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Q&A: TOVO Academy Founder and CEO Todd Beane

Note: NorCal Premier Soccer regularly sits down with an influential figure in the youth soccer landscape to pick their brain about a variety of different topics that are relevant in the current soccer environment in the United States. For this edition we spoke with TOVO Academy Founder and CEO Todd Beane. As a player Beane starred for Dartmouth College before playing in the USISL before he returned the game as a coach, earning a USSF “A” License while coaching at both the college and professional levels. Beane now runs the TOVO Academy in Barcelona and is a regular at coaching education events in Northern California and the rest of the United States. His book, “Clear Coaching: Harness Clarity to Drive Development,” was released in December. It can be found here.

NorCal: How did you fall in love with soccer?

Beane: I actually fell in love with ice hockey before soccer. I lived in New Hampshire and when the ponds would freeze we were off to skate.  It was in elementary school that I started playing soccer. Back then, there was not much of an agenda regarding youth soccer, so I played for fun with friends not knowing that I would spend so many years competing in the sport.

NorCal: In your book you say that you’ve been lucky to do what you love for a living…what attracted you to coaching/educating and why do you love it so much?

Beane: My first summer job as a teenager was to serve as a counselor at Camp Belknap on Lake Winnipesaukee. Forty years later, I am still a camp counselor. Whether you teach literature or soccer, you are an educator responsible for maximizing the potential of young people. To me that is a noble endeavor and one that continues to inspire me.

NorCal: You worked with Johan Cruyff, arguably the most influential person in the history of soccer, for over a decade. What did you learn from him and how do you carry on his teachings today?

Beane: As a person, I learned of his commitment to a romantic ideal that sport can shape a community and even a country. As a professional, I learned of the importance of intelligence, skill and character at all levels of the game.  For Johan, sport was to be enjoyed thoroughly by the players and the fans. The greater the joy, the greater the value of the match. At times, we can complicate the game with politics and power struggles. I created TOVO Academy Barcelona as a sanctuary of pure development. We like to have what we call “serious fun.” We train to the ideals of a visionary and we do so adhering to sound pedagogical practices. To quote Johan, “We must seek joy and inspiration as much in training as in competition.”  I think that is an ideal worth living by as a coach of student athletes.

NorCal: Other than Cruyff, who are some of the biggest influencers in your coaching philosophies and what from them do you try to pass on?

Beane: I think we all tend to be a product of all those who took the time to nurture us. From Jack Wilson, my high school coach, I learned to laugh and to be present. From Bobby Clark, my coach at Dartmouth College, I learned how to build comradery among players. From Johan Cruyff, I learned to see football through a unique lens. From Pep Guardiola, I learned to remain committed to my vision and to honor those that shaped me. And of course, I will read anything from philosophy, art, science, and education that will help me hone my craft. Each of these leaders promoted learning and joy in their own way and I am dedicated to doing the same for the next generation.

NorCal: Can you give a brief description of your book and why coaches in Northern California might find it useful to their continued education?

Beane: My book, “Clear Coaching: Harness Clarity to Drive Development” is a coffee shop read. Maybe two coffees and two hours max. I consider it a book coaches can read before they get lost in the details of the daily grind. It sets out a four step process to frame a fruitful journey. To be honest, I wrote it to refine my thinking and to clarify my approach to leading others. I passed it along to some colleagues to read and they encouraged me to share my voice more publicly. So, we published the book in December of 2020. I hope coaches see it as a simple resource to construct their own coaching platform.

NorCal: Cruyff spoke about how difficult it was to accomplish simple things in soccer. Your book has some similar ideas — the philosophies seem simple but in reality they aren’t things the average coach necessarily thinks of. Why is that and how can we change that?

Beane: Cruyff was a master at seeing the details in the chaos. He could refine the game to its most simple elements. In many ways, I think all great writers, artists, and leaders do the same. They make  sense of our world by reducing complexity. For me, the task is to hone our craft of coaching by reducing it into a manageable process. By defining our ideal and training to that ideal, we make a pact and promise to our players. It is clear. It is noble. Furthermore, it is a shared commitment to modeling that ideal. Why is that so difficult? I think because we are human. We can complicate just about anything when we stray from our governing purpose. When we take the time to refine our approach, we become better at teaching the game we love. Prune, prune, prune. In the end, simplicity is complex enough.

NorCal: Anything else you’d like to add?

Beane: I want to welcome anyone from NorCal to join the conversation. None of us is as smart as all of us. We are building a global network of coaches eager to rethink and redesign talent development. We welcome all to the TOVO Family. Thanks for your questions and I wish everyone a safe and healthy 2021.