What do you feel makes a great soccer coach?
The best coaches possess a clear vision and understand their values, and they work tirelessly, through consistent and clear communication, to make sure their players understand them as well. Top coaches should also be students of the game. If coaches are not demanding of themselves to always get better, how can they ask the same from their players?
How would you describe your soccer and/or player development philosophy?
I put a premium on developing soccer awareness through training activities that favor learning through what is often described as “open” or “random” activities. This means learning by playing the game itself with all its ever-changing variables. And then I supplement that play with specific, carefully considered conditions that bring out the needed technique and tactics to support discovery among the players. In this regard, I’m a bit of a soccer session junkie; I’m always studying, dreaming up, or constructing activities to deliver the kind of soccer game moments I want my players to experience over and over and learn from in their own unique way.
Yet there’s more to development and a piece that is often overlooked: Coaches need to demand that their players be accountable for part of the development equation, too. The idea that a player can turn up two or three times a week for training and become a top player is ridiculous. Players must be passionate students of the game, spending off days getting touches however possible or training for strength and conditioning or watching a match or video to understand (and visualize) how the best players and teams operate on the field.
Why are you excited to work with players at the SF Elite Academy?
In my professional life, I’ve always emphasized surrounding myself with people that I felt were better than me in terms of experience and know how. I want to be pushed, and I love learning and getting better. Working at the SF Elite Academy has allowed me to do just that as I’m on staff with some of the finest soccer coaches around. It’s literally a dream come true.
Who was/is your favorite soccer player and why?
Zinedine Zidane. He had it all--mastery of technique, power, and gall--and he won it all and did so when the lights were brightest, whether it was for club or country. I was fortunate enough to have been in Paris when France won the World Cup in 1998, and after the final I will never forget the projected, laser image of Zidane on the Arc di Triomphe or the surreal street celebrations that ensued. In 2006, I happened to see Zidane’s quarterfinal performance against Brazil on an airplane headrest TV while on a flight to the east coast. I don’t think I moved an inch for two hours; I knew I was watching perfection and one of the greatest soccer performances of all time. If Zidane took a bad touch in the whole game I don’t remember it, and he carried his whole French team to a win against some of the most talented soccer players and one of the best teams in the world.
Who is your favorite soccer coach and why?
Over the years, this has changed with styles and systems that go in and out of vogue but it would probably be Carlo Ancelotti, regardless of his recent abrupt dismissal from Bayern Munich. This is a coach who has won the Champions League with three different teams, and the pedigrees of the clubs he’s led--AC Milan, Juventus, PSG, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich--are incredible and the titans of the game. He’s won Ligue 1, the EPL, the Bundesliga and Serie A. Beyond the many deserved accolades, Ancelotti is also recognized for his tactical versatility and working his ideas about systems of play around the strengths of his players while giving them room to operate creatively, too. And, importantly, Carlo Ancelotti is one of the true gentlemen of the game in an era where these type of managers are harder to come by.
What's been your favorite moment as a soccer coach?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been around special moments and memorable wins. While I was coaching with Evolution FC in the 2014-15 State Cup, State Division semifinal, my U12 team played in a horrible rainstorm up in Napa but beat our rival from the Barcelona Academy (now DeAnza South) 2-0 with timely goals and a reserve keeper to earn a trip to the final. That same tournament we also beat a Mill Valley team in the quarterfinal that had outplayed us even though we held an early 1-0 lead. When they finally equalized with minutes left and were still relishing their chances in extra time, we immediately answered when a guest player from a younger team somehow beat two defenders and the keeper to get a winner in the final seconds. He told me later his younger team had lost their State Cup run on penalties, and there was “no way he was going to let that happen again.” That player is now a freshman at UHS where I'm the assistant varsity coach and I really look forward to working with him again. You can do anything with determination like that.
But, honestly, it’s not the big matches I recall the most; it’s those where my team simply takes it to another level and earn a glimpse of their collective potential. There's plenty of examples but I’d probably just pick a tournament game from what I think was the year before the State Cup mentioned above. It wasn’t for a trophy but just one of those games when everything came together. The boys were playing a very good San Juan Lightning team that hadn’t lost more than one game in over a year and we'd just completed a sort of lousy, low-energy warm-up. And then the boys went out and won 7-0. Nothing could go wrong. Players were combining and ripping through their opponent like they were not even there. Every shot seemed to bend ridiculously and rifle into the net. I recall turning to the guys on the bench and apologizing about not knowing when I could get them into the match because, as I put it, we were watching “pure magic” on the field. As a coach, those are exactly the moments you’re always chasing after.
SFEA Partners with Dr. James Chen, Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist MD to Support Academy Players
The San Francisco Elite Academy (SFEA) is delighted to announce a partnership with James L Chen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in San Francisco. Dr. Chen, a medical provider within the Sutter Health network, will accommodate SFEA players with a sports injury when making an appointment for a medical consultation and guarantee an appointment within 24 – 48 hours of calling Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.
Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in San Francisco provides acute and chronic injury treatment, complete Orthopedic care, concussion evaluation and management with on site x-ray and ultrasound available. Dr. Chen earned his medical degree from the University of California Davis and completed his residency at the University of Hawaii Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. In addition, he completed a sports medicine, arthroscopy, knee and shoulder fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, where he is an Assistant Clinical Professor. Dr. Chen is also the Fellowship Director for the San Francisco Sports Medicine Fellowship.
If an SFEA player would like an appointment, you may book an appointment online at www.aosportsmed.com, e-mail the clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415.900.3000. You may also contact Dr. Chen’s assistant directly or via text message at 415.481.3000, and be certain to mention that you are an San Francisco Elite Academy family, the name and birth-date of the injured athlete as well as the nature of the injury, and they will assist you scheduling an appointment. Finally, please contact your insurance company directly for questions about your coverage or billing.
“We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Chen to provide an added layer of support for players in our program that need of medical help. Just like Dr. Chen, the San Francisco Elite Academy believes in looking out for players and providing the best environment possible," said Joe Dugan, President of SFEA.
To read more about Dr. Chen you may visit: http://www.cpmc.org/dr-james-chen.html
Beginning this Friday, the San Francisco Elite Academy will hold six FREE "Elite Training" clinics for youth soccer players, boys and girls, born between 2009 and 2005.
The program was conceived in conjunction with the San Francisco Vikings Soccer Club who generously facilitated the use of the new soccer field at Paul Goode in the Presidio to support this SFEA program. The San Francisco Elite academy will provide the first 80 players that register (enrollment is capped) expert coaching in technical development, an Elite Training t-shirt, and postcard evaluation at the end of the program. Each Elite Training clinic will be led by Tom Atencio, USSF "A" License and SFEA Director of Player and Coaching Development, and include 4-5 other seasoned coaches, including Deejae Johnson (USSF A), Kurt Devlin (USSF A), Jeff Wilson (USSF A), and others.
"The goal of the Elite Training program is to better serve youth soccer players looking for some extra time training, said Chris Flanagan, SFEA's Director of Soccer Operations. "In addition, we wanted the clinics to involve our senior staff as well as other, local top coaches who we're delighted to work with in what is the perfect setting at Paul Goode."
Per Norcal and city playing rules, all players currently registered with a club should seek the permission of their Director of Coaching before registering. The registration link is available to those clubs that have pre-approval from their DOCs as well as interested individuals who contact SFEA about signing up.
SF ELITE ACADEMY CLUB NIGHT IS NEXT MONDAY NIGHT!
No SFEA teams will be practicing on Monday 3/6 so that all players and families may attend.
This is an important get-together with updates and information, and we also hope to welcome some new Academy players and families as well.
When: Monday March 6, 2017
Where: St. Stephens School, Donworth Hall
What: Presentations, Brief Team Meetings, Updates and More.
• Food & non-acoholic drinks will be served
• Mandatory for all coaches, players & members
5:45pm - 6:15pm - Check In
5:45pm - 7pm - Tacos + Non-Acoholic Drinks Served
6pm – 6:45pm - Coaches Meetings with their Spring Teams + QA*
*New Players and Familes encouraged to participate and also seek out their fall coach during what wil be an extended Q&A.
7pm-8pm Club Presentation
IN THIS ISSUE:
People often ask, “How is the Elite Academy different than other clubs?” I love this question. It shows the questioner cares about our values and approach to player development. I begin to answer by pointing to our four program pillars: high-level coaching, excellent private fields, the opportunity to face the best competition, and access for all. I also tend to speak about our core values (and have done so in this column before): respect, excellence, perseverance and community. But what I really love about the question is it gives me the opportunity to talk about another critical component of the Academy program--our methodology.
Simply put, methodology is how we teach and develop players in order to prepare them for the next level. The beauty of a program like ours is the ability to support talent development without being bogged down by the demands of running a huge number of youth teams across recreational and competitive levels.
We've developed a learning-centric program that focuses on the player, how the player learns, and what the player needs to be successful.
We are thus able to take a fresh, modern approach designed specifically for the elite player, and we do so at a critical time in their development path. To that end, we’ve developed a unique learning-centric program that focuses on the player, how that player learns, and what that player needs to be successful.
Our methodology promotes soccer play where all eleven players utilize divergent and convergent thinking to recognize patterns and possibilities at game-speed. Our training sessions promote a logical progression of exercises that move from warm-up to game-like play in order to construct the conditions under which players will need to perform in order to create and execute solutions to attacking and defending problems. And we emphasize a learner-based model in these sessions, which develops a player's ability to react to cues and triggers that help simplify the overall complexity of the game. Again, the goal is for our players to recognize possibilities at game-speed. Our methodology promotes a dynamic and engaging training environment that allows our players to be pushed and have fun, while they are also unconsciously training their thinking and physical responses to work in harmony.
The fact is that too many soccer programs fall into the trap of embracing, whether purposely or not, a coach-centric perspective. This is the kind of environment where coaches equate learning with players doing what their told to generate team results. A crude example would be a coach asking a defensive player to always kick the ball long down the sideline so that the team’s fast winger can run behind and try to score. Such a tactic may be effective at winning a few games but is highly detrimental to player development. When you start, like the Academy does, from the perspective of the learner, things change both for the player and for the program. In short, at the Academy we seek to develop players and create a consistent culture to support teams (see Nick's terrific column below); and, from there, the results more or less take care of themselves.
Joe Dugan, Academy President
Few things are as critically important but habitually overlooked in the development of a team as team culture. It’s one of those difficult qualities to define, but when you see it you know it immediately. Every team has a culture but not all cultures are beneficial to the goals of the team. You can either shape culture or roll the dice and let it shape itself, but either way your team will have one.
As a coach, the critical thing is shaping a culture that works for your team. Start by establishing that “the team” is another form of family. Let players know they’ll always be a part of something special where they are respected, safe, and put in a position to grow. New players should be welcomed on the field; their parents welcomed on the sidelines. And, as a coach, you should strive to find a role for everyone, a way for every person involved to contribute to the success of the group. Even the smallest of roles reinforces a critical sense of belonging and contribution to the team-family concept.
Also, it's important to realize that team-building activities are a critical component in the process of building a team/family culture. Sure, you can pay an ex-Navy Seal to lead your team on a 10-day survival course into the mountains, but it doesn’t have to be so daunting to achieve team building. Take advantage of the small opportunities to get your players together away from practice or games. Play a different sport together, attend an event or game, do a service project, hold a pizza party. The list can go on and on. The important piece is that you’re creating a space where the players can get to know one another better, can improve communication, and can build trust and improve their social skills.
In addition, the coach must remember to model the same core values that they want displayed in the team. For example, a coach can’t spend the entire match screaming at the official and then expect a culture of respect. Embrace the importance of small things like shaking hands before and after a training session. It sets a certain tone and shapes a respective atmosphere. And if a coach wants an organized practice, well then he or she needs to present an organized classroom. Get to training early, have the right equipment and a plan, lay out the session quickly and explain exercises in a way that makes sense and eliminates lost time.
Next, keep in minds that routines and traditions play a powerful role in reinforcing the type of culture you want to create. One way to achieve this is to use the phrase “this is how we do things here”. The helps define key tenets of the team culture. For example, if it’s a core value to field a team that never gives up, then reinforce that mentality every chance you get by highlighting the right way to respond to inevitable setbacks.
Finally, realize that parents play a critical role in the culture of a team. Coaches should consider parents as allies in the common goal of developing an exemplary team experience. Open communication between coaches, players & parents is a first step. But also be sure to go to next level and clearly define expectations to one another, and then hold each other accountable to those expectation in a professional and constructive manner. Coaches need to communicate clearly and often in order to let the parents know what is going on and where the focus of the team is at in different phases of the team's journey.
All coaches have our favorite stories of badly behaved adults on the sidelines of youth sports, but the vast majority of the times those situations are avoidable with a strong enough team culture. A lot of human behavior is a response triggered by the environment we find ourselves in. If all of us—coaches, players, parents, and fans—do our part to make the youth sports environment a positive and enjoyable one, then we’re far more likely to be successful in the creation of a great team culture, and one that will eventually lead to success for our players both on and off the field.
Nick Lusson, U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director, SF Elite Academy
AROUND THE ACADEMY
Monday March 6th is Academy Club Night
Don't miss the chance to hear about all the exciting happenings at the Academy, meet with your fall coaches, as well as get to know new players and families! Our club night is an annual event not to be missed. Details below:
Academy Club Night
When: Monday March 6, 2017
Where: St. Stephens School, Donworth Hall
What: Presentations, Brief Team Meetings, Updates and More.
• Detailed agenda to follow
• Food & non-alcoholic drinks will be served
• Mandatory for all coaches, players & members. RSVP to your coach or via team using TeamSnap
Fall 2017 Coaching Lineups Announced
Teams heard this week about our new lineup of coaches for Fall 2017. We are delighted to present such an accomplished and highly-licensed group to lead our fall teams. We feel strongly we have the most professional staff available to San Francisco youth soccer players, and that the high quality of our coaches clearly separates our program as the one for the elite player.
We also understand that coaching changes can be of a concern to our players and parents, and we continue to seek an improved tryout and team formation schedule going forward. If you have concerns or comments please contact Tom Atencio, Director of Soccer Operations, at email@example.com
Academy Fall 2017 Coaches
2004 NPL – Paul Hart (USSF B)
2004 NorCal – Pinder Nijjar (USSF B)
2003 NPL – Jeff Wilson (USSF A), Jim Millinder—Asst. (USSF A)
2003 NorCal – Chelsea Davis (USSF D)
2002 NPL – Bobby Quinlan (USSF B)
2001 NPL – Pinder Nijjar (USSF B), Jeff Wilson—Asst. (USSF A)
'99/'00 NorCal – Chance Daniel (USSF C), Pinder Nijjar—Asst. (USSF B)
2006 USSDA – Bobby Quinlan (USSF B), Nick Lusson—Asst. (USSF A)
2004/2005 NorCal – Tom Atencio (USSF A)
2004 NPL - Nick Lusson (USSF A)
2003 NPL – Tom Atencio (USSF A)
2002 NPL – Mauricio Diaz De Leon (USSF C)
2001 NPL – Mauricio Diaz De Leon (USSF C)
'99/'00 NPL – Chris Flanagan (USSF C)
Update on Our Funding Campaign
To date, we've secured significant funding towards our goal of having a sustainable scholarship program, extra field space and an increase in coaching salaries to insure we have the most experienced and licensed staff available. Our funding campaign will truly support a San Francisco-based soccer opportunity for those deserving elite level soccer players, boys and girls, ages 10 & 11 and above. If you would like to participate in the campaign, we welcome your support at whatever level you’re comfortable. Please contact Joe Dugan for more details. And it's also worth mentioning that the San Francisco Elite Academy is an approved non-profit on the Benevity giving platform. Benevity is the global leader in online workplace giving solutions. If your company has a matching donation program, this is a great way to maximize donations to our non profit. check it out at www.benevity.org
Spring Training Dates & Times
The Academy did not receive its full allotment of city permits until the end of last week, meaning we've spent last weekend and the past few days planning our practice logistics with our coaches for spring, all the while knowing training starts next week. But, at last, we now have a workable spring training schedule for all teams. Everyone should check TeamSnap as your team's schedule will be updated by your team manager very soon.
Just before the end of the year, the Academy launched a new website at sfea.org. We hope you are using and enjoying the new site, and we look to expand its content and functionality in the months ahead. In addition, we've ramped our presence on social media and invite all players, parents, and members to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
ACADEMY COACHING PROFILE
1998 Boys Head Soccer Coach & Director of Soccer Operations, SF Elite Academy
What do you feel makes a great soccer coach?
The ability to observe the team and individuals, and then create training sessions that present game situations in order to promote good habits. The coaches abilities are truly tested when it comes to making the important and needed adjustments in training. The games are a simply a test of how well you've done in your training environment.
What is your soccer and/or player development philosophy?
The ball is round and is so all over the world. There are basic techniques and habits that have to be learned regardless of where you live--passing with all surfaces of the body, turning, receiving with all parts of the body, shooting with all parts of the body, vision, as well as the independent expressiveness of the individual player. These habits can be learned in many ways: pick up soccer, training, observation, culture, and self realization. Because there are so many ways to learn, having one universal philosophy to the world's game does not make sense. For me, the specific soccer culture and life style will help determine the proper philosophy for that specific place in the soccer world.
Why do you work with players at the SF Elite Academy?
Simply put, I'm here because I want to aid in the development of these players and this program. The SF Elite Academy has a very good foundational philosophy, and one that is ahead of its time in San Francisco. The program strives to provide all the resources necessary to maximize the individual player. These resources include coaching, injury prevention, sport psychology, college and national team exposure, extra training, a year-long calendar to keep the player in shape, engaged, and progressing toward his or her goals. With these resources and more that I hope to see get put in place, we are setting the table so that an individual and motivated player can take advantage of the program and achieve his or her soccer dream.
Who was/is your favorite soccer player?
Landon Donovan. He has been world class beginning with the U17 World Cup held in New Zealand where he won the tournament MVP/Golden Ball. His ability to run off the ball and make second and third runs are the quality that make him world class. He was more effective in various World Cup matches than many players considered world stars, scoring 5 goals in 12 caps, which is more than Ronaldo's 3 goals and equal to Messi's 5 goals.
Who was/is your favorite soccer coach?
Bruce Arena because of his ability to make adjustments to systems and personnel during a competition. Also, Bruce just has that special ability to motivate players. He's done it all, both in the World Cup and in the club setting. Everything he's touched at all levels of US Soccer has turned to gold and of course I'm wishing him the best with the U.S. Men's national team once again.
What's been your favorite moment as a soccer coach?
Winning a National Premier League Championships with players that I had in our program since they were 7 to 11 years old. It was truly special to see the excitement in those girls' eyes as the final whistle blew. Moreover that experience drove them to repeat the feat the following year. This also happens to be the 2017 class that was just ranked #11 in the nation by Top Drawer.
The SF Elite Academy
Our mission is to provide an elite level program for soccer players in San Francisco.