Sports Author & Speaker John O’Sullivan Presents to CRYSC Staff & Coaches
Posted by: Ben Martisius l Director of Communications
This January, Rapids Youth Soccer had the privilege of being visited by acclaimed author, speaker, and Founder/CEO of the Changing the Game Project, John O’Sullivan. John built his career creating player-centered environments to better work with players and their families on sport-specific development. He is an expert on the teacher-student, mentor-mentee relationship and has shared his knowledge with professional and youth soccer clubs across the nation.
The core of his presentation revolved around the question, “What does it feel like for your players to play for you?” After posing this question to the audience, John explained why it’s so important to step outside of ourselves and look at our relationship as a mentor.
It’s easy for coaches, parents, and staff serving youth soccer players to be blinded by what they’d like to see from a player as an athlete and forget that there is an impressionable, young person underneath. If a player isn’t performing, maybe there is something causing that out of character moment. Pushing on a player, when you should be asking “why is my player acting this way” can fracture relationships. If it is our goal as coaches and mentors to help players grow into the best people that they can be, then performances, results, and the competition should be footnotes in the bigger story of a player’s soccer journey.
An exercise he had the group participate in involved writing down our most vivid memories of a coach on a sticky note and then placing it on the wall, divided by whether it was a technical memory or an emotional one. 90% of the notes placed were referencing an emotional moment that had stuck with us as players through the rest of our lives. It showed pretty clearly how much of an impact we can have as mentors and how many “teaching moments” happen outside of play.
To further this point, John told a story of coaching his daughter’s team, losing every game that season except for a draw on the last day, and then having parents/players come up to him to express how appreciative they were of the season. It wasn’t the success that drove the passion, it was the fact that everyone wanted to be there and felt like a valuable part of something larger than themselves; a team. Winning and success are important, but only if you have built a player-centered culture that people would like to be a part of.
“Understanding the children beats understanding the game,” stated John. It’s a sentiment we can all understand, but have a harder time applying in everyday situations. If you can step back and ask “What does this feel like for my player?”, it can go a long way toward building relationships and creating moments that will last a lifetime.
We were thrilled to have John visit The Eddy to speak at the Rapids Youth Soccer Annual General Meeting and then again at the Rapids All-Staff retreat. He gave us a tremendous amount of his time and individual attention as he met with coaches, had CRYSC staff participate in exercises, and even recorded a podcast (that you can look forward to hearing sometime this spring season!).
With CRYSC’s Let Us Play campaign taking shape this spring season, it was a great opportunity for campaign-leader, Coach Brian Sheehan, to pick John’s brain and discuss how Let Us Play can potentially improve sideline culture and the game-day experience for both players and parents.
When asked about John’s visit, Coach Brian said, “We’re so fortunate to be working with John. His expertise provides a wealth of practical insight into the ways our sideline behavior affects children, and his experience as a coach at every level of the game, as a parent, and as a highly informed author and speaker offers a wisdom sorely needed in the world of youth sports today.”
It was an honor to have John O’Sullivan join us as our Club looks to “change the game” in 2020. It’s these kind of opportunities that help us better understand the game outside of what we see every day on the field, so we are grateful to John for spending time with our coaches and staff this January.
John has written a number of books, as well as being featured in The Huffington Post, CNN.com, Outside Magazine, ESPN.com, Soccer America, and other publications. If you would like to read some of his work, we recommend his latest book Every Moment Matters for an in-depth look at how some of the world’s best coaches inspire their athletes. You can learn more about John and his work on the Changing the Game Project website!