When A Coach Promises Scholarships

By Tony Earp

Run. No, seriously, run as fast as you can in the other direction. Like a late night TV ad on how you can get rich quick if you follow a simple 3 step plan, you NEED to change the channel. One of the most ridiculous things I hear around youth sports is a coach promising a better chance to receive a scholarship to play in college if a player plays or trains with that “coach.” What is even more frustrating is that some parents actually believe it. As a player who did receive a scholarship to play in college, I want to say that NO COACH, I EVER PLAYED FOR OR TRAINED WITH, EVER PROMISED ME, ANYTHING! Scholarships are not given. They are earned. Great coaches know that, and I had great coaches. That is why none of them EVER talked about scholarships. They only talked about what I could do to get better. Why? Because that is all that matters.

First, receiving a scholarship to play college sports is very rare compared to the number of kids who play sports. If you’re curious, it is around 2% (according to CBS sports). Some stats may vary some, but I think you get the idea. There is about a 98% chance your child will not receive a scholarship to play college sports. Your kid should be focused on academics to get themselves into college. Sports is not going to be the vehicle that gets them there.

With this in mind, it seems ludicrous for a coach, trainer, or organization to dangle scholarships as a selling point for their program. If they are going to lie to people, why stop there? How about they offer a winning lottery ticket or some ocean front property in Kansas? In terms of trying to sell their ability as a coach, and to help a player improve, those type of “selling points” mean just as much. In other words, they tell you nothing about what your child should expect when playing and training with that coach. A scholarship promise just tells you that the coach is pretty confident in his ability to make promises he or she cannot keep.

Scholarships are earned by the player. They are earned over years of hard work and dedication. It is something that is mainly influenced by the player. It does not matter how good a coach is if the player is not willing to put in the time and effort to train that is required to play at a higher level. In terms of earning a scholarship to play, that is a completely different commitment level, effort, and sometimes….luck (right place, right time) that goes way beyond the amount of work needed to just play at the college level.

A player has never earned a scholarship because he trained or played with me. Any player who I have coached who earned a scholarship did not get a scholarship because of me. I have never used a player who has earned a scholarship as a sales point for other players in an attempt to try to convince them to play or train with me. Why? Simply, it is wrong. Doing that completely takes credit away from the person who earned the scholarship, THE PLAYER, not the coach. It is trying to boost yourself up on some else’s achievements.

Coaches should be proud of their players’ accomplishments, celebrate with them, be happy for them, and continue to help them achieve great things, but they should never take credit for it. That is not what great coaches do. Great coaches do not want the accolades. They do not need the spotlight. They work hard to put their players’ goals and ambitions in front of their own, and when their players achieve great things, they let those kids have the stage to themselves. Although coaches play a big part in a player’s development, we are only one of MANY guiding forces and factors that lead kids down their chosen path.

If it was just the coach, if the coach was really the only key difference maker, than every player who worked with a certain coach would all rise to nearly the same level. But, we know that is not the case. Even in the most prestigious training academies around the world, where they have tried to get development down to a science, most players never make it all the way through to the end.

In the end, it is very disingenuous to use scholarships and hopes of playing in college as a recruiting tool or selling point for any coach, team, or program. It is simply something NO ONE can deliver on. What you can sell is who you are as coach, how you train, your core beliefs about player development, and who you are as a person. These are the only things any coach can control, and the only thing a coach can ever promise a kid who plays for them.

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 tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

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Cues (Part 1 of 2)

By Tony Earp

If you ask veteran high level players why they did something on the field, you may not get the answer you would expect. Often high level athletes do a lot of things out of “instinct” or, as I like to say, out of habit. It is hard for the player to explain why or how it was done. It is something that has been learned over time, and at this point, is done on a subconscious level from meaningful repetitive training. As it is said, “Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent.” OK, but what IS learned over the many hours of training that produces these fast and efficient high level skill movements from elite players? I’ll give you a cue…

A cue is a “response-producing stimulus, often not consciously perceived, that results in a specific behavioral response.” During games, the play happens so fast that many of the decisions a soccer player makes, the smaller and frequent decisions, are done without a formal thought process. Many coaches are good at telling players how to do things on the field, but tend to leave out the cues that help explain the why and when. These cues are what high level players use to “make decisions” so quickly. So… when do players learn these cues and how do coaches help this process?

Let’s use individual defending as an example. Often, you will hear coaches tell players to “not dive in” or “you have to tackle that ball.” But why and when? Why should the player not try to tackle or tackle the ball during the game? Well, there are cues that players need to learn from an early age to help answer those questions.

Some cues for a player to try to win, or tackle the ball, are a bad receiving touch by the player receiving the ball, an under-weighted (softly hit) pass, the attacking player is facing their own goal, the attacking player’s head is down, or the player takes too big of a touch on the dribble (just to name a few). Now, with practice and reinforcement from an early age, the hope is these cues would tell players when to try to win the ball. When the cue is recognized, the body reacts accordingly allowing the defender to win the ball quickly. In the pace of a game, if this has to be thought about, it will take too long for the player to make the decision.

On the flip side, the player should not try to tackle the ball if the player’s touch allows them to bring the ball under control quickly, are facing the defender’s goal, the player’s head is up, and the attacker has a lot of space and time. Trying to tackle the ball at these moments can be costly for a defender. These cues would tell the defender to try to get in a good defensive position to limit the players options going forward, try to make play predictable for other defenders, and try to delay the attacking player from going forward or playing a penetrating ball forward.

Again, the decision whether to tackle the ball or not needs to become a reaction to these cues so the player can react in “real time” of the game. If a coach or teammate is telling a player to tackle the ball or not to dive in, normally it is already way too late.

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 tearp@superkickcolumbus.com