The Rift (Part 2)

by Tony Earp, Senior Director of Programming SuperKick/TeamZone

What is Best for a Player
This is one of the easiest things for a coach and parent to work together on, but it is probably the most common thing a coach and parent dispute. The coach has a good perspective on what is best for a player in regards to their soccer development, and the parent has a good perspective on what is best for their child in regards to their total development.

I will tell parents that it is absurd for me to believe that I know their child better than they do after a couple practices or an entire season. Parents have great insight into their children that a coach can use to help decide what is best for a player on and off the soccer field.

This is an area where coaches MUST rely on information from parents to make informed decisions about how they will coach a child. There are too many things a coach will never know, unless they ask the parent, which can play a significant impact how a child learns and performs on the soccer field. Coaches will often make the costly mistake of making assumptions about a player and making decisions based on those assumptions. Before the season begins, coaches should learn about the kids by having meetings with the parents to learn more about each player. This will make the coach and the parents allies in deciding what is best for a child during the season. Coaches who choose to refuse to engage parents in these types of discussions will miss out on a very important and valuable resource to performing their job.

Often the difference in expectations between how often a coach communicates and what the coach communicates to the parents can cause conflict. Likewise, how often parents communicate and what the parents communicate to the coach can light a fire as well. Before the season begins, the coach and parents must decide on how, when, and what they will communicate between each other throughout the season.

A coach needs to set up a communication plan with the parents before the season begins. This should include email updates, team meetings, phone calls, and other ways to get information to the parents about team /individual performances and information about team events. The parents should know when the communication will happen and what type of information they will receive. On the other side, the parents need to know the best way to communicate with the coach. When is the best time to reach the coach? Should they call, e-mail, or text the coach?

The parents need to understand the boundaries of communication. What will the coach discuss? When will the coach discuss it? For example, a coach may set the expectation that he or she will never discuss another player with a parent or that a player must communicate an issue with the coach first before the parent addresses it with the coach. Some coaches ask parents to wait 24 hours before talking to them about a game.

The communication plan with the parents needs to keep them informed about what is going on with the team and make it easy to reach the coach when necessary. A communication plan that shuts parents out and limits communication is a recipe for disaster. As long as the expectations are set and clearly understood by everyone, it will keep an open line of communication between the coach and parents throughout the season. Personally, as a coach, I would rather be accused of over communicating versus under communicating during a season.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at


Two basketball videos you won’t believe

Want to see the world’s worst free-throw ever? How about an eleven year-old prodigy, Julian Newman, who is already tearing it up in high school?

Snow delay turns into snow play

It doesn’t happen often in baseball – a snow delay. But when it does and the players are college students well, let’s just say that once they realize they’re surrounded by snowballs a whole new game breaks out.

Six Objectives for Mental Preparation

By John Ellsworth

I have been using mental preparation strategies for my clients for many years.  There are many places a mental preparation strategy can and will work.  Students use them to prepare for a critical exam. Athletes use them to prepare for a game or performance, and business executives can use them before they deliver a very important presentation.

Athletes use them in a number of different situations for pre-event, pre-practice, or pre-execution preparation for a specific skill whether it be a team sports or an individual sport.  It’s important to remember the overall aim of the mental preparation is to create a functional pre-game mindset that can carry you through competition. The overall goal is to achieve a focused, confident and trusting mindset prior to entering the competitive environment.  Below are a few primary objectives you will want to accomplish with your mental preparation.

1. KISS  – Keep the preparation very simple and specific.  The most simple objective of mental preparation is to to get your mind ready to compete and clear of distractions.  You have practiced all week long, have strengthened your confidence by working efficiently on the skills areas that require the most refinement.

2. Believing in one’s ability and skills.  It’s extremely important you go into competition with the right mindset, the right objectives, and without excessively high expectations for performance.  Confidence is by far the most critical aspect of the mental preparation.  Practice is where you develop the basic foundation for confidence. It’s about work ethic, and having the right practice plan focused on skills improvement.  Practice like you play and play like you practice.  There should be little difference between the two.

3. Execution, execution, execution.  The only things the athlete has absolute control are attitude, behavior and execution.  The first two are critical because they can make or break execution because execution is so much a mental game.  I incorporate focus drills, and exercises into everything I do with athletes and include tools to be used for refocusing when the focus gets cloudy.

4. Coping with the ups and downs.  I believe to adequately cope with adversity requires having a certain level of confidence as a prerequsite. Everyone is different so everyone knows where their breaking point is. Adversity can affect composure, confidence and focus (the 3 C’s as I call them).  It’s important to have a few generic coping tools for the  unforeseen situations.  Recovery from adversity, and the rate at which the recovery process takes place will directly affect an athletes performance and how they see themselves on the team or in the bigger picture.

5. Stick to the game plan.  I encourage and teach each athlete I work with to have a game plan for each and every competition.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should state intentions, and be focused on objectives for performance.  I did not say focus on outcomes!  The outcome is not what competition is about it’s more about having a basic understanding of how you plan to execute, and how you see yourself in the execution process.

6. Know your role.  As human beings we have many different roles in life. We are athletes, fathers, teachers, coaches, and wear many other hats. The key here is to be able to separate those roles from one another and be centered in the present when we are executing in whatever role.   There is a strategy I teach my client’s that helps them completely separate the role of the athlete from the other roles. Do well at the role when you are in that role, and prepare each day for the time when you enter the role of the athlete.

On some level every athlete aspires to these objectives some really never discuss them, write them down, put them into action and track their success against their objectives.  One of the things I give athletes is a system to first establish the objectives, and then to monitor and track them and their success.

One of the first things we do is to identify the challenges, roadblocks, thoughts, and feelings that support a belief system that is limited in scope and depth.  We also take the athlete through a process of recovery and re-engineer their belief system to support a level of consistent and repetitive success. If you believe you “can’t” based on past experience you will learn to dump the self-fulfilling prophecy and get back on a path of “I can do this.”

For more information about this article contact or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

Wonder if his players like him?

A day after posting about a former Big Ten basketball coach, we coincidentally stumbled upon this video of Minnesota Basketball Coach Tubby Smith celebrating his team’s recent overtime win by dancing in the locker room.

Bob Knight’s letter to Landon Turner

For those who do not know the story of Landon Turner, here’s a quick synopsis. He played for Knight three years and in the summer before his senior season and a certain NBA future, was involved in a traffic accident that left him paralyzed. Knight made him a permanent part of the Indiana Basketball family and below is a letter Knight gave to Turner on the evening of his induction into the Indiana Hall of Fame. Say or think what you will about Knight, but this letter beautifully sums up the relationship he has with many of his players.

For over two years as a member of our basketball team, you were a monumental pain in the ass. You were a kid with enormous talent — oh, and you had some great moments that helped us win some games and championships, the NIT final game was one of those. But times like that only made more frustrating all of those much more frequent times when you didn’t come close to playing to your abilities in a consistent way.
I had just about given up on you as a player who could be counted on to play his best in every game. Then, on Feb. 12, 1981, in our 23rd game of your junior year, we were playing Northwestern at home. Steve Downing and I were going to tell your great parents after the game that we no longer thought you could help our team. Then, with nine minutes to go in that Northwestern game with us about 30 points ahead, I finally put you in the game — and you immediately missed a block-out and gave up a basket. Of course I took you out of the game, but for some reason I don’t understand I put you right back in. For the next 8 and a half minutes you did it — you played to the full extent of your abilities, and it was a joy to watch.
After the game, Steve and I met with your Dad and Mother. Our original plan had been to draft a letter that would make you eligible for the NBA Draft. After the way you had played, before we brought up the letter I asked you a question: “Landon, what keeps you from playing that way all the time?” You said, “I don’t know, Coach, but I would like the chance to try.”
From our next practice through the final game in the NCAA tournament, you were the best player in the country. Our team could not and would not have won the national championship without the way you played. You did a complete turn-around, not only as a player but also as a student. I have never seen anyone make that complete a change in his approach to life.
Then came your summertime accident on the way to King’s Island. Only through great will and determination did you even survive. Your life was changed forever, and you would never experience what you were going to be as a basketball player — the best in the country.
But what you did become, Landon, is the most amazing human being — the greatest example of dealing with and overcoming adversity — that I have ever known. There is no player of all the great, great kids that I have coached that I respect more than you.
My favorite moment as a coach was seeing you become the player I thought you could be. My worst moment as a coach was learning that you would not have a senior season.
And you also gave me my most unforgettable and meaningful moment on a basketball court. It was at one of our Senior Days. You had come down to be part of it — I always appreciated that — and you were in your wheelchair on the court behind me when on the spur of the moment I asked all the former IU players in the stands that day to stand. Then I thought of you, looked back, and needled you as always: “Landon, aren’t you going to stand up?”
You gave me that great big smile and said, “Coach, I am standing, in my heart.”
That, I’ll never forget.
Congratulations for this wonderful recognition and honor, Landon. You deserve to be up on that wall, as a continuing reminder of a great young basketball player whose future changed in a minute and — after a lot of tears and family time, I’m sure — just said, “Well, that’s the way it’s going to be. I’ll make the best of it.”
And you have.

One hundred things we love about sports

The LA Times’ Chris Erskine’s column listing the 100 (or 99 anyway) things we love about sports is a fun read. Might be a little Southern California biased, but enjoyable even if you’re not in So. Cal.