We like what VJ Stanley writes, almost all the time here. He is a great stylist and story teller. He also has a drive that aims in the direction of #LTAD, without even calling it Long Term Athletic Development.
This report is not about Floorball - but it could - very well be.
I recently interviewed a high school varsity coach who also coached an “elite
club” team. The sport does not matter for this discussion. Hopefully by now you
know my mantra that if it is really true, than it applies to all sports, and life. I did
not tape record this interview because quite frankly, I did not think it was going to
be anything special. I was interested in getting some more background
information on the “elite” club team mentality. Specifically, how it applied to the
The beginning of the interview went very well. The coach was quite open about
what he thought an “elite” player was and how his club tried to get all the
younger players pretty much equal time during the games and to stress fun.
I explained to him that was very commendable because only 1% of the kids going
to college play at the DI level and only half of them play for free. I also told him
that human beings don’t physically develop until their early twenties so it was
good to get kids as much playing time and fun as possible. We believe in inclusion
What he didn’t understand or see is that I was trying to plant an idea with him
about how he could adapt this fun philosophy to his high school team.
I was struck by his belief in winning over development and that how he
understood very few of them would ever get a D I scholarship, but it didn’t matter
to him. He had to win to keep his job, he said. But the rub is, he had only won one
sectional championship, and then his team was loaded. Why wasn’t he open to
I went and watched his team practice and play in two different games. Stunned
doesn’t even begin to reveal how different his approach was with his high school
team versus the club team he coached, or the way he said he coached. He rarely
substituted. Even far ahead or behind he did not use a lot of extra players unless
it was a complete blowout. I went back to see him for another interview.
I started by asking him about his substitution policy as it pertained to his high
school team. He said that the reason he rarely substituted was that his starting
players needed to continue to play together so that they could form a more
cohesive unit. When I explained to him that his starters rarely completed more
than four passes in a row, he just shook his head and said the subs would
complete even less passes. These players were all mostly “elite” club players and I
wondered how they could be so weak in this department if they played on the
same “elite” club team all year.
Again, I was stunned at the answer. He said that kids have to play on “elite” club
teams if they want to get the exposure by major colleges to get a DI scholarship.
When I asked how many kids he has sent to a DI college on a full athletic
scholarship he could not answer. When I checked around, I found the answer to
I then asked him why his substitute players, (a term I dislike immensely) should
practice hard for him if they knew they would not be afforded a chance to play in
a game. He stated evenly that they were role players and knew their position on
the team was to help the starters (I dislike that term also) get better and to push
the starters in practice so that they could play better.
When I told him I went to two of his games and saw the disgruntled players sitting
on the bench ignoring what was going on during the game he did not believe me.
He said that the substitute players weren’t good enough to play very much and
that they had not developed during the year to even suggest to him that they
deserved playing time.
When I asked him maybe the reason they had not developed was because they
felt helpless and knew no matter what they did they would not get to play. He got
upset and asked me what the purpose of the interview really was? He suggested
that I did not know enough about his team to question him about playing time.
He had won a championship coaching in high school and played at a very high
level and knew what he was doing.
Now I could have let it go right there but I figured since I had gone this far I might
as well ask one more question. Did he think playing more players and creating
inter team competition would help his team, keep his better players rested and
fresh, and foster a greater team chemistry? Which, of course would lead to a
higher level of play, and more victories, I believe. No he said. The weaker players
would not get better and would just bring his good layers “down” when they were
playing instead of the starters or with mixed in with them that would wreck any
team chemistry. Besides, his players wanted him to play
to win and they were content to sit on the bench.
If you think this is an isolated incident or interview, it is not. You want to know
why? This is actually a combination of three different interviews I did with three
different coaches in three different sports. I melded their answers into one.
You can follow VJ on Twitter @VJJStanley, facebook frozenshorts, websitefrozenshorts.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and at his office 585-743-1020