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What Do Good Teachers and Good Coaches Have in Common?

ISACS Convention Recap - Part 1

I was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. The next two posts of this series will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. The first talk compares the traits necessary to be a good coach and a good teacher and the second gives you a window into what good coaching should look like.

The theme of the second day of the convention was preparing our children for the Innovation Era. An era where traditional college degrees and information gained is not as important as creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, the ability to work collaboratively and desire or passion necessary to solve today’s challenges (Tony Wagner: Preparing Kids for the Innovation Era).

Those of you that have been following my blog, success at Locker Soccer Academy and my speaking endeavors (Steve’s TEDx Talk: Youth Sports: The Fast Lane to Retirement) will notice a similarity in childhood development philosophies. They are both based on a solid foundation of FUN.

This foundation inspires children to develop an intrinsic passion which in turn will lead to the proper development of traits and skills, like the ability to overcome adversity or resilience. These skills are developed through overcoming failures and are motivated from within rather than from outside forces like those seen in a traditional educational system.

So what do good teachers and good coaches have in common? They create an environment that is conducive to FUN, positive, challenging, honest, caring and strives for excellence. These environments may differ depending on the sport or the age group of children a teacher or a coach is tasked with leading, but the children should take away things such as improved decision-making skills, confidence, empathy, curiosity, and persistence. Great teachers and coaches help empower kids through play, inspiring passion, and developing purpose. These are the environments and traits necessary for our children to discover their real interests, understand the value of depth of knowledge rather than breadth, develop real skills and be able to adapt those skills to any situation.

The Knowledge Economy has come and gone and the Innovation Era, whether we like it or not it is upon us. It is our duty as teachers, coaches and parents to prepare our children to succeed.

- Steve Locker



Write a Blog

Write a blog. These aren’t words I have said in my head much, or maybe at all. What to write about, who would my audience be, what would I add to the conversation? I guess the question has always been why? And here, today, I answer with a why not?

About a month ago I made contact with Steve Locker through a Penn State connection. We sat down and so began our back and forth banter about the state of soccer, sports, and all that those two things encompass. That conversation turned into a bunch more and before I know it I’m introduced to Second Nature Sports and I’m on board.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you can never stop learning. I learn things every day and I aim to constantly put myself in environments that help me grow as a person. But before I dive head first into my beliefs, I’d like to share a bit about me.

A quick Google search and you can find mostly anything you need or want to know about my soccer playing and coaching career. But in an age where human connection is constantly on the back burner because of technology, I’ll ironically share via technology some things you won’t find through a Google search.

I was a very gifted soccer player from an early age. Mostly it just came natural to me, but I loved it. I had wonderful coaches as a youth player and didn’t even recognize this until later in my career. Once I made a commitment to invest more into MY OWN development my game took off to a level I wasn’t even aware existed. I constantly struggled with the idea of “fitting in” versus being myself, but was lucky enough to have a strong sense of confidence from within (a product I believe from my upbringing). Nothing made me happier than playing soccer. Well, maybe food… but that’s a whole other story.

I battled injuries, thankfully not too many major ones, but I have years of experience helping and encouraging teammates through some pretty physically demanding times. I’ve seen first hand what soccer demands on the human body and how with such early specialization players are “burning out” fast. I finally understood later in my career how nutrition, sleep, and recovery are paramount to success. And I can’t even dive into the psychology of it all without wanting to run out onto a field right now. I’ve had ups and downs and experienced a plethora of emotions tied to this beautiful game and through it all managed a pretty long career.

So in the end what does all this mean? A sense of perspective I hope. One that may help you in your coaching career or simply as a parent who wants to support their child play a sport they love.

- Christie Welsh

Christie Welsh's Bio:

Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies.

In 2005, Welsh helped the U.S. National Team capture the Algarve Cup, scoring a team best five goals, including a massive game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany in the finals. She was also named the Golden Boot Award winner as the top scorer of the tournament.

Welsh was the first Penn State player to earn NSCAA All-America honors in each of her four years, while leading her squad to an impressive four-straight Big Ten titles and two Final Four appearances from 1999-2002. She was the first player in conference history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year three consecutive seasons. On the field, Welsh set the Big Ten's record for goals (82), assists (52) and points (216), with her career points mark still a current record. She was recognized as the top collegiate player receiving both the Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. Player of the Year honors.

Following her collegiate career, Welsh was drafted second overall in the 2003 WUSA Draft by the New York Power. In her first season she led her team in scoring and would go on to play internationally for KIF Orebro of Sweden's Top Division in 2004. In 2005 she brought her talents to Olympique Lyonnaise of the French First Division.

Additionally, she helped the Washington Freedom to the 2005 W-League championship, and the NJ Wildcats to the 2007 title, garnering MVP honors along the way. She also played in the Women's Professional Soccer League, competing for both the LA Sol and St. Louis Athletica in 2009 and the Washington Freedom in 2010.

She hails from Massapequa, N.Y. where she led Massapequa High School to the 1997 New York State Championship and earned Parade All-American honors twice. In 1998 she was named the Gatorade Circle of Champions National High School Girls' Soccer Player of the Year and ended her high school career named an NSCAA All-American.



Decision Making


One of the beauties of soccer is that it is truly a “players” game, with coaching from the sidelines forbidden. Unfortunately at the youth level, this rule is never enforced. Unlike most of our sports though, soccer has very few stoppages, and this allows for players to make their own decisions during the flow of the game. Because of the environment that exists in soccer, it really is a wonderful avenue through which to develop children.

In a typical game, there is lots of running (fitness), change of direction and change of pace (agility and athleticism), decision making, risk taking, ball skill development, vision and spacial awareness, fakes and scheming, teamwork, and most importantly, fun! Kids can experience the ups and downs of sports in so many ways, and this is an excellent environment to learn how to deal with these challenges in a positive manner.

One of the best methods for developing good soccer players is to play “pick-up” soccer with friends. In this environment kids often play with children of varying ages, they play uninhibited because parents are usually not around to yell instructions and set demands, and they get to “own” the game on their terms.

Over the past weekend at a soccer tournament, I heard countless coaches directing their players non-stop. It was truly annoying. As I sat and quietly watched my team play on their own, I was complimented by many referees, field marshals, and opposing parents for my quiet demeanor. It didn’t hurt that our girls were able to relax and play some really beautiful soccer....on their terms. They were the champions of the weekend in every category!

All of us as parents would love for our children to grow up and be good decision makers. If we can have the patience and the fortitude to allow the process to work in youth sports, stop all of the screaming and yelling, our kids now have a better chance of learning these very important decision making skills.

Enjoy the games!

- Steve Locker



Participation Trophies


In this week's blog Steve Locker responds to the controversy surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers player, James Harrison, returning trophies that his children received for participation. You can read another authors take on the situation here.

Below is Steve's response:

When we examine the many issues with youth sports, providing “participation trophies” is just one small aspect of a bigger problem. Importantly, all of these smaller issues contribute not only to the demise of youth sports, but perhaps even more alarmingly, to the creation of overly dependent adults.

There is so much being said in the media about dysfunctional parental behavior, and while it is clearly a big problem, perhaps we are missing some of the bigger issues. For instance, parental decision making!  So much of what is wrong with youth sports can be tied directly to money. Simply stated, youth sports is big business. As it pertains to trophies, parents love seeing their offspring “light up” when they receive a trophy. Youth leagues, which are competing for this segment of a family’s budget, recognize what parents want. So they cater to the whims of parents, even though those desires are often off target.

This “cowering” to parental desires is contributing in more serious ways to our problems of keeping kids in sports. For instance, parents want to see their 4 & 5 year olds play “real” soccer. Guess what, 4 & 5 year olds aren’t capable of understanding real soccer. That’s why we have “beehive” soccer in this age group. While we THINK it looks cute, it’s actually quite boring to most kids, and a huge reason why 35% of children are quitting a sport each year. Imagine a typical 4-year-old chasing a ball around for 30 minutes every Saturday, only to touch it 3-4 times in that time period. Do you really think this is fun?

Youth leagues are not adequately supporting parent coaches, so when the coach runs out of ideas on what to do with ten 4-year-olds clamoring at his ankles, they resort to the easiest solution....let’s just play a game. Most us know that the simplest solutions are rarely the best solutions!

I do think that Harrison is on to something very important as he addresses this issue. We have created a generation of children who seem to get rewarded for just about everything they do. A pat on the back for the most mundane achievements. Combine these experiences with issues like grade inflation in our schools, and it’s no wonder that our children think of themselves as gifted. Sure, they are special to us, but in the bigger picture, they are not necessarily learning how to deal with adversity, develop a strong sense of self, or an attitude that focuses on work ethic and persistence. They don’t know how to create and to fail.

In her article called “Tough Enough?”, Martha Anne Tudor talks about the epidemic we are facing in our colleges with students who are so poorly prepared to deal with the reality of not being the best. “They are not learning the lesson they need most: how to become resilient adults.” Collegiate counseling centers are over-burdened all over the country.

In this same article, Furman University’s associate director of the Counseling Center shares, “Parents seem to expect that their children will become independent naturally, not realizing that their over-involvement and doting hamstring the process. Beyond the college years, there seems to also be a growing concern that many young adults have a difficult time coping with the notion that their bosses and not patting them on the back every time that they do something well. Their self-esteem is not that strong, and the counseling centers keep growing. Perhaps this trophy thing is more problematic than we want to think.

- Steve Locker

Read Martha Anne Tudor's article "Tough Enough?" published in the Fall 2014 issue of Furman Magazine found on page 33 here.



Thank you Brandi Chastain - The Value of Adversity


Steve Locker reacts to an excellent article (Brandi Chastain - Letter to My Younger Self ) that includes some insightful thoughts on how patience, humility, gratitude, teamwork and family were some of her keys to success in '99.  The article was published on July, 7th by The Players Tribune.

Steve's thoughts are below:

Thank you Brandi Chastain for this incredible lesson in the value of adversity in athletics. Ms. Chastain has magnificently created a hindsight view of her career and how she has grown and developed through the many bouts of adversity and setbacks that beset her career, and ultimately led her to become one of the most memorable soccer players in American sports.

Too often in today’s dysfunctional sports culture we look at adversity as a cause for quitting, instead of as the impetus for a greater level of persistence. “Oh, I’m not going to make the starting lineup on this team, I’ll just quit and transfer to a different team.” We often find ourselves seeking alternatives when our primary target doesn’t seem achievable. I recently heard one mom lament that her daughter would probably quit if she didn’t make the top JV team in her freshman year of high school volleyball.

There is a mentality afoot that wants nothing to do with paying the high price that true success commands. There are many reasons why so many kids are quitting sports at such young ages; crazy parents, even crazier coaches, too much competition, and on and on. The truly amazing benefits of sports doesn’t really start to take effect until we get older, and are forced to deal with the real setbacks that sports present. Mental toughness isn’t honed as a 9 or 10 year old. But with 75% of all kids quitting by the age of 13, these poor kids never get the opportunity to learn about “true” adversity.

There is a very valuable lesson to be learned here. Let’s make youth sports about fun, so that children have a chance to develop “real” passion. That way, when they begin to face adversity, they have a reason to see it through and not be so quick to walk away. Don’t bubble wrap your kid, and don’t be so quick to come to their rescue when things don’t go their way. Help them learn how to navigate their participation in a positive manner, and it will be really awesome to watch them overcome defeat.

-Steve Locker