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Coaching Education

Summer Coaching Symposium Day 2

LIVERMORE — As more and more of the over 300 registered for NorCal Premier Soccer’s Summer Coaching Symposium arrived on the beautiful campus of Las Positas College, the first full day of the event kicked off with a series of clinicians that proved both diverse and excellent in their presentations.

The day started with a short presentation from Bret Simon, a coach at Alpine Strikers and instructor at the Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization focused on developing better athletes and better people through various resources.

Simon challenged the coaches to evaluate themselves and self reflect on their philosophies by asking questions like, “what is it like to be coached by me?”

Next up was Javier Lopez, a longtime veteran of the Mexican soccer game, the former Director of Real Madrid Academies in Mexico, and author of more than 40 Spanish language books regarding the game.

Just a few months after presenting a course to a number of coaches in Santa Rosa, Lopez returned to explain his philosophy of the game, which involves a more scientific approach towards developing your players.

“We talk a lot about the practical game, but for me, it’s the science that decides what’s best for the player and what they want to do on the field,” Lopez said through translator Jesus Mata, a NorCal PDP coach. “The objective is to form human beings and respect for the values that form them — and for the game itself.

“Of course winning is always an objective on the field, but winning as a person as well is important.”

As Lopez led coaches out for a field session, Dr. John Cone, the founder of the sports performance and injury prevention software company Fit For 90, and a former employee of both the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City.

Cone’s lecture focused on the reasoning behind decision making — the idea that every decision a coach makes must be deliberate.

“There has to be a method to the madness, there have to be things you can hang your hat on, saying I made this decision [for this reason],” Cone said. “There has to be a rational reason to make the decision…if you can’t defend your decisions, we’re always going to have a problem.”

And while Cone led a field session focusing on matching physical demands to specific training objectives, Paul Sapsford, the Women’s Coach for Las Positas College profoundly spoke about something very different: the idea of what he called a “fixed mentality.”

To explain the fixed mentality concept, Sapsford referenced Mindset by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who argued how success in essentially any field comes down to one’s mindset.

According to Sapsford, a player with a fixed mentality — the belief that one is born with natural talent and therefore doesn’t need to work to improve — is less likely to be successful.

“It’s crucial that we don’t communicate to younger players that hey, you’ve got immense natural talent,” Sapsford said. “That’s a mistake.”

Instead, Sapsford instructed coaches to encourage players to make mistakes and go outside of their comfort zone, using the following quote from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden to back up his example: “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win. The doer makes mistakes, and I want the doers on my team — players who made things happen. Players who are afraid to make mistakes generally do not take risks and do not make things happen.”

In closing, Sapsford then touched on the impact that the self-esteem movement has had on players, generally deciding that it wasn’t all that positive in developing people or players.

“We have to be careful in the way we communicate players — we have been somewhat misled by the self-esteem movement,” he said. “If we tell kids they’re wonderful, they’re amazing, they’re great, that will give kids confidence and that confidence will lead to better performance. But the thing I found about Dweck is that that actually creates a culture of entitlement.

“If you keep praising kids, they’re just going to keep expecting more and more praise.”

The coaches were then greeted with a true treat, as Mexico U-20 National Team Coach Marco Antonio Ruiz followed Sapsford, only arriving at the event shortly before his presentation as a last-minute addition.

While most of Ruiz’s lecture is confidential due to his association with the Mexican federation, he was able to show the audience members the entire methodology of the Mexican federation — from the youth level all the way up to the full national team.

“For us it’s important to develop their football capacities, technically and tactically, according to what we want to do in our game model and specific to position,” Ruiz said through Mata. “We also look to find players that have more than one position, who can play in multiple areas of the pitch but don’t alter the way we play.”

Lastly, acclaimed author and member of the San Francisco Soccer community, Po Bronson took to the stage to speak about the subject of technology in sports and what the future of it could possibly bring.

“The athlete’s brain is the new frontier, not just from the physiological perspective, but really from a perspective of actually hacking the brain,” the author of The Science of Winning and Losing said.

Bronson and his like-minded team constantly crunch numbers in order to better understand the way sports work.

An example he used was that of the penalty kick. According to Bronson, a shooter under normal conditions makes his shot around 85 percent of the time.

But if the penalty comes in a shootout when a successful penalty will win the team the game, the number jumps to a 92 percent success rate. Conversely, if the shooter has to make it to not lose, it falls to just 62 percent.

Bronson went on to explore other possible, relatively attainable technologies such as that in preventing injury or stimulating the brain to improve performance, before bowing out to applause, just as each clinician before him had.

Check back tomorrow for updates on another packed day, which includes a field session from Ruiz, presentations from Stanford Men’s Soccer Coach Jeremy Gunn, and set piece lessons from goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek, widely regarded as the very best goalkeeper coach in the world, and more.