In Episode 4 of How Soccer Explains Leadership, Amanda Cromwell, Head Coach of UCLA Women’s Soccer, Former National Team member and coach, former pro footballer, and Olympic Gold Medalist, talks with Phil about vulnerability, recruiting, pursuing...
In Episode 4 of How Soccer Explains Leadership, Amanda Cromwell, Head Coach of UCLA Women’s Soccer, Former National Team member and coach, former pro footballer, and Olympic Gold Medalist, talks with Phil about vulnerability, recruiting, pursuing justice, and infectious influence. More specifically, she covers:
Resources and Links from this Episode
Audio with subtitles available on our YouTube channel (video not available due to technical difficulties)
UCLA Women’s Soccer website & Social – https://uclabruins.com/sports/womens-soccer & @uclawsoccer
Amanda on Social -- @CromwellUCLA (Twitter) & @coach_cromwell (IG)
Corey Close on IG and Twitter --@coachcoriclose
How Soccer Explains Leadership Facebook Group -- https://www.facebook.com/groups/howsoccerexplainsleadership
“All or Nothing: Manchester City” – Amazon Prime
“All or Nothing: Tottenham” – Amazon Prime
“All of Notiong: All Blacks” – Amazon Prime
“The Social Dilemma” – Netflix
“Take the Ball, Pass the Ball” -- Netflix
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, by Franklin Foer
Failing Forward, by John Maxwell
Think Orphan Podcast “Two Perspectives on Abortion” Episode -- https://thinkorphan.com/2018/08/21/episode-110/
Phil: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the How Soccer Explains Leadership Podcast. Today I have an old friend, Amanda Cromwell with me. She is the head coach of the women's soccer team at UCLA and a whole lot more than that too, which we'll get into today. Amanda, how are you doing?
Amanda: [00:00:18] I'm good. It's been quite an interesting couple of months, but we're back on the field training, so I'm excited and it's good to see you and tell the family hello.
Phil: [00:00:26] Yep. I definitely will do that. but folks out there, you're not wondering about that right now. What you're wondering about is what Amanda has to say about this intersection of life leadership and the beautiful game that we get to talk about on this show.
And this is really cool for me because Amanda and I have been talking about this for a while. we got a lot of stories that are not for this episode either. But one of the cool things is a little known fact about this show is that this started as a book idea. And Amanda and I actually talked about maybe collaborating on that in some way a few years ago.
I can still remember that conversation. But, it has now taken the form of a podcast. So those of you listening out there, you have the benefit of us changing the format. And if you're a reader, I apologize for not putting that book together, but they are sometimes harder than it seems to put together.
So enough about that. Amanda, can you share your story with our audience? Some of them may know you're UCLA soccer coach. Some of them may know that you have a history playing, but can you just put the pieces together and share how you got to be where you are today?
Amanda: [00:01:31] Yeah, sure. I have quite a long history with the game, from playing, starting to play when I was like five, six years old. Playing at the University of Virginia. I grew up in Northern Virginia played club there and high school and did all basketball as well. But, basically, made the National Team when I was in college, in 90 was my first camp.
And, I was on the national team for seven, eight years. I, played pro after I had gotten into coaching and the pro league started. The first one, the WUSA. So I played three years of pro, where our paths crossed. And, now I've been coaching over 20 years in the college game, most recently at UCLA for seven years I was at the University of Central Florida for 14, And, the University of Maryland Baltimore County for two seasons.
Phil: [00:02:24] And, as you said, you've played for a lot of pretty amazing teams. without going into all the details about that, one of the things we know and, I know cause we've talked about a lot of it, but you've played with, you've been coached by you've coached with some pretty amazing people
from all over the world over the course of your career. I don't know if it's a little known fact or a well-known fact, but you've played with both of the players of the century, the women players of the century in the 20th century with Sun Wen and Michelle Akers, Homare Sawa, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, whole lot of other players, but those are just naming a few. But in all your years of playing and coaching, who are one or two of the best leaders that you've played with and, or coached with, and really what set them apart from the rest?
Amanda: [00:03:06] When you ask that question, so many names and coaches come, not only players, teammates, but also coaches, come to mind. But I'll start with some teammates. Some of my captains on the national team, Carla Overbeck, Julie Foudy.
They were both very different leaders, but led in very effective ways. Carla was probably one of the most respected players out there just with how even keel she was. Obviously a great player, but there was really about just what she brought to the table as a teammate, very trustworthy.
You can just rely on her and know you could go to her for anything. She would have your back, Foudy was a leader more and a little more vocal and gregarious and had that spirit and passion that the team fed off of. And, they both led by example. They were always just determined, dedicated teammates.
Got to throw Michelle Akers in there as one of the leaders by example. Just, put everything on the line. Talk about sacrificing for your teammates and willing to do anything, that was Michelle, for sure. And then, some of the coaches, I was able to coach with Tony DiCicco.
I was an assistant of his on the U 20 national team. SoI not only was coached by him, but I also coached with him. And, he was an incredible leader. The way he brought his players together in a way that was very family like, and. he made sure that you knew he cared about you. None of these people were perfect in any way, but, I think they knew that too, they would apologize for their imperfections and, they knew there were things that they could do better and they were always seeking to do better.
And Tony was, it was really a player's coach and that's who I tried to emulate. And so as my college coach, Lauren Gregg, who also was an assistant on the National Team. I think they both really tried to tap into what it's like for the player in the moment and be those kinds of coaches, for us. I think, through the years I've had so many influences, whether it's teammates or opponents, and coaches that I've taken the good when I could get it. And, I tried to hopefully have developed my own leadership style, in a way that reflects what they added to my life.
Phil: [00:05:18] A couple of the things that you talked about there that really stuck out to me was really the leaders are the ones who are getting to know you, are loyal, are wanting to understand who you are and how they can work with you and hopefully get the best out of you.
Whether it's the coach, doing it from that position or from the captains and other leaders. , What I heard, what I understood was really with the coaches that you were talking about with the players that you were talking about, the common, one of the common threads, the common themes was really that they were seeking to understand you and your teammates so that they could connect and help to bring the best out of you and to be there for you. Is that right?
Amanda: [00:05:55] Yeah, for sure. It's all about connection to me. Your players need to know that you care about them. They need to know that it's about more than just wins and losses. It's about life after. And relationships after. Developing them into the women they're going to be, and we have them, especially in the college game, a really important time of their lives, where they're really growing and searching and seeking who they are and communication and leadership and just teaching them the values of what it means to be a great teammate is something that's gonna last with them for their whole life within their families and their careers. In any relationship really.
Phil: [00:06:36] So with that, it's a similar question, but a little different.
So what are some of the life and leadership lessons that you have learned playing or coaching from the game itself? One of the ideas here is your work is important even if nobody is watching. So movement off the ball is critical in the game, even though most people don't even see it.
So that's really a life lesson as well that the work that you're doing may not ever be seen, but it's still critical to teamwork. What are some of, maybe one or two of those lessons that you have learned from the game that you have used in your leadership or you've seen others use in their leadership.
Amanda: [00:07:10] Well, I come from the era of the national team when we didn't have all of these camps. And we had to do a lot of on our own. We had to train on our own way to make sure we were fit. And this was before we had a pro league. So, I think the mindset of what are you doing when people aren't watching is really important and how do you, and it's not just about training; how you're conducting yourself or you, how you're living your life.
what are your habits? Are you sleeping? Well, you're eating well. You're taking care of yourself. Are you being a good human being? Are you giving back to the community? these are all things that we did away from the spotlight for so many years. Like they, we didn't have. people necessarily, standing over us telling us what to do every second.
We didn't have all of these community service opportunities thrown at our feet, but they do now, which is great. Would they resources, but to seek out a lot of our own environments, a lot of different ways. And so to me, it's about figuring out, in your mind, having that determination and that dedication and the desire.
Do it on your yourself, no matter who's watching it, no matter what kind of accolades you get or don't get, it's not about that. It's about, being a part of the community, being the best teammate can be being the best friend or daughter or whatever it might be. so along the way, I think that was really important to me.
And this morning in training, there's like little things that there's little lessons every day, I think. In training sessions, that you can pull into, leadership opportunities. And, whether it's, one of our student athletes who wasn't, diligent about making her mentor meeting, so we had to, you make a point of certain things and it's well, but this, these things not being done by one player, it brings down the whole team because it reflects on the whole team, it reflects on me as a coach. So that's what I think when you're part of a team it's really important that you are really representing a whole group of people that you are representing a university and these young players, they get it but sometimes it's a little slow in their rookie year. but they just have to figure it out and we'll hopefully be helping them figure it out.
Phil: [00:09:16] So Amanda, with that I've heard in the past, you talking about the importance of the players needing to face adversity, needing to really, to fail in some ways and needing to overcome that failure and adversity.
Why is that so important for the players and how does that prepare them for life after soccer?
Amanda: [00:09:35] Well, I think they're going to have adversity in their life is it's silly to think they're not. So, if they can have it before they get to college and, parents can, let them be okay to, you know, if they struggled with a class and they don't figure it out.
If they have a bad game or a coach yelled at him in a certain way, that is maybe a little hurtful. sometimes let them go discuss things with the coach. I think a lot of times, parents wanting to protect their children, don't let them figure it out on their own and deal with adversity and cause in college and I got them, I don't talk to parents in college.
I talked to the student athletes, so they have to be good, really good communicators. And. We'd have to, really guide them and dealing with these opportunities for growth and, whether it's not playing, not starting, not traveling. there's whole gamut of things are my struggles with academics or relationships.
And, I think the more they can, learn to overcome, they get confident and they'll be ready for anything that comes their way in the future. so I think it would be to set them up for success and if they don't learn how to deal with adversity, I think we set them up for failure.
Phil: [00:10:46] And I think that's, absolutely a leadership principle. there's an entire book that John Maxwell wrote on it called Failing Forward. And really the idea that we typically do learn more from our failings and our successes, we typically do learn more from our losses than our wins.
It's not that we wish to lose, obviously, but it seems to be, those are the things that we remember, the lessons from those a bit more than the high of the win. is that something you've seen in your coaching and your playing?
Amanda: [00:11:12] I've been watching a lot of documentaries and things on different teams and.
Especially in soccer and one of the coaches, I think it was Klopp. . Oh yeah. I think it was Clark was a little interview he had with, Arlo White and it was actually that they lost 7-2 recently. I don't remember, but it was a crazy game. And he was talking about that defeat. And he said, losing sometimes can be a better lesson and better for growth sometime then the actual win of the game.
He's like, you don't want it to necessarily be seven too, but you can learn a lot, to get better from a loss. And, and that's what the hope is. if you don't get better from a loss then there was no. growth in that moment. And you missed an opportunity for growth. And I think how we talk with our team a little bit about the R factor, the how you respond R factor.
You know, you had some event plus R equals the outcome. so the RF factor. we control our response to any event. So we have, injuries in soccer all the time. Like we're one of the most injured sports and in college, I think after football. so you have to, figure it out with your response, to like what, set your plan.
what's your goal to get back? how are we going to help you? What are the resources you have? And, they really do have to be determined on setting Their mindset and their direction, to, achieve that goal and that's all about the R factor.
Phil: [00:12:33] Alex Ferguson also had a quote on that about the fact that really how you respond to the losing is what makes up a winner. And I think that is basically what you're talking about there, and that happens before. The event you choose you're preparing for those events and how you respond.
your instinct, likely not be the right response in those really dire situations. And I remember actually one and I'd love for you to talk about it in that team, during the national championships. And my final actually texted, you have to think that the next day about it, when there was a mistake in the semi-final.
that, I think it was a pass back. I believe it was two world cup players. And a pass back. And why don't you take it from there?
Amanda: [00:13:18] it was, I think all Kemper is now a member of our national team and Katelyn Rolan who's U 20 world cup player, pro. Goalkeeper. and Abby just had a soft backpack and it was one of those that you see, they had a really fast forward run onto it.
And Kaitlin was, dead in the water, She had no chance. And, it was just one of those you watch as a coach and, their forward runs onto it and, you know, takes her first touch around Kaitlin and scores into an open goal.
And as a coach, you're like, Oh, that, and I can't remember how much time was left in the hat. And it was, it was a bit of time for sure. It wasn't like. The end, but, it was one of those feelings you have. You're like, we cannot lose a game like that. that was my initial thought. There's just no way if we lose w well the, you know, because they'd beat us, not because we make a mistake, that's what it was like.
Oh, that gut wrenching feeling. And, that team, it was a really good team. We had a lot of quality players, but so is that Virginia team. And we just kept fighting and doing our thing. I changed formations to be a little bit more aggressive and our right back who then was at the time later in the game pushed up to right midfield.
Cause we were in a three, five, two, she ended up scoring the goal that tied it up like five minutes ago. great. I think it would have passed by Sarah Kilian. I can see it vividly in my mind and, and Allie, Courtney hall finishes it and, we ended up going to PKS and I actually have a great story about the peak is I don't know if I've ever told you that about this.
So this is a great leadership moment too, because one of our leaders, we know you do PKG practice them. the whole month of folk season, right? And so you have it down. Everyone's like you have your top five, you have the order, you have your next five, you have their order. Well, one of our seniors, one of our captains decides during the game of, the overtime, she doesn't want to take a kick a penalty and she's freaking out a little bit.
And so we're like where I had no idea where this was coming from, but if it's like, okay, she actually thought she had to come off the field because college rules are different. Anyone can take a penalty, you don't have to be on the field. So she was going, I think she was picking, she thought she had to be off the field and someone had to come on because she didn't want to be in the top 10 at that point, which was, it was surprising to us because she was playing well and calm, it looked like.
She was confident, but. so you can imagine one of your leaders senior, captain besides that. And so you have to, as a coach, you have to exude confidence in that decision and make, let them know it's no big deal. And, all right. You know, I remember bringing them together and like, okay, we need someone else that can kind of almost being excited about it because someone gets an opportunity who wants to be in the top five, and it was like silence for like, it felt like it was silent for 25 seconds. I think it was silent, maybe two and a half seconds. cause I was like, Oh no. And I got inside. I was dying. Cause I was like, okay, someone has to step up here. And Sam Mewis, who's another national team player points to Rosie white.
Who's another national team player. She plays from New Zealand. She turns to Rosie white and says Rosie does. So Rosie did say she wanted it. Sam, you have to set it for her. And I love that moment. And because Sam was one of our leaders, so it was Rosie, the most juniors, awesome players, individuals, but just Sam knew Rosie just needed to be empowered in that moment.
And Rosie is like, okay. so I think someone believing in her gave her the. confidence and the, so guess it not only was this, the player that dropped out in the top five shoes, the fifth kicker, which you know, is really important spot to be in, because it can come down to you making a kick to keep it going or win it, or, not to lose it.
So Rosie, God bless her that fifth kicker, she made that penalty to win it for us. so it was just one of those amazing, Stories really, and circumstances that it was just cool to see the leadership. Now you think I was like, Oh, a leader kind of, fail you or not follow through it. I'm like, no, that's not, it's just a change of circumstances.
And we had someone step up and that's what life is. Sometimes you need to step up for each other all the time. And whatever reason, and the last thing I want as a coach is someone to take a penalty. They didn't want it. It's not mentally. So I'm glad she had the confidence to say she didn't want it.
She wasn't confident for whatever reason. And I'd much rather have her tell me that then I'd go up there and miss cause she's not confident. So that was an awesome, that was an awesome semifinal, for a lot of reasons.
Phil: [00:17:54] Yeah, I can actually, I can tell her to remember that. I mean, I didn't know that story, but I can just remember that game.
That was, it was that's so cool. Like you said, sometimes leadership looks different then you'd expect it sometimes that humility and that, even though you could say, I want the glory, but if you're not there, that's the leadership to say. No, it's not.
It's about the team. It's about the team right now, and I'm not my head's not in right now for whatever reason. one of the cool things though, that I remember too, is going back to that goal, that Dahlkemper and Rowland right there, that mix up was the way that Rowland reacted to it.
When she just picked up the ball. Kicked it back to midfield and what it appeared. I don't know what she was actually saying, but it would, it appeared to me as a former keeper was what I tried to do, which was encouraged the team. Hey guys, we can do this. not railing on Dahlkemper. Not saying I can't believe you did that.
as Beck. And I say, when you shank a shot, you don't need someone telling you to shank the shot. You know, you shank the shot. But she just, appeared to be leading that team from the back to say, Hey guys, we got this, let's do it. Is that, am I right on that? Is that what she was doing?
Amanda: [00:18:54] I've never asked her what she said or what was said between them. But I do remember that there was no issue. There was this, there was confidence, but like, Oh, I can't believe that happened, but like, all right, let's kick it off and shove it down their throat.
I just remember having that kind of feeling. even that feeling when we went to penalties. Cause I think we knew at that time we had gained the momentum and I think we were the better team. I think we were a better team in the finals in deserve that championship. And I remember a friend making a comment to me when they're panning the sideline right before the penalties are about to start and I'm looking at one of my coaches, I'm laughing.
I was just so it's kind of like, well, Hey, there we go. And like, you know, penalties are such a crap shoot that. It's just like, I, I was relaxed in a sense because it's like, well, obviously inside you have the nerves and everything, but my friend had made a comment as like, it's so cool.
Cause I got to share your team saw that they saw that you were. Relaxed and, just believed in them. And I was like, don't know exactly what someone said to me or what I said that was funny, but I just kinda, I just remember having that feeling of well, it's out of my hands now.
Like we've done it, we can do it's, the players just gotta go up there and do what they practice for the last month. And they'll be fine. So I got, I just had confidence that we'd be fine and that Caitlin would step up. and I think she wanted that chance to step up because, she knew Abby was bummed about the mistakes.
So Katelyn stepping up too was, it was a huge thing and goalkeepers have that chance. And what a awesome opportunity for them To do their thing. And, I, I'm always just so impressed in those moments because it's such a hard situation when penalties and, you just have to, the keepers just have that confidence and Katelyn did in that moment.
Phil: [00:20:37] That's absolutely right. And I think that's another leadership principle that, you talked about there too, which is, as a leader to prepare your team to say, Hey guys, we've done all we can and now we're ready. So let's get to it, and then that gives that confidence that, what we've done the best that we can do.
And even with my kids, I'm like, Hey, have you done all you can do? If you haven't, then that's a problem. Let's do more. But if you have then go out there and do what you can do and have some fun and enjoy the moment, right. So as you mentioned earlier, as we talked about even talking about that play, there's two national team players.
there were other national team players, as you mentioned on that team, and you tend to get quite a few national team players on your teams. people want to come to UCLA, you're a great coach or a great program. people want to play there because of all of that. but with that, comes.
Some challenges and come some great things too. So what are some of those, things let's start with the challenges that you have with bringing together a team full of people who are really. unless they came from the same team, it's pretty good chance. They were the best player on the team that they played for right now.
They're coming together on another team. how are you able to bring them together? But what are some of those challenges that you faced as the coach of those all stars coming together?
Amanda: [00:21:52] Yeah. A lot of those players are used to being the star or the go-to player, scoring the most goals or getting the most minutes or whatever it is and their club environments.
And. they come to UCLA and every player has that, mentality for the most part. And, almost not everybody, but a lot of the players played youth national team and. we're part of world cups and, have goals to play for the full team and play pro. So you have a lot of strong personality.
Do you have a lot of, dedicated and, players with this bunch of passionate and desire? So, it is it, you have to figure out the balance of, letting the play with freedom. giving them some structure, and also, picking, making sure the leaders have room to lead.
And that was one of my, I think the hardest things for me, in the past actually always seems to center around, captains. Cause there's, Multiple players that could be either deserving or would be good captains. And sometimes the coaches see it differently than the players. And so just how to decide captains is a mistake.
One of the struggles of my careers, it's like, Oh God, there was one year. that it just completely blew up. it was, and it was a year after that really good class left. that the Abby and Sarah Killion and, Samuel was class that they were, the leaders in the captains came from there.
So we had a class that we're now, needed to be the leaders that some of them hadn't even played that much. because of the, this, how we were just so strong with upperclassmen. for my first two years at UCLA. so that was a really hard year. Just, having a player, not react well to not being a captain.
We were right in who should have been captain, but we, then, this there's certain things that came up that getting the players response was not good. And then the made the outcome. pretty poor and it set off things in motion for that season that just, it just spiraled down.
so that was a big learning moment for me and our staff. Just, what to do in certain moments, with players and their poor reactions and, there, I could go on and on about that season, that's probably a book in itself, but. I think the players being a part of that decision, is important with the captain.
I think that. sometimes it's even picking one, two or three captains, I can, that's a hard decision. but anyone has like a perfect solution out there for that. And I talked to other coaches about it too, and they say the same things if I had some issues with that, as well.
Phil: [00:24:26] what are the things that you absolutely have to have the indispensable qualities of those captains, that if you don't, if you don't see it, or if you see certain things that they do have that rule you out from being a captain, what are those non-negotiable factors?
Amanda: [00:24:42] I think what rules you out is selfish. Some selfishness will definitely rule you out. if you're selfish and he can't put the team first, and there's no way you can be a captain, the captains have to have that. Just, they will they'll bleed the blue and gold. The team is always first, no matter what they're willing to sacrifice and no one ever can question their work, rate their desire, their commitment to the team.
And we've had some fabulous Captains at UCLA, that fit that mold and some, ridiculously good captain. So I know what that is. We were trying to, we were trying to fit a player that we knew wanted to be that player into that mold and it didn't, didn't work .
Phil: [00:25:25] and on the flip side of that, as you said, the selfish, the selfish can be selfish and kind of do their own thing, or the selfish can be selfish and really be a virus on the team. And Assuming you've had viruses, on the team or a virus or one or two, but how can you, deal with the viruses? When do you know that, they just need to be cut loose.
How do you also identify that in the recruiting process? Because I think these are all things from soccer, but also for hiring in an organizations for, leaders really in any part of life, you have these issues. So how do you do with deal with that? Because you don't have much time in the recruiting process.
Amanda: [00:26:04] Yeah, I know in recruiting, we don't, we don't have as much time to talk to them, get to know them. I feel like, I have a pretty good read on. People in general, I can, I think kind of stiff that out. especially in recruiting. I also watch them on the field. I watched body language. I watch how they interact with their coach.
It's funny. Recruits don't think we pay that much attention. Sometimes I think the coaches are on the sidelines talking to each other, but I notice, I notice what they say to their teammates. I noticed what they say to the coaches and, The body language, if a ref makes a bad call. I know. And it's not that you can't react like I, and I'm sure I've had many reactions to, a ref in my day, but it's okay.
Do you react and move on and can you get over it quickly? and how do you then. lead your teammates. And, I definitely stay clear of some players because of parents. I hear on the sideline who was like, Oh, I don't want that because that's not going to be a, student athlete that has good mental health for us, if their parents are
like that. There's no way that's going to be good for us. So parents make sure you're well-behaved as well. But, I think Sometimes you do have, someone that is dealing with something and they lash out in certain ways. And that's, I think where you could get to the bottom line is like, why are they acting like this?
what's the core, reason what's going on because usually people, Generally speaking people are good and want to please you. And they want to. Be a good teammate, but every now and then you get, you do get the selfish ones and they might be selfish for the, compliment. there may be an only child or they had certain parenting that led them to be a little bit more selfish.
it hadn't been put through adversity, so. When something, they don't know how to respond well. And so that's when you see some things start to happen. And, as coaches, we try to in this situation, you want to try to over-communicate and really get to the core of something? we've had players go to counseling, that needed it, to deal with some stuff.
right now, especially in COVID times, I think more players than not, should be going to counseling. We shouldn't need to check in on mental health. we have, great program at UCLA, that they can, they have that resource to tap into. And, we need to make sure it's not seen as a negative thing.
It's a positive thing. Like everyone needs to talk to somebody and sometimes so whether it's talking to us or. Other teammates or, third party, parents, whatever it might be. we just want to try to help them work through whatever it is. and then grow like I've had players I've seen from their freshman year to graduating, but they were super selfish, but then they learn to be a good teammate.
They learn to, sacrifice and put others first and be servant leaders. And that's something that we've tried to. hammer home and it's just how are you serving your teammates? Is it all about, someone doing something for you? Or can you serve your teammates? Can we serve the community?
Can we serve other athletes and other teams? Can we go support them? There's a lot of things that we try to hammer home in that respect.
Phil: [00:29:02] I can remember conversations with you about some of your players and you say, man, if I can just get this one to, get that, if she's not selfish, she can be such a better player.
And then to watch the next year of her playing and seeing that somehow you got through to her. So these aren't just words I can tell with you. And it's something that, it's not just talk, you're walking the talk on this. And so I definitely encourage you coaches out there, different people out there to really listen to that as far as, rather than just cutting them loose to say, you know what, they're part of our team and there's a lot more there.
how can we unlock that? How can we help them to understand that they're so much better if they're not just that selfish player playing for themselves? but let's say the players aren't playing, and as we talked about, these are players who not only are expected to play are expecting to play, but they're, players who probably are maybe just a little bit lesser than in a lot of the cases.
And there's just happens to be a national team player on the team, or that happens to be somebody else who just for that game is. Better suited or whatever it may be. And you have that luxury as a coach, but these players, how do you keep them content? How do you keep them understanding that their role is still part of the team even if they're not on the field?
Amanda: [00:30:14] That's one of the hardest things, especially in the quality game, when we have the rosters of 30 plus sometimes. And, you might only have 22 travel, obviously 11 starters and. It really comes down to make them all, making them all feel valued in whatever their role may be.
And it's hard. It's, definitely easier said than done because coaches, a lot of times, especially in season, like head coaches have to focus maybe on the top 15 players, the ones that are going to be getting the most minutes. and when we split up and training, I might work with a certain group more.
And so we try to be mindful of making sure I do work with the other players and, making sure they feel like they have a chance to, travel there, a chance to break into the starting lineup. But, when they say, well, I didn't get my minutes, so I couldn't prove to you. I'm like, well, your minutes are during the week.
Your minutes are in training. So that's when you have to prove to me, that's when people earn. or maybe lose their starting position. It's not necessarily what's done in a game. that's, week to week there's a lot of variables that go into that, those decisions from a Friday, Sunday game or Thursday, Sunday game, but, it's really what they do during the week and how consistent they can be in their actions.
And also the ones that are coming in to watch the video, the ones that are really trying to help themselves, you want to help them more because you see them actually making a huge effort to then follow through with things you're telling them. And one of my pet peeves is the athlete comes in and asks, what can I do better?
just really general. And they know what they can do better. I love when athletes just come in and say, yeah, I know I haven't been tracking well defending that. I feel like I've been doing X, Y, and Z. what's going to make an impact on me getting more minutes, is if they can call out themselves a little bit on what it is, cause they know there's no way they don't know.
and so that general question of What can I do better? it just drives me nuts. well, one thing you can do better is come in and watch a video. If you really don't know, then come in and watch video. That's one thing you can do better. And then we can point it out to me. The things that I think you already know.
So sometimes you have to call out the athletes can be a little bit more in tune and realistic with what's going on in their environment.
Phil: [00:32:29] like you said, I think that there's a few layers to it, right? there's the players who are not playing because they're just not at that level.
But then there's the players who aren't playing because maybe they're not doing what they need to be doing. or like you said, they're not going and doing that extra film or the extra training, or just being out there and you see those and, like you said, you're watching. And whether they think it or not, you're watching or one of your assistants is watching. And then they're seeing, you're seeing those things that are the intangibles that will make that difference in that game. When you need the player to do what we talked about earlier today, right. That you need that player to step up at that time and you need to know they're going to be there.
and that's interesting because a lot of times these players haven't been tested with that, in their club careers, in their, youth careers, because they've never had a position challenged. another thing that you have with a big team and, particularly when these kids are coming from all over the country, all over the world and your case, my guess is I'm just guessing here, but it's very likely that these players come in with differing world views, political views, and with all the polarized country we live in and really polarized world we live in. How do you keep a healthy culture in your locker room and your team, with all the craziness that's going on in our world today, particularly when it's almost a certainty that your players, aren't going to agree on everything and all these issues some of which are presumably very deeply and strongly held, and you obviously hold your own and your coaches hold their own and the different people.
how do you do that? how are you able to keep your culture healthy?
Amanda: [00:34:03] One of our mantras that we have is infectious influence and, we want to influence each other in obviously positive ways. So, that might be with views on things and, why do you view something that way, and Really legitimate hard conversations, which we've had. And I don't know if you know, We were the the first college team soccer team to kneel our team knelt. And continued to kneel for a couple of years. that started because of a player coming to me that said I can't take it anymore. , it caught me off guard.
We hadn't had any conversations about it, but. I think the main thing that was really important is that we would support each other and listen to each other's views and talk about how we wanted to do this. How do we want to support each other? how did we, it was Kaiya McCullough.
who was very vocal and, it's interesting. Over the course of these four years, are very socially active. There are, some of them are politically active. and we decided as a team that everyone would kneel before the Anthem started and then people that wanted to stand and stand people that didn't continue kneeling and that we would all continue to have contact.
So hands on shoulders to show our unity and solidarity. that was one of the coolest moments of my coaching career. was that game because I was really nervous for them because I know it can. It could be backlash or there could be a lot of negative things said. So, that was a really interesting time that started, three years ago. and we've had other conversations with a lot of things politically, and we're making sure everyone registered to vote and, we have them following up with each other.
So I just, I love that everyone's open to the conversation and it's respectful conversation and, it's. something that, as a coach, I've been really proud of this team and also UCLA, the activists that have come before, you look at, Arthur Ashe and, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the list goes on.
it's pretty cool to feel like we're a part of that. We're part of. The athletes have a voice and trying to change life for the better and to see more equality and love out there and people that want to just help each other and serve each other. Cause I think that's what we're lacking.
People just get into their views and they keep their conversations with people that agree with them and they don't necessarily talk about helping each other. And how do we get people to change their views that maybe are different from us that maybe they need to see something they need to hear certain stories.
And, I'm always open to reading new things and talking to people. but when it turns to, very hateful rhetoric or things that, are just obviously not about equality and racial, overtones to racist overtones. And that's where I just, I, I have to stop as a human being.
Phil: [00:36:54] A really encouraging thing for me, there is just hearing your team was able to have that civil dialogue, that conversation to listen to each other, to understand each other, it's something like the other podcast I do is, about.
The orphan care and, vulnerable children. And, we've had a conversation on that about abortion. And a lot of people are like, wow, you're taking on that. And I said, well, we had a guy who was part of an anti-abortion organization and a woman who wrote a book called pro-choice and Christian.
And they had a conversation together that I was able to facilitate. And we started that conversation with, what do you agree on. So they could actually start with that premise that look, when you humanize each other and you understand that you both have a lot more in common, most likely than you're different on.
And especially when you're part of the same team to hear that you're having that civil dialogue. but at the end of the day, if you disagree with each other, that's okay. On those issues, you can still be unified together as a team to go together and have this common goal and common vision and common mission together that you don't have to agree on.
Literally everything under the sun, because no two people will agree on everything under the sun, And so that's so healthy and that's so good. And I just love hearing that and they may change each other's minds in the process and the may not, that's kinda what I heard there too.
so that's something that, I think that's so healthy.
That's so encouraging, you may disagree with some of the things that Amanda was saying there, and again, that's okay. But to not, go to the personal, right. Those are issues. Those are things that you can disagree on and very smart people do.
Amanda: [00:38:29] You know? It's interesting when I first heard, Colin Kaepernick knelt, I wasn't an agreement of it.
I was like, wait, what? I think he first sat and then he changed to kneeling. And when I read the article, about when he went to meet with the Navy Seal about, what that was all about, and the Navy Seal was the one that suggested he kneeled instead of sat. And the whole premise behind that.
If you read that article, I got it right away. it was no question. And that was. No three years ago, right? Four years ago, probably now. and so there was no question for me that absolutely. I stand behind that because of where his heart was.
It's really about where your heart is in that action. So there's some great people who stand and would never kneel. And that's awesome because their hearts, it has a certain reason for that, but there's some equally great people who will kneel and will kneel until things change in this country and their heart's in the right place.
And that's fantastic too, because they're doing a very peaceful protest in a sense that hopefully we'll raise this kind of conversation. Like I would never have read more into it. if Colin never kneeled. it made me dive deeper into then what kind of racial inequality are we talking about here?
I came to this, mindset from really looking at things closer and trying to figure out where people's hearts are.
Cause standing doesn't mean you're a good person by any means. And kneeling doesn't mean you're a bad person by any means, so, I would just encourage people to. Like you said, have those conversations and try to put the human side of things into it.
Phil: [00:40:05] Yeah. and I think that one of the things that we learn. when we do have conversations with people is, you can still hold your deeply held beliefs and convictions, and have conversations with people and get to know other people who disagree with you on some pretty core things.
And you can walk away from it and say, you know what? We can still respect each other and love each other, as human beings who are. depending on your worldview, mine is you're made in God's image. And so I'm going to see you as someone who's made in God's image. So we can agree on things, disagree on things.
But when we have those conversations to say, okay, at the end of the day, we'll walk away and say, whatever it is, I still hold my deeply held convictions. And if you change that. It has changed my mind on those things. Then that's one thing, but if not, we can still walk away and say, you know what, we love each other and we can move on together.
And I think in the context of a team, to bring it back to the leadership, I think as a leader, to be able to understand that, you're going to have your culture and your team, and some coaches would say, look, we're just going to keep it out. But I think that for me as a coach, I think that if you're, wanting to develop a family, Culture on your team.
That's not something that goes hand-in-hand with each other to say, just keep it out. but some would say that, and we could have an argument, but I think that that's something that as you, but if you do choose to bring it in, then it needs to be very clear that we're going to have civil dialogue here.
And we're going to, when we step on that field, and when we are together as a team, we are together as a team and we're unified. Would you agree with that?
Amanda: [00:41:33] Oh, for sure. I think, it depends on a coach's philosophy on what they want to address and what they don't. but I think not saying anything, you might be hurting some of your players, like just with some of the racial issues going on.
I know if I had not brought up. Things in regards to George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, if I had not addressed things, I know those players, I would have lost them in a sense. I would have lost their respect. I would have lost their, I think they would have maybe have seen me differently as far as maybe someone that doesn't care about things that are touching them in a personal way.
And I couldn't some coaches might be fine with that, but I can, there's no way I could sit with that. And have these players think that I don't care about them on a personal level and things that touch them because of the differently than me or other teammates because of the color of their skin.
And so there are things I addressed that were uncomfortable. like I don't necessarily feel like I wanted to say things at a certain time because this is like, Oh, I just feel so bad. I don't even know what to say sometimes. And I don't want to say the wrong thing. so I felt like I was like, what do I do?
but I knew I couldn't do nothing. I had to do something and I had to say something and I decided to acknowledge their pain. I did acknowledge where they were and that we were there with them. It wasn't, it's not just. the black girls on the team are feeling the same. We all were, we all had this deep felt, this conviction of things have to change and, how do we help?
What do we do?
Phil: [00:43:07] Yeah so with that, I think the other side of it, I just want to, and it may be that it hasn't happened. And, but I'd be curious have there been. players or, could be coaches or other people that are part of the program who have come up and said, I don't agree with you on these things.
I don't think you're right. I totally disagree with you. does that. Affect anything. I mean, has that happened, first of all, it hasn't then it's just a purely hypothetical. But if it did, what would you say?
Amanda: [00:43:32] With the kneeling it did. It happened with one of the coaches, and they didn't even say it about herself not kneeling. She said she didn't think that players should kneel. I don't think they should kneel. I don't think we should kneel. And she had an immediate reaction to it that I was like, you need to take emotion out of it and really sit with it for a little while and maybe have a conversation with Kaiya.
usually when people, had something negative, it was out of an emotional response and not just like, okay, let me sit with this for a second. Let me do my own homework. and then maybe have a couple conversations before I react out of emotion. so that was really good to see that coach Do a one 80 and just from having conversations
Phil: [00:44:12] what would you have said if she didn't?
Amanda: [00:44:14] Well, she didn't have to kneel, but she wasn't gonna stop someone else from kneeling. I can tell you that I can neither was I, I honestly, I don't think it was my place to stop somebody and I know coaches have done that.
I think if someone wanted to do that, they should have the freedom to do that. that's just my personal belief. I get it. If other coaches say no, we don't want that, spotlight on us. Cause we had, we had some negative responses for sure.
I had a couple of negative emails, but you know what, we didn't do it for positive reaction. We didn't do it for negative reaction. We just did it to highlight the moment and highlight the cause of racial equality and injustice. My only worry was really for the team.
I have coaches that don't agree me with me, with soccer decisions. And that's what we need this people around us. Cause they need, I don't want people that agree with everything on my staff and I want to be pushed.
I want to question myself and I want to look at, okay, why do I do it this way? And how can I change it? I always listen, even if I don't agree at the very beginning. my assistants, I think would say this about me. I might say no, or I might not, it might've seemed like I wasn't listening, but then I always take it home and unpack it.
And. I might come back with a response that was because of what they said. so I'm always open to that. And I think as head coaches, you're only going to get better if you surround yourself with players in and assistants that push you and question you and try to just, make it better.
Obviously, there's a way to do it. You can't question every move I make. But, I love having that kind of conflict at times. And that's my personality too. I'm definitely a, I don't mind getting in arguments or, playing devil's advocate. I kind of do that for fun sometimes just to see what the other person can come back with.
I don't shy away from that at all. but I think conflict resolution can be a great thing and it can make you a stronger coach. It can make you a stronger program because it can embolden your team to be like, we've we kind of come, came through this.
And we talked a lot about a lot of hard things, and now we're ready to go do something on the field that in comparison seems to be easier, I'm going to get to go play a sport we love. So I think in the end, it just unites us and ties us together. And, one of the hashtags, I think we're going to use going forward, is, lift as we climb.
And it came from, it was a black woman's group, back when women were fighting for the right to vote.
I think of that, you know, lift as we climb. So as you're, and you can think of it as an individual, as you're climbing and you're ascending, and you're trying to get to this goal.
Are you lifting other people up around you while you're doing that? As you're climbing, are you leaving people behind or are you lifting them up? And I like that thought.
Phil: [00:46:58] I think that's a good place to finish this part of the conversation. Anyway, we have one more question to ask, but I love that idea. as you said, you're. Lifting each other up you're part of that journey together. And I think that's really at the core of the question and why I asked as far as the differing, world views, political views, ideologies, whether it's religion, whether it's.
politics issues, whether it's race issues, whatever it may be. There might be people differing, and coming at it from different angles, different backgrounds, whatever it may be. And it's very likely whatever team you're coaching, whatever team you're a part of. again, you're not gonna agree with everything that everyone believes, but as you said also.
It's healthy actually to surround yourself with people who will disagree with you on things to challenge you, to have, your convictions and for you to really know what you believe. For you to really know who you are. To really know why you believe what you believe. And not just that someone told you that, or you read that somewhere.
but that you actually understand it. And it's in those conversations really, that that it's going to be challenged. And it's also going to be confirmed as also going to be something that you will see it from their perspective, which that will never be a bad thing. And in life to you to see things from different people's perspective.
And the only way to get there is to have the conversations and to actually have those conversations in the midst of relationship. And I think people either try to shortcut the relationship part, or they never have the conversation. But I think that when you have the relationships built and then you have the conversations within those relationships, you can have that vulnerability and transparency in a way that you can walk away from it and go, okay.
Our relationship was actually strengthened in that conversation, even though we disagree on it. Do you agree with that?
Amanda: [00:48:41] Yeah, for sure. I think you can have some great bonds with people, but. not necessarily see eye to eye on some things like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One of her best friends on the court was someone that was, politically the opposite of her, but they were, they were very close.
I can remember with a Scalia. I'm not sure.
Phil: [00:49:01] Yeah. Yep,
Amanda: [00:49:03] yep. Sorry, I'm killing it. I'm killing things. pronunciations, but a Scalia. Yeah. and. Because I think they knew that deep down, they respected each other as people, and they knew they came from a put and it goes back to her, like, where is your heart?
is your heart really about, loving others and wanting equality for others and respecting others? Or is your heart somewhere else, then that might be a problem, you know? And that's where that's me. I think I can read people and, Get a sense of really where they are. and so it is sometimes it has been tough, especially in these, in this political climate to feel like, someone's heart and then here's some things that come out of their mouth.
You're like, Oh gosh. yeah. and I think that's, we're in danger now. I don't know if you've watched the, The Social Dilemma on Netflix.
Phil: [00:49:53] I have not seen it yet. I've heard a lot about it, but I have not watched it yet.
Amanda: [00:49:57] Watch The Social Dilemma. Cause that's, I think that's where people, some really good people can go down some really bad rabbit holes, whether it's conspiracy theories or just what's in their timelines.
And what's what information is being shot to them can be totally different than information I'm reading. And it's, the whole, fake news thing. And so that's the scary part to me because I think some good people can be influenced, in the wrong ways and negative ways. I think, yeah, for them to get off their phones and start talking to each other and.
there's a positive side of the social media, for sure as a coach. And I use it for recruiting and I use it to promote our players and our team and our program, UCLA athletics, all that. but I try not to, I don't engage in any of that political stuff. I did four years ago.
Holy cow. And I, it didn't, it did me. No good. I think people just need to just go to real life people and stop looking at posts of whoever. Actually talk to your friends and, get views on things or read articles from other countries go to BBC or whatever news outlet has. some people don't trust the news outlets here.
Okay. Read other ones. And that is, I want people to get off their phones. I want them to. not be deceived.
so that's my real concern. And even for student athletes, because I see them on with a tick talk or Snapchat and they have so much more to distract them nowadays than we had, so much simpler back then for us. and we're less likely to get in trouble for photos and posts and, we didn't have any of that stuff.
And, I also see this adding to their. mental instability, like it's not good. so we've got to figure this out as a human race, really.
Phil: [00:51:39] Well folks, we have talked about a lot more than we had in this outline, but I think it was really good stuff. And that's not surprising because we've had a lot of conversations, that, if we talk about everything that we've talked about, this would be a lot longer than it already has been, which is longer than we expected, but I think it was worth it.
And I think it was good. That's the thing about this is all of this is critical to leadership. All of this is critical to getting the best out of your players. All of this is critical to get to the best out of your employees, getting in the best out of your kids, your whoever it is like to have these conversations to be really open and vulnerable with each other.
And, that's something that, yeah, you coach a woman's team, but some people say, Oh, well, vulnerability is not a masculine thing. And I'm like, no, it's a human thing, folks. so if you think it's not something for you, you're wrong. And I will say it's something that's absolutely necessary.
Vulnerability looks different for everybody too. But this is something that I think again, that vulnerability is so much easier and it's so much more authentic when you're in the context of relationship and to earn the conversation as well. Like, if you come in as a freshmen, and you're just spouting off and saying all your views, and this is what I think, and this is what I think, and you should follow them, that probably wouldn't receive very well for good reason, because you haven't earned that conversation yet.
So again, we're not going to keep going on that. Cause we could keep going for days probably talking about these things. Cause as you, if you haven't seen already folks, Amanda is pretty passionate about things she does. So whether it's coaching. Or, sharing her views on whatever, like she's going to be passionate because she holds these convictions strong.
It's just one of the things I admire about her. with that, Amanda, let's talk about something a bit. It might be lighter and it might not be, I don't know. You've already talked about a couple of well resources that you have read or watched recently, but, have you, what have you read watched, listened to recently there's most impacted your thinking on really the intersection of life soccer and leadership.
Amanda: [00:53:28] No, I'm really into watching those documentaries on, what is it on? I think Amazon prime. Yeah. the Man City one, the I'm watching the Tottenham one right now. I even started watching the, one of the rugby ones.
I think it was all black.
Phil: [00:53:44] Yeah. That's fantastic. That's a phenomenal one,
Amanda: [00:53:47] I'm a couple of episodes into that one. I just started watching it on Netflix last night. There was one with the Barcelona kind of documentary of kind of their evolution. And, I think it's gone past it. I can't remember what it's called, but I'm not going to remember titles and names apparently, but, that's all right.
Phil: [00:54:05] That's all right. Cause people can go look it up.
Amanda: [00:54:07] No, I do like seeing how coaches, deal with adversity and, also how they, how do they manage these incredible lineups that have elite players that are on the bench that are making millions and millions of dollars?
You asked me about our elite players. It's like, let's go ask Pep how he manages man city, or, it's just insane. so I like really watching those documentaries that put you into it and you can see a progression of a team. And, and it's, it seems.
Somewhat real. I know they edit it to make it more dramatic, or whatever it might be. but, I think we learn a lot from, just watching the game, watching another program. I've talked to, our women's basketball coach here, Corey Close.
I actually had her do a team Zoom with my team. I respect her a lot and her as a leader and she's, you don't follow her. you should, she's had some really good, posts, on leadership stuff, on her Instagram, she's quality, quality person. you should probably have her on here,Phil, now that I think about it.
but, yeah, the, get back to your question.
I really, I do. I love watching the game. and I, there's a book, How Soccer Explains the World. I think
Phil: [00:55:17] how soccer explains the world.
Amanda: [00:55:19] That wasn't really interesting book I read that years ago. but. I love the thought of our game being, it's just something that it does emulate life in a way, and, being on a team and.
In athletics and how you have adversity, you have setback, you have things you have so much tremendous opportunity for growth. and then the relationships and they come down to the end. these girls are my daughters, they're my girls. , and I have a lot of them since it's been 20 plus years.
And, I go to weddings and I hold newborn babies and, I've actually. a year ago went to, I didn't go to the funeral service, but one of our players, my players from UMBC had passed away and it happened to be, are the girls that were in, she wasn't living in that area anymore in the DC area, but it's a lot of the players were still, they had planned to just get together and have a cookout and meet up at this park.
And it happened to be when we were in Virginia, playing. and I stayed for that event. I went and met up with all these UMBC players I hadn't seen in, over what, 18 years, 20 years. so that's in the end. What it's all about is the connections and, always feeling like you have someone that has your back and you have a family.
somewhat large family, but, they're there. And, I think they always know that I'm here. That's the important thing. I'm always going to be here for them.
Phil: [00:56:41] Yup. And I have no doubt that that's the truth and that's how everyone of your players feels. I'm assuming the vast, vast majority, if not every one of them.
but, thanks again, Amanda, thanks for the friendship. Thanks for, taking the time. as we have said a little bit longer than we thought, but hopefully everyone out there stuck with us through this conversation. and I do hope that you, learned a lot from it. So thanks again, Amanda.
Amanda: [00:57:02] You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Phil: [00:57:04] Absolutely. So folks out there, as we have said in the past, I encourage you to subscribe to this show. If you liked what you heard today, like what you've been hearing on the past episodes, I'd encourage you to subscribe. If you can rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you get your episodes, that would be very much appreciated.
And we'd love for you to connect with us. You can go to our website, howsoccerexplainsleadership.com. And, you can go there and, go to the contact page. If you have any questions or anything else you'd want to engage us with. so with that, thanks a lot for the download. And I do hope that you take everything that you learned today, and you use it to help you to be a better leader, to be able to understand the intersection of soccer life and leadership.
Thanks a lot. Have a great week.