In Episode 29, Greg Rubendall, Livermore Fusion Director of Soccer Development and US Soccer Grassroots Coach Educator, talks with Phil about “deep practice,” college club soccer, the importance of fundamentals, developing healthy parent-coach...
In Episode 29, Greg Rubendall, Livermore Fusion Director of Soccer Development and US Soccer Grassroots Coach Educator, talks with Phil about “deep practice,” college club soccer, the importance of fundamentals, developing healthy parent-coach communication, controlling the controllables, shaping the culture in a diverse club, overcoming entitlement, speaking the international language of soccer, and the professionalization of youth soccer. Specifically, Greg discusses:
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Phil: [00:00:00] Welcome back to How Soccer Explains Leadership. Thanks again for your download. Thanks for joining us for this conversation. I'm going to be able to have today with Greg Rubendall. Very excited as usual. You hear me say that every episode it's ‘cause I am, I love having these conversations, not just because I enjoy it because I know that you're going to learn from it as well as we have over the last 20 something episodes that we've had. We've had some amazing guests and today is no exception to that. Greg is the Director of Coaching at Livermore Fusion out here in California. He's also the Director of Education, Grassroots courses through US Soccer and a whole lot more than that. His background is, is super interesting.
We're going to learn about that and have a great conversation that I have no doubt you're going to be able to take some nuggets away from. So, you know, also as we have talked about in the past, join our Facebook group, if you want to go deeper into this conversation, join that there's other groups online that are great for learning about how [00:01:00] soccer explains leadership.
But that's one that we just want to specifically talk about this. We also have a clubhouse, room, how soccer explains leadership. We do that Friday mornings at 9:30 AM. Pacific time. If you're on. Clubhouse, you can join us there and you can talk with me and Paul and some other coaches, some other leaders who are talking about these issues that we're talking about here, but without more on that, Greg, how you doing?
Greg: [00:01:25] Good morning, doing great. How are you doing Phil? Doing
Phil: [00:01:28] well? Doing well, got a lot going on. And but like I said, in the intro there, I'm excited to have this conversation with you. You know, we've had a conversation before learned a little bit about each other on social media, but for the most part, I know I'm going to learn right along with everyone out there as we're, as we're having this conversation today.
So before we get into before we get into the kinda nitty gritty of the leadership conversation, I want to just talk with you a little bit about your story, because I have a feeling, a lot of people out there don't know who you are. So can you [00:02:00] share how you developed your passion for soccer, leadership, and really how you got to be where you are today?
Greg: [00:02:04] Yeah. Well, so it started, I started playing when I was five years old in the East Bay area, Concord area for those who are familiar with it and going through both, my parents were really active in a lot of the social clubs, exchange club, Chamber of Commerce in the city. And so when we started playing sports I'm being the oldest of three is that they started getting involved in all the different organizations, baseball track, and field, and then of course soccer.
And so they were board members at the, you know, AYSO level, which, you know, recreational soccer, conquered Iowa. So, and at about seven years old, I told my parents, I want to be a professional soccer player, which I think every seven-year-old wants to be a professional soccer player, a fireman, and a doctor.
So I think I would, I chose that one. but as I continued to play, you know, making all star teams, starting to travel a little bit the [00:03:00] recreational program just didn't suit me and we didn't have a competitive organization in Concord. We really only had a police athletic league that was, you know, loosely affiliated and not very well run.
It was just part of their, crime deterrence and community engagement programs. So my parents actually started the club in the Concord area. So, was Diablo Valley soccer club. My dad wrote the charter. My mom was registrar for the club for 15 years. So I kind of saw from a recreational foundational level and then also into the competitive side.
And so this was the early. Nineties that this kind of goal got started together. But during that time, you also had in 1989, Paul Caliguiri, you know, goal or where on the world that got us into the World Cup in Italy, which didn't do so well. But that also set the stage for us hosting the 94 world cup and, you know, being around 15 years old at the time for that 94 world cup and with the MLS coming on in 1996, it just, [00:04:00] I mean, I love to travel, you know, I saw all the world as a player.
I had injury issues, so, you know, I had dislocating knee caps and actually broke my own leg. So I spent for about. Five years. I spent about three and a half of them in physical therapy in some capacity. So I started learning about sports medicine, and that's kind of how, what gave me my professional path down the line.
So went, played at a marginally successful university career of about 20 minutes at Loyola Marymount. then graduated, went and taught English in Europe for a year while I was there. I was also teaching in an ex-pat soccer club and then came back, did my masters in biomechanics studied two years nothing but football.
So, you know, spent a lot of time in the library. downloading PDFs from Italy, Spain, Germany, England about soccer. And, from that, just put me on a path as a coach, as a physical therapy physical education teacher, personal trainer, [00:05:00] strength coach. I mean, if you name it, it's in sports science, I've done it.
And at least in some capacity and then over about a 10 year span of having seven jobs, finally, I got the Holy Grail of the soccer community or sport community, which is the directorship, which is one job with 37 hats. But at least it's one consistent income from one place. So that's kind of how I came into it, seeing it from the ground up.
But also going through a lot of different ways to, to be in a position of education and essentially just mentorship of youth and now more adults and coaches.
Phil: [00:05:40] Yeah. And so you're basically, I mean, from what I see it, you're your coaching the coaches, as we've talked about, you are or have been an instructor for a Fiorentina Academy us soccer, grassroots coaches, you're doing, as you said, coach education, not player education, obviously you've coached players and you've been able to do that, but there's the other thing that you, [00:06:00] that you've been able to do is I want you to talk a little bit about this.
Not, not dwell on it too long, but the idea of that, the college club soccer too. I mean, that's something I know you're passionate about, and I want you to share about that because a lot of people don't know about it, but it gives an opportunity to play at a very high level, but not necessarily with, with the other things that go along with college soccer.
So can you, can you talk about that for a little bit?
Greg: [00:06:21] I mean, if you look at the map of universities in the United States there's a heavy concentration in the Northeast, just from the historical value of universities. But on the West coast, there's not a lot of schools, right. We have a lot of 40,000 plus schools on the West coast.
But in California you have a massive number of players. So when I was in graduate school, I was coaching for the women's team but also teaching in the soccer in the kinesiology program teaching soccer classes. And we started with beginning soccer and I had so many players, we created intermediate soccer.
And then we got to a point where we had an advanced class where we started a student organization. [00:07:00] And through that kind of evolution of, the, the foundations, because this was the same time that Chris Wondolowski was leading the Chico state team to a national championship final was the same time I was in grad school.
So we had a very, very good division two team. But I had players who had played at top level clubs across the country. And especially in California were really talented players who were opting for engineering. Pre-nursing pre-med construction management. They just didn't have the time or the bandwidth to be able to go to school and play on the team.
And they had the academic fortitude to be able to be at the school primarily. So, that, in creating that, college club environment at Chico, it turned into, well, me helping out with their league because the league was very, very small, maybe 10 or 12 teams statewide to the point where there was me and maybe four other presidents or coaches from different universities where we banded together, [00:08:00] we rebranded the organization, which was the California collegiate club soccer league to the West coast soccer association, because we wanted not just to be California schools, but we looked at it as region four.
So the Western United States. Could we put together leagues at a college club level for, and compete regionally versus across your, conference lines, right? So your West coast conference, which is the small, you know, private schools or the PAC 12, or, the big West or whatever, it was, there were schools that were right around each other that never played each other.
Even though they were, community type members. So that's really what, kind of going through that. And I, I liken it to each one of these schools or each one of these programs is, our little fraternity or sorority of football. Right. And that the president vice-president treasurer, secretary, whatever the infrastructure of the team is, these are little companies that you most are former youth [00:09:00] club players who played at a very high, pretty high level.
But also, maybe don't fit into the Greek system but also want that intercollegiate competition that intramurals isn't enough and they want to travel and all the things that we do. So, so I kind of oversee as the president kind of oversee that whole program and structure and kind of give it, guidance and philosophy and, and insight.
And also because all of our members are USASA registered. We actually have a pretty significant voting capacity at us soccer. So because we, we have over, I think it's over a 2000 players that we register in the adult tier. We actually have a pretty significant pull with USASA nationally.
So there's a national championship. If you ever want to see BYU men's team won it the last time phenomenal men's club program and they just. For whatever reason don't have their NCAA program. And they were playing in the [00:10:00] professional ranks. But the, the national championships is, is a very high standard when you're talking about the top 20 teams.
And it just organizes these what I would call the forgotten group, which is kids who graduated out of youth sport and clubs sport, gone to university. They're not really fit for the adult leagues. You know, the, the over thirties or even the opens over forties, they're still pretty fit and they'd still want to compete.
So it's I think it's something that has really grown since since we started it, maybe, 2005 is when I started helping out. So it's grown a lot since then. And it's still growing where before nobody knew about what college clubs soccer was. And as I, mentor. High school students.
And I say, look, the number one thing about choosing or selecting a university is if you couldn't play soccer there, would you be at that university? Right? Does it have what you need academically? Does it have what you need socially, culturally, [00:11:00] you know, all the things. So that's your number one. and then try and figure out what you want out of your experience.
And then look at, can you play at an NCAA level? do you want to play at an NCAA level? Is there a club system, are you interested? You know, what is, what is kind of your path? So that's all the things that you, I think you, in advising is, seeing it at the collegiate level where, everybody's extremely idealistic, and it is a lot of work to be able to do it.
But I would say that any of the students who graduate out of the collegiate club system are much more employable as future coaches than players who've played in college because of the administrative necessity that it takes to, to just have a team that competes on a Saturday, Sunday.
Phil: [00:11:46] Yeah. absolutely. And that's why I wanted you to talk about it for a little bit. You know, some people may think that was a tangent off of how soccer explains leadership, but like you said, right there at the end, you're learning skills running a club team that you would never learn, just playing on an [00:12:00] intercollegiate NCAA team.
Plus, you know, a lot of the people that want to, you know, I I'm one of them, I ended up playing intramurals in college instead of playing on the team, I got hurt. I started playing intramurals and I thought, you know what? This level of play is pretty darn high. It's high enough for me to get my competitive juices flowing and get going out there.
I can play a bunch of other sports as well. And so the point there is something different for everyone and you need to be honest with yourself as well as, you know, you really need to know what best suits, what you want. Long-term if you want to go pro then yeah. Maybe the NCAA, whatever. But even if you're playing club and you get to the right place and you get seen by the right person and you grow as a player, some people don't peak until they're 22, 23.
our 25 usually is when you peak, but they're going to grow and grow and grow. Right? So those are all things that are important for leadership to, as you are developing your, your players as you're developing, whether they're your employees, whatever, to make sure that you're not pushing them into a box that isn't the box they're supposed to be in.
And so I [00:13:00] think that there are, there are a lot to learn from that. And you know, just also what you learned from it too, which we're going to get into as we talk about some of these issues we're gonna talk about today. So, you know, part of that as we talked about, you're dealing with a lot of grassroots coaches you're talking, or you're teaching you're training up these coaches on a lot of the fundamentals, as we talk about in coaching, we got to continue vitamins or whatever, we're calling them. You gotta continue doing the fundamentals. Christiano Ronaldo still works on the fundamentals, so as you're training the fundamentals, why are they so important? And I want you to talk a little bit about, you know, as you talked about.
Preparing for life outside the game, but also as we are running organizations, leading families, other things outside the game, why are the fundamentals so important and why do we need to keep working on them?
Greg: [00:13:47] I think that's interesting cause you know, there's practice there's training, but then the, the concept of deep practice, right?
So where the individual is really immersed in the activity that they are [00:14:00] a part of. And I think that, especially with the modern age that we live in, that's so fast paced that there's so many things going on in these young children and even coaches lives is that they become distracted while they're doing something.
They're doing it at a 40% involvement or mental involvement rate. So the fundamentals, you look at elite performers in any, in any vocation, specifically sport though, the deep practice that a Steph Curry you know, a Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. You know, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mo Salah right. These are individuals who have not just, they've gone really focused in their entire life, revolving around this training, their mind, their body, their spirit for their craft.
And I think it's, it's important that kids understand, like the, the, the interesting thing right now is, is videotaping yourself performing, right? So as a teacher, teacher educator, one of the first skills [00:15:00] that we teach is to film yourself coaching, right? And so you'll start recognizing mannerisms or ticks or things that you don't like about yourself because you never watch yourself significantly.
The same thing goes with players is that the first one or two or three times that they watched themselves, it's very uncomfortable. Right. They don't like what they see. So there are some that deviate from it. And then there are some that almost become obsessed. So when I, when you talk about like the need for fundamentals is I think 10 out of 10 people, you know, if you lined us all up and you said, okay, is that movement good or bad rank at one to 10?
I think 10 people would be around the same in terms of, yep. That looks like fluid, consistent movement. That looks like high performance. I would say maybe only one or two, maybe three out of those 10 could tell you what it was that was happening that made it a [00:16:00] performance. So when you talk about the fundamentals is that deep practice of understanding your movement patterns, your rhythms your morphology, how, how tall you are, how strong you are, how your hips go, how your legs go, all plays into how you develop as an individual, right? So you have to be very self-aware and then also really almost obsessive with being really good at the small details. Right. Cause when it's a game of, you know, it's a game of inches, right? It's a game of a single decision at the right time or the wrong time that can make or break a moment.
Right. And so, especially in sport, and I think that's kind of the interesting part of what we do is, you know, that the automatization of muscle memory and of doing things where you do it and you don't even know what you're doing, you have to get to that level. But you also have to, you know, for anybody who golfs, you have your golf swing?
Have you ever tried to change it? And what the [00:17:00] process of that is. You know, and it, it destroys your game, a great golfer, by the way
Phil: [00:17:07] you open it, you're tearing off a little band-aid
Greg: [00:17:11] if it's broken, right. You have to go take it to the mechanic, but sometimes it's, it's just a matter of tweaks. And especially when you start picking up injuries and things like that, that deep practice and that real focus on the fundamentals and the decision-making process.
And I think that's really what it comes down to. I think there's been a big, big evolution in terms of coach education that there's nothing done in isolation. Everything should be, contextual. And I agree that context is extremely important, but within context, sometimes that refinement of movement, movement patterns can't really be addressed.
I think there's a fine balance, right?
You just can't just play games and expect to be great. [00:18:00] There are things that make you great when you play games. Yeah. So that's the balance.
Phil: [00:18:05] Absolutely. You know, the, the idea of that you talked about there of self-awareness and understanding. I always talk about root cause analysis. So we need to go to the root, the fundamental, right?
The fundamental. Foundational causes foundational roots of the behavior of our play, you know, and like you said, you can't be thinking about them all the time, but you do need to think about them sometimes and you do need to work on them and you need to continually be reinforcing them to be able to make them even better.
Right. You know, going back to Ronaldo or Messi or those guys, if you watch them practice, they're going to be doing a lot of the same things that ten-year-olds are doing out at practice, because they're continually having to reinforce those things to get even better and better and better because, you know, you need to be that much sharper.
You need about that much better. And it goes to, you know, I, as I've talked about with you, and I've talked about with others on the you know, you [00:19:00] know, on the show that I, I'm a big believer in, in the DISC and understanding self, understanding who you are, because that's another to understand those root causes of your behavior helps in coaching as well.
I was just talking with someone about this the other day on the, a lot of coaches say the number one issue they have is parents. Right. But I look at that and go, okay, what's your role in the issues with the parents? Because the, the, the reality is a lot of that could be that you think you're communicating well with them, but you're not because you're communicating to yourself how you'd want to listen and hear, but they are actually wired completely different from you.
And they have different goals and different desires and different, and a different perspective than you do. So you need to be really careful to make sure that you are self-aware on how you're communicating. You're also others aware to know who they are. So anyway, that's something that's a different conversation for different day, but it goes back to that fundamentals, that foundation, that root cause.
Right. What do you think about that? I mean, have you [00:20:00] seen that? I assume you've seen that in your coaching as you're training with your coaches.
Greg: [00:20:03] Yeah. I mean, I think everybody, you know, teachers teach how they have been trained. Right? So regardless of what, philosophy or, methodology that, you know, understand and develop, you teach the way you like to learn.
So I think, you know, we talk about this in terms of understanding your leadership style is that, whether it's servant leadership, where you were there as a coach or a leader to address the needs 100% of the student, or is it where I kind of try and bounce is more of an inspirational leadership, a call to action, where you inspire the person to go outside themselves and to seek for themselves.
So I think it's a, for me, it's a balance between the two. I don't think it's one or the other, but I agree with you a hundred percent that, that when you talk about parents are not, parents are the reasons why children exist. So to look at that, [00:21:00] that you have to look at parents as allies in the same game, right?
We were here to develop these children. And the one thing that I've seen from every parent, they love their child. Now, how they express that love is wildly different. And that's where I think the consternation and the discord comes from is you have to first understand what are the motivations of the parent to have this child in this activity?
What are their motivations? Why did they do it? Is it because they're living vicariously? Is it because, they need more time to do their own professional work. They need just need a break. I mean, you, there's a thousand things. That parents have a reason for those children being there.
And then you also have to ask the child, why are you here? What do you love about sport? if you have a highly motivated child who is, professional track, that's probably where you get a lot of your coaches, right? Because we didn't make it as a pro. Now we're going to try and make future pros.
[00:22:00] That's a very small percentage of the children that you interact with. Not everybody wants to be. Some of them are there socially, right? The number one thing. And you bring it back to the fundamentals. The very first thing you say, when you deal with the four or five, six year old fun dementals, right?
They want to be, you want to excite them. You've got little, you know, little puppies, you know, and you have a ball that you can train them with. And you gotta make it fun, exciting, imaginary. Right. And you got to play to their skills. So. I think that's all the things that you have to think about when dealing with parents and children is understand their why.
Right. And you can explain your why, this is why I do what I do, but I think it's more important that you really listen and hear and understand their why. And then you start putting them down a path of, okay, how can I optimize their experience so that when they walk away or when we part paths, you know, are the forks separate?
[00:23:00] Is that they look back and they say, you know what? That was a positive experience. Yeah. There were some negatives, but ultimately I'm a better person for this experience. And that's really what we do. Yeah.
Phil: [00:23:10] You know, and I love that. And that goes for every area of leadership inside and outside of soccer that goes for parenting.
That goes for marriages. That goes for anything to understand their why understand why they're, why they're doing what they're doing, understand how they're wired and understanding how you can help them to flourish. Right? And so that really is there, but that takes time. That's daunting for a lot of people, especially if they're task focused people, which a lot of coaches are, right.
They want to get the job done. As you said, they want to get kids to be great, with their touch, they want to be able to do the different moves. They want to be able to be able to understand this and that and about the game and they can't ignore if they ignore that people's side, if they ignore that, why.
They're going to miss the boat on a lot of their players, because they're just throwing, you know, they're just throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks with all their players doing the same thing. You got to individualize it as [00:24:00] you talked about teachers, same thing. If you're not individualizing the way you teach, you're gonna, you're gonna miss a lot of the kids.
And so that's something that is so important to hear. And you touched on something there that I wanna, I wanna dive a little bit deeper into. You talked about, coaches that used to play, right? That you get a lot of, you know, you get some coaches now who are parents who have no clue about the game they're learning.
You can teach them, you can coach them on how to coach. That's probably a lot easier, actually, a lot of times, because as you said, they don't even have a golf swing to fix. Right. Going back to that analogy, but you then have these coaches who used to play, so they have their way of doing things. They have it, how they've always done it. So you, you you've talked to me about the idea that sometimes coaches who played growing up. You know are dangerous and you use that term too. When we were talking in our last conversation, what, what do you mean by that?
What, what do you, what do you mean by that conversation?
Greg: [00:24:58] So I, I think [00:25:00] anybody, you know, there, there are a couple of different experiences that, that people have, right? So you come in, like you said, a parent who has zero experience, which in my generation of players, that's why, it was so open because we had a really large generation of parents who were interested in soccer, saw it as maybe a, a global type of sport, but it had no idea how to play it.
Right. So that was mostly, parents like myself. Then you had other families whose families, culturally soccer was what we do, everything, you know, you have, you come out of the womb with a favorite soccer team because that's your grandfather's team or that's your family's team or this, that, and the other.
And then, it's also that connectivity of, of socialization within different environments. So that's how it was. And now with an generation, probably an entire generation of parents who played soccer at some capacity or [00:26:00] level. And now a lot of them who played at club soccer level, which their experience as children was parent volunteers.
Who learned how to organize, learn structure? Maybe a little bit more basic in their coaching or training philosophy, very little training. So those players were never educated in teaching pedagogy, sport pedagogy, sports science. but they go back and say, Oh, well, I know how to do Speed agility, because I did speed and agility and all you need is a ladder and a couple of cones and a couple of hurdles and you're good and that's not really the case.
And so I think what you're talking about is we have a lot of critics. We have a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks as parents, all sports. This is not just soccer, but soccer happens to be kind of the newest version of this. And so you have parents who see what's happening and there's a lot of things as a coach that you have to [00:27:00] address, right?
And in US soccer, they, they call it the six tasks, which coaching trainings, coaching games, right. That's probably the easy bread and butter. Anybody, you know, with experience can do that. Some struggle at that, especially if they're volunteers, but then there's managing your performance environment. So that's all the things that go in and then there's leading the player, leading the team.
And then self-leadership. So those last three, which is the leadership piece of that managing the performance environment, a lot of coaches who were players don't manage their performance environment correctly, and that's relationships with other coaches, relationships with their club relationships, with their community or relationship with their parent group.
And so because coaches don't manage the performance environment, well, they don't set expectations. They don't define standards really well. And more importantly, stay consistent on that message across the board, or [00:28:00] it's inconsistent within any type of club. Right? So one coach does it really well, but you know, three other coaches don't do it so well.
And it's not consistent across the board. That's where you get the educated, experienced parent that becomes kind of a thorn in everybody's side because they're, they know just enough. To know that this isn't right, and that things need to be different because the inconsistency, so this is, I would, I don't think it's a, it's a bad thing to have parents like that because those parents are your, those are your advocates.
You know, those are the ones you need to speak to. Those are the ones you got to get information from. Right? I'll give you a good example. I had a parent who looked at our, club philosophy and said, at young ages, we want players playing multiple positions in different areas, right?
So he tracked 10 games and his child's particular, and it said, okay, he played 73% at right back. [00:29:00] And only 4% at center, mid and never on the left side. So you're telling me that your philosophy is that players play all different positions, all different types. But my player, my son has only played right back.
How is this the case? And so he had this power in his knowledge because he was so obsessed over that contact. And so I turned it around. I said, that's, that's amazing for you to track that for your son over the last 10 games. I that's, that's absolutely brilliant. Can you do that for the next 10 games for all of our players?
So I took something that for him, maybe it was a negative like, cause this is powerful and maybe, this one player had this issue, but maybe this was a problem that I had as a coach, not moving players around or giving them experiences, letting them say, you know what? My primary position is, central, mid, but I'm going to put you at right-wing I'm going to put you at left back just to get that varied experience.
so that's where I would say they're [00:30:00] dangerous, but you have to use that danger. It's also, as coaches, we get caught in a rhythm or an a. Normalcy where we just were going through the motions and those kinds of parents and those you call them those invested fans, spectators, they, they are your membership.
They are, you are there for them as much as you are for their kids. That's right. Right. So,
Phil: [00:30:25] absolutely and that's something that, you, it's so important to remember all those things. And I, and I think that as you said, they can be your biggest allies and they should be right as you, you know, going back to what we talked about earlier, the idea of when you can understand their, why, when you can get on the same page with them, when you can help to really understand why you're both there together.
Okay. Then you go to the next step and go, okay, what is your kind of sweet spot as far as how you can help this. Okay. And let's hone on that rather than having you thinking, like, [00:31:00] as if you give them that control over a certain area, they're probably not going to be as vocal in all the other areas because they really do see, okay, this guy wants to be on my team.
He's not, he's not an enemy, right? Like when you're starting to work on a project together, that's great leadership lesson, especially for teams out there where you get these employees who want to take control over everything. Well, if you give them control over the little thing, then usually they're going to be okay.
If they can see that they're actually part of that team. And they have a role because a lot of people are just looking for that as we've done that clear though, and that the people, the players who are the players, who used to play are going to be the ones who think, as you said, and I talk about this.
When I go to Honduras, I know enough Spanish to be dangerous. but the problem is when I get into a certain room and they're talking really fast, I have no idea what they're talking about, but they think I know what they're talking about. So then I try to fake it. And you see that happening a lot of times where they know enough, but they don't know all these new things.
And back into myself too. A lot of times when it comes into some of these circles and some of these conversations, and you don't want [00:32:00] to admit sometimes that you don't know. And I talked about that. I can't remember if it was on the show or somewhere in a clubhouse room, but I don't know it was a great answer, but a lot of people don't want to say it because they don't want to seem like they don't know.
But I think a lot of the parents that's where they are. You don't know anything about it. It's a lot easier to come into the conversation. Say, I have no clue what you're talking about. Can you teach me? Can you help me to understand this? And that's a lot of them, parents who have never, now there's other issues with the parents who never played, but that's not what we're talking about right now, but what, what were you going to say?
You were going to say something there.
Greg: [00:32:29] No, it just, it, it empowers the individual and it gives them ownership over some aspect that's controllable to them. Right? So when you talk about, winning versus development, which is a common thing for me, control the controllables, you know, what can, what are the things that day in day out will lead to victory?
And we're talking about life's victory, not of the game, hard work, determination, accountability, comradery, all those character traits that [00:33:00] we all belong to sport for this reason, right? This is why we there's the power in it. But that ownership that a parent has over that one aspect will all, because they're so busy on their task, they stop looking at all the problems and they're solving one problem.
so this is where you have, you know, if socialization, if you have a team that's really high on their EQ, right, they need that, group dynamic. And you put together a group of players or parents, depending on your age level that are in charge of the social aspect of your group. Right.
And what used to be the team mom type of admin, but it's even better to have a a almost a group of socialization committee that runs that aspect. Cause that's as a youth soccer coach and I'm sure you'd understand this. A professional team, one team has up to 10 full-time employees for that one team of 22 to 25 people.
[00:34:00] Right. Whereas us as youth coaches, teachers, it's one to 18, one to 36, right. With no support staff. So any time that you as the, not as the leader, but as somebody who sees issues that are rising step up and ask how you can assist them to help. Right. As a leader, identify the people who are going to be best suited for those.
And so on the opposite end of that, usually the person who volunteers to be a team manager, right? So the person who kind of helps with administration and logistics for the coach, is usually somebody who's extremely detail oriented. And also wants to influence the environment in some capacity, whether gearing it towards fun or competition or travel or whatever.
So as as a coach, you also have to interview. And make sure that your volunteers are the right type of volunteers that will [00:35:00] accomplish your team goals as a unit. Right? Because a lot of people will volunteer for a position because they want control and power, even though they're not getting necessarily the money aspect of it.
So you have to also go through those.
Phil: [00:35:13] That is so good, right there. That's spoken from someone with experience
Greg: [00:35:18] in not one or two conversations that I've needed to
Phil: [00:35:22] have. I've seen that I've seen that I've talked to managers, I've talked to coaches. I have not been a manager on purpose because I am not that detail-oriented person, but absolutely.
I in fact had a conversation the other day with a team manager. And I won't say he or she, because I don't want to make it obvious who it was, but that person said, I just, I go, you love that control part of it. That person said, of course, of course I do. But that's, but that is at least there's self-awareness there.
Right. But I think that that's something that goes to something else as well that you said there. But again, if you didn't listen, if you didn't hear that coaches, directors. Team managers, parents [00:36:00] understand that because that is so important to know, and it starts with the awareness of the issue. And then we can actually engage that issue.
But that also goes, as I said, I mean, so all these issues, it sounds like if you didn't know you were talking about soccer, this could be talking about really any organization that has teams that has more than just one team that you're dealing with. And I talked to a lot of college coaches, as you know, on this show and that college environment, similar to the pro environments, much more controlled setting.
They talk about culture. You have a lot more control over your culture because it's one team and a club. You're a director of coaching of a club with many teams. Right. But you still. I know this because we've talked about it. You want to have a culture in your club. That's a healthy culture. You want each of your teams to have healthy cultures, but how do you do that?
As a director of coaching of a club with a bunch of coaches, with different personalities, with different ideas with, they're not all fully on the same page, but you still want to have that culture [00:37:00] that starts top down, flows down to the teams to be able to have a unified front as you're going out there.
Because if you have a bunch of one-offs, then that's not real, it ceases to be a club. Right. So how do you do that? How do you train up your coaches and how do you intentionally shape the culture of your club, obviously, knowing it's not perfect, but what does that look like in your ideal state, as you're working through that?
Like, what's your goal for your club and how are you pursuing that intentionally?
Greg: [00:37:28] Yeah. It's I mean, it's a multi faceted plan of attack, right? So there's. There's the coach education on the tactics of the game, right? How you want your club to be, but it goes back to what's your community, what's your membership and what's your player pool and their motivation.
So if you understand those things, the key aspects of your community is the key aspects of your membership, what their backgrounds are, and then what those kids who are in that and what they [00:38:00] enjoy the most out of this environment, that helps you develop the culture and the right culture for that specific group.
you can talk about three different clubs in the same city, but because of those three variances, they might have a different approach to it. So there's from a coaching Corps, right? And this is for players specifically, but coaches as well as goal oriented task oriented individuals.
Right. Who have an achievement mentality, right. They don't need to win every game, but they have the desire to win always. And that's, you know, building that into it, like for me, defining fun. And this is a conversation I had with one of the teams just recently. I said, for me, like you guys talk about what, why do you play soccer and what do you consider fun?
What makes a great teammate? So these were three questions that we talked about while in a training setting. And those three questions will answer a lot of things. [00:39:00] What makes a great co-worker right? What do you consider fun and why do you coach soccer? If I could ask that of, and that's probably the starting point of the conversation in a, in a roundabout way.
I personally look for coaches who are self leaders, right? First and foremost, that they drive themselves into the areas. They understand Gosh, I heard a really good phrase, but now I can't remember it, but they know what their strengths are and they know what their work-ons are. So, okay. This is my strength.
So I'm going to really capitalize on this and I got to get better at these work-ons, right? Not hiding them, not pretending, you know, they exist and not only focusing on them, my weaknesses, because as a player, as a coach, you got to know what you're good at. Right? That's what your value, your most valuable, You just have to hide those deficiencies. So, in terms of organizational leadership is first, having every person develop their own philosophy, How do you go through developing a rubric if you will, [00:40:00] of team standards of clubs, standards, And so. There's first your coaching committee, And you talk to all the coaches, here's how we're going to do this. And you have to create buy-in. I can't go in as a coach or as a director and tell people what I want them to do. This is how it is, because if you go in like that, automatically people will back away, right? So you have to understand them and you have to shape the conversation into the direction that you really want to take it and really focus on those things.
And you also, and this is one area that we're looking as a club is have a leadership committee of our players. So a club of by and for the players. And that's kind of this summer where we're looking to go is not just your team captains, But your leaders within the team. So what is it? And making it an application process, and then having those individuals, because now you consider them, you know, the captain of the ship.
[00:41:00] Of any one of these little teams, here's what we as a club stand for because all of the leaders have come together of all the different levels, right? Elite level, you know, ProTrack all the way down to we're here only for socialization. Here's what we need as a club and community. And then they can go out and express that with their groups.
And it's going to come a lot more powerfully from the in-team leaders than it is from the coach of that team or from the club itself. So I think it's hitting it at the top, the middle and the bottom. And then also, you know, expressing that in everything you do, So finding your core values, you know, your mission, but what is it?
So say honesty is a core value within our club. What does honesty mean? And so what honesty means that under nine. It's not the same as it means that under 13 or under 18, right under nine might be, if the [00:42:00] ball goes out And you know, it went out, you, you get it to give it to the other team. You don't try and break the rules.
That's honest. at 13 it's telling people, not hiding your feelings, being honest with yourself and your emotions, maybe at 18, it's being honest with your teammates and telling them the things that, you know, they don't want to hear, but they need to hear, so honesty could be played as a core characteristic for the club in three different ways, based on the age, the mental capacity of the individual.
What does it mean as a coach? Right? You do the work or you didn't do the work, you're, self-aware, again, honest with yourself, like, you know, I didn't put in a full effort there. I, I had a self. I had a what do you call it? A meeting with a coach who wanted a raise, And I said, okay, here's your self-evaluation? Self-assessment give it back to me. And when the, I got it back there's this is a 50 to 75 point self-evaluation. [00:43:00] If it was 75 questions, 74 were a five out of five. One was a four out of five. And I said, did Barcelona call you this morning? And they answered.
And no, well, no, they didn't call me. I was like, but what I'm saying is if you are a perfect coach at all these levels, what are you doing here? Right. There's nothing I can do. Clearly. This environment is not challenging enough for you. So you go find the one that is, I know you want to raise, but that's not.
Self-awareness that's not being honest with yourself. Let alone me. Who's trying to advocate for you as a top coach. I want to know that you have growth. If you don't have growth. Then I can't do anything for you. I'm going to push you on and that's my role. I will push you on if you're too big for our pond or our Lake or our ocean, I'm going to push you on.
Yeah, that's my role.
Phil: [00:43:52] And on the flip side, too, right? If there are two critical themselves, you need to be able to come in on that and be able to like, Hey, you got to go back to [00:44:00] strengths. You got a lot of strengths, you've got a lot of greatness here and that you can bring, how can I help you to cultivate that and to flourish in that
Greg: [00:44:06] regard.
And, and I, and I've seen this, especially during this pandemic era self-confidence of youth and of, you know, the, I would say of younger professionals. So twenties and thirties, who don't have a lot of life experience to draw from that their self-confidence has really diminished, Their self-worth and their, their skillset knowledge, they really are shaken.
They questioned, they're questioning everything and not in a healthy way. So there's the Socratic questioning for sake of knowledge. But this one is like, I'm not sure that this is for me. Right. And you know, I think in the sport industry, in general, you have a lot of people who've left the industry, the profession to pursue something else that felt more stable, that they felt like they were more, they were closer to achieving what they wanted, [00:45:00] from a personal professional level.
Right. And that's, that's the big challenge that everybody who like myself is going through right now where we have everybody wants to go play sport, but it's, hard to find coaches, people who can actually assume that role and are ready to step in because they are a little shaken, They don't feel comfortable, taking the time energy effort.
To do what's needed for coaching. So for the, all the, you recreational coaches out there, or potential parents, learn how, you know, learn how basic, how to coach, but volunteers are going to be massive in the next 18 months. I cannot employ on every level at schools at at every sport organization.
Every even, you know, religious activity, get out there to volunteer in whatever capacity you can, because it's going to be very difficult and don't assume somebody else will, if this is where we all have to step up. Yeah.
[00:46:00] Phil: [00:46:00] Yeah. And what I've found is in every area of our society, it seems like either it's that what you talked about that low self-confidence that I can't like, it's just that.
Issue there or delusion, like you think your way, but like you said, the four out of five or five out of fives on everything, like I'm so good. I'm like, I don't need any help on anything. It's like with the reality is with everyone, the truth is somewhere in the middle. and that is something that we need to, as you said, whether it's volunteers, whether it's the coaches, we need to be able to be sending that message and reinforcing that message with what our actions are too.
But I think a lot of that comes from this thing that you and I have also talked about. And it's kind of one of the, one of the buzzwords in society right now. For a good reason, unfortunately, is this word entitlement. And I think that whether it's that delusion, that I'm way better because this entitlement idea, because a lot of these kids, a lot of these people have grown up getting everything.
[00:47:00] And just, growing up in places, you know, I live in a suburb and my kids come to me and go, well, dad, how come you can't help with college? I said, well, we don't have a lot of money. College is really, really expensive. Well, all my friends look, it's not something you will have a right to.
It's something that is a privilege. A lot of these things are playing. Soccer is a privilege. It's a gift to you. It should be anyway. It's something that is a privilege that we have Messiah college has this great. One of the Messiah college has a lot to emulate, but one of their sayings is we are grateful for everything entitled to nothing.
And I think this concept, if we could put this into it, it would go to a lot of these issues we're talking about, but really. You work in the suburbs, you work in Livermore. It's very similar to Folsom/El Dorado Hills, Livermore/Pleasanton. My wife grew up in Pleasanton. I know it well. My brother-in-law works at the Livermore Fire Department, so I know a lot about your area.
And I know about my area, very similar entitlements, a big issue. Soccer's not immune from it. It goes into [00:48:00] jobs. I mean, you talk to anybody employing people nowadays, you talk about entitlement being a big issue. People are expecting that they deserve something. Even if they haven't worked much, the whole unemployment thing happened over the last year.
Didn't help the cause. And so how are we, how can we, and how are you working against kind of the ills of entitlement in our clubs and our trainings in our society? What, how are you going to solve the problem? I guess basically all I'm asking.
Greg: [00:48:26] Okay, you ready? All right. Three minutes and I'll have the answer for you.
Phil: [00:48:31] you go. We should have started with this
Greg: [00:48:33] say. Yeah. So I think, you know, I think this is, you know, entitlement is a. A result of the self-esteem movement in the eighties and nineties that went through schools, right? So you had maybe a more restrictive type of academic environment. Earlier than that, you also have, the baby boomers were buying a house and living was a lot more affordable than it is now.
So you have people who are on the lower [00:49:00] end, who lived a pretty, we'll call it a fat lifestyle through the nineties, two thousands up until about 2008, you know, the, the economic recession. But because knowledge is no longer hard to acquire, So if you want to know anything, it's not looking up in a book or an encyclopedia dictionary thesaurus, whatever, you can literally ask a AI, what the answer to that is.
And it's automatic, right? So everything is much more accessible, And, you go to a grocery store with the thousand different types of potato chips, How many potato chips do you really need? Probably one. And it's made from potatoes, that's it? You don't need 72 different brands. So because of just how society has evolved in the last 30 years, it's lent itself to this sense of abundance. And I won't say I don't want, I, I like that grateful for everything [00:50:00] entitled to nothing. And I think Phil, you can probably speak personally of going down to Honduras and seeing what life is like in a lack of abundance. The only thing in abundance down there is love, right.
Is love of life. I say community right community. Right. Okay. So, and because that's the abundance, right? There's a scarcity of everything else. That's where we're at, what we're dealing with in America in general. And a lack of community, a lack of selflessness that used to be a lot more prevalent.
it's talked about, it's not really necessarily exhibited. So when we talk about, entitlement for kids is again, hard work achievement mentality. Like these are the things that everybody has to put into everything that they do. And then we just go back to what was in the past, like online schooling, kids are taking online tests, there's [00:51:00] academic honesty or dishonesty, right?
You could go search Google for those answers, or you can try and figure out. And then, you know what? You got a 55 because you earned a 55, not, you got a 95 because you know how to use the internet. And I think that is, those are. More moral, ethical questions that need to come from the family structure, as well as the support structures within the family to address this entitlement issue.
And then, from parents, I think from parents now, because money, everything does cost more and sport is no different. The entitlement of I'm paying for this. And what is this that you think you're paying for? What I can tell, like, you know, I tell my players training starts when you walk through the Gates, not when you step onto the field, it starts, when you get out of the car, it starts when you pack your bag and you have all of the, your necessary gear and your hydration, it starts, you know, when you wake up in the morning.
So those are the things, those, [00:52:00] those characteristics personal daily living that you have to really emphasize because some families don't really find value in that. they don't put a value on it. It's just an accepted thing. So in, in Livermore, just as an example, Livermore has more PhDs per capita than any city in the United States because we have, a 20,000 person lab that is there.
So we have a massive PhD. So we have a lot of very, very intelligent individuals. But we also, within our teams and groups, we have a very different array of the type of players within our, our graphs, because we have vineyards and we have we have a very vibrant, you know, farming, agriculture community, a lot of like you were mentioning EMS and emergency services.
So police, fire and paramedics doctors, a lot of people live in. So it's, it's a hard one to, to crack. When you say, what is entitlement. I think it's a matter of, [00:53:00] if you, as a coach, see your child bag being carried by their parent, go walk over to the parent and ask the parent why they are carrying that backpack.
Is it too heavy? Then take something out of it. That's heavy. But these kids need to learn how to tie their own shoes, wipe their own noses, right? Like you start taking away things that are necessities of life and living and survival, then that's when you have a problem. So whether it's go camping for a weekend, bring only what is necessary and see what you come away with after that weekend.
And I, I will say that from a personal standpoint, I spent more time camping in the last year than I did my entire youth, but I remember everything from my youth during that time. And that survival, like what it feels like to sleep on a cold, hard ground. Or to wake up and realize, Hey, we don't have any water.
You have to live without to understand what [00:54:00] having some is. So I think that's probably the number one thing is, is strip it down to build it up. It's that military type of mentality that you go into bootcamp. Right? Everybody matters. Not at nothing at the very beginning, but at the end, this is who we are.
We're strong like a fist. Yep. So
Phil: [00:54:22] I like it. I like it. I think that that's something that we need to remember too. And like you said, I mean, a big part of it is these parents are paying a lot of money, so they're like, okay, We're paying a lot of money. Therefore, our kid needs to play well. If kids not putting in the hard work, if your kid's not good enough, then they're not going to play as much.
I mean, that's the way I see it. That's the way I think it should be with. And I say that with my own kids too, if they're not putting in the work, if they're not, I'll tell them right away. I'll tell the coach like, Hey, I don't think they should be playing. No, but fortunately my I'm at a stretch right now where my kids are working real hard and doing real well.
So, but I look at that and go, they're not entitled to anything. They don't deserve anything just because they are who they are or they're [00:55:00] part of the Darke family or they're this, or they're that, or they're whatever. It doesn't, that's not the way it works. Like it's a privilege to see it as a privilege, as it is grateful for everything entitled to nothing.
And I think if we live with that, we'd have a much, I mean, I'd want to live in that, in that society more. Right. But yeah, we can talk about that a whole lot more. We are going to move on one of the things too, you mentioned earlier on is you got to work in teaching English over in Budapest. If I'm not mistaken, you didn't say that, but you've said that in past conversations and one of the things you've learned there as I've learned, presumably I'm assuming you learned it.
There is that really soccer is the universal language. We talk about this on the show. Part of the reason why, how soccer explains leadership, soccer is something I've used leading around the world. I've been able to use soccer analogies. And I just want to talk with you a little bit about how did you, how were you able to use that in your teaching?
How have you been able to use soccer in these different relationships that you've been able to have? Obviously, a lot of what you're doing now is soccer. So soccer, of course you're using soccer [00:56:00] analogies, but how do you see that in your Teaching as you're in this foreign country, teaching English, did you use soccer?
I'm assuming you did at some level and how
Greg: [00:56:09] so as a child or as a, as a teen, I was extremely introverted, I didn't speak very much. I was in accelerated academic classes while at the same time playing sports. So I wasn't necessarily in that jock culture, but I also wasn't in that, you know, academic stratosphere.
So I never really fit in anywhere. So when I traveled and as I got older and older I always would bring a ball with me, Because that ball, I could make a friend anywhere. And so through that whole process and traveling in different countries as a teenager and even, and even through my twenties is that you bring a ball with you.
You could start a conversation with anybody, with your feet, with a pass, With how you're. Express your emotions. one thing I would do is just dribble down a soccer, like a sidewalk. And if two people were walking towards me, I'd shoot [00:57:00] between the two of them and then run off and celebrate, like I scored a goal.
Right. And they knew exactly what I was celebrating, maybe it's the crazy person on the street. Right. But it was also like a way to make a connection in, for anybody knows Hungarian this is a kitchen module, right? So let's speak a little Hungarian, but in every one of my travels is learning a little bit of the language, you know, enough to survive and to communicate in a basic form.
And then understanding their culture. Understanding that's probably the best thing I could say of teaching English is that my job was as a conversational English teacher was to learn about them and ask questions about their family, their profession, their culture their history. Anything. And so we would just have these conversations and, again, through football, like football would maybe get you through the first door.
And then English would get you through the second, third and fourth. And so I think that's a huge thing for anyone who's on the younger [00:58:00] side. And, and not being afraid to, to travel not being able to, understand and know being an American and having a us passport is one of the most powerful things that you can have, because there's a lot of places that many people can't go that you can. It's the same thing as being an English speakers, same thing as being a, a footballer, Those three things can pretty much get me into any country in the world. And to get me to come together with somebody and I don't have to explain it to them. so I think That's probably the thing that I learned the most. And, and especially like, when you talk about entitlement, you look at Hungary, which was old, you know, Soviet Union, communist, you know, behind the iron curtain.
And just what it was like for them to learn what it was like on that side of the wall and what it meant for their newly emerging capitalist society. So really, really important as well. Like, you know, just that self-awareness like, man, this is not in the books. You don't [00:59:00] read about this in your us history or global history or whatever.
Phil: [00:59:05] no, that's something like I said, I mean, it. If you are working cross-culturally in any way, what you just said there, as far as a ball, it could be a basketball, could be a football, you know, soccer, ball, football, American football it could be a baseball but you'd need gloves, but you know, but the idea of just getting out there and you're making a connection, because sometimes that's all it takes and then it's a friendship develops and all these different things happen.
But also if you're trying to teach different things, if you're going, cross-culturally figure out what that connection is. When I went to India, I realized soccer football is not the sport. It's cricket. So what did I do when I got home? Because I knew I was going to be working with people in, in India.
I learned cricket there's guys around the corner who play in our little jet. I talked to him, I stopped and talked with him about it and got to know how do they play in a little roller hockey rink while I've learned that there's this different way that they do it, but that's to understand that. So that way I can connect with them and I can use that [01:00:00] analogy to be able to help them understand.
Right. So learn what that thing is now. You got a pretty good shot if you learn the game of soccer football. So if you're listening to this and you understand why I do what I do here, there's a, there is a method behind the madness here. So, but it is because we can connect. We can use it to teach these valuable life lessons that do come from the game they really do.
And this game has so much to teach. And that's why I get frustrated when all we're teaching is tactics. Because there's so much more to learn about the world. So much more to learn about leadership so much more to learn about how we can love well, how we can serve well, how we can work well with others, how we can be teammates, how we can do all these things that are so important in life.
And I think we miss a lot of that when we just kind of have this myopic view of, Oh, this is going to help me get to college. You know, that's a terrible way to look at this game. Um, uh, So, uh, you know, especially when you're not going to get a scholarship, I'm going to burst the bubble folks as a freshmen, unless you're on the national team.
It's likely not going to happen. You know? So I'm just gonna that's if that's the spoiler alert, I [01:01:00] apologize if I've crushed them dreams right there, but that's the reality. So, with that, I have a few more questions. What I want to, this is a conversation. I know I'm opening up a terrible Pandora's box here.
However I want to get, because I know we've had some conversations. I know you got a lot to say about this, but in like five minutes here, let's talk a little bit about the idea of the professionalization of the game, right? So of the youth game. So the professional coaches, how that's happened really over the last couple of decades and what the implications of that are, particularly for just that player who may not, who it doesn't really have the goals to go to that ultimate level, right.
That college pro whatever it is, how has National Leagues, ECNL, DA, now the I've just heard MLS Next, which I'd never heard of before. And that was the other day. I swear it seems like every week there's something new popping up. How has that changed the game in your opinion? Is it good? Is it not good?
Is it neutral and depends on who you [01:02:00] are. What do you think about it and where do you think it's going and how can we kind of make it into something that is either back to what it needs to be or make it and maximize it. So it can be what it's intended to be?
Greg: [01:02:13] No, it's only five minutes. Huh? I don't
Phil: [01:02:18] want to dwell on it.
I think the idea, and I want people to understand there are, there are a few sides to it. It's not an easy answer is kind of like it stinks. So let's get rid of it. And I totally agree on some levels, but at the other hand, what is the, I don't like to just throw out problems without solutions. So that's why.
Greg: [01:02:36] Yeah. So I mean, it, it really emerges. So youth sport, you soccer in the U S was really governed by the US Youth Soccer Association, USYSA, which is your old classic. Cal North, Cal South, your state associations over time, those were really parent or volunteer driven organizations. So when I [01:03:00] was talking about earlier, the Concord AYSO's, that was that tier.
What ended up happening is that through the emergence of more elite level players, right? They weren't just local community kids. There had to be something sitting above that. And what ended up happening in that whole emergence is, and the evolution is that it created this tier above what would be called grassroots versus performance youth soccer, right.
And how that kind of has played out. So you have, in the United States, US Club Soccer and USYSA they're kind of the two competing factors. Over the organizational structure. Right. And then from that, everybody wanted to be the next best thing. Right? So the national leagues, this, that, and the other I think there, I think the emergence of national leagues is good.
I think that the elitism and the structure and how [01:04:00] it has been created now, the difference is like, you know, I belong to a club Elk Grove and we were part of you know, the DA at the U 12 level. So younger level, but we had a double pass audit, which meant they essentially looked at everything we do as an organization, everything, their structure.
And they gave us an audit and said, Hey, here's where you're good. Here's where you're bad. They gave us, you know, we had to send out surveys to our families. So just like all the organizational things. And that was a Belgian company that was hired by the development Academy at US Soccer to come and do that audit. In England, they have the FA and I have a friend who works in the FA cat one categories.
So that means top level youth academies. And he's in charge of five different academies. And all he does is go from Academy to Academy, auditing what they do, how they do it in every capacity. So they have a structure in there that I have oversight. So while I [01:05:00] think that through the evolution and having a pyramid and a true defining, hierarchy is good because the landscape is so fractured here.
It's it's so it's confusing. Yeah. Even like you said, you just learned about a new structure. I'll bring you another one. There's another one called the EA league, which is the elite Academy league. Which is also a sub tier. There's the girls Academy. There's just so many leagues. And what ends up happening is that, the consumer, the member, the membership really doesn't understand what the purpose is of any of these, MLS Next. Okay. My son is going to, our daughter is going to be a professional soccer player. Well, the chasm between MLS next youth clubs and an MLS franchise is, I mean that, that's, that's a, that's a nice two-day hike and Everest, and that's a very difficult pill to swallow, and there's not the steps.
So as long as they're steps and what happens also, [01:06:00] and this is the, caveat is that because once you have these steps, if there's a player who drops out, So like they're no longer at that elite level, right? The top team, U-14, which, Depending on the day of the week, elite is, it changes, right.
But when they don't make that team, do they drop out of the sport? Right. And that's what happens. So now you're having elite performers who become sub elite, maybe just only momentarily, but now, because it's such a hierarchical structure, they go off and do something else and they totally drop out of the sport completely.
So, I think that the main thing to, realize or recognize what this stuff is that everybody has to work together. Everybody has to work in the best benefit of their club and their community and their membership. So I don't think there's too many associations, but even if there were the same structures, because there are different tiers and there was oversight like true local oversight.
[01:07:00] And this was the problem with the Development Academy and why it kind of fell apart is that it was being governed by one person in a large area and from Chicago, So there was not really any true oversight, quality control, and the great thing is that it professionalized a lot of these clubs in many ways.
And so instead of us soccer, investing the money back into the youth, they said, you know what? MLS is going to do this. We've got a lot of youth clubs who are doing this. Like, why do we need to be involved? So they just stepped away. And when they stepped away, that's when, you know, Pandora's box opened up.
Right. And it allowed for all these different other organizations kind of take a stranglehold on some aspect of that. So it'll equalize itself out, eventually I think the main thing, with the national leagues that I wish. That they would change back because us soccer did it about five years ago.
And I think looking back [01:08:00] it's hurt the game more than it's helped is turning players from academic calendar, birth year teams to actual chronological years. So where you're, and you're not playing with, you know, especially at the foundational elements that first graders would, we're playing almost exclusively with first graders and kindergartners with kindergarteners.
And when you started mixing those up it hurt the younger ages. And that in that regard and you, you still had the advanced programs based on the year, but kids who were August to December, Where the oldest players in their organization, but the youngest in the elite tiers. And then the kids who were January to July were the youngest in there.
So they were actually. Accelerating because they were playing against older players now playing against younger. So it's, I mean, the, the, what do you call it? The Oh gosh, there's an initiative. It's the chronological versus biological age effect, you know, do you have early developers, late [01:09:00] developers?
I mean, it's just such a convoluted type of environment, but for me, if you're the best team in your city play outside your city, if you're the best team in a local amount of cities play outside of those or play up national leagues, I don't really see them as huge value to the individual player until they become 15, 16, 17.
Right. And the cost is just it's exorbitant.
Phil: [01:09:29] Yep. Absolutely. No, no. I'm talking as a parent talking to, as a coach, I'm talking as everything, you know, and I think the other thing about a lot of the National Leagues, they don't allow you to play high school, which I think takes away a lot of joy. I remember Julie Foudy played at my high school and she wrote a big article about that, how that was with all the success she's had in high school was one of her favorite teams she's ever played on.
And understandably so they won like 89 straight. but it goes to a point, there are, there are things that you get at each level at each thing. And that's what I fear is being lost with the national [01:10:00] leagues, with the clubs that are now, not just, I remember when I was a kid, we had the Mission Viejo Soccer Club in Southern Cal.
That was for the entire region, basically the one team that was the elite team, everyone else played AYSO and it was still parent coach and they had fun and they loved the game and so on and so forth. And then they went on a lot of those players. Probably still playing an adult leagues where now I'm seeing everything has become, you have to go play comp quote unquote, and you don't see really rec programs at the U 13 and above.
You see them, but they're very few and far between, and there's maybe one team per area, but you see a lot of kids where they are either elite or they don't play well. And I don't like that because this is a game. Again, teaches all these life lessons that we miss. If we're leaving the game, if you leave team sports and I'm seeing that, not just in soccer, but baseball, basketball, football is one of the ones that still has a youth programs, but it's typically high school football related.
So that's probably the one vestige from the past. Those are some of the issues, [01:11:00] obviously very simplified. There's no one right answer or a solution. Cause with every solution comes a lot of other issues. And I get that But I mean, the reality, in my opinion is we're never going to be at the level of Brazil or the European teams until we go to a pure Academy system, which sacrifices academics.
So a lot of places now, some of the, some of the clubs do better with academics than others. And we're not going to have time to get into that, but those players are playing 24 seven, not quite, but a lot more than we will in an academic culture we have, which is I think a good thing. So anyway, we're going to have to stop that conversation there.
We can pick it up some other time. But I just wanted to give taste folks, cause out there, a lot of people are throwing out these bombs on social media or whatever. And I just wanted to do that for a little bit to show that there it's nuanced, like most conversations, it's a nuanced conversation, has a lot of moving parts, a lot of issues.
As you said, it may not be a bad thing in a vacuum, but the way [01:12:00] it's played out, I think that the talent pool is way diluted out there too, because of it. But again, those are all issues we can talk about some other time.
Greg: [01:12:08] It was, it was that diluted or diluted? Diluted. I
Phil: [01:12:13] think alluded, I said diluted, but diluted.
Greg: [01:12:17] no, it's it could, there could be delusional to
Phil: [01:12:22] get diluted because yeah. That's what I'm saying. Yes, absolutely. You're exactly right. It's the American idol effect as I often call it. But how do you, so let's just move on to the last couple of questions. How do you use the lessons you've learned directly from the game of, in the game of soccer in your life and leadership outside the game?
Greg: [01:12:38] Well, I mean, for me just I'm a obsessive learner, right? So I love conversations. I think it's spent, I spent most of my time going through every licensed course that I possibly could read whatever I can. Absorb from different aspects and avenues. And I think for me, it was just always trying to understand [01:13:00] people and myself more often through the game.
I can honestly say I am not the greatest coach, right? I'm not the greatest director, but I know that about myself and I'm every day I'm trying to get 1% better. So if that's, and that's what I learned as a player is, every day, just try and get a little bit better, it's a long game that you have to play.
So, that growth mindset and looking to, help out others. So kind of getting into, as a director of coaching and leading, you know, being a coach of coaches, my experiences are not unique in any way. Right. As a coach, as a player, as a spectator and fan. But I do think that they come from a point, which my personal mission statement, which is to grow the infrastructure of the soccer for youth in the United States to be as successful as we possibly can collectively.
that's my personal mission. [01:14:00] So everything I do emanates from that idea that we can be better as an organization. You know, I probably could make a lot more money in the, business world, no purely business world or something like that. But I really feel that I have a bigger impact in terms of personal growth and change doing what I do.
So I I'll sacrifice that to know that, you know, I'm here. What is it unite and strengthen. That's really something for me that I believe in, And that you have to lose a little bit of your P a piece of you. And that's probably another thing with. Coaching and leadership is that understanding that you are going to lose a little piece of yourself to give it up to be part of something and that's okay.
And that's actually really healthy, You need to be, you need to be able to be self-sacrificing at some times, because that's what is for the greater good. and I [01:15:00] truly believe that there are things that I do or that are selfish. We all, I think we all act selfishly in some ways, but when you're working in an organization and you believe in that organization's mission and that organization's mission fits your personal mission, I think that's that collaboration, that connection that you need to have professional satisfaction, right?
So the, financial reward isn't going to be there. It isn't going to be there and what you think you deserve. Cause we all think we're worth more, then what we get. But at the end of the day, does it fill up your emotional tank? Do you come home and say, you know what? That was a great day of work, And I'm happy to do it again tomorrow. And you start losing that. That's when you start thinking, do I stop playing? Do I stop coaching? am I the best director coach I could be. No, but the day I think that tomorrow I can't be better. It's the day that I will retire. If I don't think I can be better or tomorrow, if I don't, I don't have it in me or whatever, then I personally should move on.
Right. I [01:16:00] think that's with everybody who has had a professional playing career. Right. You get it, you get to that point. Okay. I just don't think I can do it. Maybe yeah, out can't do it tomorrow, but the day after, or I, you know, I can rebound, right. It's you're tapering, but. Yeah. That's I think that's probably the thing that I know about myself.
The most that I think from sport is that you give everything you can for as long as you can. And when you can't, you make that conscious decision to move along.
Phil: [01:16:30] And you use what you've learned in it. And then the next thing. Absolutely. No, that's really good. That's really good. All right. And I know you're, I know you're a reader, I'm assuming.
Well, I'm assuming you're a reader, because you do have the football book club group on Facebook. So, what have you watched read or listened to that has most impacted your thinking on how soccer explains life and leadership?
Greg: [01:16:49] Well, it's actually, the reason why I found your podcast is that one of my favorite books is the Franklin Foer book, which is How Soccer Explains [01:17:00] the World.
And for anybody who hasn't read that book, I highly encourage, and I, I would be very interested to see. Version 2021, because I think things have changed since that book was written. It's about 20 years old, I think around about, at this time. But in all of my travels to different countries, different cultures, different environments, been to maybe around 20 to 30 different countries, soccer explains what their culture is like.
Right? So fo fo Folsom sport landscape, their soccer landscape probably explains a lot of who Folsom is in California. Same with Livermore, The Livermore was ironically the very one of the very first soccer clubs in Northern California. They started out there, they were called the Livermore Atomics because they were the development testing site for Lawrence Livermore labs.
So I think, you know, you go to anywhere you know, you have red clubs and blue clubs, well, understanding the difference between, you know, the Catholic [01:18:00] and Protestant versions. In some towns and the divisions, the historical divisions, cultural divisions, social divisions that have happened. And I think that for me, that book more than any shaped, kind of like my worldview of wanting to go out there and see what it's like in every different country, how they express it.
And I'll give you a little anecdote. This is a perfect example. I'm watching Brazil play Germany in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in Fortaleza. And I'm watching it with 10,000 people on a big television screen. And one of the FIFA fans zones, and it was about 30 minutes in Germany was up two zero three, zero four, zero.
Simultaneously. Everybody in the country starts crying, crying, like unbelievable finished 7-1, right? Germany wins. Brazil is knocked out of the World Cup they're hosting. How did they react? How would you assume that they reacted?
Phil: [01:18:58] I can, I can imagine
Greg: [01:18:59] it [01:19:00] was carnival for the game. That's what it was. It
Phil: [01:19:04] was on my Brazil experience. But yeah, it just,
Greg: [01:19:07] it was, you know what we, it, wasn't our day, like let's just you know, life is joy, let's enjoy life. And I was on the Champs d'elysee in 98 when France beat Brazil, three nil, you know, it was 10 million people on the Champs, and the Brazilians who had just lost pretty handily were, arm and arm with the French along the Champs, celebrating life.
Right. And that, I mean, for me, you can read about it in a book, but to see it to travel to, to be it this is, that's why I would do what I do. And you're not going to get that from traveling from Livermore. To, one of the surrounding cities. And it's also one of the things that if I was in charge is I would stop the individual games between clubs and teams and it would be club to [01:20:00] club, just like they do with rugby, where you host a club and then you throw a, barbecue festivities with the club at the end of the game.
And you have that camaraderie. Cause that's what it's all about. It's not about playing the game. It's not about traveling to, you know, this city of that city. It's not about winning, losing the tactics involved it's about people. Absolutely. so that, book for me, typifies at the most,
Phil: [01:20:24] I love that you, you brought like so many memories came rushing back, as you were talking about.
I w a I love the book B that idea of clubs. I actually met my wife. We played soccer together over in Eastern Europe on a mission trip. And. We played against this German fireman team. I mean, they were like 30 something years old. We were 20 and they kick the crud out of us all over that field. We ended up at halftime, we ended up switching up the teams and just playing a little friendly together.
Cause they were beating us 7-0 at half. It was like that Brazil Germany game, except it was worse. but afterwards, [01:21:00] what did we do? We went shared some schnitzel. They're like, ah, you know, having the beers, hanging out, sausages, whatever. and it was funny. Cause on the trip it was, it was a mission trip.
So there was no alcohol allowed, but we have, everyone's kind of looking around going, well, what do you do here? Right? Like, cause there, there would be, it wouldn't be, so they kind of gave us the thumbs up, whatever. But it was funny because. You're exactly right. That is what it's about. And when you see it and when you live it out and it's the relationships that you can build through that, that opens a door, you've just played for an hour and a half together.
It opens that door. Now all of a sudden you're friends and you can do that. I remember. And then the other thing it reminded me of was Brazil versus Cameroon, 1994, world cup, Stanford stadium. I was a college student, went down for that game and big, yeah. Except carnival outside that match. It was amazing.
It was just so incredible to see, but to know, as you [01:22:00] said there before, after the game, win loss, whatever, it's, it's the experience it's life. I, it reminds me of Danny Rojas on Ted lasso football is right. Like what, that's the attitude? Right? Like it doesn't matter what happens it's that we get to play this game and this game is.
Embodying kind of a lot of who we are as a culture and how they play embodies that culture, that Samba culture, That party, that even how they flow and like you said, watch Brazil, play, you see a lot about who Brazilians are as
Greg: [01:22:35] people, they, they play with joy. Yep. Yep. And that's, and really that's what it comes down to.
And I kinda got the shivers just knowing that we're hosting the 26 world cup, because I remember what that meant for me as an, in 94, as a young person. And just knowing what it's going to do for this game in this country, in all levels and facets. And it's really exciting to, think about. And I I've heard [01:23:00] that 20, 27 possibly will be hosted for the women's world cup as well, the year after.
And then you have the Olympics in LA in 28. So if we did, 26, 27, 28 I mean, I think. I don't need to get much farther than that in my life to know that I will be as close to heaven as I possibly on Earth.
Phil: [01:23:20] Man. Hey, I love that book too, as you might imagine since that you do know that title of this and it didn't, it definitely impacted that.
But thanks again for being a part of this. Thanks for all you're doing. I just getting so encouraged to hear all the work that you're doing, all the different things that are going on in your club and outside of that, the teaching and training. I'm glad that you're training up a lot of these coaches because these ideas are really important that we're talking about here.
So, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for all you're doing.
Greg: [01:23:47] I appreciate it. Thanks for your time, Phil. Good luck.
Phil: [01:23:50] Good luck. Yes. All right, folks. Hey, thanks again for being a part of this conversation. Thanks for all that you're doing out there and in your leadership. And I do [01:24:00] hope that you're taking all that you're learning from this show and you're, you're helping it to help you be a better leader.
You're helping it to help you flourish in your marriages, in your parenting, in your relationships inside and outside the game. And I do hope that you're taking all that you're learning on this show to help you understand better how soccer does explain life and leadership. Thanks a lot. Have a great week.