Hanging It Up

12 06 2016


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““No soccer coach ever stops learning. That’s what makes the great coaches great. They strive to learn more every day and they never stop asking questions.” ~ Jürgen Klopp

Image[8]I’m a little sad today, and I hope you will forgive a post that will sometimes seem self-serving. (But please don’t ever forgive that alliteration!)

I coached my last game of youth soccer this morning. I wrestled with this for months, and made the decision to step down a few weeks ago. It was ultimately an easy one as it’s time for me to concentrate on some other things in my life.

A little bit of history and a bunch of appreciation…

With no knowledge of soccer, I was drafted into helping coach my son’s team about twenty years ago. I have been learning and loving this beautiful game ever since, and I am sure that will never cease. Besides my family and friends, there are few things that give me as much joy and I’m so grateful for the opportunities and connections I’ve made because of this great sport.

It’s been my privilege to be part of two fantastic youth sports organizations in Northeast Philadelphia – Academy Sabres and Danubia Soccer Club. I was also honored to coach at the Pennsylvania Keystone Games. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed placing teams to compete in the Philadelphia Dept of Rec, Philadelphia Area Girls, United Junior and Inter-County soccer leagues.

Danubia U-19

I’ve met and worked with some very special people, and I’d like to thank just a few of them here:

  • At Academy Sabres… Bill Rooney drafted me, Steve Gallagher gave me more responsibility, and Ed Magee and Jenn Dreibelbis dragged me back after a few years away.
  • It was my extreme pleasure to be a small part in the resurgence at Danubia Soccer Club, where my boys had such big success. We did well, but most importantly my players were seen by lots of college coaches – the Danubia name had a lot to do with that. All credit goes to Nick Kramer who led that club back to prominence. Thanks, Nick!
  • And special thanks to my good friend, Sal Calio… who taught me more about the guts of the game than anyone else. I still laugh at how our skill sets and overall philosophy synced… we sometimes finished each others sentences!

Many thanks to all the coaches, administrators and league officials I’ve worked with over the years… and to most of the parents and some of the refs! Just kidding… much respect to all!

I’ve been so lucky to work with great kids… every last one of my players were fantastic. I now feel such happiness connecting with them in person and on social media. I have been extremely proud to see their successes… in school, in business, and serving our country. And some of these young men are getting married and starting families of their own. I hope some of these former players become coaches, and feel that same pride that I enjoy so much.

JL_Soccer_01bLast but certainly not least, I thank my son, John… my all-time favorite player. My love for the game of soccer is because of the talent, desire, and joy that he exuded while playing and practicing. As many know, it can tough on a player when his parent is the coach. I realized that after a few years, and when he entered high school I stopped coaching him… a good move because he excelled and I got to watch. I’m sure he learned a lot from his successes and failures on the field, and I did too. And for the rest of my days, I will continue to let him think he knows more about soccer than I do!

I’ve written my thoughts on coaching in a previous post, and although my philosophy has evolved it has always been simple. The primary job of a coach is to instill two things in the hearts and minds of players… joy and respect for the game and your teammates. That principle alone will help them succeed in sports and, more importantly, in life.

FullSizeRender (12)At the end of the day, and the decades… we won some, and we lost some. There were some great days, and we celebrated. There were some not so great days, and we learned. We learned from each other as well, and we had a lot of fun. I will always be thankful for all the ups and downs!

Cheers to you all!

My Academy Sabres team was good enough to sign my hat after the game this morning… it will have a very prominent spot on my shelf of memories.