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Moving Day

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As of the time of this writing, I still claim that I am no Charles Dickens, but I’ll keep writing nonetheless.

My season as a Fall soccer coach has finally come to an end, and while I won’t commit to retiring, I can state that I am definitely not doing a Spring team as I (and my family) need a break – something we haven’t had in a few years. I am not complaining (my wife is), but as I am going from a fairly intense and challenging season of soccer to coaching four basketball teams, we’ll need the break.

I usually do a post-mortem on my seasons, typically for my own notes – this year I am going to share my findings with anyone that cares to read it. I am calling this The ‘Portrayal’ of a Tale of Two Seasons because in many ways, people could look at our season (11-0-3, tied for first place for the regular season and losing in the championship game) as very successful.  Some would, I am sure, consider it a complete failure and I can see the perspective from both sides and I will break that down as I go through the analysis.

Executive Summary

The combination of 2 teams with different styles of play and the change in number of players (8 to 11) and field size was initially considered to be a major hurdle to fielding a competitive team in PVJSL Division II for Boys U11. In consideration of seasons past, the age group was always in the lower end of competitive stature in respective divisions at lower age groups (one in division 1 and one in division 2) – this analysis extrapolation combined with merging two teams and changing the size and speed of the game did not lend confidence to a competitive situation. After the first weekend, it was apparent that this team could play the game at a high level (in our division) and had a chance to do something special.

The Narrative

Late Summer of 2012, Coach Jim Wood and I had a situation – we could field a team for the Fall consisting of 18 players or less and we had 20 players that were trying out. As he and I were not a part of the selection process (this was done by a separate group to rate players), we had some leeway with the selection. As it turned out, 1 of the 20 did not attend tryouts and 1 was eligible for another age bracket, so we took the route of not making any cuts (against the recommendations of many), basically offering the opportunity to play competitive soccer to the entire group. From the onset, we had three coaches: Coach Jim Wood flipped from being an assistant to a head coach, Coach Joe Brown that helped with technical training and myself (formerly the head coach in previous seasons). We had to combine two teams (the team from Harriman/Wood and the team from Brown/Wilson), adjust from 8v8 to 11v11 and move to a larger field with larger goals (regulation size). My experience in years past showed that this transition could take nearly half a season to adjust, so we planned to get there as quickly as possible. We started the season with the goal of being competitive and advancing the team and individual fundamentals. After our first weekend (1-0-1) record, our coaching staff thought we might have a pretty special team and we talked to the team about this, setting some short and long term goals. After that weekend, we committed *as a team* to playing to win every game and to win a championship – this was uniformly unanimous along all 18 players and the entire coaching staff. Throughout the season we had several challenges with individual maturity and commitment, something to be expected from a group of 10 and 11 year old boys, but some of it was team destructive and we handled it as a staff, only involving the parents when it became extreme. At the end of the season, the team that played in the playoffs gave everything they had and came up just short of the team goal, but came away with a win knowing that they were competitive and represented the town, the league and the club with pride.

A Positive Message

The merging of the two teams had very few problems; throughout the season we encountered a few situations that pitted groups against each other, but they were quickly recognized and rectified by the coaching staff. Many of the players came to learn every day and bought into the idea of growing incrementally, learning new skills and concepts. The majority of our issues as a team had less to do with the overall team (and teamwork), more with individuals and levels of commitment to the team mission – something the coaching staff worked to rectify even through the championship game.

Lessons Learned from the Coaching Staff

– In an effort to give everyone a chance to play competitive soccer, we kept too many players and made no cuts. Keeping 18 players made for a difficult season for getting quality playing time for most players while balancing a competitive team on the field. For a team of 11 players, an ideal number to keep would have been 15 – possibly 16.

– Communicating team goals to the parents was not as effective as it had been in years past, allowing for frustration that could possibly have been avoided

– Not playing a player during a game for any reason (other than injury or communicated discipline) at this level was a huge mistake – this did happen and we owned the issue as a coaching staff and vowed to not let it happen again.  Future levels may *not* have this concern as the competition tends to be even more of a focus.

– Aggressive action against conduct detrimental to the team will be a focus going forward – this season we worked to remove this conduct, but we were not successful because the issue was not in what we were doing as a staff or as a team, it was a problem with individuals that did not seem to want to conform to the team mission.

– The discussion of playing time will be addressed prior to the season and then no longer discussed as long as it does not break the team communicated expectations, this is going to happen for every team I coach, for every level, period.


The Two Seasons

To those players and families that let me know how much fun this season was, I appreciate that – it was a very good season in many ways and I look forward to next Fall. To those players and families that had a disappointing season, I am torn here. We made the mistake, as a staff, to keep more players that we should have and that was a mistake we will not make again – any player that makes any team I coach going forward will have a clear understanding of his/her role and any issues that arise that contrary to the team mission will be handled with the parents acknowledgement. Full disclosure – I have two sons on this team and I have one in each camp. In talking with each, the issue of having some dissatisfied team members would have been a moot point if we had not carried extra players this season, our issues would have been significantly less. In trying to do the right thing, we (as a coaching staff made a mess and we’ll learn from this – I know I have.

Personal Ramblings

On a personal note, I’ve had championship teams and teams that have struggled to win a game. This team and this season brought me many of the familiar highs (team and individual success) but many lows that I’ve never experienced and it made this season extremely challenging. On a personal level, so many things went right but the small number of things that went wrong nearly derailed the entire experience. One thing is for sure, I am human and will make mistakes – I am perfectly fine being judged by them, but I would prefer to be judged on how I learn from my mistakes, something I teach the athletes that translates from sports to life. As a volunteer that dedicates a lot of my time to youth sports, I should not lose sleep nor friendships because of these efforts – hopefully I won’t lose either.  Going forward, I will take these lessons learned and incorporate them into pre-season planning and season execution. I can now close this season with our team battle cry:

Team. Dedication. Tsunami Sabada.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Graphic courtesy of:

Oh, Sandy

First, let me state that I pray for those affected by hurricane/super storm Sandy; as a coach I always say ‘safety first’ and this motto definitely applies here, I hope that you and your families are safe and sound.

Much like the storm that hit the East Coast last year, Sandy caused some major devastation. Many communities are struggling to recover from the aftermath; when these things happen I always worry about the affects on children and I truly believe that a rush to normal, a focused effort to getting to a place that life can proceed as it had before, is paramount for recovery.  From the eyes of a child, part of life going on is to get back into a familiar routine and for athletes, a positive routine is key. I want to be clear – sports are not even on the RADAR when it comes to the lengthy list of things that people are going to have to do to rebuild their lives, but sports offer a great and positive distraction for a children – in many cases, for the parents as well. Here are some ideas and examples of how you can keep a youth sports routine (as long as it is safe) even through cancellations and postponements.

Here in Western Massachusetts, Sandy did not hit us with anything other than some high winds, rain and the occasional power outage – much different than last year when we lost power in some places for up to almost 2 weeks. In preparation, schools were closed and sports schedules adjusted to try to accommodate the storm. For high school sports, games were moved up to the weekend, for travel sports, practices and games were moved to ensure safety. While this may seem minor given people are losing their lives and property, it is important from the perspective of a child to plan for these events in order to normalize the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible as it helps with the ability to cope with the situation.

Some ideas for kids when schedules are modified:

  • Take a night off. Seriously, schedules for most youth athletes are demanding with school, sports and other activities (music, science, art, etc.). One night off can do a lot for a child (and a family)!
  • If it is several days, plan some activities (these are from the perspective of the child):
    • Talk the game – talk about strategy, your favorite player, how your coach runs a practice. Try to build out a practice or game strategy and present it to your parents
    • Watch the game – if you have television or the internet, watch and break down a game. Try to figure out what each team is trying to do with offense, defense and transitions – educate your parents or siblings on what is happening. Be a coach, try to figure out what you would do differently if you were in charge.
    • Practice the game, inside – SAFELY! To keep from breaking lamps or big screen televisions, kids can do the following:
      • Basketball – lie on your back and shoot the ball (good form) toward the ceiling but only going up about 6-8 feet in the air. Focus on backspin, form and aim
      • Basketball – touches; transfer the ball around the body – behind the back, around the head, between the legs, figure eights, spider grabs, etc. Do not let the ball hit the floor. For fun, work on spinning the ball on your finger, but make sure the area is clear as the ball will tend to fall off!
      • Soccer – tick-tocks, toe-touches, pull-back and other moves – try dribbling under control where ever you go in the house (except stairs) – get permission before you do this!


I can’t resist telling you about a positive story that hopefully has a happy finale and it directly relates to everything I wrote above. My neighbor, Michael, is a sophomore at the town high school and last year played JV soccer. His older brother (now in college) was a very good player for the high school and I think that Michael has hopes of doing the same someday, but it wasn’t going to be this year. Michael did not make the team – many kids this age, once cut from the HS level, give up the sport but not Michael. I see him in his yard EVERY day working on his soccer skills and working at it hard. Last week I walked over and asked him why he was doing this, hoping for the answer I got – he told me that he loves the game and hopes to make the team next year. What a great answer – it may not be in soccer, but Michael is going to be successful in life because he is learning a life lesson at an early age: when you get knocked down, get up faster and work hard to stay on your feet. On Monday I had to leave my home office to find a Wi-Fi spot (we lost power for about 2 hours) so I could get out a report for work and when I came home in the wind and rain, there was Michael in his yard practicing at soccer.

He was soaked to the bone, but focused on his individual work out and was smiling as if it was a clear and sunny day.  It doesn’t matter that the HS coach doesn’t know how hard he is working, Michael knows it will be obvious next year.  I’ll take a team full of kids like this any day.

Keep in mind, if you do anything suggested above that you must keep safety first and with that, please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Graphic courtesy of:

Dear Coach

Now is the time that I really start my transition from anything and everything else that I am doing to focus on the upcoming basketball seasons. This year I have the privilege to work with four teams that range from the high school varsity level through to general recreation, but my approach is the same – prepare, learn, bring energy. I’ll be working with familiar faces (coaches and athletes) as well as new, so the ability to start over without starting from scratch will be critical.

Going into the season, I get a lot of questions that I’d like to share here – hope you enjoy and possibly some of these relate to you! Here we go – my top five.


1. How can I get ready for the upcoming season? I love this question, and that is why I put it at the top of the list. The *best* thing that an athlete can do is prepare physically, mentally and spiritually. I’ll list out the top three ways to prepare for all three (sensing the theme with three’s?):

a. Physically (there is a guide for some of this on my website at under the Training tab)

i. Prepare the body with regular fitness, proper diet and plenty of rest – it is important to note that you can do too much of these as well, so planning and control is important

ii. Practice the game as much as possible – ball handling, shooting, playing. I like to see 400 shots at least 2 times a week for 6 weeks – more if possible

iii. Control injuries through proper preparation and stretching – warm up, cool down and plenty of hydration (and yes, water is still the best).

b. Mentally

i. Learn the game – Macro level. Watch various levels of play and try looking at the game from a non-player perspective by answering the following questions: What defense is being run? What offense? What should they be running? What are 3 keys to the game for each team? If you were coaching, what adjustments might you try making? This is tough for an 8 year old, but believe it or not, by the time the 8 year old tries this a few times, by the time he/she is 10, they are very good at it.

ii. Learn the game – Micro level. Diagram the offense(s)/defense(s) for your team and describe the roles. Run through the set plays and the situations that call for them. Run through the transitions (offense to defense and defense to offense). Do this with another person (that is not a potential rival) to drive home the value of the exercise (learn, do, *teach*)

iii. Pick a skill – there is an antiquated idea that has people focus on their weaknesses and to improve. While there is some value here, there is a reason those are weaknesses, typically, and they always will be. I have a different theory; know your weaknesses and use your strengths to make them less of a liability. For example – are you a good shooter but a poor ball handler? Learn to protect the ball and how to limit your exposure by working on floor to shooting/passing transitions. This is an area that your coach should help you with – ASK!

c. Spiritually

i. Prioritize – today’s environment has so many distractions that focus is nearly impossible without a prioritization schema and discipline. This is something that needs to be in place WELL before the season so that it is practiced. An example would be to reduce dependence on social media (notice that I did not state eliminate); one way to do this would be to restrict active usage to a morning and/or afternoon timeslot daily and to stick with it. Detoxification from Social Media can be liberating!

ii. Train the mind – Stretch and challenge yourself; read a book, play Sudoku, do *something* away from the game and away from electronics that train and expand the mind.

iii. Train the spirit – I recommend that everyone have a mission (mine is posted below). I also recommend that everyone set aside 20 minutes a day (10 in the morning, 10 in the evening) for quiet reflection:

1. In the morning, as soon as possible after waking, think on the mission and about the day ahead – what two goals do you have for the day?

2. In the evening, reflect on the accomplishments of the day and rejoice in the wins while learning from the losses.

2. How can I increase my odds of making a team? The best way to increase your odds of making *any* team is to understand your strengths and control the things you can, don’t stress on the things you can’t. What can you control? Enthusiasm, coachability, conditioning. You can’t control how someone else plays. John Wooden never compared players to each other, only to themselves – if you perform at your peak and don’t make the team, tip your cap and learn.

3. How can I increase my playing time? (This is assuming that playing time is not planned to be equal, of course) – the best (and really only way short of coercion or blackmail) way is to make the most of the minutes you naturally get, earning more as you go. If you only play a couple minutes per half to start the season, I can guarantee you will get more time if you make a major, positive and consistent impact.

4. My child was cut – what can I do? Tough one, because in the end my initial answer does not typically line up with the answer that the parent wants, so I dig a little deeper – what do you *want* to do? If the answer is to make the coach change the decision, I have to be clear – that rarely happens and even if it does, why would you *want* it to happen? I mean, this coach just cut your child, so if the coach is forced to take the child after the fact, that is a losing proposition and a potentially long, tough season. Once we get past that, the answer to me is simple – what does the child *want* to do (there are three options)? If the child wants to try to make it the following season, then options outside of the current team need to be made available and a training plan for success needs to be made. Also, this decision needs to be commended – this shows a competitive spirit and coaches love to be proven wrong in this area. FYI – I see a lot of people that have an odd sense of entitlement when it comes to making teams and I am here to tell you, >99% of the time, individuals get cut from something by either doing it themselves or having someone else do it. If this weren’t true, everyone that ever played a sport would be a professional, everyone that ever ran for student government would be a world leader. Another option for a cut player is to continue playing at a different level – another great option. The third, and one I don’t like because I feel that there is a sport for everyone, is to leave the game. To me, this is really only a good option if the players does not like the activity – fun should always be a goal.

5. I don’t like the coach – what are my options? Liking the coach is great, but not critical. The critical ‘like’, which should be ‘love’, is for the game. I look at this as a life lesson – you won’t always like your manager or boss, teacher, or mentor but you do have to figure out how to work around it. The basic rule for me here is to understand your rights as a player and as a parent with the coach and then to understand if you can live with the situation, which is temporary (the season) in the grand scheme of things. Know your options, but avoid backstabbing the coach – this tends to cause more issue than it could possible resolve.

Hope these help – if you have a "Dear Coach" question for me, please let me know and I might even feature it on a future BLOG!

My Mission and Vision statements are below the credits block below – I challenge you to come up with one of your own and to share it with me – I believe it is important for everyone to have a vision and mission statement. As a person and as a coach, I have developed mine – develop yours today!

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Graphic courtesy of:

Mission and Vision Statements

Coach Rick:

* Vision: Encouraging youths to be the best they can be both in sports and life and that the healthy pursuit of athletics should be fun and available to everyone.

* Mission: To enable youths, coaches and parents with the tools and information to have fun with athletics while at the same time allowing for optimal performance.

Rick Harriman:

* Vision: To become a better person than I was yesterday

* Mission: To honor God and to be an extraordinary husband and father first. To be a sought after business leader and coach that inspires others to reach their full potential. To grow daily in a spiritual/mental/physical/emotional manner that is measurable and repeatable.

These Games are Rated PG

One of the things I absolutely love about coaching youth is the marked improvement that can be seen and measured for teams and individuals from the beginning of the season to the end.  When a team, through the individual parts, is dedicated to improving and working hard while having fun, progress is easily noticed – and appreciated, by both the coaching staff and the parents.

Or so I thought.  I also thought that I liked the interaction between myself and the parents of these children, but that is no longer entirely the case, and the reason is that we have two different agendas.

If most parents were honest, I think that they would admit that they care more about the improvement of their child than that of the team – and I get that, it just never occurred to me because I care much more about the improvement of the team, which typically means that the individuals will improve as well.

Let’s face it, I am a coach – not a personal trainer.  My players get some, but not a lot, of individual training.  Typically the individual training is spent correcting a technique that is incorrect, something that pertains to the individual but the majority of my training time is spent on working to team concepts. 

This difference in agendas was not something I was forced to face until recently, and it quite honestly caught me off-guard.  As I was caught off-guard, I took an approach that has usually worked for me in the past – I told the truth.  Right there, I learned another lesson – you have to be careful with the truth because not everyone is prepared to hear it.

Quite honestly, I am in a quandary; I find the dialogue with parents of youth athletes to be engaging, I love to hear their perspective on things even if I don’t agree – debate is great.  I have found, however, that debate that contains personal data, is not so great and puts people in a defensive posture.  At this point, I am not quite sure what to do going forward.

One of the coaches that I work with, he just doesn’t talk to parents – period.  Sure, he’ll answer the ‘good game coach’, but if a parent wants to talk with him, he has rules: 1) go through the AD and 2) we are not talking about playing time.  With the support of the AD, this has worked for him for years.  Not sure if I am ready to go that far, but I am thinking about the second bullet as it seems to cause a lot of hurt feelings, and that is never the intention.


I am considering the following for future programs – let me know what you think:

  1. Pre-season, state the playing time parameters so that everyone has a fair expectation.  In this case, I have done this in the past but did not, for whatever reason, do this until we started the season.
  2. In-season, if parents want to talk about playing time, the athlete (note, I work with 10 and over now) and the organization will be present and the conversation will be about playing time and that athlete *only* – other athletes are not for discussions.  This will be requested in writing.
  3. There will be no parent meetings on game days.

I hate to get so formal, but I think I need to do something to protect all parties as a few of these discussions have not always had a positive outcome for the player, the family, the team nor the coaching staff and that is unfortunate.

One thing that I really try to stress to parents is that playing time, in and of itself, one of many ‘metrics’ that mean more to some than others.  I include starting a game in that group of metrics, something that I actually find relatively useless.  Instead of playing time, think ‘quality time’ – what did the athlete do with the time he/she played in the game?  Also, think time within the sport – is the athlete getting quality training (to me, games are an exhibition of the training)?  Instead of thinking about starting, think about finishing – in a close game, athletes that are in the game have the trust of the coach.  Different paradigm, right?

I definitely believe that parents have a right and an obligation to engage coaches, but it needs to be at the right time and with the right perspective – when that is done, everyone wins.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Graphic courtesy of:

Soccer Wins Again

Last week I talked about my daughter making a tough decision, and in the end, the right one for her.  This week I had to make a decision – one I didn’t think I would have to make at all…

In July I wrote a blog about working hard in the off-season and I referenced the work that LeBron James does to improve his game; as a result of that blog, I was contacted by one of LeBron’s trainers, Ganon Baker via Twitter:

@CoachHarriman thanks for the support. Send me ur email, I will b up n maine n sept

Whoa – what in the *world* would Ganon Baker want to talk to me about?  Is it possible that I might have an opportunity to drop in on this September session???

I’ll pause here a minute to explain who Ganon Baker is to me – basically, he is a rock star and A list celebrity in the world of basketball training.  His skills training is simply amazing and his work with amateur kids through the professional ranks is renowned.  Simply put, I was geeked that he read the blog, much less reached out to me. 

BTW – his handle on Twitter is @GanonBaker and his website is – follow him and check out the web site for invaluable skills information.

Of course, I wasted no time in sending a response:


Thanks for the reply on Twitter – if you are in Maine in Sep, I’d love to come up and check out what you are doing.  Have a great weekend!

And the reply back from Ganon:

Great. I will send you info and it will be on the website soon. I am speaking at the U of Maine clinic and doing player workouts.

Oh man, I am so there.  This is like a backstage pass to a Guns and Roses concert or getting to sit in the Green Room with your favorite celebrity – as they say in New England, wicked awesome.

I don’t normally get too stars truck – I have sat next to several athletes and media types flying into and out of Bradley Airport (access to Bristol, CT – home of ESPN) and while it is cool and fun, that’s about it.  There was the time that Michael Irvin sang Happy Birthday to my wife, but that is a story for another day…

I reached out to Ganon last week to get a status on the clinic and I received the following:

You want to get on the court and work it with me?


Someone call 911, I’ve fallen and can’t get up…

So, in preparation for the event this week I start thinking about anything at all that might keep me from attending – you’ll love this.

The only thing in my way, soccer.  Our team, a traveling U11 team, is currently 3-0-1 and at the top of the standings.  This weekend is against the only team he have yet to play and the other team we tied, so it is a big weekend but was it enough to keep me from going?  Not after a conversation with the other coach (his response – “Are you CRAZY?”).

Then last night I found out that our program jamboree, which is a big deal to the kids, is that same day.  In good conscience, I could never leave another adult alone with 18 U11 soccer players (note, in the middle of 20 other soccer teams) and so, while it sounds crazy, I declined to attend this morning.



My hope is that Ganon and I will connect again sometime in the future – I’m trying to talk him into a skills clinic somewhere here in Western Massachusetts, so we’ll see.  If it never happens, I’ll still have the memory of the one that almost happened.

So now, close counts to me for hand grenades, horse shoes and that one weekend in September.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Picture courtesy of:

Picture courtesy of:

Display of Intrepidity – The Decision

This summer my family faced a pretty large dilemma.  In the grand scheme of things, it may not seem that large when I describe it because it was not a matter of life or death but at the same time it was a major issue in our household.

My youngest daughter, becoming a HS sophomore, was not sure if there would be a field hockey team in the fall and, per our household rules, she had to figure out a physical activity for that time period/season.

In our house, we stress academics, but not like a set of tiger-parents.  For us, academics is first, but not at the sacrifice of everything else.  We also insist on a balance of physical activity (typically a sport) and something artistic (music, drawing, etc.).  By our rules, the activity that she had chosen two years ago (field hockey) may not be available to her.

This came about because the HS field hockey coach accepted a job at the collegiate level, a great opportunity and no one blamed her for the move.  At the same time, it appeared at the beginning of summer that it was becoming a difficult role to fill and, facing uncertainty, our daughter decided to open herself to other options.

As a coach and a father, I teach that sports has a loyalty factor – a player should depend on the team and the team should depend on the players, without any doubt.  Commitment, loyalty and honor are paramount to participation and my children have this drilled into them from a young age.  As an 8th grader, Morgan was a JV starter (Varsity ineligible).  As a Freshman, she was a Varsity starter – one of three Varsity sports her freshman year.  To add, she was the field hockey’s second leading scorer, so the consideration of another activity was truly protectionist when initially considered. 

FieldHockey VS.soccerball_in_goal

Over the summer, Morgan worked out with the field hockey team and the soccer team.  Two years ago Morgan gave up full-time soccer for field hockey (she still played a travel team in the spring for soccer); in the 8th grade she was playing soccer on a travel and a select team but seized the opportunity to play with the high school an apparent five year commitment with the field hockey team.

During these summer workouts, it was clear to Morgan and our family that she deeply missed the game of soccer.  Once we discovered that the high school had hired a field hockey coach, we had to have Morgan make a decision, and it was one that was not taken lightly.

Her heart was with soccer, her committed soul was with field hockey – from my perspective, she could not make a wrong decision as long as she chose one and committed 100% to it.

In choosing soccer, she knew she faced the chance of not playing varsity.  She knew she faced the chance of not getting a lot of playing time.  She knew she faced the chance of not playing a position that she might choose to play – and yet, she chose to play soccer and our family stands behind her.


As sports is the predominate activity in our house, this decision seemed to be agonizingly long and fraught with emotion – I believe the decision could have gone either way but in the end, her love for a sport she had played since the age of 5 trumped everything else and I am proud of her brave decision.

Now it’s time for her to show the world that it was the right one by giving this sport her full commitment to improve every day and to make her team better.  I have no doubt she will prove her decision to be the right one.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

Picture courtesy of:

Picture courtesy of:

Picture courtesy of:

What’s Your Number?

Imagine this: You’re getting ready for a pretty big event at work – it could be a meeting, a presentation, a demonstration. You’ve trained, practiced and prepared and when your moment comes, you face adversity (some expected, maybe some not) and in your shining moment… You underperform. It is possible that you might have even failed miserably and in your head, you play it over and over again which makes it worse because you know that you’re going to have to face the music from your management and coworkers sooner or later.

But that immediate moment never comes; instead of ripping into you, your coworkers pick you up, telling you every circumstance that led up to the moment with a build-up that compels you to believe that the situation was not controllable, that while things may have been different it was not your fault. Your manager reminds you of why you are with the company and that without your skills and teamwork that the team would be in worse shape, to shake it off and learn from the experience. You start to pick your head up – you gave it your all, but fell short and these things happen. You plan to learn from it and never let that set of circumstances happen again.

Then you have to head to the airport with the senior management team; after a long set of days preparing for this underachieving moment, it appears that everyone is just ready to go home but in the car, the criticism begins. Your leadership team questions your commitment, your heart, your skills and your intelligence. The comments start off with simple facts of the events, but quickly turn to emotion and they continue to pile on all the way to your destination. By the time you get out of the vehicle, no matter how much you tried to defend yourself, you are completely deflated. You are not sure at this point if the management team will ever trust you again – at this point, you are not even sure you are a member of the team or if you even have a job as they send you off in your own direction.

Sign me up to work for that company, right? Does this sound fun? Most people I know would either quit on the spot or wait until they had something, anything, else they could jump to immediately, even if it was a bad deal.


I was at a sports meeting recently when another coach that I respect told me that he has had to talk with parents about their behavior (haven’t we all?) and one technique he has used in the past was to ask them to turn around, slowly, so that he could record the number on the back of their jersey. Of course they don’t have one, and that is where he makes his point. If you don’t have a number, you have no input unless it is positive. You have no voice in the process, unless it is constructive. And you have no impact to the team unless it is solicited. Without a number, you should not matter to the coach.

This is hard for most parents – they have invested too much and they want to see the benefit of that investment. Like the leadership team above, they have invested time, money and emotion into one asset and they are expecting some form of return. The amount of investment tends to compound the expectation on the return, which tends to lead to the situation above when it comes to youth sports. Most parents I know got their kids into sports for a healthy, fun alternative to other options. As more and more competition was introduced, the main or base reason for involvement was ignored or forgotten and exchanged for results.

If you were able to feel any empathy for the individual in the business example, imagine how thousands of kids feel *every* day after a sports event as they get into a vehicle with his/her parents. It is no wonder that youth are leaving sports in droves, turning to other things that can occupy their time such as video games or vagrancy. From a parental perspective, this sounds like a stretch – from the viewpoint of a child, it sounds like a viable option and one that is better than the constant berating.

Parents – I implore you to be positive with your athletes, and I encourage honest feedback. As a coach, I know when a child athlete has not performed and, believe it or not, I usually see it early enough to plan around it. After discussing the situation with the athlete, I make a call whether he/she is ready to be put back in a succeed/fail situation. I tend to try to get the athlete back into the action if possible to keep the confidence in our relationship high – that confidence is an important factor that can derail performance quicker than an injury if mistreated. I provided honest feedback, sometimes brutally honest without sugar coating, but at the same time I will always finish the conversation with something positive. Anything else, and I am no better than the feedback he/she is going to receive on the car ride home.

I do this every game.  In every game, I find at least one player (and typically more) that is underperforming to my expectations (which are typically realistic and not based on emotion).  To be fair, I tend to also find at least one player that has stepped up beyond his/her potential – not always, but it is a blessing when it occurs because it provides options for competition.  If I find at least one player every game that is underperforming to reasonable expectations, imagine what those parents are thinking?  Imagine their reaction if they feel over-invested in the result versus the process?

The next time you are tempted to rip into a child for his/her athletic performance (or lack thereof), remember that it is not you wearing the jersey and that your feedback is not the only feedback that is being received, but is probably the feedback that carries the most weight – as hard as it can be sometimes, look to the big picture, remember why you started this athletic journey and keep it honest but positive.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

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May I Coach Now?

I thought I was being a smarter coach this season, no longer a soccer rookie and with a few years (and mistakes) under my belt, I was ready.  In order to get to *coaching*, I needed to get through the administrative nightmare of preparing for the season – and I had a plan.

I had my binder – the binder has *everything* to include players profiles (birth certificates, sign-up forms and zero-tolerance forms), practice plans, attendance forms, notes and tracking sheets (for payment of uniforms and league fees). With my binder and my pre-season practice plan, I was ready.

Well, I was ready until I just happened to look at the soccer website (quite by accident) and saw that our schedule was available. I had been planning on a few more weeks of training prior to our first game (our team is moving from 8v8 to 11v11 and a much larger field) and so I had a heart palpitation when I realized that our first game was next weekend.

Translation – Three practices until show time. Panic. And to add insult to injury, I still needed to collect uniform and league fees. And worse, in review of the paperwork, it looks like I had a few missing signatures on the zero-tolerance forms – forms due prior to the first game.  Oh yeah, and I had to pay for the uniforms before I could hand them out.


Most coaches don’t sign up to be the team administrator. Most don’t sign up to be a cat-herder – it is exhausting getting signatures and payment for all of the players. I was talking to one coach last night at a pre-season meeting (add that to the list – most coaches do not sign up to attend meetings) and he doesn’t have most of his paperwork done – and not for lack of trying; after 7 weeks of emails, phone calls and stalkerish behavior, he is worried that his paperwork will *not* be ready for next weekend. But his team is ready – go figure.

Apparently I am one of the lucky coaches – and I know it. My parents are awesome – I don’t have them lording over me at practice, I don’t have them questioning our tactics or techniques (at least, not in a negative way) and for the most part, they are VERY good at getting me everything I need in a timely manner. I have been reading extremely negative examples of parents for the past several weeks and I have seen this type of behavior drive some very good coaches away from the sideline so trust me when I say that I am thankful for what I have.

Not sure if I can take credit for it – I do a few things to let the parents know that I am available and approachable (pre-season meeting, regular notifications of events, time before/after training sessions) and this may contribute but in the end, I think our team is just fortunate.

One good thing about the season starting when it is – I can finally get to coaching. All of the meetings, paperwork and financials will finally be over and our coaching staff can finally put that behind us and start to work on the part of coaching that we enjoy – coaching.

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

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KISS* Me Baby!

This week I read a piece from Kevin Eastman (twitter @KevinEastman – a great follow) on "Bullet Basketball", a great piece that discusses keeping coaching points to 3-4 ‘bullets’, making the main point easier to remember.

For the record, Kevin is an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. Youth coaches, please pay attention – the assistant coach for the BOSTON CELTICS is emphasizing that the best way to reach players is to teach this complex game with a simple, easy to understand approach. He does this with professional players – you think it might work with kids???

I could not agree more. I wrote about the power of three in a previous post, which is basically the same concept. While it is a challenge, coaches at EVERY LEVEL must find a way to make every game simple – simple to learn, simple to play, simple to love.

Here are a few examples from Kevin’s newsletter (this is free via subscription, available via the website highlighted above) – and I love these:

  • Screening:
    • Take your screen to the cutter’s defender
    • Can’t get low enough OR wide enough (fantastic!)
    • Put your back to the area of attack
  • Shooting:
    • Be ready on the catch
    • 10 toes to the rim
    • Perfect follow through – up and over the front of the rim


All of these little things add up over time – remember the saying that "inch by inch, life is a cinch and yard by yard, life is hard."

I’ve been conducting basketball sessions for boys in the 9-11 year-old age group for the past four weeks and this will continue up until school starts. My approach has been to break down the game and, week by week, build out the bigger picture of the game. This has been the plan – as you’ll see, it is broken into pieces the kids can remember:

  • (Intro, week 1) Parts of the game:
    • Offense
      • Triple Threat (Intro, week 1) – in order:
        • (Week 1 Focus) Shooting
          • BEEF (Balance/Base, Elbow, Eyes, Follow-through – again, 4 points)
        • (Week 2 Focus) Passing
          • Types of ACCEPTABLE passes (chest, bounce, overhead – three points)
        • (Week 3 Focus) Ball-handling)
          • Types of dribbling (High, medium, low (3 points) – how, when and why)
      • Structure (week 4 focus – 3 points):
        • Spacing
        • Rebounding
        • Movement
    • Defense (week 5 focus – 4 points)
      • Position (hands, feet, eyes and butt/shoulders)
      • Communication
      • Help
      • Rebounding
    • Transition (O-D) (week 5 focus – 3 points)
      • Locate the ball
      • Sprint to action
      • Make the stop or slow the action
    • Transition (D-O) (week 6 focus – 3 points)
      • Secure and protect the ball
      • Push with intelligence
      • Score when possible

There are so many aspects to the game, I picked these 6 plans to cover with these boys so that they can get an appreciation for the big pieces. We have had time to work with some players on positional play as well (post players, guards, etc.) and apply the same principles – keep it simple. We play games to emphasize the drills and points and the feedback from the boys has been great to this point.

As a coach, your job is to make your players better – this concept is simple, but the application is hard. I have seen too many good coaches go straight to lecture to make a simple point, and the result is rarely good for the coach or the players – players tune out. Keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it moving.

Would love to hear some of your ideas – and not just basketball so please feel free to share!

Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.

Coach Rick

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*KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid – it is used often in military and business settings to remind people to dumb down concepts to make them easier to communicate and understand.