I am the Executive Director of STAR Soccer Club & run Predator Prep Goal Scoring Academy. In my 26 years of coaching I have seen a change in the culture of youth sports that is concerning. We seem to be sacrificing the long term success of children for short term results on the field. I have witnessed too many coaches, clubs, and parents mistreat children under the guise of “development” or “results”. We need to recognize that some day the game will end for all but a few children and when it does what kind of legacy have we left them that will affect them beyond the game?
I have recently made it my mission to shift the youth sport culture back to a more child-centered and Beyond the Game approach. I have presented TEDx talks, been on more than a dozen podcasts, appeared on Sirius XMFC, and have been asked to write for numerous magazines and websites to help coaches, clubs and parents learn to develop the whole person.
I am a member of Changing the Game Project Team as a speaker, am finishing a book titled “What’s Your Echo”, and co-host the Cynical Foul podcast. All my efforts are aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of mental and verbal abuse we use in the name of athlete development, the traumas of overuse and specialization in young athletes, and the ERR we commit in youth sports (we do things for Ego, Revenue, or Resume and not the sake of the children).
I have also recently launched a training and speaking program geared toward helping coaches, clubs, and parents change their own club culture through a multi-disciplinary approach to educating youth athletes. If we treated our coaches like professionals and armed them with the knowledge and resources available to teachers, psychologists, doctors, they would be better prepared to coach our children more effectively. I focus on offering some of the intangible skills that allow coaches to empower champions beyond the game, not just in it. These skills include communication, building trust, creating mental toughness and resiliency, ethics, listening skills, developing champion culture, managing growth mindsets, team dynamics, and developing a proper “classroom” for empowering fearless, intrinsically motivated problem-solvers.
We have an epidemic of nearly 70% of youth athletes leaving sports by age 15 because they no longer have fun and do not like their coaches. Sports should be a vehicle for developing life skills, building confidence, creating fun learning environments, and conveying character traits and values that allow children to succeed at whatever it is they choose to do in life.Coaches may have the greatest sphere of influence on our children of anyone, and thus, we should provide them with the resources to and hold them accountable for empowering our children to succeed when the game ends. That is my mission in life.
Before all this, I played a little soccer myself. My greatest claims to fame are being a member of the 1992 Davidson College NCAA Division 1 Semi-Finalist team and spending my summers as cannon fodder…err I mean a training partner for one of the greatest goal scorers of all time; Michelle Akers. In fact, I probably took a few shots on Skye back in the day when we were both traveling the country doing soccer camps. She most likely stopped all my shots.