Monday, September 16, 2013

What does player development mean to you?

Player development is a hot topic in soccer today.  Soccer-- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success contains my "secrets" for developing players, supported by objective successes, coaching honors, team and player achievements and credible anecdotes from a variety of coaches, players and parents.

As the book has already received excellent reviews and has been targeted for a second print, I have been consulted about the topic and asked to write various articles on the specific topic of player development.  Thus, being an "expert" in the field, I have a sound understanding of what player development entails, and I have made it a mission to share knowledge since it ultimately helps all of us, especially the ones who matter most in this game-- the players.

Perhaps I will share a recent article in a future blog post.  However, I would love to hear from coaches on what they believe player development is, as there seem to be so many interpretations and misconceptions.  It is good to voice one's own opinions and listen to the thoughts of other successful people in the game-- after all, it is professional growth that we all seek if we are truly committed to player development.

Here are a few questions as "food for thought," but feel free to add your own directions for the better of the discussion:

(1)  Can emphases on winning and player development co-exist or are they mutually exclusive?

(2)  Is player development the same at whatever age, gender, level one coaches at?

(3)  Are the four pillars of technical, tactical, physical and psycho-social skills the defining characteristics of player development?

(4)  How do you know player development has occurred?  Is it measured subjectively and/or objectively?

(5)  Who decides if player development is progressing appropriately?

Enough questions for now-- give it a try, and enjoy!  Be sure to grab a copy of Soccer-- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success (see information on previous posts).  Thank you!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Feedback for SSFSCS

Thank you all for the terrific feedback-- may you continue to strive for coaching excellence and long-term player/personal development!

Comments from readers of Soccer-- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success

"It's a brilliant read..... well done.... highly recommended to all soccer coaches."  -- Jeff T. (FL PBSA TD; UEFA Assessor-Irish FA; NSCAA former DOECD; FIFA Futura Coaching Education Award)

"I have been reading through your book and just wanted to say that you have out done yourself! It is awesome! The perspectives coming from a quality person, like yourself, will give others a whole new look of how life is in the youth game and beyond! I'm loving the read.... A Pleasure." -- Ken K. (PWSI Technical Director of Coaching)

"I was just reading more of your book. I can’t even express to you how hard I had been looking for a book like the one you wrote. It’s not just about soccer it’s about the whole picture. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I will be sure to share my feelings on it and pass your email along to others in my club as well as my friends that coach all over the US. I just wish I could read it faster. I want to know everything now. I am sure when I finish I will want to pick your brain a little more but then again maybe not. Maybe all of my underlying questions will be answered."  -- Holly W. (VA ASC coach; D1/USWNT former player)

"Ashu provides great information that will help coaches, players, and parents really understand what it takes to have sustained success. While reading the book, I kept thinking of parts of it that I wanted to share with the families of the U13 team that I coach. I believe that in reading those excerpts, it would help them to understand the level of commitment (time, physical, and psychological) that is required for a team to find long term success. I have been a coach for over 30 years at many different levels, but Soccer Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success has given me many new ideas for creating more of a team culture and setting team and individual goals. I am confident that this book will assist my teams and staffs in developing a more focused mission and definitive ways to hold each player and coach accountable for working hard to achieve our goals." -- Beth H. (HS/Club coach; UNC D1 former player)

"I first met Ashu in the late 90s when he brought Electra to the North Carolina Girls Soccer Camp in Chapel Hill. I knew when I met him that he was a special coach, and it was evident in the performance and attitude of his players at camp that week. I consider myself lucky to be a friend of Ashu and have had many discussions with him over the years about player development and soccer as more than just a game. I believe this book has captured all of the things that have made him successful in player development.
The title may suggest that this book is for coaches, but I see huge value for players and parents alike as they navigate the world of youth soccer, and any other sport for that matter. There is great information on character, team building, college recruitment and more that make this a valuable resource. Get a copy today, and don't forget several others for coaches and people in your soccer community. It will make a difference in the lives of those involved." --  Curtis F. (SC 20+ years coaching experience, highly competitive club experiences in SC & CA, HS in SC, trainer in several states across the US, college camps in NC, SC, CA, etc.)

"Much evidence has been offered in recent years that mastery of a craft requires, among other things, a "critical minimum" of 10,000 hours of practice. Coaches could easily, and profitably, devote 100 hours of that process to this book.
That is both praise and a caveat. Soccer: Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success is not an easy book. Ideas come frequently and go deep, often in sentences the length of paragraphs, paragraphs that might be sub-chapters elsewhere. It's not a good read on Kindle. You'll need a highlighter (a Kindle feature, but it's not so easy to find what you've highlighted among 7300+ Kindle pages) and to dog-ear key pages. I'd also recommend reading it all twice. My choice was to read it through once, then go back and reread it chunk by chunk - highlighter in hand - which I will do when the hard copy arrives.
Author Ashu Saxena is a protégé of University of North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance. In fact, Dorrance has been known to deflect questions about youth soccer toward Saxena. The book reflects much that is notable in the UNC program: total attention to detail, the tracking of individual training results, a relentless style of play, a fundamental philosophy that "if you chase perfection doggedly enough you'll catch a healthy dose of excellence in the process."*
When speaking to coaches, Dorrance recounts his early attempts to seek out the Holy Grail, the perfect drill or training exercise that would turn the tide on match day. He says that over the years he has moved away from that quest and now focuses more on the process of developing individuals, teams and team cultures. Saxena is clearly of the persuasion. The first 40% of the book is devoted to topics such as mission statements, team cultures, leadership, team management and issues related to common (and often counterproductive) player development practices. From these examinations emerges a philosophy of player and personal development which gives equal weight to the importance of each side in the process of building a team.
Positive Coaching Alliance founder Jim Thompson posits that the primary goal of youth sports is to produce "stronger, more responsible and confident persons who will be successful in life." That is a stated objective in most youth sports programs, but one infrequently accompanied by any specific plan for its attainment. Saxena appears to embrace and realize this goal, and the book's numerous testimonials from players and their parents attest to how effectively he does it. His teams also play some very good soccer. All coaches need to understand the tremendous impact of the former on the latter.
Much of the book's "soccer side" is in the form of 50 very detailed lesson plans. (The detail goes so far as to outline the "beginning words" and "ending words" which give daily attention to the program's "personal side".) One could look on these as a season's worth of training sessions for a skillful U15 or U16 team. Alternately, and more productively, it's a 4-5 year curriculum outline for a U13 or U14 team that has a strong foundation in The Game's fundamental skills. The sessions are designed to develop an "active, attractive, attacking style of soccer that involves possession with a purpose on attack and defending with a high energy, intense pursuit of the ball." Even the most experienced coaches will find great ideas in this portion of the book.
Other reviews have noted how parents and even players can learn from this book. But in the end Soccer: Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success is a study for coaches of a Master Coach and what his 10,000 hours have produced.
So, coaches, grab your highlighter and get to it.
*Hopefully neither will take offense that this quote was used to describe a certain basketball coach at UNC's arch-rival in Durham."
-- W. Dooley (CO coach; experienced soccer/athletics book reviewer)

"In coaching for over 20 years, I have never seen a more dynamic and comprehensive coaching resource that Ashu's book. Whether a beginning coach of youth, a director of club soccer, high school college, college coach or professional coach, there are facets of the book which will push one's thinking to a higher level about the game. How many coaching texts move beyond the player's "on the field" activities to consider the whole player? The section on the college process was even shared by me with our school's college guidance counselor, who overwhelmingly endorsed it. I have waited a long time for this resource, and Ashu has satisfied my wait by producing a great resource." -- Eric H. (NC High School/Club CUFC Coach)

"Everything I've learned about soccer has been from standing at the sidelines of many...many...many of my daughter's games. I picked up this book for her high School and club coaches. I figured that there was very little chance that I would understand half of what is in it, but I started reading it anyway.  Soccer-Strategies For Sustained Coaching Success was a pleasant surprise - I could follow quite a bit of it and so can my daughter 14 year old daughter. I can't stress enough how I appreciated Ashu's clear dedication to developing players not just physically, but mentally as well. The chapters on building a team could be applied to many life situations, not just sports. I thought the college process was very informative and helped me think about how to help my daughter prepare to tackle that phase when the time comes (it's early, but feeling prepared is a great stress reliever :)). My daughter sometimes comes home and leafs through the books muttering about how her coach taught them a cool new drill and she thinks she got it from this book. She's found tips on things she can do on her own time to improve her skills. It's a great resource and anyone (even a sideline soccer mom like me) can get something out of it." -- Ana CM (CA High School/Club parent)

"This book is a must have for any soccer coaching library. The holistic approach to developing players is one that equates to success on and off the field. Coaches working toward creating environments of excellence will gain insightful guidance through Ashu's experiences and advice. Having coached for 16 years, from youth to high school and college - I guarantee this book will benefit yourself and your team!" -- Jason S. (NC Highly competitive Club, HS, D1 College Coach)

"Have skimmed through it and am impressed!! Great job!! .... Book is very interesting so far as you cover things others do not. Also, let me know where/when your teams will be playing as I would like to observe and also talk with you." -- Rich I. (NY Adelphi U. Head Soccer Coach for 21 years-- most wins, NCAA Playoff appearances; Region I ODP Staff Coach)

"This book is great to everyone who is involved in any way in the world of soccer, either you are a coach, a player, a supporter or simply someone curious about this theme. Ashu has a nice flowing writing, and, at the same time, divides and organizes the sections of the book in a very logical way.
In this book Ashu teaches us that being a good soccer team is not being a good soccer player. The team has to work as one, and be involved in a common objective. But, in another way, the team playing on the field as one is not sufficient, each player has to be considered as one individual, and his state of mind, emotions, and life outside de soccer field is very important. In this way, it is relevant to include the family and college on the players’ soccer development. I think coaches and player above all would benefit a great deal to read and use these strategies in their team development! This book was sent to me, for free through Goodreads First Reads."
-- Mariana P. (Portugal; Goodreads giveaway winner)

"Thanks alot!! I actually was very excited after finding out that I've won a copy of your book. And now, I'm super anxious to know and find out the type of advice and information you put on your book. This book really interests me a lot because I'm in the process of becoming a soccer coach and want to learn, read and cultivate myself .... your book will be one source I will be going back to often. After playing for about 20 years, now I'm looking to get into coaching and teaching others all the things that I've learned through all the years that I've played. It'll definitely be a big change to go from player to coach.... I want to wish you the best with all your future projects."  -- Erick G. (TX, Club coach; Goodreads giveaway winner)

"I have coached youth soccer at the recreational level for 7+ years. I have been self trained and have only attended one formal certificate course through the National Soccer Coaches Association. That course just happened to have been taught by Ashu Saxena. I could immediately see his approach to soccer training and teaching went well beyond the surface view I was afforded in this weekend course. I called him afterward as I really wanted to learn more from him. Now, anyone can order his first book and gain invaluable insights. I have not finished the book yet. But, if you want to understand how to organize a winning soccer program, develop that program and develop soccer players to achieve maximum potential, you have found the right resource. It is very detailed down to what to do nearly every day for a full year to implement a winning sustainable program that will self perpetuate. I bought the book for many reasons. But, most pointedly, I bought it because I am coaching a Middle School girls team this Spring for the first time at a small private school. The school has never had any form of consistency in their soccer program and is only in their third season of a Girls only Soccer team. They have a new AD, new coaches, and they are essentially starting from scratch. I can already see that Ashu's book will be our foundation. It literally provides a step by step guide of how to run a year round soccer program. For example, Chapter 7 is entitled Developing a year-round program.

In addition to being a very accomplished Soccer Coach and NSCAA Master Coach Trainer, Ashu is a degreed teacher in Calculus. In reading his book you can see the teacher coming out in him. I see two other reviews by tenured coaches of 20+ years experience and they seem to like the book. Well, compared to them I am a novice having only coached recreational youth soccer for 7 years. But, despite my lack of experience by comparison, I am finding the book easy for me follow and understand. And, the material is presented in a teaching format. At the end of each Chapter he offers a section that recaps the chapter and actually takes the reader through a mental pop quiz of sorts. He calls these short highlighted sections Reflections. These Reflections make it easy to see how to immediately put the material from that chapter to use both mentally, physically or logistically. Some teaching points are mental: how do I approach the training, how do I approach game strategy, etc. Some of the teaching points are physical: what drills/games do I run my players and team through to get them into shape or to execute certain schemes. And, logistically: how do I implement my plans, how do I make put new strategies into my existing plan? Saxena does it all in this one manual which is why I call it a modern treatise on coaching soccer.

If you don't like this book, or you can't find dozens if not hundreds of fresh ideas, then your name must be Anson Dorrance. All kidding aside, I cannot imagine any soccer coach not finding this book to be the best resource available today on how to coach soccer, train soccer players and implement/develop a soccer program. And, believe me, as a self taught soccer coach for the past 7+ years, I have scoured the internet for the best I could find. I have bought hundred of dollars worth of books, newsletters and DVDS on soccer. I have read numerous coaching blogs and even subscribe to more than one website on soccer. I have found several valuable resources over the years. However, If the only resource I had was Ashu's book alone, I could have accomplished all of what I have and more.......I am a successful Rec Coach boasting a winning record of 69%, and a Wins plus Ties record of 88%. I really thought I knew what I was doing. Saxena puts a whole new light on my approach to the game, coaching and even my team culture.

So, stop reading reviews. Just buy the book. You won't regret it."
-- Brad N. (NC WCWAA Coach; Club/MS)

Notable quotes inside Soccer-- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success
(There are several powerful comments from additional coaches, players and parents in SSFSCS, but there are too many to list in this blog-- hope you have a chance to read them!)

“In The Vision of a Champion, the book I wrote with Gloria Averbuch to help the youth “navigate all the treacherous waters” of their sport, I referenced Ashu as someone to contact who had mastered it.  I stand by that now as you explore and apply his vision and his time tested and practical ideas.” – Anson Dorrance, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Women’s Soccer Head Coach (22x NCAA National Champion; former USWNT Head Coach, '91 WC Champion; COY)

“It is very clear that successful coaching means creating a positive environment in which the players can get better. The environment must be challenging, motivating and fun! That is how programs develop players. When you prioritize the duties of a coach, X's and O's are way down the list. Creating the proper environment is at the top of the list. Soccer- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success is a road map to creating the right environment. I highly recommend this to all coaches!”  -- Jay Martin, NSCAASoccer Journal Editor & Ohio Wesleyan Men’s Soccer Head Coach (NCAA Champions, COY)

"Soccer is analogous to life. Our approach is determined by our knowledge, perspectives, beliefs, experiences and insights — all of which add to the richness of the journey. I am confident this contribution from Ashu, on the subject, will further add to the richness." — Hank Leung, Soccer Coach & Executive Director (numerous experiences and results with various colleges, semi-pro, club teams; COY))

“Over the years, Ashu has consistently been one of the top trainers/coaches for girls youth programs. He has a knack for getting the best out of each player and having them understand how to play effectively as a team. They are always fit, organized and find ways to earn a result.” — Dave Lombardo, James Madison University Women’s Soccer Head Coach (numerous conference championships and NCAA playoff appearances, COY)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Table of Contents

Soccer- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success

Table of Contents

Preface.           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .           .          
Foreword by Anson Dorrance.         .           .           .           .           .           .
Chapter 1:  Personal Statement, Team Mission Statement
& Coaching Philosophy.       .           .           .           .           .           .           .          
Chapter 2:  Creating a Team Culture for Player Development.    .          
Chapter 3:  Leadership: Managing Success and Overcoming Adversity.           
Chapter 4:  Team Management: Players, Staff, Parents.   .           .           .          
Chapter 5:  The College Process.      .           .           .           .           .           .          
Chapter 6:  Player Development: Whose Responsibility?. .           .          
Chapter 7:  Developing a Year-Round Program.   .           .           .          
Chapter 8:  Coaching Methodology.           .           .           .           .           .          
Chapter 9:  Example of a Full Season of Training. .           .           .          
Chapter 10:  Sustaining Excellence, Remaining Relevant
& Giving Back to the Game.            .           .           .           .           .           .          
Acknowledgements.  .           .           .           .           .           .           .          
Appendix: Additional Resources for Coaches.         .           .           .           .           

Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to Soccer- Strategies for Sustained Coaching Success!

I am happy to share my recently released book with you-- whether a coach, DOC, ED, AD, parent, manager, player, or other interested person involved with soccer, I hope you'll grab a copy and enjoy this resource.  Already, SSFSCS is proving to be a valuable, unique resource.  In the blog, I hope to capture various aspects of coaching and share strategies for long-term player (and personal) development.  Enjoy!

Ordering information is available at my website, which includes links to Meyer & Meyer Sport, Cardinal Publishers Group, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.  Please check out the website for key quotes from contributors and readers.  I appreciate your support and wish you well in your endeavors to coach with excellence and emphasize player/personal development.  All the best!