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.