Posts Tagged ‘PCA’

Team Websites: WePlay.com

March 16, 2010

How did coaches and team parents manage 20 or 30 years ago without email and the Internet? How did they communicate directions, schedules, games, and rain outs? Either there was less communication or there were many more phone calls being made. Somehow my parents’ generation got it done. Kudos!

Email and the Internet have certainly made team administration much easier. Today, there are a host of options available to coaches, team parents, and leagues to make management and administration almost effortless. Given the huge percentage of the population now online, it no longer makes sense not to use these services.

I will start reviewing team websites. WePlay is up first.

At first glance, WePlay is your standard team site. However, upon closer examination, it is much more.

  • WePlay offers the standard modules such as teams, rosters, schedules/calendars, photo and video uploads, email notifications, and document uploads.
  • A nice feature gives parents the ability to set up and manage children’s accounts.
  • The calendar module needs some work: there is no export feature to personal calendars and the dates and times have to be typed in since there is no calendar or time graphical interface.

However, WePlay distinguishes itself from other services in three main areas:  cost, partnerships, and community.

  • Cost–WePlay is 100% free.
  • Partnerships–WePlay has an impressive list of professional athletes and partner organizations on their team. A partial list includes Brandi Chastain, Payton Manning, LeBron James, and the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).
  • Community–According to Drew Shamrock, a member of the WePlay marketing team, WePlay, “is more interested in building a thriving youth sports community, not just another place for a team to upload their schedule and roster.” Some of the community features include:
    • The ability to connect with favorite professional athletes.
    • Access to soccer drills.
    • A soccer hub which includes a ‘coach-of-the-week’ feature and other soccer-related information.
    • Giving and receiving ‘props’ for a job well done.
    • An answer page where visitors can get answers to youth sports questions from other parents, coaches, and players.
    • Online games.

Coaches and parents, let me know which sites and services you use. If there is a company offering such services, let me know if you would like a review.

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All Adults are Teachers

February 24, 2010

I recently attended a diversity program sponsored by the Oakland Teaching Fellows Program which is part of the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. One of the speakers was a principal who stated that at his school, every adult was considered a teacher. Besides the paid teachers, he saw himself as a teacher. He also saw and expected the lunch and custodial staff to be teachers as well. As he stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

On the way home, I started thinking if this same philosophy is being followed by soccer teams and leagues across the U.S.? My answer was, “Yes, but …”

I think soccer has made great strides in the past 30 years.

  • The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has taken huge strides in teaching coaches to be more positive in their dealings with young players.
  • Parents are more involved in their children’s activity than ever before. Players feel supported and loved by their soccer moms (and dads).
  • Despite the questionable calls that are directed toward referees by coaches and fans alike, referees are supported and respected much more than any at time in the past.

But there is certainly room for improvement.

I always found it amusing when my kids blamed the referee for their losses or accused the referee of cheating. After a while though, their comments soon became old and habitual. But where and from whom did they learn these excuses? When I coached and my team lost, was I blaming the referees for the loss? I don’t think I was. But I know I am like many coaches I see today. While most coaches will say at the end of a game that the referee had nothing to do with a loss, during the game, coaches will constantly question calls and voice their displeasure. So I guess my kids did learn this behavior from me.

Most parents are great. But I still see parents do inappropriate things.

  • Some parents coach their kids from the sidelines. These parents are usually saying one thing and the coach something else. This conflicts the player because who should the child listen to, the parent or the coach? This action also undermines the credibility and authority of a coach.
  • Some parents openly question the calls and competencies of referees, regardless of the referee’s age. Oftentimes, these actions exacerbate and validate frustrations that players may already have on the field.
  • Some parents engage in conversations with opposing players. Rarely are those conversations complimentary. Many times it is with players too young to know how to deal or cope with criticisms from adult strangers. This last action is inexcusable. I know most parents would not like it if their child was being criticized and questioned by the other team’s parents.

Soccer has definitely made great strides in teaching our children about sportsmanship, respecting the other team’s players, coaches, and fans, and even respecting the referees. But we certainly still have a long way to go, including yours truly. If all parents can assume a teaching role this season and accept the responsibilities that go with it, we will be teaching our children to be better players and people.

Player, Parents, and Coach Soccer Evaluations and Meetings

January 18, 2010

When my wife and I ask our kids how they are doing in school, the answer is always ‘great’. Fortunately, many of their teachers email us weekly progress reports which give us a clearer, more accurate picture of how they are really doing. However, nothing beats a parent/teacher conference, especially when our child is included.

One year, based on a parent’s suggestion, I decided to offer player/parent/coach meetings for the competitive U11 youth soccer team I was coaching. My only regret was that I did not do it earlier. It turned out to be very valuable for players and parents alike. To this day, I still get compliments from the parents who were part of that team.

First, I wrote individual evaluations for each player. This was followed up with a face-to-face meeting with each player and his parents. Below, I describe the process in more detail.

Evaluations

My recommendation is to do at least 2 evaluations each season, 3 if you are coaching a competitive team.

  • The first evaluation should take place 2-4 weeks after the first practice. By that time, a coach should have a fairly good idea of his/her players’ strengths and areas that need improving.
  • The second evaluation is optional for a house team but is very worthwhile for a competitive team. Mid-season is a great time to have this evaluation. The season is well under way and a coach should have a good idea of where his/her team stacks up against the competition and probably has a game plan in mind for the rest of the year. This is a great opportunity for parents to ask questions or bring up concerns that can still be addressed.
  • The final evaluation should take place just before the end of the season. A coach has seen how the players improved throughout the season and what needs to be worked on in the off-season. This is a great time for a coach to share his/her plans for the following year and to get a feel for what the players and parents have in mind as well.

Evaluation Format

The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a non-profit organization founded at Stanford University that was created to transform the culture of youth sports to give all young athletes the opportunity for a positive, character-building experience. My home league requires that all coaches attend PCA’s “Double-Goal” session before the start of the season. This gives new and seasoned coaches tools to become more effective teachers and coaches.

One particular method that I really like and have incorporated into my evaluations and meetings is called the ‘Criticism Sandwich’. PCA recommends ‘sandwiching’ criticism (or corrections) with a compliment on both sides. The criticism is the meat, while the compliments are the bread.

My evaluations were an open-faced criticism sandwich. I first listed all the good qualities and traits a player possessed followed by a list of areas that needed improving. I always listed at least three good qualities and at least three areas needing improvement. I always had at least one assistant review my feedback not just to get his feedback but to make sure that nothing inappropriate was being said. Always make sure that the areas for improvement are attainable by that player.

Player/Parent/Coach Meeting

I prepared and conducted the meetings in the following manner:

  • I emailed my evaluation to each family before the meeting to give them time to review my feedback and come prepared with any questions.
  • I tried to have the meetings between tournament games. When that was not an option, I set aside a practice and had my assistant run a ‘fun’ practice while I was busy with the meetings (search my blog for fun alternative practice options).
    • Each meeting was no longer than 10 minutes.
    • I used the more traditional ‘criticism sandwich’ during these meeting. I went over the player’s strengths. That was followed by a discussion covering the areas that needed improving. This part was indeed a discussion (not a monologue) because I wanted the player and parents to agree, disagree, or ask questions. I always ended the meeting with lots of positive reinforcements and encouragement and I let the player know that I believed that he had what it took to become a better player.
    • If it was the second or third meeting, I always reviewed the previous improvement list to see how much progress he had made.
    • I always talked directly to the player and included the parents when I wanted to emphasize a particular point.

Yes, it will probably consume many, many hours of your time, especially writing the evaluations. If time is an issue, having only one round of meetings is better than none. This exercise turned out to be very worthwhile and rewarding for myself as well. I feel I became a much more positive coach as I started to use the criticism sandwich technique much more in practice and during games.

If you are not already doing player evaluations and having meetings with your players and parents, I hope you give it a try. I guarantee you that the parents will appreciate the effort.