Thanksgiving 2012: The Charlotte Moran Girls College Showcase

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of sunshine“–Thomas Jefferson

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us… The first President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”  For as long as I can remember, I have spent every Thanksgiving weekend with my family, with the exception of one year – 1996 – when I traveled to Tucson, AZ with my friend Charlotte Moran to work with her at the USYS Interregional Girls ODP Tournament.  It was indeed unusual not celebrating with my family…and I can assure you that they have never let me forget that I left them at home without the traditional celebration!

That year I spent Thanksgiving Day on a bus with 35 teenage girls as Charlotte decided it would be “fun” to visit Tombstone, Arizona!  The adventures of working with Charlotte Moran!  Since then I have spent every Thanksgiving Weekend with my family.

Until this year – 16 years later – I will have the opportunity to honor my friend by managing the Charlotte Moran Girls College Showcase at the Kirkwood Soccer complex in Delaware…. Thanksgiving weekend.  It was less than 4 years ago that we, the soccer community, lost our friend Charlotte to cancer.  However, thanks to numerous people who loved Charlotte during her life and appreciated her passion for girls and women’s soccer, we continue to keep her legacy alive.  Her name adorns various awards; she is often spoken of with fondness and kindness and most certainly is missed by all.

So, while I will spend Thanksgiving Day with my family, this weekend in 2012 belongs to Charlotte.  It is my weekend of thanksgiving to acknowledge with a grateful heart my gratitude to my good friend.

If you would like to more information or to contribute to the Charlotte Moran memorial fund you can do here.  If you would like to donate you can do so here.  If you are interested in competing at the tournament in future years you can find the tournament website here.

Overcome Resistance

“Resistance is the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun”  Steven Pressfield

I admire those people who appear to launch new projects and ideas effortlessly with complete confidence and bravado. I am not one of them. I vacillate between enormous excitement at the idea of a project, resistance to starting, the energy that comes with the feeling of flow as I get into the project, the fear that rises up when I hit an obstacle or when it comes time to launch, to relief, to excitement, to fear…You get the point.

That is why Steven Pressfield’s Do The Work has elevated to one of my favorite books of the past year. The author of several works of fiction, including The Legend of Bagger Vance, Pressfield takes the time here to describe the power of resistance that arises whenever we attempt to create and launch something new, whether it’s a book or an event, or make significant changes in our lives. The tips he offers to keep the momentum going, and actually complete your work, are practical and to the point.  The format of the book is remarkably accessible, and even may seem simplistic, but there is a lot of wisdom here.

Each time I read Do The Work–and I have read it several times now– I am struck by a different point Pressfield is making; probably because at each turn I am at a different point in the process. Sometimes I need to be told to “Start Before you are Ready,” which reminds me that I can prepare too long, if not endlessly.

“Don’t prepare, begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it is not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is resistance”

And, other times I need to be ordered to finish up and let the work go out into the world. In his words this is being “a pro.”

“When we ship, we open ourselves to judgment in the real world. Nothing is more empowering, because it plants us solidly on Planet Earth and gets us out of our self-devouring, navel centered fantasies and self-delusions. Ship it.”

His tone changes with what is required to get the reader moving again. Sometimes his voice comes through as a commanding and other times compassionate but always as one who has experienced the joy and pain of creating.

Rediscovering Earl Weaver

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”Earl Weaver

When I was a kid my dad and my brother Jim were big fans of the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. They thought he was a managing genius. And, my dad clearly got a kick out of his personality and the things he was willing to say. My father passed away 14 years ago, but Jim continues to carry the torch for Weaver. He even made me listen to a You Tube bit recently in which Weaver spoofed the radio call in shows.  It was pretty funny, especially since I thought it was real for the first few minutes. After my most recent conversation with my brother I decided to borrow one of his books, Weaver on Strategy so that I could decide for myself what I thought of the guy.

The book is pretty great. It is remarkably readable even though it is packed with details about how to coach baseball, a sport I am at best indifferent about most days. In fact, it reminds me of one of my favorite coaching books which was written by Bill Walsh and is all about how to coach professional football. Both are  jammed with details because these coaches don’t generalize; their information is specific yet it transcends their sports.

In just the first chapter there are some key takeaways:

Be able to articulate your philosophy clearly and succinctly.

On the first page of the first chapter Weaver gives a clear example of how to articulate a philosophy. He concedes that spring training is dull, but asserts that it is essential.

“Let’s face it–spring training is pretty boring. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. There are three main purposes … First, the players need to condition their bodies and minds for the grind of a 162-game season. Second, I have to use workouts and games to pick my twenty-five man roster. Finally, the veterans need to review fundamentals and the newcomers must learn a new style of playing the game.”

In just five sentences he lays out what it is to do a professional job as a coach: do the job regardless of the boredom, care about fundamentals in veterans and rookies alike, pick a quality team and prepare to be great regardless of the circumstances. And, he gives a very clear purpose to an essential, but difficult time of the season.

Be Patient.

Later in the chapter he includes “Weaver’s Guide to a Rookie Making a Club”, which is again a very specific and detailed list. One of the most interesting pieces of advice, which is one of the hardest to follow at any level, and frankly in any career, is to “be patient.” Most rookies or young players seem to believe it is now or never, but usually at the highest level it takes time to break in to a squad and earn playing time. It also takes time to really learn your trade and the nuances of it. There must be some trust placed in the process. As Weaver says in his book,

“Even if you are farmed out, you could end up back in the majors. Play well in the minors and you can’t be ignored. It’s a long season, and there are injuries, trades and other things that will force a team to look to the minors for help.”

This is directed at the rookie, but he is also demonstrating his own patience with the process as a coach.

Build your culture with the help of your veterans.

In this same list he layers in one more idea about professionalism that is crucial for the rookie. Veterans have a responsibility to set the tone for the club. You should be able to watch them and know how it’s done. He leads with this:

“Concentrate and execute the drills: Every great player I’ve managed–Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Mark Belanger, and the rest–executed our fundamental drills with enthusiasm and care each spring….”

Wow, that is quite a list of players to be able to refer to in providing an example about your culture.

And, near the end of the list he refers again to this idea, “Watch the veterans. They know how to act and they know what is expected…”

Clearly Weaver affords respect to the best players on the team. And, they in turn respect the club and the game. Building a team with a strong philosophy and the help of exemplary veterans is always more successful and easier. But, it is not simple to achieve and it does not happen by accident as this fine book demonstrates.

And, that is just Chapter One.

The College Recruiting Process: Finding the Right Tournament

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”- Albert Einstein

Every year there are hundreds of youth soccer tournaments taking place in every corner of the country. Maybe you’re even hosting your own tournament (which would explain how you got to this blog in the first place!). Or perhaps your son or daughter will be participating in one.

While these events allow for friendly competition, there is another activity taking place around the edges: college student-athlete recruiting. It has seemed that over the years the age of recruitment continues to be younger and younger. While there are rules in place that attempt to ‘control’ the process between college coach and athlete (those are for another blog), coaches will still begin to look at athletes when they are 15 or 16, sophomore-aged.

Be Seen.

Most college coaching staffs will attend numerous tournaments, showcases, training camps, and high school games each year to identify the right student athletes for their programs. Tournaments allow them the greatest opportunity to see the most athletes in one location over a short period of time.

Coaches register in advance of attending tournaments, so you will be able to get a fairly accurate picture of which schools will be in attendance at each location. This information will be posted on the tournament’s website and should be easily accessible. See this example here from San Diego’s Surf Cup and notice the wide range of coaches from all college divisions who attended this tournament in 2010.

Pick Your Tournaments.

It has become a way of life for club teams to attend tournaments as part of their curriculum. So if your child is already on a club team, chances are your tournament list is complete for the year.

Not every single tournament commands the reputation to attract college coaches, so if your club is attending events without a prevalence of club coaches, speak up and make suggestions to your club coach or club coaching director. Make them aware of your goals and intentions in whatever level of college soccer you are aiming to participate in.

If your club team is not entered in tournaments you wish to participate in, there are sometimes opportunities to register as a ‘Guest Player’ and be assigned to a team for that tourney. Look for this info on the tournament website (here is an example from the  Las Vegas Players Showcase) or reach out to the tournament director for further information.  This proactive method of involvement can provide you with an opportunity to be seen by college coaches that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to watch you play.

Be Proactive.

If you’re a sophomore or junior, it will be good to have narrowed down your list of top 10 to 15 realistic school choices, which will help to focus your college search. Then you can specifically look to see if the coaches from those schools will be at the tournaments you are attending. One of the most important aspects of the recruiting process is to be proactive in your efforts.

Go ahead and reach out to those coaches (via email is okay) to let them know that you are going to be attending ABC Tournament with XYZ Soccer Club and you’re a center midfielder who wears #11 (you get the idea). Coaches often keep a list of players who have contacted them so they can keep them on file at the tournament and try to watch that athlete play. They want to be able to give you feedback and they are always curious to evaluate the players interested in their school. Players that have actually shown interest in their program are going to be a notch ahead of the hundreds of other athletes whose names they haven’t even heard of yet.

But if you are not at the point of having narrowed down your college choices yet, have no fear. You can still review the coaches’ attendee list and select colleges to contact via that list. It will put you ahead of many other athletes who haven’t begun their own college marketing process yet.

The Event.

It would be impossible for me to write exactly what coaches are looking for in an athlete, although I know if they had the choice they would have an exceptionally gifted athlete who also has amazing grades! After that, every coach is going to differ depending on their style of play and the current state of their team.  Some of these factors you will be able to dig up by doing simple research, while other factors may require a discussion with the coach.

You’re not going to be able to control all of the factors happening during a tournament, but one thing you can control at all times is how hard you work on the field. Make every moment count while you are out there and you’ll have taken some excellent first steps towards your college soccer career.

Alyse LaHue works in soccer and has studied the college recruiting process. Was most recently GM of pro men’s team LA Blues and amateur women’s team Pali Blues. Prior to that she was with WPS’ Chicago Red Stars.  Founding member of Gonzo Soccer, a non-profit Girls Soccer & Leadership Academy based in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

Five Keys to Marketing a New Soccer Tournament

written by Louise Waxler and Marcia McDermott

And now, of course this is another thing I didn’t count on, that now as the governor of the state of California, I am selling California worldwide. You see that? Selling. —Arnold Schwarzenegger

You have decided to launch a new soccer tournament.  We hope you have already answered the first question: Why are we launching the tournament?  If so, it will help you answer a crucial marketing question: Who is my customer? To whom am I trying to sell? Always keep this idea at the front of the conversation as we discuss some simple techniques to get the word out about your new tournament. It will serve as a guide when you must make crucial decisions about where to put your resources.

Selling a new tournament is not easy. It requires a lot of initial legwork to create your marketing plan, your tools and to try many different techniques to reach an audience. But it is well worth the effort if done well and in a targeted fashion.

Put Your Tournament Online.

These days it is impossible to imagine running a tournament, much less marketing one, without having an online presence. This begins with your website.  Amanda Vandervort and Ryan Knapp recently presented at the NSCAA Convention in Kansas City on the topic of running a soccer website.  You can find their tips for building a quality website and increasing your website’ marketing power here.

They made a great point right from the start of their presentation: your website is the equivalent of your storefront. It is the first place most of your customers will ever go. Make sure your tournament website is as complete as possible; remember that this is the first impression many of these clubs will have of your tournament so be professional and thorough.

Make use of social media.

Once you have your tournament online extend your reach through social media. Set up a Facebook page, a Google+ page and a Twitter account specifically for your tournament and place links to them on your website. Post to them regularly with updates or information that will be valuable to your followers. When the tournament gets going this will also be a handy way to update scores and provide information. Look into targeted advertising through Facebook or a keyword campaign with Adwords on Google or Adbrite, a less expensive alternative. Consider starting a YouTube channel where you can place short videos. You can then upload the same videos to your website. A great tip we picked up from Gerard McLean at tourneycentral.com is to include a welcome video, which can help set the tone for your tournament and set you apart from other tournaments.

But, do not rely on social media.

You will still need to reach out directly to your targeted customer both online and off in order to market your tournament. There is simply no substitute for time spent on the phone, in meetings with potential customers and vendors, or out making people aware of your new tournament.

Send information to state associations and the clubs you are most interested in attracting to your tournament. Reach out to them in a personal manner to let them know that your tournament is now available. Ask them about advertising opportunities, direct mailings or other ways they have to reach the best audience for your tournament. Ask all your coaches to reach out to their contacts at other clubs. Get your tournament information listed in as many tournament directories as possible.  Look for events or conferences, like a state soccer convention, in your area where you can have a presence with flyers or an informational booth. At every event you attend collect names and contact information so that you are always building a database of interested potential customers.

Build the networks and contacts that you will need to market your tournament in the first year and this will have benefits for years to come.

Communicate effectively within your club.

Your club’s brand is the best advertising you will have for the quality and competitiveness of your tournament. If you have a strong brand you will have an immediate head start in marketing your tournament. Inform the coaches, administrators and parents within your club of the new tournament. Be sure everyone in your club knows about the date, the format, and the website. Send out regular informational emails and updates within your club. Lack of information to a key member of your club can turn out to be a missed opportunity!

Provide great customer service.

Even though starting a tournament is hard work there is also a tremendous opportunity afforded at the start. You can build a brand and a reputation that will help to sell your tournament for years to come. Simply by keeping your focus on the customer’s experience and always being responsive, friendly and informative you can create a reputation that makes you a destination tournament. Return every phone call and email in a timely manner. Answer questions and provide as much information as possible. Create a registration system that is easy to use and cost-effective. Go out of your way to be a resource and to solve problems for potential teams. It may not double the number of teams that choose your tournament the first year, but we are betting that it does impact the choice of some teams. And, it is laying the foundation for a tournament that does well for years to come.

These are just a few of the tips that we recommend when getting the word out about your new tournament. We know that it is a time-consuming enterprise, but trust us it will be well worth it. The materials you create for one event or publication will turn out to be perfect for another or easy to adjust. The information you send around will help to make your club a well-known entity in your community. You personally will build strong ties to others in your club and become a valuable resource. And, most importantly by attracting your target customer—other teams and clubs—you will build a great event for the athletes in your club.

Let us know if we can be of help with any of these steps. Or, feel free to leave a comment.

So You Want to Start a Tournament?

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” 

excerpted from Alice in Wonderland

After years of running highly successful tournaments my business partner at Premier Tournament Management, Louise Waxler gets asked frequently for advice on starting a tournament for a soccer club. Sometimes she is asked in a social conversation and other times we are called in for a consultation, but she always responds, “I am happy to help. Can you tell me why you want to start a tournament?”

This is always the first question we ask.

Some people who we ask have thought this through, but this question often surprises people. “Doesn’t every club want a tournament?” they reply. Well no, some clubs are quite content to simply play in tournaments. After all, it is more fun to play in one than it is to manage one.

Tournament creation and management can be hard work, especially early on when you are still learning the ropes. But it is gets a lot easier if you know why you want to start one and are certain of your goals. We have found over the years that most of the best tournaments are very clear on their purpose; the best clubs and owners know if they are starting a tournament for competitive, marketing, charitable or financial reasons.

Here are some of the reasons you may want to start a tournament:

Drive Income for your club.

Tournaments are a great way to create a funding source for your club. With proper planning, budgeting and a marketing plan, tournaments can quickly grow into a strong source of revenue. Without those same financial controls in place they can also fall into a break-even or loss category so you need to make sure that you are on top of things. While not all tournaments should be created primarily to drive revenue, no tournament should lose money.

Create a unique competitive environment.

There are many excellent tournaments available, but perhaps you have a very specific environment in mind? You may want to create an elite event that is limited in number of participating teams, or the opposite, a play date type event that allows a more relaxed approach and a greater emphasis on participation. Either way, it is important to define that from the start.

Build your brand.

From a marketing perspective, tournaments can be a great asset. Especially if you are clear about your club’s branding and are building a tournament consistent with that brand. Tournaments get your name out in the market that you are interested in growing. They showcase your facilities and your club’s organizational competence. But, a tournament would not be good for your brand if it is is poorly conceived or managed.

Your region needs a tournament.

The type of tournament you wish to participate in may exist but be far away or at the wrong time of year for your club. Why not create the same environment closer to home and on your own schedule?

Support a good cause.

This happens a lot. A club or community wants to put on a tournament to raise funds for a cause near and dear to them, either in their community or is important to their community. In fact, Waxler recently started a charity called Headers for Hope modeled on this concept. “Headers For Hope works with tournaments and teams across the country and within each sport to raise money, which is donated back to their local cancer charity or organization,” says Waxler It may take a bit of time to grow into the moneymaker that you wish, but with a strong commitment you can develop something special.

These are a few of the reasons for starting a tournament. You may have your own reason, but the most important point is that you must have a clear purpose for creating a tournament. If anyone tells you, “it’s for fun,” we say, “don’t believe him or her!”

In today’s competitive soccer-environment, full-time employees often run clubs, and the expectations on a tournament and its director are high. Running a quality tournament well, of any size, takes a lot of work and commitment. The kids, the parents and the participating clubs should think it was fun and had value when the tournament is all said and done, but between stating your goals and achieving that outcome, is quite a bit of planning and work. Knowing where you are going is vital and is the essential first step.

Next time, we will talk about the next steps. Our goal is to assist you by providing the tools necessary to create and operate a professional and successful tournament. It’s still soccer, but it’s also a business!