encountered.

“They say you hit a wall around June or July,” he said. “The college season is four or five months. This is eight, 10 months. I know I have to take care of my body, get my rest. Off the field stuff is going to matter more in this league than college. I’ll adjust.”

Veteran midfielder Danny O’Rourke can relate to how the newcomers feel.

As a San Jose rookie in 2005 he was doing fine until the midpoint of the season.

“I remember it was a game at [The Home Depot Center], and I hit a wall,” O’Rourke said. “It was halftime and I was talking to [coach] Dom Kinnear: ‘I don’t know what it is, but mentally I’m drained.’”

Fourth-year pro Tommy Heinemann said the key for the rookies is to focus on their job.

“It’s maintaining that high level of consistency in practice every day,” he said. “It’s a learning process, but as a pro, it’s something you have to do. It’s just as much mental as physical.”

While O’Rourke had to endure a tough stretch with the Earthquakes years ago, he’s glad he went through it.

“I was fortunate enough to gain some perspective and be able to realize it’s a marathon and you learn to treat your body right,” he said. “You’ve got to get away from soccer when you’re off the field. Hopefully, we can pass on some of those life lessons to the younger guys.”

Why Brady Is The Best

As the NFL playoffs continue on this weekend, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will take center stage.

Brady has become an icon in professional sports, and is associated with leading a Patriots' dynasty as well as ranking among the all-time greats.

As precise a passer as Brady is, people who know him best always remark about his tremendous level of commitment, focus, determination and toughness. Where it may be hard to see at times behind his Madison Avenue appeal and super model wife, it is the intangibles that he possesses that makes him one of the NFL elite.

It's hard to develop those kinds of attributes, and where dealing with adversity often reveals character, a recent Sports Illustrated article describing Brady's college career at the University of Michigan that tells the tale of who Tom Brady is, and how he's developed that grit and mental toughness that now separates him from his peers.

Michael Rosenberg writes of Brady's ability to overcome adversity at Michigan, as well as his determination and commitment to be a success.

The story of Tom Brady's college career has been retold and refined so often that most of the necessary context has been lost. Most football fans know the gist: It wasn't until late in his college career that people began to form a picture of how good he would be. That included the Wolverines' coaches, who insisted that he compete with (Drew) Henson for much of the two years they spent together, and NFL front offices, who allowed Brady to slip to the 199th pick.

But if you look at only the bones of the story, you miss the heart of it. You don't recollect Brady in 1998, after that 38--28 loss to Syracuse—a struggling quarterback for an 0--2 team, hanging on to his job by a frayed thread. Many of Michigan's staunchest fans thought he should be benched. Friends today say the lack of support bothered Brady intensely.

But Brady was stuck. Early in the previous season, after (Michigan Head Coach Lloyd) Carr had chosen Brian Griese as the starter—a move that would pay off with the school's first national title in 49 years—Brady told the coach he might transfer. Carr asked Brady what his father thought, and Brady said his dad would support whatever he did.

Carr did not beg him to stay. Instead, he told Brady to stop harping on how many reps he got or whether the coaches liked him. "He said, 'You know, Tommy, you've gotta worry about yourself,' " Brady would recall of his conversation with Carr. "You've gotta go out and worry about the way you play. Not the way the guys ahead of you are playing, not the way your running back is playing and not the way your receiver ran the route."

Carr didn't promise Brady anything. In fact, the only promise to come out of the meeting was from Brady: "I'm gonna prove to you that I'm a great quarterback."

"That was a recommitment to the marriage," Tom Sr. says. In the younger Brady's mind, he had forfeited the right to complain.

Still, there would be, a year later, the issue of Henson.

"Drew Henson was special," says Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, a former Michigan quarterback, a longtime quarterbacks coach and one of Brady's best friends. "He was a freak of nature in my opinion. He had remarkable talent. Unbelievable talent."

Greg Harden, a longtime employee of the football program who advises and counsels Michigan players, says Henson was like Superman, Brady like Batman. Batman doesn't have any superpowers, but as Harden says, "Batman believes he can whip Superman's ass."

Brady's resolve stiffened. He went to Schembechler Hall, the team's football facility, almost every night to watch extra film. He soaked up everything: schemes, opposing players' tendencies, the minds of Michigan's defensive coaches. Slowly, a different quarterback emerged. Brady recognized defenses before the ball was snapped. He knew which receivers would be open and, in what would become his hallmark, became unshakable in the pocket, able to maintain both his concentration and his accuracy when he was about to get hit. On the bus after games Brady could go through every incompletion in order and tell his teammates what went awry: wrong route, wrong read, bad throw, missed block. He had not yet watched film.

After that 0--2 start, Brady rallied Michigan to eight straight wins. But Carr mostly remembers a 31--16 loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale. Brady was sacked seven times and drilled on several others. Yet he completed 31 of 56 passes, and Carr realized that with the biggest, fastest Buckeyes homing in on him, Brady never looked down.

And still, Superman lurked over Batman's shoulder.

Before the 1999 season opener, Carr made a decision: Brady would start; Henson would play the second quarter; at halftime the coaches would pick which one would finish the game. While this must have irritated Brady (who declined, through the Patriots, to talk to SI for this story), he couldn't complain to his teammates, who had voted him captain. He couldn't complain to his parents, who had let him make his own decisions—including the one to stay at Michigan—and expected him to live with them. He could only compete.

Brady earned the second-half nod in four of the first five games, and Michigan won all five. Asked about the unusual platoon system, he endorsed it: "It's working great for us."

He may not have realized it, but Brady was turning Carr into a believer. The coach had primarily valued arm strength and athleticism in his passers—"If you went to a coaching clinic where coaches are talking about quarterback play, you didn't hear about accuracy," he told SI—but Griese and then Brady convinced him of the importance of throwing precisely to a target. And concerns about Brady's arm strength were largely misguided. Wolverines tight end Aaron Shea says that because Brady put the proper touch on his passes, he rarely threw as hard as he could.

In Michigan's sixth game, at Michigan State, the quarterback platoon fell apart. Carr chose Henson for the second half, and the offense stalled. The coach switched back to Brady, who led a spirited comeback; it fell short but was another indication of who he would become. Brady had always been impressive running the two-minute drills at the end of practice. Now he was executing when it counted.

The Wolverines lost their next game, to Illinois, when the defense blew a 20-point second-half lead. But Carr had seen enough. Brady was his quarterback.

In November, Brady threw three interceptions against Penn State as Michigan fell behind 27--17 in the fourth quarter. He was also sacked six times, and receiver David Terrell remembers coming back to the huddle and saying to his quarterback, " 'Damn, bro!' ... He had a bloody face." Brady responded, "DT, just do your job." Brady did his, leading the Wolverines to a 31--27 win. He told reporters afterward, in his high-pitched voice, "I knew we weren't going to lose this game."

At the team banquet in December, Brady cracked that his parents had graduated from "the University of Northwest Airlines" after traveling to almost every game for five years. But Tom Sr. and his wife, Galynn, had a policy: "We shut our mouths." They had never attended practice or called Carr. Their son had chosen Michigan twice—once as a high school senior, and again when he thought about transferring before his junior season. Tom Sr. says, "He had to own it."

After leading the Wolverines to a 9--2 record, Brady finished his college career against Southeastern Conference champion Alabama in the Orange Bowl. As the team gathered for Christmas Eve dinner in Miami, Brady announced, "I'm gonna have dinner with the young pups tonight." He sat with the freshmen, who were away from their families for the holidays for the first time. A week later Brady completed 34 of 46 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns to beat Alabama 35--34. The next morning, as Carr met with reporters at the team hotel, Brady walked into the room, grabbed something off a breakfast buffet, waved and walked out without saying a word. He was 22 years old and sure of where he was headed.

The Brady everybody sees today grew from the Brady nobody believed in at Michigan. In Ann Arbor he developed his steel faith in his ability, and a capacity to ignore detractors. He learned that fan adulation was too elusive to chase; he focused instead on winning over his teammates.

The San Mateo, Calif., kid became one of the best cold-weather quarterbacks ever. Many college stars must adjust to the harsh NFL ecosystem, but after fighting for his job for two years at Michigan, Brady was ready. The battle with Henson no longer defines Brady's career, but it helped define who he is.

"He always believes there is someone behind him that is going to take his job," Loeffler says. "He is 34 years old and approaches the game like he just got drafted in the sixth round."

Tom Brady is a perfect example of adversity revealing a person's character - every challenge that has come his way has been vanquished, and he seems to revel in the opportunity to prove doubters, critics and rivals wrong. People like Brady make teams, families and organizations complete, and pave the way for continued success.

Friday, January 20, 2012

'Where do we go from here' with US soccer player development?

Player Development is such a hot-button topic right now in the United States, and as US Soccer and Major League Soccer moves forward with youth development models and curriculums, Leander Schaerlaeckens of ESPN caught up with some of the top minds in US soccer to discuss 'where do we go from here?'

Bob Bradley, head coach, Egypt national soccer team

"It still comes down to how many good people get with clubs and are working with young kids to make sure things are done right. Over time, you need people with experience who understand youth development. Bob Jenkins compiled a best-practices document, which was good. [U.S. Youth Soccer technical director] Claudio Reyna's [coaching blueprint] is a good starting point, in that it adds consistency. But giving someone a stack of papers doesn't ensure that the quality of work is what it needs to be. That's where we are right now.

"You can look at different places around the country where things are going in the right direction, money is being spent, and people have a good feel for identifying talent. Other places are behind. There is no getting around the fact that a big money commitment is still key. Germany put a lot of money into their program when they were at a low point. We've made progress, but not enough. Then it's down to identifying the right people with a feel for it, different coaches that are out there, even others who can contribute in other ways. There are examples of good and bad."

Caleb Porter, head coach, U.S. U-23 national team and University of Akron

"The priority has to be development over winning. I think you can win and develop players, but in order to do that you have to have a philosophy. A process, an approach, or some kind of a method is the most important thing at younger ages. In a country like Mexico, you watch their U-17s, you watch the U-20s, you watch the full senior team: They all play the same way. You see that even rub off on the clubs. Overall, you can tell there was at least an idea within the country of the way they want to go about things. It's difficult because there are all these different ways to play, but if it starts with U.S. Soccer and we say, 'Hey, this is how we're going to play as a country,' that will help youth academies follow that lead.

"We're starting to see that take shape in this country. At the end of the day, it's going to take a long-term vision and some sort of philosophy. Vertical integration in the national team is a good start. We're on our way, we're not there yet; it takes time, it takes patience. The top countries have a way of doing things from a country standpoint and a way of doing things system-wise. When you grow up in that country, you learn that's how you do things: That's the system, that's how every position is played. Over time, that gets passed on and leads to uniformity, helping you to identify and isolate players that could be effective in a certain role. There are so many ways to do things that otherwise kids get lost in the shuffle. If what one coach is looking for is different from what another coach is looking for, it creates confusion."

Sigi Schmid, head coach, Seattle Sounders

"Ultimately, development of the player is contingent on being able to be put him/her into a competitive game situation at as high a level as you're able to play. That means players have to play outside their age groups at the youth level or leave college early. A lot of times at the youth level it's more important for coaches to win an under-13 tournament rather than put him on the under-15. At the youth level, players get retained at a certain age group because it's going to help win a championship, because a coach might say they might make more money if they win a championship.

"The other thing is we need to use the resources we already have. Club soccer and MLS discount college soccer because it's different than the way it's done in Europe and South America. But colleges have a budget of a million dollars for their soccer team when you add it all up, and sometimes people try to discount that. We need to make the money that's already available for soccer work better for us. We need to take stock of resources that are there and use them in a more efficient manner; rather than throwing away the facilities and the abilities that those organizations have, we need to use them better."

Understanding 'the hairdryer'

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is infamous for exposing his players to 'hairdryer'-like rants on the training ground or the locker room.

It's referred to as a 'hairdryer' when Ferguson shouts at his players, because he is yelling so loud and hard that it pushes the player's hair back like someone blow-drying their hair.

Where some on the peripheral might not understand why it happens, clearly attacking midfielder Nani understands the high expectations that are placed on him by his manager. The 25-year-old has stepped up his game and standards, scoring eight times this season alone, yet the former Sporting Lisbon man still finds himself on the end of the hairdryer.

In an interview with Betfair Facebook he said: "I get it a lot, it's normal. He expects more from me, so sometimes he comes to me and says something."

Ferguson is famed for is man-management style and Nani appreciates everything he learns from the 70-year-old.

He continued: "No-one understands it like Alex Ferguson. Everyone knows him in Portugal, and talk a lot talk about him.

"Everyone knows the way he works is fantastic and the young lads improve a lot."

Players need to understand that when their coach or manager is demanding a lot from them, it's because they have very high expectations of how that player performs or behaves. I've always believed that the time to worry is not when a manager is screaming at you...but when he doesn't say anything at all...

Cameron brings presence and positive attitude to US backline

Geoff Cameron has been a standout for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, and has not only lead the Dynamo into the MLS Cup this past season, but also received a recent call-up to the US National team.

His play is worthy of national team consideration, but it's his presence and positive attitude that have been key components in his success. Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America writes of how and why Cameron has been able to break into the national team.

Since breaking into MLS with Houston in 2008, Cameron has bounced between midfield and the back line. He’s done well enough in both places – including a Best XI mention as a defender in 2009 – to merit some mention of national-team potential. His size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), aggressiveness, and comfort on the ball set him apart in MLS, as not many American players can meld those attributes. Yet not until Dynamo head coach declared in mid-September that he would play centerback, period, did Cameron seize the role and its responsibility.

“I take pride in going against guys across the league,” says Cameron, a native of Attleboro, Mass., who played collegiately at Rhode Island and West Virginia. “I think, ‘I’m not going to let this guy beat me today. He’s not going to get the best of me.’ Having that attitude is making sure you’re playing well day-in and day-out. If a guy’s down on the field, you’ve got to be positive and not bitching at him. Guys react better when they’re talked to. ‘Let’s go, bud, I know you got it in you.’ I make plenty of mistakes but you can’t dwell on them.”

By moving Cameron to centerback and stationing Adam Moffat and Luiz Camargo in the middle of midfield, Kinnear toughened the spine of his team and gave playmaker Brad Davis -- who led the league with 16 assists -- a firmer foundation. Houston conceded five goals while finishing the season with a six-match unbeaten streak, then edged past Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs while allowing just one goal. A 1-0 loss to the Galaxy on its home field in MLS Cup ended the season on a sour note yet even in defeat, Cameron and his teammates had found an identity, especially in defense.

“We kind of had a cool thing in the back about keeping a clean sheet,” says Cameron of Houston’s defensive unit. “We called it our ‘Alcatraz,’ we don’t want people coming in and trying to beat our back four, kind of hold it down like a prison. We joked about that but in games we took it seriously. Guys were given opportunities in the back to step up and that led up top to the forwards. As a collective group, it jelled us and helped us start that run.”

Great teams tend to be built around a foundation of players with the mentality of Geoff Cameron - taking pride in helping their team find success, and picking teammates up when they need them. It's amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who receives the credit, and apparently Geoff Cameron understands and appreciates that his success is drawn from the overall success of his group.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Shay will go back between the sticks and we explained to Brad that our No. 1 goalkeeper is Shay. Brad didn't necessarily agree but Shay is my first-choice goalkeeper. Football is cruel at times, although Brad's been magnificent. It's the first time I've had a chance to see him in high-profile games and I've been really delighted. He understood, he didn't like it and he didn't necessarily agree, but he's a proper gentleman. I wasn't going to drop it on him five minutes before kickoff, so there's a mutual respect there and I think he's earned that respect."

-- Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish on his decision to put Irish international Shay Given back in goal, where American Brad Guzan had been a standout during his first extended run in the EPL that conincided with Given being sidelined because of a hamstring injury.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today allows us to recognize the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the great leaders the world has ever seen.

The positive energy he encourages, his ability to motivate and to get others to buy into being a part of something bigger than themselves are what made him one of the world's great leaders.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the leader that is remembered on this special day -

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of this creed - We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

'The 333 story' turns burden into opportunity

Jon Gordon's book 'The No Complaining Rule' is something that I've tried to instill, both from a personal standpoint, and in my office and locker room.

The rules are pretty simple in concept -

1) you can only complain to someone who can resolve the problem - rather than bitch and moan to someone divorced from the problem (which is wasted energy, as well as negative energy), you must go to someone who can help fix the problem at hand.

2) you can only complain if you are going to offer a resolution as well - rather than talk about what doesn't work, be a part of the solution by offering a way to fix it, opposed to compounding the problem.

People who use phrases like 'can't' and 'won't' probably don't have a lot of success in the business world or in sport, and true problem-solvers look at challenges as an opportunity to build and improve.

Bob Proctor has an outstanding story - the 333 story - which was passed along by a friend of mine, Craig Timmons. Proctor's story is from his book 'You Were Born Rich', and builds off of the premise in 'the No Complaining Rule' by turning challenges and burdens into tremendous opportunities.

Proctor's story was based on a gentleman who drove through a town in Ontario, Canada that was ravaged by tornado. That gentleman - Bob Templeton - became fascinated with the laws of the universe, particularly The Law of Polarity or as it is often referred to, The Law of Opposites.

This law clearly states everything has an opposite. You cannot have an up without a down, hot without cold or in without out. By the same token, if you can figure out why something you want to do cannot be done, by law, you must be able to figure out how it can be done. People who accomplish great things are aware of the negative, however, they give all of their mental energy to the positive.

After seeing what happened to this town, Bob Templeton was committed to the idea of raising millions of dollars and giving it to the people who had been caught in the tornado, and he was going to raise the money immediately! Furthermore, he was not remotely interested in why he

The following Friday he called all of his executives at Telemedia into his office. At the top of a flip chart in bold letters, he wrote three 3’s. He said to his executives “How would you like to raise 3 million dollars, 3 days from now, in just 3 hours and give the money to the people in Barrie?” There was nothing but silence in the room.

Finally someone said, “Templeton, you’re crazy. There is absolutely no way we could raise 3 million dollars, in 3 hours, 3 days from now!”

Bob said, “Wait a minute. I didn’t ask you if we could or even if we should. I just asked
you if you would like to.” Bob Templeton was wise; he was appealing to the charitable
side of their nature. It was important for those present to openly admit that this was
something they wanted to do. Bob Templeton knew that his new idea could show anyone
how to accomplish anything they wanted by working with the law.

They all said, “Sure, we’d like to.” He then drew a large T underneath the 333. On one
side he wrote, ‘Why We Can’t.’ On the other side he wrote, ‘How We Can.’ Under the
words, ‘Why We Can’t,’ Bob Templeton drew a large X. As he placed the X on the flip chart,
he said, “Now there is no place to record the ideas we think of which explain why we can’t
raise 3 million dollars, in 3 hours, 3 days from now, regardless of how valid they might be.”
He continued by explaining, “When anyone calls out an idea which suggests why we can’t,
everyone else must yell out as loud as they can, NEXT. That will be our command to go
to the next idea. Ideas are like the cars on a train, one always follows the other. We will
keep saying Next until a positive idea arrives.”

Bob smiled and continued to explain that, “Opposite the X on the other side of the
flipchart, directly under the words, ‘How We Can,’ I will write down every idea that we can
come up with on how we can raise 3 million dollars, in 3 hours, 3 days from now.” He
also suggested in a very serious tone of voice, that everyone will remain in the room until
we figure it out. “We are not only going to think of how we can raise 3 million dollars
immediately, after we originate the ideas we are going to execute them!” There was silence

Finally, someone said, “We could do a radio show across Canada.”

Bob said, “That’s a great idea,” and wrote it down under, ‘How We Can.’

Before he had it written on the right hand side of the flipchart, someone said, “You can’t do a radio show across Canada. We don’t have radio stations across Canada!” Since Telemedia only had stations in Ontario and Quebec, you must admit that was a pretty valid objection. However, someone in the back of the room, in a rather soft tone said, “Next.”

Bob Templeton replied, “Doing a radio show is how we can. That idea stays.” But this truly did sound like a ridiculous idea, because radio stations are very competitive. They usually don’t work together and to get them to do so would be virtually impossible according to the standard way of thinking.

All of a sudden someone suggested, “You could get Harvey Kirk and Lloyd Robertson, the biggest names in Canadian broadcasting, to anchor the show.” These gentlemen are anchors of national stature in the Canadian television industry. Someone clearly spoke out saying, “They’re not going to go on radio.” But, at that point the group yelled, “NEXT.” Bob said that was when the energy shifted; everyone got involved and it was absolutely amazing how fast and furious the creative ideas began to flow.

That was on a Friday. The following Tuesday they had a radiothon, where 50 radio stations, from all across the country, agreed to work in harmony for such a good cause. They felt it didn’t matter who got the credit, as long as the people in Barrie got the money. Harvey Kirk and Lloyd Robertson anchored the show and they succeeded in raising 3 million dollars, in 3 hours, within 3 business days!

You see, you can have whatever you want; all things are possible when you put your
focus on how you can and “Next” every idea telling you why you can’t.

This may be a difficult exercise in the beginning, however when you persist
“Nexting” any and all negative concepts, the flow of positive ideas will roar into your
marvelous mind.

Millions of people who have heard the story of Bob Templeton are making positive things happen in their lives because Templeton would not listen to the reasons why he and his staff could not raise 3 million dollars, in 3 hours, just 3 days after they began to brainstorm the idea.
By the way, Bob Templeton and his staff have formed the habit of ‘333ing’ their wants and, as a result, he has gone on to become the President of NewCap Broadcasting company, a highly profitable corporation, with stations right across Canada. Templeton set up a force for good that will follow him wherever he goes. Profit has become his second name. Begin at once to ‘333’ all of your wants and profit will follow you as well.

Friday, January 6, 2012


I had the chance to visit with a high school basketball team yesterday, and in their pre-practice meeting, they were referring to an article that I had also once written about a couple of years back. The article had to do with toughness, which ESPN's Jay Bilas has a pretty good reference point about.

Bilas has a great reference point when it comes to competing at a high level of sports – he played basketball at Duke University, and after his playing career ended, joined Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching staff; He has parlayed his playing and coaching career into a role as one of ESPN’s top college basketball analysts.

Elements of an article he once wrote on ESPN.com a couple of years ago (http://mdbball.com/Documents/ToughnessbyJayBilas.pdf) still draws references today. I think the reason I still refer to it is that it hit on a topic that every coach stresses with their players – toughness.

I think I was shocked about how many coaches from different sports at all types of levels had read the article, and were able to draw from their own experiences when reading and relating to Bilas’ thoughts.

‘…in almost coordinated fashion, I would watch games and see player upon player thumping his chest after a routine play, angrily taunting an opponent after a blocked shot, getting into a shouting match with an opposing player, or squaring up nose-to-nose as if a fight might ensues. I see players jawing at each other, trying to “intimidate” other players. What a waste of time. That is nothing more than fake toughness, and it has no real value.

I often wonder: Do people really understand what coaches and experienced players mean when they emphasize “toughness” in basketball? Or is it just some buzzword that is thrown around haphazardly without clear definition or understanding?’

Bilas referenced that where he came to college thinking that toughness was based on the physical, he realized that it had more to do with the mental. I was always taught that strength could be measured in a weight room, but that toughness was measured by what was inside of you – it wasn’t measured in your ability to kick someone on the other team, but in your ability to get kicked and keep playing; it was not whether you were knocked down, but in your resolve that allowed you to get back up.

Bilas also referenced that he thought toughness was a skill, and as a skill, could be developed and improved. He even created a list of items that he thought were a way that toughness was exhibited in basketball.

Soccer Journal editor Jay Martin had taken the lead from Bilas’ article and created his own list of items that displayed toughness in soccer. I thought it was a great reference point for players to draw from, and had even hung it up in our locker room at the University of Evansville.

Some of the key items were-

Talk on defense: A tough player talks and communicates with teammates while defending, and is so focused on winning that he/she is not only worried about the player that they are guarding, but on helping their teammates as well.

Play so hard, your coach has to take you out: Tough players work so hard that the coach has to take them out to rest. The toughest players don’t pace themselves. The first time I watched the University of North Carolina’s women’s team play, what I was taken back from was that when some of coach Anson Dorrance’s players came off the field, they needed to get oxygen because of how hard they were playing – you could actually see one of the girl’s chests expanding and contracting due to how hard she was breathing when she came off the field. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player or team play as hard as that team on that day – they are a ‘tough’ team, and it is no coincidence that they compete for a National Championship on an annual basis.

Take responsibility for your teammates: Tough players take responsibility for themselves as well as others. If the bus leaves at 9:00 AM, tough players make sure that they are there on time as well as their teammates, too.

Get out of the comfort zone: A tough player knows that soccer is a game played when tired and sore. When tough players are tired and sore, and feel like they don’t want to run any longer, they run harder.

Take and give criticism the right way: Tough players take criticism without feeling they have to answer back or come up with an excuse. They want to get better. Tough players are not afraid to tell teammates what they need to hear.

Show strength in body language: Tough players project confidence and security with their body language. They don’t hang their heads; they don’t argue with officials.

Look coaches and teammates in the eye: Tough players never drop their heads. They always look their coach in the eye, because if the coach is talking, it is important to them.

Make every game important: Tough players know that every game is important regardless of the opponent. They know if they want to play in a championship game they must play every game like a championship.

Out of any of Jay Bilas' toughness rules, the one that I thought this high school team (and their coach) truly embodied the most was 'Make getting better every day your goal'- We always try to stress with our players at the University of Evansville that their goal should be to make today better than their play yesterday. Tough players come to work every day to get better, and you could see by this team's focus and commitment in practice that they bought into that theory.

Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo said that “Players play the game, but tough players win the game.” Look over this list, and gauge whether your team or children are tough- you can encourage toughness, and the best coaches and parents develop those attributes in their players and children.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The SEC's simple winning formula

If you are like me and didn't grow up in a college football hot-bed, you are probably amazed at the level the teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) are able to compete at.

Terms used in the media phrases like 'major' and 'mid-major' were coined to describe the top college football conferences, which are now 'BCS' (Bowl Championship Series) and 'non-BCS' schools - the have's and the have-not's when it comes to revenue and resources.

As a coach at a 'major' college soccer conference, but in a 'mid-major' or 'non-BCS'conference, it's easy to listen to those who play the blame game or be jealous of what SEC schools have available to them in their arsenal.

Ivan Maisel covers college football for ESPN, and rather than listen to the complaints himself, he writes a pretty simple formula of why SEC is at the top of the BCS pyramid.

Hey, you, with the chip on your shoulder about the Southeastern Conference.

Yeah, you, the one who can't wait to see the Allstate BCS National Championship Game because, for the first time in eight appearances, an SEC team will lose. With No. 1 LSU playing No. 2 Alabama in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Monday, there may be less relief there than you think.

You're frustrated with the system. You're mad that the power in college football has consolidated in one place and you're looking for someone or something to blame. The answer lies below.

But before you can look at the culprit, you're going to need a mirror.

When you dig through the data, when you see that SEC athletic programs have bigger budgets than their counterparts around the country because the SEC fills its bigger stadiums, when you see that the caliber of play and the spectacle of those filled stadiums create the highest TV ratings, all of that speaks to the passion that college football creates among the league's fans. That passion creates those resources, which attracts the top coaches, who, in turn, sign the top players.

Even with the head start of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State ranking 1-2-4 in attendance, the SEC led the nation in 2011, as it has every season since 1998. That's because SEC schools take six positions in the top 11. The revenues generated by that attendance put the SEC at the top of athletic spending, according to a survey by the Sports Business Journal. The median budget of SEC athletic departments in fiscal year 2012 is $90.3 million. The Big Ten is second at $78.8 million. No other conference has a median budget above $62 million.

The money, both in the resources it buys and the salaries it pays, lures the top coaches. Four SEC head coaches -- Mark Richt of Georgia, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and the two who will be in New Orleans, Les Miles of LSU and Nick Saban of Alabama -- are qualified for the College Football Hall of Fame (10 seasons as a head coach with a career winning percentage of .600).

And the coaches attract the top players. The demographic shift in this country toward the Sun Belt can explain in part the rise of the SEC. More people are living within the conference footprint than ever. But the increased population in and of itself doesn't explain the SEC's rise. If big population made a difference, then Fordham would still rule the East.

To the home talent, add the advantage of the home field. The revenues generated by the SEC schools afford them the luxury of tilting their schedules in their favor. In every other BCS conference, programs play nonconference games in their opponents' stadium. In the SEC, programs forego those road trips because, well, they can.

Beginning in 2006, the first year of the BCS championship streak, LSU, Alabama and Auburn each have played a total of two non-neutral, nonconference road games, and that's not the fewest. Arkansas and Ole Miss have played one apiece.

You can make the case that Alabama and LSU have avoided playing on the road without diluting their schedule -- the Tide has played Virginia Tech and Clemson at a neutral site and will open next season against Michigan in Cowboys Stadium, which is where LSU began this season against Oregon.

But the point is, the Tide and the Tigers can play those games on equal terms with their opponents. Alabama and LSU are 3-0 in those games.

Florida plays at Florida State every other year. But the Gators haven't played a nonconference regular-season game outside the state in 20 years. Filling those huge campus stadiums affords SEC schools the luxury of not leaving them. While one well-heeled booster has spent schools such as Oregon (Phil Knight), Stanford (John Arrillaga) and Oklahoma State (T. Boone Pickens) to the top, SEC schools have gotten there by the strength of the masses.

College football is more important to SEC fans. They show it when 90,000-plus arrive at Bryant-Denny Stadium -- for a spring game. They show it in radio talk shows that are filled with college football talk 12 months a year. And judging by the TV ratings, fans outside the SEC recognize the difference, too.

The three top-rated telecasts this season featured No. 1 LSU. The highest-rated game, LSU-Alabama I, drew the biggest rating for a regular-season game in 22 years. When you're through looking yourself in the mirror, take a look at the game.

Rather than piss and moan about what your team or school doesn't have, come to the realization that the more important your program is to your fans, boosters and sponsors, the more your team will have...if you don't believe me, ask a football coach in the SEC...

The balancing act - competing for a title while also giving young players experience

Most coaches, managers or buisness leaders offer the first level of experience in an orientation or apprenticeship by observing. Sitting on the sideline while watching a more experienced mentor often offers an initial level of insight on 'how to do things around here'.

As important as observation (sitting and watching) or theoretical experience (lectures or reading), there is no experience more valuable than practical experience - getting your hands dirty and learning from trial and error.

What comes part and parcel with enabling one of your people with that practical experience is having the confidence in them that they will either drive over some speed bumps along the way under your careful watch to assist with offering a road map of success, or that they will sail smoothly when given that opportunity.

Another key component in this process is having a level of self-confidence in yourself as a leader to relenquish some of that responsibility to someone with less experience, knowing that there will be some bumps and bruises along the way to success. It was once written that, sometimes, you need to learn how not to lose before you learn how to win.

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United has been magnified in the media recently about his decision to entrust the goalkeeping responsibilities at one of the biggest clubs in the world to 21-year old Spaniard Davd de Gea.

Daniel Taylor of the Irish Times writes of the balancing act of competing for a title while also trying to develop a young and inexperienced goalkeeper.

The overwhelming sense when debating Manchester United’s goalkeeping issue, and specifically weighing up the long-term benefits but short-term losses of entrusting a talented but still raw 21-year-old, has to be one of deja vu. We have been here already this season, after all, and the arguments became so blurred at the time all that can be said for certain is the champions were entitled to hope we would not have to revisit the subject so quickly.

It is whether they should continue with David de Gea in goal when it is almost inevitable, at this point in a career of otherwise great promise, there will be further mistakes along the way, or whether they bow to the theory that a team going for the title, when every goal and every point might be vital, is not the place for a goalkeeper to be learning on the spot.

The last time this issue was raised Ferguson decided against taking the Spaniard out of the team in favour of Anders Lindegaard and most of autumn passed amid the sense that United’s manager had negotiated a difficult situation with impeccable judgment.

Opposition players began to realise that peppering De Gea with hopeful, long-distance shots was now a futile exercise.

The man Jamie Redknapp said needed “to grow into his kit”, after a particularly harrowing league debut at West Bromwich Albion, went to the Britannia Stadium in Stoke and played as though affronted by the suggestion he was a boy among men.

A few weeks later, he turned in a performance at Anfield with all the calmness of a bomb-disposal expert, as if nobody had bothered educating him about what it meant to be beneath the Kop as a Manchester United player.

Afterwards the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, shook his head ruefully and exclaimed: “I thought the press said the boy was struggling.”

The ability to make reflex saves, distribute the ball quickly and accurately and understand the angles of the penalty box is clearly in place, so we should proceed cautiously against the knee-jerk reaction in light of his recent mistakes.

Yet the De Gea or Lindegaard issue has resurfaced for legitimate reasons going into tonight’s match at Newcastle United and this is not, as Ferguson put it in September, the agenda of a media “desperate for the boy to fail”.

Nobody in the press box invented the mistakes against Benfica and Basel that played a part in United’s Champions League elimination. It wasn’t a careless sub-editor who flapped at the cross for Blackburn’s decisive goal at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve.

The harsh reality is De Gea has let in six goals where the blame, or a significant proportion of it, could be attached to him. At least three more have arrived when the culpability is less obvious but his involvement could still be questioned.

That’s nine from 19 appearances, and even if mitigating circumstances can be presented in some cases it is still clearly too many when there are five months of the season still to play.

De Gea’s occasional vulnerabilities are, of course, probably only inevitable for a goalkeeper who was 20 when he signed in June and, to give him his due, he has probably not been helped by the absence of a consistent back four.

Lindegaard has started five league games and not conceded a goal. The Dane is seven years older than De Gea and has a greater penalty-box presence. It has been evident he is determined to establish himself more prominently in Ferguson’s thinking.

It is a curiosity, given Ferguson, in the days of Edwin van der Sar, would regularly speak of his belief that the key factor for a successful goalkeeper was experience. De Gea’s potential is clear but his education does not come without risk.

I can appreciate the dilemma that Ferguson faces - after all, our team at the University of Evansville played this past 2011 college season with a nucleus of 7 freshmen and 2 sophomores in our lineup. Although there were a number of bumps and bruises along the way, fast-forward a year later and we now have 9 starters returning with the experience of playing against some of the top collegiate teams in the nation.

Sometimes you do have to learn 'how not to lose' before you can learn to win, and if Manchester United fans can be patient and show trust in their manager and young goalkeeper, great things are on the horizon.

Resolutions for Leaders in the New Year

The New Year has begun, and where it is trendy to make resolutions about health, lifestyle and family, John Coleman and Bill George of the Harvard Business Journal wrote an interesting blog entry on resolutions for aspiring leaders.

Find a trustworthy mentor: Mentorship is a critical component of your development as a leader. A 2004 study showed that young leaders with mentors were more likely succeed professionally and experience career satisfaction. The essence of effective mentoring is developing a trusting relationship between the mentor and mentee. Identify someone with whom you have a genuine chemistry and who is committed to your development. Although many mentees do not realize it, a sound relationship is a two-way street that benefits both parties — not just the mentee. We suggest looking for mentors whom you admire for their values and character more than their success.

Form a leadership development group: Most of us have little time to reflect on the values and characteristics we want to define us as leaders, the difficulties we're facing, or the long-term impact we hope to have. Forming a leadership development group can give you the space you need to think deeply about these subjects. Leadership development groups are groups of six to eight people who meet to share their personal challenges and discuss the most important questions in their lives. Find people you can trust, and make a commitment to be one another's confidential counselors. Meet regularly, and share openly your life stories, crucibles, passions and fears, while offering each other honest feedback.

Volunteer in a civic or service organization: Have you served your community this year? In the Facebook era it's easy to lose touch with our real-world neighbors. Long hours often cause us to avoid volunteer opportunities. Participating in local organizations — from religious organizations to civic groups — can give you early leadership experiences, provide real connection to your neighbors, and offer opportunities to serve others. It adds a dimension to your life that work can't, and helps you develop and solidify your character while giving back to the community. You will find your time serving a community organization is highly rewarding while broadening your outlook on people and life.

Work in or travel to one new country: "The world is flat," as Tom Friedman puts it, so it has never been more important to get global experience. In the future cultural sensitivity will be a more important characteristic for leaders than pure intellectual ability. John's survey of more than 500 top MBAs found that on average they had worked in four countries prior to entering graduate school and expect to work in five more in the next ten years. Having a global mindset and the ability to collaborate effectively across cultures are essential qualities for aspiring leaders of global organizations.

Finally, ask more questions than you answer: With the high velocity of change in the world, it is impossible to have answers to all the important questions. Much more important is a deep curiosity about the world and the ability to frame the right questions in profound ways. The world's toughest problems cannot be solved by you or any one organization. Your role will be to bring the right people together to address the challenging issues you raise. Our research demonstrates that the biggest mistakes result from decisions made by people without deep consideration of thoughtful questions.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A figurative 'kick in the ass'

Three times in the last 24 hours, I thought about the figurative 'ass kicking' that kids need from their parents or coaches.

Teenagers or young adults at home that may need some 'tough love' to encourage them to have a little more urgency in their lives; A coddled NBA basketball player (DeMarcus Cousins) who demands a trade from his current team; a number of high school basketball players who come back from a holiday vacation lacking some of the focus and urgency in practice needed to be successful when games resume.

All three instances made me think of the figurative or literal 'ass kicking' offered by one of the true icons in high school sports.

One of the best books I've ever read on coaching and teaching is 'The Miracle of St. Anthony' by Adrian Wojnarowski, which follows high school basketball's St. Anthony of Jersey City, NJ and their outstanding coach Bob Hurley for a season.

There is an excerpt where Hurley talks to his team about kids who probably needed someone to 'beat their ass' at some point in their life - figuratively or literally knocking them down and/or knocking some sense into them to avoid poor choices that were made by teenagers that had never felt the repercussions of making bad decisions.

"You are who you are," Hurley finally said. "These are the personality and character flaws of this entire group. When this season is done, we'll go back to the one simple thing: If this ends up anything short of a state championship, you're just going to be a bunch of people that all the adults will remember as the worst class in St. Anthony history.

"I have never been around more poorly individually motivated people. Ever. This reminds me of what juvenile probation used to look like on Thursdays up at the county building, where guys would just drag their ass in.

"What happened today was very simple: They got into (Derrick) Mercer's chest. And (Ahmad) Mosby's chest. And (Sean) McCurdy's chest. And what happened? Everybody went, 'Ohhhhh nooooo, one of those games.' They couldn't wait to come here and play us.

"And who are you? You're the willing victim. You stand there and you let people get in your face. My prayers are for your families. When you leave this place, the structure that it gives you, how many of you can handle this tough world? My blessings. I hope it works out for you all. But I have real strong reservations of nearly every one of you, because when you have obstacles in your path -- academic, social, athletic, emotional -- you will not have the mental toughness, the self-discipline, the passion, to overcome it."

"I have contempt," Hurley started again. "I have nothing but contempt for you all. You make me sick. You have no passion. You're not going to make it. You're such a sorry-ass bunch. I can say to you that the state championship is a month and a day away, and know what you can do?"

"Go back to your miserable existence."

"Go back to not caring."

"Go back to being cool."

"My frustration is this: I would just love to beat your ass. Because somebody should've beat your ass growing up. I got my ass beat a bunch of times. I came from a very good generation, and if I did something to embarrass my father, he kicked the (crap) out of me."

"And what did I learn? Well, I learned first that I didn't like getting the (crap) kicked out of me. And the second thing I learned as I got older, never would I want to do something to embarrass my dad. Because he was a hero of mine."

When Hurley talks about needing 'to beat your ass', he referenced the fact that he grew up in a time when kids were embarrassed to make mistakes - both from fear of disappointing those they look up to (in this case, his father), and in fear of getting punished (either physically or emotionally).

Too many times, our kids or players go through life without understanding that there are consequences for poor choices they make. Our jobs as coaches, teachers and parents are to teach our children those lessons early enough in life that it prevents them from making larger mistakes later on.

That's the true essence of sports and coaching - that you can draw from experiences on the playing field and apply them to life lessons that will help your players long after the finish their playing careers. The special coaches are able to do that - offer lessons that transcend sport - as well as a win a few games along the way.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A-B-C...or Adversity Reveals Character?

A favorite quote of mine comes from a statement I heard years ago about adversity being a building block in developing one's character. I used to even prescribe to the theory: 'A B C - Adversity Builds Character'.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Over the course of time, I found this not necessarily to be true. After seeing key players and coaches deal with adverse situations like injury, a referee call or a loss, I found that adversity didn't make people stronger (building character). Rather, that kind of adversity in key situations often reveals character - as you learn an awful lot about them in times of crisis.

I was happy to hear those same comments echoed by NFL coach-turn-ESPN commentator Eric Mangini while describing the dissaray in the New York Jets locker room after their defeat yesterday...we must have been reading from the same coaching handbook...

I actually googled the word 'adversity' today after hearing Mangini's comments, and I found this comment by Dallas Cowboys' Pro Bowl standout DeMarcus Ware in reference to bouncing back from a tough loss earlier this season-

"You just had a loss, [so] what are you going to do about it?" Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said as he walked to the team bus with a defiant attitude. "The good teams, they come back from a tough loss like that and you really see the true team spirit and how teams come back from adversity. That's what really tells you the type of character we have on this team. We're going to see that this week."

I do believe that you need to have adversity affect you or your team to create a true coachable moment of how to deal with it, but I don't think that adversity makes you stronger. It's being able to learn from those experiences, and then responding positively the next time it strikes, that shows the true test of someone's inner strength.

The next time you are watching an important sporting event, look to see not only who scores the most goals, points, runs or touchdowns, but who is able to respond positively when bad things happen - true champions respond positively when crisis strikes, which is when their true character is revealed.

It's our job as coaches to prepare our players when those times come.

No man bigger than the club at Manchester United

No one man is bigger than the club.

That old adage clearly applies at Manchester United, as Sir Alex Ferguson is renown for never compromising his ideals for the good of the team. That was on display and magnified this week when it was made public that the reason Wayne Rooney was not involved in United's team this past weekend due to disciplinary action as a violation of team rules.

Rooney has been fined a week's wages by the Premier League club for a night out over the Christmas weekend, according to press reports on Monday.

Rooney was dropped by United ahead of their shock 3-2 home loss to Blackburn last Saturday, officially because of fitness concerns.

But several British newspapers reported that the star was punished for a below par training session on December 27 after a Boxing Day evening out with wife Coleen and team-mates Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson against team orders.

Rooney was fined approximately £200,000 ($310,000) with defender Evans and midfielder Gibson also fined, the reports said.

The trio were then ordered by manager Sir Alex Ferguson to come in on Wednesday -- a day off -- and train on their own as well as report for training on the morning of the Blackburn defeat.

Ferguson's punishment of Rooney is clearly focused on doing what's right for both the player and the club, and where it might be deemed as having short-term implications (United lost to Blackburn, 3-2, over the weekend), but the long-term benefits of this kind of discipline keeps everyone's belief in the sum being greater of the parts.