“One week training abroad is worth a year training at home,” is a common belief held by coaches who travel.
Any team is only as good as the players who comprise it. In order for teams in any sport, level of competition, or age group, to succeed, they need to attract talent, keep them there from year to year, and help them reach their full potential.
This guide offers helpful insight and techniques into how you as a coach can elevate your program to the next level by recruiting, retaining, and developing top players.
About the Authors
GENE KLEIN (Regional Coordinator) has over 30 years soccer coaching experience across multiple levels – High School, youth, ODP, college and professional. As a former Head Coach and Technical Director of Pittsburgh Riverhounds Professional Soccer and former Head Coach of Quaker Valley High School, Klein has a wealth of knowledge and experience in coaching as he guided Quaker Valley High School to six Pennsylvania state championships. He is a Regional Coordinator at GoPlay Tours.
BRIAN AINSCOUGH (Technical Director) has over 20 years of collegiate coaching experience at both the Division I and Division III levels spending time as head coach at Northeastern, Bowdoin and Providence College. Originally from Dublin Ireland, he came to the United States after a standout performance on the 1983 Irish Youth National Team. He played four years at Fairleigh Dickinson University before beginning his professional career in the American Professional Soccer League. He is also the executive director of FC Boston, a US Soccer Development Academy with over 2000 players and over 130 teams. He is the Technical Director at GoPlay Sports Tours.
MARC AMIGONE (Content & Social Media Marketing Manager) played four years of Varsity Collegiate Squash at St. Lawrence University and studied abroad in France, Kenya and Tanzania in High School and College. He’s also an avid rock-climber and runner.
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Recruitment and retention are every coach’s top priorities
Without top players coming in staying with your program, it’s impossible to ascend to a top level of competition. Prospective players, and their families, are looking for an environment where they’ll be pushed to reach their full potential.
On a daily basis, they want to know how they’re going to be challenged. They’re looking for a program with a culture of dedication and commitment where they’ll be developing as athletes on and off the field.
Having a vision
Top players are goal oriented. They want to see a pathway to the next level. They have a clear vision of what their future will be and they’re looking for the right environment to reach that potential. Top-level facilities and coaches are fantastic selling points, but they can be hard to quantify exactly how they’re better than your competition.
Setting yourself apart
As coaches and program directors, you have to find a clear way to set yourself apart from the competition.
Travel can be that differentiator
In order to attract top players to your program who are looking for a pathway to the top levels of competition, you have to enhance the overall experience and give them something they’ll always remember. Travel deepens their connection to the game, deepens their passion for the game, and gets them hooked by putting the game in a different context. It lets them see the commitment they made is all worthwhile.
Branding your program internationally
Building travel into your program as a core component will pay dividends for years to come by giving you a brand identity and marketing image as an internationally focused program.
Parents are always looking for the overall experience for their kids. They want them to reach their potential on the field, but they also want them to form strong bonds with their team-mates, learn valuable life lessons about discipline and dedication, and grow up in the process.
Travel is a fantastic way for players and their parents to form strong relationships with each other as well as with their coaches.
Raise the level of competition
For players who aspire to play at the highest levels of competition in their sport, it’s invaluable for them to gain exposure to international competition and realize they’re competing with the whole world.
Coming back a different team
We hear from coaches time and again about how their players return from travel experiences more mature, cultured, and independent which translates into their performance on the field in a myriad of ways.
Their passion and commitment to the game grows, their attitude and mentality to be a serious player develops, and seeing the way people live outside the United States gives them a sense of perspective, gratitude and humility.
Creating a team atmosphere
As great as travel can be for individual players, it does even more collectively for the entire team. Leaders emerge during travel experiences. Getting the group outside their comfort zone and creating the imperative for them to work together helps develop and strengthen the team environment where players hold each other accountable.
Learning to adapt to a different culture and deal with adversity as a team brings everyone together and gives the coaches the chance to show their players exactly how much they care about them.
The lesson that lasts forever
The experience of traveling becomes a reference point for players and coaches. Getting coaching from a dierent perspective and voice as well as facing a different level and style of competition can leave an indelibly positive impact.
Games, coaching, and situational lessons all act as vivid examples to which coaches and players can point when teaching or emphasizing a message for seasons to come. It works as a promise as much as a reflective emphasis giving coaches a motivational tool throughout the season, before or after the trip.
It also builds leaders in the team and brings everyone closer together through their common experiences. Any coach will tell you, a sense of accountability and collective responsibility is vital to success in any team atmosphere.
Whether you’re aspiring to build your program into a perennial powerhouse, or hold on to your status as one of the top teams in your league, the techniques outlined are all designed to help you reach your goals. Coaches who travel with their teams often say: “One week training abroad is worth a year training at home.”
Outlining that vision to prospective and existing players and their families is the best way to give them what they’re looking for: the opportunity to reach their full potential.