Sunday, May 28, 2017

"What is a Soccer Club?"

By:  Jeff Gross

Assistant Coach at UNC-Greensboro

 What is a soccer club? Who is the club? What does the club do?

These are commonly asked questions, and depending on whom you ask you will get a different answer from each person. If you ask a world soccer enthusiast, they will tell you it is a place of pride. If you ask an American soccer enthusiast, they will tell you it is a theory in our country. If you ask the average soccer parent, they will tell you they do not know or it is the team's name across the front of the jersey.

This will be an attempt to clarify the definition and purpose of a true soccer club in our country. Moreover, this will help you to understand what our soccer club is all about and the overall philosophy. First, a definition.

A soccer club is a community oriented organization whose purpose is to develop individual and team soccer excellence in order to compete at the highest level each individual and team is capable. Wow! That can have many different meanings and it certainly will have many different perceptions. What does that mean to you or the soccer player running around in your house?

Club's, organized with the right intentions, can provide your player with more than you or they know about; soccer training, reputation, resources, preparation for high school/college soccer, coaching education, parent education and much more. The funny thing is, none of that is as important as a feeling one should get if you are in a "club." A feeling you say, yes a feeling. A feeling of belonging, community, pride -- a feeling to seek excellence, a feeling of being a part of something bigger than oneself or that of one team.

We are a group of teams, coaches, parents, board members, and soccer enthusiasts who are out for one thing. The Players! For the players are the ones who play this great game; thus, they are "the game." It is interesting to think of the players as "the game" because when I was younger I learned one valuable thing, that I can never be bigger than the game! We as club will not seek the glory of the game; however, we will seek that the game allow the players to feel the glory of their efforts, as each player attempts to live up the game's demands.

The "demands of the game" you say? Yes. The players have to live up to the demands of the game as opposed to living up the demands a coach or parent puts on a player. See, coaches and parents cannot duplicate the pressure or expectations that the game place on its players. For players make up the game, they are the source that sets the standard; the standard for skill level, for soccer knowledge, and for setting the level of competition.

So in that light, since the players set the standard, then each player has to live up to that the game puts in front of them. A club can serve as a powerful tool for players. As a club we organize for the purpose of allowing the players to meet the demands of the game. Although the players are the game there is another group of people who also assist the game in creating the highest expectations. The coaches. See we as coaches (who keep the game in perspective) put the players learning and self-reliance in front of team results. Why? Because when the players are self-reliant in their decision making and skill development then they have all the tools to win more games, in their time, then they will lose -- in the long run.

See it is not the coaches who put a whistle around their neck and demand that the player call him/her "Coach Johnson." The coaches that assist the game are the ones who live and breathe the game, the "soccer junkies" as I like to call them. The soccer junkies put the players first and always respect that the game is so humbling and so beautiful when it is the player's game. They are not only after team results as so many "coaches" are; they are after the game being played at a higher level. Hence, when the game is played at a higher level, the victories are in abundance, both in theory and in results.

In order for the game to be played at a higher level, each player needs to be self-reliant in their quest to excel. Players cannot wait for direction from a coach the instant they have the ball at their feet; that is too late! For the instant the ball is at their feet is the instant they have to defeat their opponent. If they know what their options are prior to receiving the ball, they will defeat their opponent. A coach and/or parent cannot see what each player sees as they are receiving a ball so how can we make their decisions for them? We cannot! It is that simple!

So how do we help them? We have to put our players in as many positions to let the game teach. It is often said that the greatest teacher of the game of soccer is the game itself. This requires that the players play and the coaches observe. When the players finish playing then the coaches can lend their observations to the players so that the players can reflect on their efforts. Reflection leads to wisdom and wisdom is one version of education.

Soccer education happens in two places: soccer training and soccer matches. Soccer training consists of team training, and the most important and impacting type of training, self-training. Each player who wishes to excel must seek time to train on their own, with a soccer ball, either in small groups of friends or in solitude. We as a club are defining these avenues for success with our players.

A club serves a greater purpose over that of an individual team or even the individual player. We work to keep the game in perspective and to keep our players in the right atmosphere to experience that same perspective. It is a question of community versus individual. So the question is not "What is a club?" Or "What does the club do?" The question is: "What will achieve greater results for our teams and individuals: we or me?"

We all know the answer!