Skip to content

Know How to Deliver What You Know (Execute)

May 4, 2011

“The best part of life is when your family becomes your friends and your friends become your family” — Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

I’ve been writing about each of the points from the list of Being an Expert as I tell the story of how the Plymouth Soccer Club went through some dramatic changes in 2010-2011. The phrase that just keeps coming up for me is Know What You Don’t Know, and believe me, I know that I don’t know a lot!

In fact, I know that I still don’t know what the hell I want to do! Every day for the past 4-5 weeks I’ve been on a search for a better contract or permanent job using my SAP and/or GuiXT skills. While the 100+ contacts I’ve had via resumes sent and emails/phone calls received, none have led to a single realistic interview. Even the GuiXT project in San Diego that seemed so promising hasn’t gotten back with me in over 2 weeks now.

Frustrating isn’t the only word for the situation. To say that I’m feeling a bit demoralized at the moment would also be an understatement. Not only am I questioning whether being in the SAP field is worth the effort, I’m questioning all that I think I know. At two other points in my past, I felt that I should get in to teaching. Both times, those plans were derailed by financial situations. This week, yet again, I feel that teaching or something related to an educational field is where I need to be. And, yet again, finances are a significant factor.

As related in my Tootsie Pop licking story, I know that I know soccer in terms of running a small youth club. In the 8 years that I was part of the club on a pseudo full-time basis, I was able to make a lot of positive impact and numerous changes that allowed for the club to grow toward the vision of Community, Camaraderie, Competition we had. I would talk about these three words so often that many people thought I was just plain crazy. I felt so strongly and deeply about the meaning of these three words that, as also noted in earlier posts, I missed out on far too many good consulting jobs that would have paid very well. I was delivering on what I felt was best for the club and its members more so than on what was best for me and my family. I know it showed my commitment, but it would be the changes that we executed that showed my expertise.

Forging relationships with club members — the players, parents, coaches and other Board members — would lead to meaningful friendships and strong feelings toward some. In some cases, these people felt like family. I knew that if I had an idea to share with many of them, they would tell me the truth and give me honest feedback on their thoughts. In many situations, my ideas would run wild and my ‘friends’ would say I’m going too far or too fast. In other situations, my ‘friends’ would embrace the idea and help me execute. On the other hand, there were several who would talk to others behind my back and not confront me honestly. Unfortunately, there are always more of the dishonest than honest in this world.

Most would say that a “true friendship” would have to be forged to truly allow for anyone to gain a full perspective of that other person’s thoughts and beliefs. Over the course of 8 years with the Plymouth Soccer Club, I forged these friendships with several people who I felt were close friends. On more occasions than I can remember, I’ve had meals with all of these people, had them over my home for various meetings and events and have gone on trips throughout the Midwest in our ongoing quest to experience great youth soccer games.

During that time, we had a new club Secretary and club Treasurer. Both of these people were “related” to me in terms of their sons playing for my teams.  My strong feelings toward both of their kids as strong-willed and important players for the teams led to what I thought was “true friendship” as their parent’s involvement with the club gradually increased

Ms. Secretary had been a team Manager for my Reign ’95 Gold team (her son playing on that team) and eventually became Board of Directors Secretary. I nominated her as I had been impressed with her organizational abilities during an earlier Policies & Procedures project I lead and no one else seemed up for the challenge of all the changes I foresaw. We worked closely on that Policy & Procedure document so that the club would finally have some type of formal documentation to give coaches and parents. While it wasn’t perfect and still has improvement challenges, it was a start.

Ms. Secretary and I communicated so often, that one parent (Coach A from the Learn From Mistakes story) commented that he thought she had more interest in me than just her son’s coach and the club President. For some, it’s not good to befriend a single mom who also has certain physical attributes that are easily noticeable on a youth soccer sideline! Obviously, that was so far removed from the truth, thankfully!

At that same time, I was also headstrong on finding someone with an Accounting background who could really help us standardize a club budget and properly manage the financial requirements of a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. I only knew Mr. Treasurer in passing as a team parent, but when his wife mentioned that he was a CPA I jumped at the opportunity to get him involved as the new Treasurer. His son is one of the toughest, likeable kids I’ve ever coached. He always worked hard to improve his skills and always took direction well. I wish I could say the same about his father.

I first met Mr. VP at East Middle School while running a training session for the U8 Recreational team I was coaching. It was the spring of 2002 shortly after it had been determined I would be coaching for the club the next Fall. It was only in passing because he and another coach were working with a team of boys a couple of years older than mine. I doubt he even remembers those encounters, but I do. Over the next few years, we got to know each other more and I gained the utmost respect for him. He went through some difficult personal times separate from all this but has always had the most amazing upbeat personality throughout it all.

About 4 months in to my Executive Committee duties, it had been determined that I would take over both the U9 boys teams and that the other coach would be moved to an older boys team as we felt he would be better suited coaching older ages. It was also determined that another club coach would be let go. I really don’t recall why he was being let go, but it most certainly had something to do with other Board members not liking him, his coaching style and possibly a lot of parent complaints. Whatever the reason was, I was “volun-told” to break the news to him. Apparently, this was because I was the Secretary and one of my duties was to “facilitate communications” with coaches. I think of that now and realize how misguided that was. What about the Director of Coaching or President? Why did they not take on the responsibility? I think I was just looking to show that I could do something worthwhile. Anyway, the next day, I called and we argued about the decision. He eventually moved on and technically poached the majority of the team to another club. Pretty standard stuff back in those days.

About a year later, maybe even two, it was my turn again to break the same type of news to my friend, Mr. VP, that he would no longer be the coach of his boys’ team! This time, though, I’d change my tactics. I’d break the news in person, not on the phone as I had apparently learned my lesson from the previous experience. It was probably a Thursday or Friday morning in June or July as the family packed up for a Florida vacation. I called Mr. VP to make sure he was home and to say I wanted to stop by. Although it was the morning, Mr. VP was home because he had been laid off about a month prior! In a short 3 minute conversation at his front door, I became the world’s most heartless friend by informing Mr. VP that he wouldn’t be the Head Coach for the team anymore, but we wanted him to remain as the team Manager to ensure a smooth transition with players and parents. Although I think he accepted it fairly well, I really don’t know how he dealt with it privately. Although there are other details to his personal life that I certainly can’t divulge here, I’m certain it was very tough for him.

Almost immediately after this “firing”, we wanted to put a particular coach in Mr. VP’s place. There is a story we like to tell at club events when Mr. VP lofts up the line that “Glenn fired me”. This particular replacement coach had been observed at several random training sessions and was respected as a very good referee. He had accepted our invitation to become the new coach. However, one little fact that we were unaware of was that his living arrangements apparently were what you might call “roughing it.” He had a trailer that he pulled behind a mini-van, which is exactly what he pulled up with at the first team training where he was to be introduced as the new coach for next year. He then spent something like 90 minutes just talking to the players about how great he was and what he was going to do for the team. Imagine 15 12-year old boys standing around for this, while simultaneously Mr. VP is standing a few yards away with the parents explaining he’s been “fired!” I wasn’t there, nor were any of the other Board members, but Mr. VP’s telling is a classic. Needless to say, that coach was not retained and Mr. VP was able to help manage the team for a few more years with the help of a few younger, more technically skilled soccer players. Unfortunately, the majority of the boys eventually went to other clubs at U14 and the Plymouth team disbanded, however, Mr. VP always remained loyal to the club. During the same time, he volunteered to help coordinate the yearly uniform purchases and even became Board of Directors Vice President in, I think, 2005.

The final person of significance to introduce here is Coach B.

I think it was Winter 2004 and I was playing indoor soccer with a group of guys I had met through a parent. On that team was a tough, competitive player, TS. Over a few months, I learned that he had an interest in becoming a Director of Coaching or at least help out leading a club. Our club President and I met with him on a few occasions to “feel him out” but eventually the process led us to “hiring” another person for that position. Oh, that person just happened to be the “aggressive and overly confident coach” I mentioned in Tootsie Pop. He rears his head again later.

TS eventually became a coach for us and unfortunately became a headache we had to deal with in a very formal way a few years later. He did however, introduce me to Coach B. Ironically, although I completely disagreed with TS’s coaching methods and manner in which he dealt with his girls’ team, I still run in to him at games and events and we talk a lot. We even played on the same Over-40 Men’s team for a few years. He’s a different personality that just takes time getting used to, but I think he means well and will do anything for his kids.

Coach B will also do almost anything for his kids. As a single father of two, I got to know him while playing for that same Men’s team and we quickly became close friends. When it was revealed that he was originally from the Boston, MA area, and me being from New Hampshire, we really connected. At that time, I was also coaching my younger son’s teams (two Reign ’97 teams, plus 3 Reign ’95 teams!) so I was able to take Coach B’s youngest son on to the team. His oldest son was playing for another club, but eventually came to play for my older boys’ team as well. It was somewhat of a family affair as his boys would do things with mine and we clicked as if long-lost brothers. His demeanor on and off the field meshed with the Reign ’97 team I had developed and his skills were by far some of the best that I knew. When he took over that age group for the U11 year, I knew it was one of the best decisions the club had ever made, not to mention someone I could trust would develop my younger son, too.

In the three-year period that Coach B coached the Reign ’97 team, he took on additional club training responsibilities and we often bounced general ideas off each other. In my Executive Committee roles, I relied on his opinions since he had a great soccer foundation and passion for the game. I could see that he also cared for many of the players and that he embraced our core values of “Community, Camaraderie, Competition.”

More ironic than the fact that we are both from the East Coast is the fact that my wife and I also helped arrange the date between he and Ms. Secretary in October of 2008 that led to them being a regular couple. (In early 2011, I heard they weren’t together, but that’s not been confirmed.)

It was this group — Mr. VP, Ms. Secretary, Mr. Treasurer and me — along with Coach B, our new Director of Coaching, Coach S, and several other professional soccer coaches we had hired, who would lead the charge for many big changes in the direction of Community, Camaraderie, Competition. It meant that we would talk almost daily and meet regularly to hash out new ideas and plans for the club. I meant the change of club name (formerly “Kicks” and “Lightning” to “Plymouth Reign”), a unified club logo (although forced to change after two years due to the English Premier League threatening legal action), professional coaches paid stipends that allowed them to focus on just coaching (they will be introduced later), and actual plans toward our having our own playing/training fields and developing players and teams toward more competitive play in higher levels throughout the youth soccer system.

The most significant change made was in the Spring of 2008 when we introduced the 50-50 funded club whereby parents would pay the club about 50% of their fees and their respective teams the other 50%. The numbers weren’t exactly 50%, but the idea was that it would be the first step toward paying all fees directly to the club. For as long as PSC had been operational, parents would pay fees to their team. In some cases, the volunteer coach might get to keep some of that fee while in most cases all of  the money went toward 100% of the fees the team was responsible for — registration fees, tournaments, uniforms, etc. As things changed, many coaches were introducing team trainers, thus increasing the individual fees. Because everyone did things differently, parents were paying anywhere between $200 – $1000 per player and their experiences varied just as broadly. Some were getting huge bargains for the low fees and some were getting ripped off at the high fee. However, in the grand scheme of things, these rates were still huge value compared to other clubs in the area regularly charging upward of $2500-$3000 per player.

Then in the Spring of 2009, we made the switch to a fully funded club, with only voluntary fees being paid through the teams. Again, the idea was to level off the fees for everyone no matter what the perceived quality of coaching or level of play was. It stopped everyone from comparing what they paid for similar services.

In this some 2008-2009 time period, the club introduced two very significant changes that I, to this day, feel separates PSC from every other club out there.

1) We introduced something called IPD — Individual Player Development. This was regular, daily training for all club players no matter what age or skill level. As the program evolved, we tried different time slots and tried to keep it age appropriate. On many days in the Spring of 2008, we’d have maybe 1-2 kids, too often none, show up and work individually with the assigned trainer. It was frustrating at first, but I know my own son benefited greatly!

2) During the indoor season of 2008-2009, we introduced “Futsal”. Although the same skills were being taught as at IPD, parents and players saw something different. We had two regular coaches run those daily Futsal trainings who, unfortunately, are no longer with PSC (Mike Apple and Kyt Selaidopoulos), but the time and effort they put in to making those 20-30 players who came out religiously (my son’s included) set a foundation that can’t be replicated! I also organized a mini-tournament for our teams that many players loved and gave away t-shirts to “Champion” teams (age group based). Having just completed the 3rd indoor season of Futsal, I’d like to think that the PSC program has been copied by other programs as I regularly see them doing now what we were doing 3 years ago!

While both of these important changes helped improve the skills of so many players, fired up their competitiveness and contributed to a strong feeling of camaraderie, we faced significant financial challenges. You might say that we were firing on all cylinders, executing great programs for the members and learning more and more as we went. However, the financial challenges were keeping us from executing the big plans we all had in mind. It was coming to a point where we wanted to make commitments toward these big plans, where we wanted to present ideas so that we could work toward Delivering on Promises Made About What We Did Not Know.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: