John Kerr explains his soccer recruiting process at Duke University

GoPlay Sports recently caught up with Duke men’s soccer head coach John Kerr to ask him about his recruiting process.

Kerr, who was on a whistle-stop trip to the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago, revealed he was en-route to Florida to take a look at some players at the US national team camp.

“We’re a worldwide university to so we recruit from all over the place. We have nine foreigners on our team we’re lucky enough to have the pick of the top foreign players and the top domestic players in the United States,” said Kerr, who is in his 12th year with the Blue Devils.








Where do you recruit from?

“Everywhere. Anyone that available and is interested in our school and has the right academics. We figure out their playing profile and do research on them.

How does that work?

“A lot of the foreign guys are in touch with us and recruiting agencies, who I have a good relationship with, they recommend players that they know will be suitable options.”

How detailed are the profiles?

“It’s very deep, it comes from their academic transcripts. Recommendations from their teachers and playing videos etc. And then if I see a guy in a video I really like I will go and see him in person.

What do you look for?

“The first thing we do is see if they can qualify academically – that’s first and foremost and then after that I try to work out whether they are a good footballer and make good decisions on the ball.
“There’s a minimum standard of physicality they must have and can they adapt to the American game? It’s a bit like the Premier League – it’s fast and furious. We want to good citizens and kids and we try to get as much information as possible.”

Are there any major differences in the foreign recruits to those from the US?

“Usually the foreign guys from professional clubs are very savvy and understand the game and they come from a culture where it is understood that every single day you are going to play or watch or listen to a coach who is going to help you.
“In our country it is getting like that and the players we are interested in are like that and have the capacity to be ‘soccer junkies’ and they love it and want to play it and want to be exposed to it and those are the guys we want on our team.”

What benefits do the US students get from mixing with international students?

“Great to be exposed to different cultures and see how they go about their business and a lot of the foreign guys are very professional. They have different approaches to the game and different off-the-field approaches and have positive habits and it’s good for my guys to see that and vice versa. The foreign guys get a kick out of learning from the Americans and appreciate the culture they come from and trying to integrate together is a blessing.”

What do the international students think of the US game?

“Sometimes they don’t know how physically demanding it is and it is taxing for them when they play more than one game a week. In America in the college season we’re playing three times a week and that is difficult to get used to initially.
“Then there’s the daily grind – it’s hard work to play, recover, play, recover, so they have to adapt to the US system.
“The substitution rules are different to Europe. So there are a lot of things that take time to get used to.”

Where you heading next?

“I’m going down to Florida to watch the national team play. They have a camp down there with the U19s and U20s.

“I’ve got one guy who is already committed and three other guys who are very interested but I cannot share their names unfortunately.”

Matt Briggs

Grassroots England showing the pathway is the right one

England’s World Cup 2018 team are the first of an almost embattled breed. A side raised in the lower echelons of the English game; a team hardened by moving up through the ranks. GoPlay investigates…

Quarter-finals at best said the experts ahead of the World Cup in Russia, but already England have surpassed that after breezing past Sweden in the last eight on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate’s new England have been vibrant, expansive and brave and while former England defender Southgate can take most of the plaudits for the style of play and mentality, a closer look at the backgrounds of the starting XI tells a story.

Go show your team the world…

Forget the ‘Golden Generation’ of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, the class of 2018 are en route to World Cup glory via a very different pathway. Those players of yesteryear may well have been perceived to have been more talented individually, but Southgate’s young guns are a team, focused on success and have been given the platform to play in a way which no England team has done, certainly in GoPlay’s existence.

And one telling characteristics is that the majority of them, in fact all but two, have been schooled at grassroots level down the English football pyramid. They have played their football way down the English league ladder and in some cases in the non-league game.

Even someone like Manchester United’s midfield dynamo Jesse Lingard, who you might be forgiven in thinking has been a one-club man and played all his football at Carrington and in the United youth ranks, has played almost 50 times out on loan at the likes Birmingham, Brighton (before they were in the Premier League) and Derby.

Harry Maguire, who scored the opener in the 2-0 win over Sweden, played over 134 games for Sheffield United in the third tier, before moving to Hull City.

Meanwhile, Jordan Pickford, 24, now at Everton has had a grounding on loan with Darlington, Carlisle and Bradford City among his loan clubs, accounting for almost 100 appearances.

Only Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson have not experienced life outside the bright lights of the Premier League – just two players from the starting XI, who started against Tunisia, Colombia and Sweden that have played all their football at the top level in England.

In short this England side that face Croatia in a World Cup semi-final – for the first time since 1990 – have generally experienced the ‘not so glamorous’ times. Their football development, under the meticulous eye of Southgate, has been very different from England teams on recent times.

They have learnt their trade coming up through the ranks and experienced the hard times and most probably received a grounding that they can now appreciate.

Read More: England’s youth teams and why winning is not the only measure of success

The Three Lions are two games away from legendary status. Despite being the youngest and least experienced squad at the World Cup, averaging just under 26-years-old the majority of them have international tournament experience at youth level under their belts.

Many have played at England level from Under-16s through to Under-21s and been involved in knockout football and now they are just 90 minutes away from reaching the World Cup final – a feat which the Three Lions have done only once before when they were victorious on home soil in 1966.

Whether they can manage it or not, their performances in Russia have been a vindication that the grassroots pathway exists and England are finally doing things the right way to produce a successful side at senior level.

Southgate’s preferred England XI and their past clubs:


Jordan Pickford, 24, (Everton) – Loans at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton, Carlisle, Bradford and Preston.

Kyle Walker, 28, (Man City) – Loans at Sheffield United and Aston Villa.

Harry Maguire, 25, (Leicester City) – Played for Sheffield United, Hull City and Wigan on loan.

John Stones, 24, (Man City) – Played 24 times for Barnsley before getting a move to Everton, then a £47m move to Man City.

Ashley Young, 33, (Man Utd) – Started out at Watford, before moving to Aston Villa and finally a move to Man Utd in 2011.

Kieran Trippier, 27, (Tottenham) – Made over 200 appearances combined for both Burnley and Barnsley, of which just 38 were in the Premier League.

Jesse Lingard, 25, (Man Utd) – Played on loan at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby.

Jordan Henderson, 28, (Liverpool) – Started at his hometown club Sunderland, making 79 appearances before moving to Liverpool. One of just two players to have never experienced life outside the top flight.

Dele Alli, 22, (Tottenham) – Played over 60 games for MK Dons in the English third tier before signing for Spurs.

Harry Kane, 24, (Tottenham) – Loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester in the Championship and League One.

Raheem Sterling, 23, (Man City) – Played 95 times for Liverpool before heading to Man City. The only player who has not experienced life down the league ladder.


Matt Briggs

Duke Men’s Soccer and their 10-day tour to South America…

GoPlay had the pleasure of taking Duke Men’s Soccer team on a South American tour of Argentina and Uruguay last month.

The diary from their 10-day trip, from the players’ themselves can found on the university’s official website.

Here are a few extracts from the players whose trip was truly memorable.

“After many movies and the inevitable struggle of sleeping on a plane, we finally made it to Argentina.  It wasn’t long into our drive from the airport to the hotel that we passed the training facility of the Argentinian National Team.

“We even caught a glimpse of some players on the field.  It was hard not to imagine the kinds of goals Messi has scored on those fields…”

Suniel Veerakone


“Today was our first full day in Argentina and it came hard and fast! Waking up at 6:30 was a bit of a challenge for some of the boys as we still were feeling a bit of jet lag from the eight-hour flight.

“We had the privilege of playing against River Plate’s academy comprised of players aged from sixteen to eighteen. The field was next to the River Plate stadium, Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, which was an amazing spectacle that holds so much history.

“The match presented a different complex to what we were used to as River Plate had very technical players all over the field who were all comfortable on the ball. The game ended 1-1 against River Plate and was the start of a truly momentous day!”

Colby Agu

“Yesterday was our last day in Buenos Aires. As always during this trip, we decided to make the most out of our time in the Argentinian capital city.

“The alarm went off at 8:30. Waking up early was not hard because we all knew that on planta baja (“ground floor”) the tables would be filled with great breakfast choices. With our bellies full, we then left the hotel. Destination: Casa Rosa (the “Pink House”), the building where the Argentinian president works.

“It is still unknown why the walls of this building were painted in pink. The tour guide explained that there are different explanations for the characteristic color of the presidential house. However, none of these explanations is fully accepted, and many embrace the idea that the color pink is simply for aesthetic purposes.

“The main attractions of the house were the Presidential and Vice Presidential offices, the “Salon Eva Perón” (Eva Perón was the First Lady of the Argentinian president Juan Perón in the post-War World II period, and she is an iconic figure for the country still today), and the room where the president takes the oath at the beginning of his tenure.”

Daniele Proch


“After a few busy days immersing ourselves in Argentina’s storied soccer culture and competing against some of the countries best young academy players from River and Boca, Friday offered us the opportunity to explore the city of Buenos Aires, dubbed the “little Paris of South America” because of its wealthy French influence from many decades ago.

“We strolled only a few blocks from our hotel and proceeded to spend the entire morning slaloming through the neighborhoods of Palermo and Barrio Parque on a bike tour.”

Jack Doran


“I would like to thank Ruben for welcoming us to his country with open arms. Because of him my teammates and I were able to share some truly unforgettable experiences.

“It was a privilege to spend time and learn from a true football legend like Ruben.”

Will Jacques


“Today was our third day in Argentina and it was another early start. We had an awesome time last night enjoying the Boca game at the Bombonera and we got to wake up this morning and play the U-19 team. We were really excited for the chance to play Boca and I think because of it we played a lot better and were a lot more confident on the ball.

“We started off pretty well in the first half but conceded a goal before halftime. We responded well after the half and Daniele [Proch] scored a good goal to bring us level before Boca scored two goals near the end.”

Max Feldman

“As a whole, the trip was one that would not be forgotten soon and undoubtedly will be a highlight of everyone’s time at Duke and as part of the men’s soccer team.

“There was never a dull moment with such unbelievable experiences in countries and cultures so dedicated to the sport we all love so much. From the Boca Juniors game all the way to just learning about the history of Uruguay and Argentina, there were so many memorable moments and lessons learned throughout this trip.

“First and foremost, on behalf of everyone who got to be a part of this amazing trip there is a huge appreciation for GoPlay and their organization and management of our trip, and I would like to express how thankful we are for family, friends and alumni, that without their generosity and donations this trip could never have happened.

“With such a once in a lifetime experience provided by them, these things do not go unnoticed by the players and coaches.

“While talking and interacting with THE Rúben Sosa, another lesson that really sunk in with me was that high class soccer isn’t about what you have but what you put in. I

“It’s easy to get comfortable with the luxuries and resources that are readily available within the United States but what Rúben Sosa harped on during our time together was that although Uruguay doesn’t have as much resources and money to provide for their soccer players, the Uruguayans have such passion and dedication to the sport so much that it doesn’t matter to them what they have because they will work until they get to where they want to be.”

Brandon Williamson


The story of ‘master scout’ Piet de Visser who found his passion through travel

“I can’t scout the way he does,” said Jose Mourinho.

That’s some compliment coming from a manager who has managed at the top level for well over a decade and won Primeira Liga, La Liga, Serie A, Premier League and Champions League titles and been the first manager to spend an accumulative figure of £1bn on transfers.

Meet ‘master scout’ Piet de Visser, now 83, who discovered the likes of Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne, Ronaldo and David Luiz.

Forced to retire from playing earlier with a heart problem, de Visser became a successful manager before turning his hand to scouting in where he has made a real name for himself.

De Vissier developed a tactical code to analyse players from all over the world, scoring players’ ability in five stages: their skill, their vision, their physique, their mentality and their character.
De Vissier maintains that the good players ‘discover themselves’ and that he scouts them, but acknowledges that his job is not as easy as some may think.

De Visser said: “All my life was football. The good players discover themselves. But I scout them.

“Scouting is a very difficult job. It was in me when I was a young boy.

But the player makes his career, not the scout.”

“I see the game. You have to concentrate on every action of the players.

“I see the mentality. That’s why I not only go to games, I go to training as well.

“I want to smell the grass. I see all the things that a player does well and does wrong.

“I love football and I will tell the world I love football.”

De Visser was instrumental in signing Brazilian defender Alex, forward Jefferson Farfán and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes at PSV in what was his firs professional scouting role.

However, it was his love of travel which helped him discover a real passion for his work and a certain Ronaldo, the Brazilian version.

After retiring as a manager in 1992 De Visser headed to Saskatchewan in Canada to watch a youth tournament and there he laid eyes on a 15-year-old Brazilian – Ronaldo.
De Visser was so impressed with the striker, who eventually played for Brazil and became one of the world’s greatest, that his passion for nurturing young talent became evident.


“Then I saw Ronaldo in St Brieux, in a small tournament. And by the movements of him – I got a new life. I said ‘hey’ I wanted to be a scout to find players like Ronaldo.

“He (Ronaldo) was phenomenal. He had the ball in the move and dribble in the move and he passed the player in full speed and full skill.”

Dutch talent-spotter De Visser also lays claims to sending former Man Utd striker Ruud van Nistelrooy to PSV.

Holland international Van Nistelrooy went on to score 35 goals in 70 caps for the Oranje and scored 249 goals in a 19-year career, but it was as a 17-year-old playing for Den Bosch that he caught De Visser’s eye.

PSV, who had Ronaldo in attack, were not keen at first but when the Brazil star left for Barcelona, Van Nistelrooy was then able to step into the fold and he went on to score 62 goals in 67 games.

De Visser said: “I scouted him and I brought him to PSV. But at first, they did not want him.

He (Nistelrooy) did not know, but I thought he could be a very great player.

“We eventually took him to PSV and they sold him for a big amount of money to Manchester United.

“He played fantastically with David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roy Keane.

“He was always scoring goals, he was one of the greatest strikers.”

De Visser, who is a personal adviser to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, also scouted Man City midfield schemer Kevin de Bruyne and rates him as almost a 10/10.

“The best players I ever scouted – Ronaldo, Neymar, great player, David Luiz and Kevin De Bruyne,” added De Visser.

“One of my best scoutings ever, Kevin De Bruyne, came from the youth to the first team. And from the first touch of the ball, I was in love with him.

“He only wants to win. His passing, his vision, left foot or right foot it doesn’t matter.

“He is almost a 10. And I never give a 10.”

Current Manchester United manager, Mourinho, has also acknowledged De Visser’s successful method of scouting.

Mourinho said: “I can’t scout the way he does.

“His desire to know everything about players in the four corners of the world is invaluable.”

Piet’s story will feature in The History of Football global TV event, airing on History (excluding USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), from May 28th-10th June 2018. 

Why winning is not England’s only barometer of youth success

England will host the U17 European Championships this month and they will be looking to add the European crown to their World Cup win last year, but winning the tournament will not be the only measure of success for the young Three Lions.

In a brilliant interview on the Football Association’s website, the head of development team coaching Matt Crocker explains that the definition of ‘success’ has changed for England’s youth sides.

That may seem strange on the back of the recent success of England’s youth teams. The U17s were brilliant en route to glory in the World Cup in India last year, the U19s also tasted glory in winning the European Championship, while the U20s were crowned World Cup winners in South Korea and the U21s reached the last four of the European Championships, but more glory on home soil this month is not the be all and end all for England under their progressive guidelines.

England U17 coach Steve Cooper will of course be aiming to win the 16-team tournament.

“We obviously want to be as successful as we can but we are building for the future and whatever returns we get from the games will be learning experiences that will take us and the players forward,” says Cooper.


‘A sole focus on winning can be detrimental’

Crocker though explains that winning is not their only barometer of success and the FA’s website notes that ‘a sole focus on winning can be detrimental for the long-term progression of players’ who are still involved in England’s ‘development’ pathway.

“The objective we set for the U17s isn’t to win a major tournament, because history shows that if the only objective is winning then teams tend to only pick the bigger, stronger, quicker players,” Croker told the FA’s website.

The framework for England teams from U15-U20 is the necessity to qualify for major tournaments and with that comes ‘exposure and opportunity’ against some of the best teams in the world.

“The reason we don’t say our younger age-groups should win the World Cup or win the European Championships, is because it’s the experience of being in the tournament which is the key for development. Qualification is always the major objective,” says Crocker.

“A tournament gives the players exposure to a variety of challenges and different experiences. For example, last season our U17s were away in India for 35 days playing in intense humidity.

“They played in front of 75,000 people in huge stadiums against some of the best teams in the world. They also had a taste of taking penalties in a big competition. All those experiences will prepare them for the future.

“We need to get to the tournaments for them to have the exposure and opportunity for different experiences.”

Crocker also explained the ‘development pathway’ which is broken down into youth development (15-17s), professional development (18s-20s) and the senior professional stage (21s and senior side).

“The reason we call it a development pathway [before 21], is that it’s about ‘development’ – it’s not a ‘winning’ pathway.

“Our hope is that the pathway provides the players with a number of building blocks so when they do get to the senior team they feel as prepared as they possibly can be to produce a successful performance,” adds Crocker.

Crocker also explained how it’s now normal for England to take players to tournaments who have not featured heavily in qualifying, simply because they possess the greater potential.

It’s an interesting concept and one which may well be argued it shows little loyalty to players, especially those who may find themselves missing out on a place in the finals of a tournament, despite playing in the majority of the qualifying games.


‘Highest long-term potential’

But with the emphasis on development, Crocker says it’s crucial to give players who show the “highest long-term potential” the chance to shine on the big stage.

“Sometimes your qualification squad might look different to your finals squad, because there are some players – those with the highest long-term potential – who you feel might benefit from going to those tournaments. However, they might not have been involved in all parts of qualification.”

Head coach Cooper also highlights the opportunity his youngsters are getting on home soil and says it will only stand them in good stead for the pressures that come with senior football, when the emphasis switches to winning.

“We’re doing a lot of work with the players to make sure they know who they’re representing.

“They’re representing their country as a home nation. They’re standing up for youth development in England, from the grassroots game right up to the professional academies,” says Cooper.

Steve McClaren explains 5 key factors required to win a cup final

Steve McClaren highlights five key pointers when preparing for a cup final.

Ahead of Manchester City’s League Cup final success over Arsenal in February, Sky Sports asked former England, Derby and Middlesbrough boss McClaren to outline five key points required to be successful in a big game.

Some of his points are interesting, others not so much…

It’s worth pointing out that McClaren’s coaching career has not been quite what it promised to be after the 56-year-old guided Boro to League Cup glory in Cardiff in 2004. Big things were expected from McClaren but he has flirted with success rather delivering consistently. However, he did taste glory with the Teessiders with a 2-1 victory over Bolton via two goals in the first seven minutes of the match and he won the Eredivisie title in Holland with Twente.

McClaren also spent two years as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager at Manchester United between 1999-2001 – and was part of the backroom team in 1999 when they claimed the famous Double.

He went on to take the England reins for 18 months and was axed after England failed to make the 2008 European Championship, but he still has a proud record of almost an 45% win ratio and is still a well-respected coach worldwide.

And although his pointers are most evidently from his experience in Cardiff from over a decade ago and some of them can be glossed over, the ideas on preparation and inspiration are interesting.

McClaren’s 5 Factors

Strongest team

“Always play your strongest team. When I was at Middlesbtough the first year I played a weakened team at Ipswich and we lost 1-0 and the chairman Steve Gibson went ballistic at me. So from there on in I always played my best XI.”


“All games are won in your preparation Monday to Friday and big games are all about preparation. Get your media work done, sort your final tickets for your family and friends. In big games you have a tendency to over coach with all the information about the opponents. In fact its about not over coaching. My staff said we had too many sessions and so we halved them and had some fun and relaxed and made sure they were ready for the final. So don’t over coach, just keep going with momentum.”


“The players are all motivated to win but what is key thing is inspiration; giving them a purpose together which is greater than what the individuals want themselves. We picked a speech from Al Pacino in ‘Any Given Sunday’. That is a speech on how you win big games and how it is won by inches and we played that one hour before the final in the dressing room. And after the film everybody was motivated and emotional and in the right state. There were some tears and it really was inspiring and I knew then we were going to win the game.”

Start quick

“You get all the preceding three things right. I was actually changing from my tracksuit into my suit and just saw the penalty to put us 2-0 up (after 7 minutes) and I said to my staff ‘we’re definitely ready to play’.”


“You need it. There are three or four defining moments on any game and in big games they have got to go your way. For example our penalty from Zenden was with his left foot and he slipped and it hit his right foot – a double touch and they have been disallowed for that since, but we got away with it. That was the biggest slice of luck we got.”

Matthew Briggs

Guardiola: ‘Let children play day and night, and let them make mistakes’

Pep Guardiola, in a exclusive, passionate interview, revealed part of his football ethos regarding youngsters earlier this month.

Man City’s shock exit from the FA Cup gave Guardiola chance to take his squad away to the Middle East to get some warm weather training and while in Abu Dhabi, Man City’s Editor in Chief Chris Bailey caught up with City head coach Guardiola and part of the 30-minute chat was dedicated to Pep’s thoughts about developing youth talent.

It’s a fascinating listen/read…

How old should we start kids at competitive football? Do we start them too young?

“Lionel Messi started when he was six years old, but of course he is an exception,” said Guardiola.

“You have to let each player’s body develop. Nature is more intelligent than us and it really decides and it’s no good putting them in the gym to develop. The guy who is going to be faster will be faster, the guy who will be taller, will be taller and the guy who will be stronger, will be stronger.

“It can go year by year depending on the player. But the important thing is the talent. If they have the talent, they have it regardless of their physique.

“Sometimes it’s a big problem with players who have been told they are good enough by their manager, social media etc. They have to know when they are not good enough.

“I was manager with players who were 28-years-old and they improved dramatically to the age of 32 because they were still able to learn at that age.

“Sometimes when when we say players are good and they are 17, we say they are ready for the first team, but no, no, they are just at 10% of where they need to be.”

What about younger players, can they play too much competitive football at an early age?

“At that age they have to play and play as much as possible. Play in the street – in my day we could and now maybe it’s not possible – but play and play and play and that’s all and let them play day and night and let them make mistakes,” added Guardiola.

“Some advice to help them understand how we play the game is good. As quickly as possibly they need to understand tactics and why we decide to play the way we do.”


Do you get more pleasure out of winning a trophy of seeing a player develop to his full potential?

“With the type of players you win titles, so both.

“In a professional way I understand completely why we have to win titles, that is why we are here.

“Of course the pleasure is help a player reach his potential, but in reality they deserve the opportunity. But of course it’s a big pleasure if they think that you have helped them in their careers.”


Will we see a Pep Guardiola Academy when you finish managing?

“Maybe I would like to finish where I started. Maybe I will finish there, but for the moment I have a few years in front of me as manager at City.

“I take pleasure from seeing players learn, you’re like a teacher of mathematics in a school. When I was in the Barcelona Academy just seeing the players training trying to fulfill their dreams was amazing.”


In 20 years can you be an influence as great at Johan Cruyff?

“I don’t think so because Johan Cruyff’s influence was huge. His influence is not comparable. He was the most influential person in the world of football for the last 50 or 60 years.

“He influenced a lot of players and most of those are now coaches. We can never pay a big enough tribute to him.”


Frank Martin’s message on point, as study reveals problems with parents

Any parent of any sports-mad kid will have witnessed it, and this week the problem was met head on.

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin, incensed by a recent incident at his son’s basketball match, voiced his thoughts on the parents who continually berate officials and try to coach from the stands.

In Sky Sports’ #supporttherefweek a survey from the U.K. broadcaster and the Football Association found a lack of respect for referees at elite level was encouraging poor behavior at grassroots level.

In a survey of 2,905 grassroots soccer officials, 91% believe the apparent lack of respect for elite level referees is a “big or fairly big problem” for grassroots officials and the behavior towards them.

Also, 78% felt parents’ criticism of refs was a “big or fairly big problem” – and that leads perfectly on to the point that Martin made in his recent press conference – a clip that has gone viral.

It’s a must-watch couple of minutes for any parent on the damaging effects their actions can have on the very ones they claim to be helping.

Spurred by seeing a parent “losing his mind” in a 4th grade basketball game, Martin – a fiery presence on the sidelines when coaching – highlighted the problem head on and urged parents to keep quiet.

“I know this: I’m probably the most animated coach that you’ve probably ever seen when my team’s playing. I go watch my kids play, I don’t say boo. I don’t wave my arms, I don’t try to coach my kids,” said Martin in a news conference transcribed by The State.


‘I sit in the stands and I don’t say a word’

“With all due respect to most parents out there, I probably know more about basketball than most of them, OK. But I sit in the stands and I don’t say a word. There’s two guys refereeing a fourth-grade game on a Sunday morning. What could they possibly be making? 20 bucks a game?

“I used to do that. I used to make 12 dollars for 10-and-under, 15 for 15-and-under, and 17 or 18 bucks for high school-age kids. OK, so on a Sunday morning instead of being at church, those guys are out there trying to make a couple bucks, to pay their bills, feed their families.

“Do you think they really care what fourth-grade team wins? Do you really think that they like sat at home and said, ‘Oh I can’t wait to officiate that game tomorrow, because that one team, I can’t wait to get that 10-year-old kid and embarrass him in front of people.’

“Do you really think that’s what they’re doing? I don’t try to tell my kid how they should play. You know what I tell my two boys when they come at me, ‘Why are you asking me, man? I didn’t run your practice, go talk to your coach.’ ‘But ah —’ ‘don’t talk about your coach in front of me, because if you are then you’re not playing basketball.’

“You don’t understand why you didn’t play better? Go talk to your coach. I’m not your coach, I’m your dad. Somebody disrespects you, then I’m here. If you fail, good, deal with it, I’m gonna help you get up. But don’t come talk to me about coaching. I do this for a living, man. I’m not going to criticize a guy that’s trying to help you.

“And then the other part — so that’s the officials. Do you think those coaches coaching fourth-grade kids are making any money?


‘Yelling at the kids – they’re 10 years old, man!’

“So there’s someone that’s giving up their personal time on a Sunday, for free, to help other people’s children, yet, we’re gonna have the adults in the stands yelling obscenities at the officials? Criticizing every decision the coach makes?

“Yelling at the kids, like the kids — they’re 10 years old, man! Like if they’re a LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing in the NBA Finals, like they know how to handle their coach over here and their parent over here yelling at them. Then we wonder why kids get confused man, why kids rebel, why kids don’t know how to listen. How can you listen when you’ve got so many voices in your head at the same the time. You know what life teaches you? Shut things off.

“And that’s the part that’s frustrating to me, if someone wants to be so animated when there’s a basketball game going on, then go coach the team, go run practices, show up everyday at 6 o’clock at night and run an hour-and-a-half practice.”

Martin’s concerns are obviously not limited to basketball and the results from Sky Sports’ survey, referred to earlier, is a prime example of the damage that is being done in soccer by over-zealous parents.

Martin though believes that questioning authority is a problem in society, and certainly not limited to sport.

“It’s not a basketball thing, it’s a societal thing — where we’re always questioning authority,” Martin said later.

“We feel it’s our responsibility to get loud and create a scene, especially in front of young kids. When kids see that, they think they can question authority as well.”

Martin, who has extensive coaching experience, and says he has witnessed parents facing off on the court in front of children, believes it will eventually lead to a serious incident occurring.

“And something really scary can happen,” he added. “That’s my biggest fear. Kids deserve better.”

A focus on football work-rate and why hard work is a talent

GoPlay Sports met up with Celtic Under-16 coach and International Soccer Academy Manager Willie McNab to discuss work-rate in football. And he explained that the focus and determination needed to work hard, consistently, is a talent and should not be taken for granted or devalued.

“When you play against a guy like Ashley Barnes, it’s perpetual motion, he’s non-stop, always on the move.

“Thierry said something on commentary, it should be a pre-requisite of what you are looking for in a centre-forward. Run around, chase lost causes all game, and he did that and we’re congratulating him for that, but it should be the case for everyone.

“Why doesn’t every player do that? That’s want you’re asking for from a centre-forward.”

The above was an extract from Jamie Redknapp’s post-match comments after the recent Burnley v Everton fixture at Turf Moor. The subject was Clarets striker Ashley Barnes, who had, as they say, ‘put a shift in’ to help the hosts to a well-deserved 2-1 win.

Redknapp was referring to something Thierry Henry had said in commentary – essentially that the work-rate Barnes had shown should be a “pre-requisite” for every striker.

It’s worth noting that Redknapp and Henry are not the only two pundits to have taken on this subject down the years. It’s an emotive topic that is discussed by players and coaches from grassroots to elite level.

But should we really expect high work-rate from every player?

Would we expect every player to be able to dribble around three players and find the top corner of the net? No, because the ability to do that is a talent and McNab argues that hard work should be treated in the same manner.

It’s clear from watching any game, anywhere in the world, that not every player has the same drive and focus to be able to work hard in every game.

Why not congratulate Barnes for working at his optimum?

McNab told GoPlay Sports: “With young players we’re never really questioning the tactical and technical ability. They are always willing to take that on board and you can see them improving on that, but it always seems to boil down to hard work.

“Even when I was a young player, there were always players better than me, but you realize that if your’re willing to work a little bit harder than the man next to me then you have always going to get that opportunity.

“We’re always telling our players at Celtic that and we tell them to watch the best – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – but I like Marco Verratti and when Celtic played PSG recently I told some of our boys, who were ball boys, to watch him.

“His work-rate on and off the ball was phenomenal and our boys were blown away by him. His attutide was an eye-opener to our players.”

The discussion about hard work is not entirely new and it’s not only restricted to football.

McNab adds: “There’s a famous NFL video of Benjamin Watson coming from nowhere in the final game of the season to make a touchdown-saving tackle. It was astounding and afterwards he said his old college coach said to him: ‘Hard work like that does not take a whole load of talent.’

“That got me thinking. It’s not in every one to work hard. Not everyone has got that intrinsic motivation. Even out of football not everyone has got that desire to get up at 4am and go to work.

“I believe hard work is a talent. ”

McNab is passionate about the subject and not alone in his theory, n fact he stands in fine company. Sir Alex Fergsuon recently echoed similar thoughts in a motivation speech at Salford City FC.

“To achieve in life you need something extra inside – a dynamo. You need a work ethic in life. Working hard is definitely a talent,” said Sir Alex.

McNab admits talent and work-rate go hand-in-hand for players at the very top of the game, but he says in youth development at Celtic they are always looking for the players who have the drive to work hard and improve.

“You might give praise to a player who goes past four players, or a player who sticks it in the top corner, but what about the lad who runs 60 yards to get a block in? Not everyone has got that in them.

“I think it is a pre-requisite of being at the very top level. There are not many world-class players who make it without hard work. You may get the odd anomaly with a player who is just phenomenal on the ball, but you need to have talent and hard work to make it at the very top.

“We’re always speaking about our players working hard and taking responsibility for their own development,” said McNab.

McNab also believes that the coach can only take so much responsibility for motivating his or her players.

“When I put this idea out there I was asked: ‘Was it not the job of the coach to motivate players?’ And to an extent yes it is,” said McNab.  “But if you have got a player who is constantly needing motivating then you wonder if they are going to get to the next level. Players need to have that intrinsic motivation. They need to have that dedication and drive.”


Growth mindset v fixed mindset

McNab, who has 18 years coaching experience under his belt and is a respected clinician worldwide, also believes the notion that hard work comes easy to everyone can also be detrimental to the grafters in the squad.

“It can be a little bit disrespectful to hard-working players also. If you are always saying, ‘work doesn’t take a lot of talent’ to three or four players who know they are not as talented as some other boys, but they work tremendously hard then they are probably thinking to themselves ‘maybe the coach doesn’t think I’ve got something’,” said McNab.

“It’s the whole growth mindset vs fixed mindset.

“I try and put myself in the players’ shoes and if I’m a hard-working player and the coach is saying it doesn’t take a lot of talent to do that and everyday in training they are working hard are being the hardest working player, then it can have a negative effect.”


Sweeping the sheds

McNab uses the famous New Zealand rugby union side of recent times as a fine example of a committed, hard-working, but technically talented squad.

“If you look at a team like the old All Blacks they had a terrific work-rate ingrained in them. They would ‘sweep the sheds’ – leave the changing rooms spotless home and away and unload the kit off the bus, they were just so disciplined and hard-working and it showed on the field.

“It takes an unbelievable growth mindset to be able to do that.

“The players that come to the coach and ask how they can get better are the ones that are taking responsibility for their learning. You want players who are committed, that’s the player you want to work with because they have a chance of being a success not only in football but in life.

“If you have got a player who is talented and they are not applying themselves then you would give them a rocket to try and get them to work hard, but if you’re having to do that all the time then they’ve probably got a fixed mindset.

“The people who can develop furthest and quickest are the ones who have that growth mindset.

“It takes a special type of player to work hard every game and not every play is capable of doing that.”


David Beckham 

As far as role models go, McNab says he was hugely impressed when he saw David Beckham play live for Manchester United.

“David Beckham is probably the hardest working player I’ve watched live at Celtic Park. He was unbelievable for Manchester United that night. He dedicated himself to the craft,” added McNab.

“The goal he free-kick he scored for England doesn’t just happen that was hard work and dedication, that was staying behind for hours and hours after training practicing.

“Scott Brown at Celtic is a brilliant role model for our players. His focus and determination is fantastic, but he can play also and he is underrated. He is technically very good and his Champions League stats are good.”

Matthew Briggs

Florida Celtic’s Jonny Burns explains his biggest challenge in the US

GoPlay Sports caught up with Florida Celtic Technical Director Johnny Burns to ask him about his coaching career and life after moving from Glasgow to Orlando.

Burns, the son of Celtic legend Tommy Burns, was given a fabulous opportunity to work in Florida in August 2016 and the former Celtic Academy coach has grabbed it with both hands and not looked back – apart from the occasional glance back at Parkhead.

After a solid coaching grounding at Barrowfield, we asked him about the differences in coaching in Scotland to the US.

“Obviously I was lucky enough to work back home (Scotland) at pro youth Academy level where everything is focused on development,” said Burns.

A Change In Mindset

“The biggest difference for me coming to American is the change in mindset. At club level in America it can be very difficult to change the mindset of a lot of people. A lot of people are focused on winning instead of development, which can be really detrimental.

“I’ve been really lucky to join a club in Florida and be able to given a chance to try and change that mindset and I’m lucky enough to have people who buy into that.

“It really is the mindset of the players and the parents which is the biggest difference. The quality is great, we have a bigger pool to pick from and here you are competing against other sports.”

Asked whether Burns finds it hard to keep his Celtic players away from the clutches of America’s more traditional sports, he says his players, like himself, are ultra committed.

“When you grow up in Glasgow it’s football or nothing. Here we are always fighting with American football or basketball and there is competition there.

“We are fortunate enough to have kids that are very dedicated to soccer at our club and they put all their efforts into soccer and that’s great for us,” said Burns.

‘Females Are Very Coachable’

Following in the footsteps of his late father, Burns came through the Celtic Academy and when his playing career came to and end at 18, he stepped up into coaching. And after learning his trade at Parkhead, Burns, who had been running Celtic’s summer camp in Florida for four years, was offered the chance with Florida Celtic.

“I wanted to broaden my horizons. You can get stagnant if you’re in one place for too long and I just thought it ws a great opportunity to see a different style of soccer and work with boys and girls,” said Burns. “And I’m incredibly fortunate to work with some very talented kids at Florida Celtic and the move has made me a better coach.”

Burns believes he is now fortunate to coach both girls and boys – and he says he coaches them in exactly the same way.

“I treat them exactly the same and I think the girls buy into that. One of the biggest surprises for me is the quality of the female game here. It’s outstanding. And the females here are very coachable, they try and implement everything you say, whereas with boys it is much tougher.

“They take what you say on the training pitch into a game and that for a coach is great,” said Burns.

“It’s also trying to broaden their horizons, so that they know to use their brain and express themselves when they are on the field as well.”

International Touring

We could not let Burns go without a word about our tours and the benefits of travelling as a group overseas.

“I’m taking the 2002 girls’ group to Glasgow later this year with GoPlay, who have been unbelievable with regards to accessibility – allowing parents to contact them. And they have designed a tour around what we want and that has been fantastic,” added Burns.

“We’ve been planning this for a year and a half and it’s all the girls have spoken about. They can’t wait to get there and there is a real togetherness about them, knowing they are going to be exposed to international level players.

“It will develop them hugely to play against a different style.”