June 24, 2006

Being a good coach...

i realize that i know little about how the world of futbol actually works (from a personnel standpoint), but everything i've seen or heard about bruce arena leads me to believe that he might not be the best coach in the entire world.

i'm not talking about strategically on the field (which eric wynalda rips arena on all over the press), because i don't really know all that much about the tactical aspects of the sport. but being a former coach myself, i know that there are certain things that a coach should almost always do:

1) don't call out players in public: after the U.S. loss in the first game against the czech republic, arena immediately ripped on his players and called them out for playing poorly. to the press. now i've never coached athletes with media scrutiny, but i would think that maybe talking to your players first might be a good idea. trust with your athletes is something you build as a coach. ripping them in public is an act that can ruin any trust that you have.

2) don't whine ALL the TIME during the game: for some reason, every time they panned to bruce arena during the games, he had the look of mark cuban on his face. every call that went against his team was an occasion for him to throw up his hands and whine his ass off. now i don't know THAT much about futbol, but if it's like any other sport, arena needs to be judicious with his whining. whining to referees feeds into your players and creates an atmosphere of "we're getting screwed!" that is not a positive.

3) don't blame referees when it doesn't matter: now unless it is the very rare case where you TRULY get screwed out of a game/championship (read: 1972 USA vs. USSR Basketball), shut your MOUTH about the referees after the game is over. seriously. mr. arena, no one wants to hear about the referees. all we care about is that your team didn't play well enough to win. that is it. end of story. lose gracefully, zip up your mouth, and show some dignity when you're representing our country.

4) show some backbone: as much as i dislike duke basketball and the yankees, every time i see bruce arena in an interview, i can't help thinking about coach k and joe torre, who are the epitomes of class and proper behavior as a coach. but not only that, coach k displays strength and leadership every time he talks as the coach of duke basketball. i couldn't ever imagine him saying "Right now, I'm just an idiot." the proper answers to the questions arena were asked for this article? "I have greatly enjoyed being the coach of U.S. Soccer. It has been a tremendous privilege and I feel like I've accomplished a lot, with a lot of room to grow. I hope that I'm able to return as the U.S. coach." period. end of story.

5) show some class: after the loss to ghana, arena (apparently) walked off the field, briefly waving to Ghana's coach and shaking no one's hand. my lasting memory from the 2006 nba finals will be even mark cuban, the biggest whining crybaby in all of the nba, walking down to the court after game 6 and clapping for the winners. as a coach, you need to set an example for your team by losing gracefully. you especially need to do this when the Ghana team has accomplished such a proud feat for its country. luckily the players didn't follow his lead on this. it's pretty sad that the U.S. coaching representative can't walk across the field to shake the winning coach's hand.

6) accept the blame: most of all, your job as a coach is to take responsibility. sometimes you need to say things in post-game press conferences like, "Our team didn't play well. As a coaching staff, we should have done a better job preparing our team to win. We didn't accomplish our goals here at the World Cup and we are disappointed by our own performance. We congratulate the teams from Italy and Ghana."

oh, and the proper response to the question 'Was the penalty kick play right before the half a foul?' is "I'm not sure if it was a foul or not, but I want to be clear that the call is not the reason we lost the game. Calls will happen or not happen in any sporting event, but a winning team will find a way to work through them. The bottom line is that we didn't get the job done on the field and we have no one to blame but ourselves."

people don't write news articles about quotes like that, but they do respect you.

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At 6/25/2006 10:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JC - that is a very lucid breakdown of it - also having coached a few times myself, You have to be the bigger person in all situations. The effort of the other team (especially in a very respectful tournament as the WC is) is always to be commended.

However, my one question is - is there not some benefit (when dealing with professionals like our world cuppers), to spark some "energy" in the players by basically giving them a kick in the ass (hence Arena's comments to the media)?

I think this becomes valuable when your players think they are bigger than you as a coach (which leads to many other inherent problems to deal with) - but something you see with Professional players constantly.

Just a thought...



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