How To Manage A Classroom Of One Year Old Boys Building and Managing a High School Soccer Program

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Building and Managing a High School Soccer Program

The following interview is with Coach Bill Bratton, who was my football coach at Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1989-1990 school year. I asked him for an interview to share his thoughts on football. He has been involved in football for over 25 years, so I wanted to get into his brain on the subject.

Stafford:

Hi Coach, You have been coaching high school football for over 25 years. How did you first get involved in sports?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Hello Stafford and thank you. Well, I started coaching football in 1982 in DeKalb County my first year teaching at Sequoyah High School. The previous coach left and the school needed someone to coach. The director offered me the opportunity to take over the program.

Stafford:

What was that experience like for you and how did you prepare for this new role as a high school football coach?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I admit that I have never played or coached soccer before. In the off season I spent my time preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics. I will also admit that the players knew more about skills, formations and what it takes to play a game than I did, but my strength was the coaching organization of putting the team together to play as a team. I really enjoyed coaching soccer once I mastered the knowledge I needed.

Stafford:

How long did you train at Sequoyah and how did you end up at Cross Keys?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I coached Sequoyah for 4 years before DeKalb started the consolidation program and moved to Cross Keys in 1986. I had the privilege of coaching the Keys program for the next 20 years. I earned my Georgia Class D Coaching License as well as my Class C National Coaching License from the USSF. The situation at Cross Keys was similar to Sequoyah, they needed a new football coach and AP who would become the principal offered me the position.

Stafford:

What was the situation like at Cross Keys and what did it take to build the program?

Coach Bill Bratton:

It took hard work and discipline to build the program. My job involved rebuilding the program. He lost the organization, the discipline was insane, and the program was not winning, just 2 years away from being third in the state. I had to instill discipline in the program and teach the players what it means to play on a competitive school team and what it takes to win. This progress will take many years.

The players would say to me “Coach we just want to play”. Cross Keys was a very transient school. It was a steady progress in rebuilding every year. They did not understand that they had to play as a team, that they had to come to training, that they had to dedicate themselves, and that in order to be successful they had to play as a team. Looking back, it took 2-3 years to get over it. When we got to the point where players kept coming back, I started instilling in the players that we play to win. They played in a competitive environment. If they just wanted to play, there were recreational teams, club teams, and other leagues they could go to and “just play.”

There were teams we could beat just on talent and skill, so we had to start winning those games. Slowly the players started to understand, but they didn’t know what “playing for a national championship” was or meant. But we started to win the games we needed to and it was time to go to the next level, winning games that were 50-50. Again It took 3-4 years to develop to this level. I had to constantly preach to the teams what we were out there to achieve. We wanted to win and develop. Once we got to the point of winning 50-50 games, we needed to win. ​in games we didn’t expect. Our goal was to make the region playoffs and go to the state playoffs. The final step in our development was beating teams that nobody expected us to. I always believed we had the ability, the skill to play with anybody and beat anyone on any given day. In my last 5 years in the Keys we have had two teams reach the 2nd round (sweet 16) level of the state playoffs.

Stafford:

Awesome! I see a pattern here and a valuable lesson to be learned. An opportunity presented itself; Instead of dismissing it because you had no previous football experience at the time, you made an effort to learn about the subject by spending time “preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics”, etc. You mentioned that it took work and discipline and you eventually mastered the knowledge needed to coach high school football, which I saw when my old high school merged with Cross Keys and I ended up playing for you my senior year. You seemed to have a passion for football and a knowledge of the game and the knowledge to encourage the players to play and team unity. But all this was achieved through your own efforts and efforts. How important is “discipline” for a future soccer player and anyone in general?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Let me start by saying that I believe discipline is an important attribute for anyone. Achieving individual or team goals requires self-discipline. Discipline can have many different meanings for each person. It can be a commitment to attend practice, to go beyond what one is asked to prepare. Discipline comes from having goals, and achieving goals comes from discipline. Some say my teams were disciplined. There can only be one boss in a team who must lead and lead by setting the discipline of what is expected of others. Others must be willing to accept the standards and work together to achieve for the good of the whole, not the individual. If the team has discipline, many other honors will come their way.

For many years as a coach I would tell the teams our goals, the purpose of what we are going to try to achieve and that to achieve these ideals we all have to be on the same page. For several years, I would have players who, as the season progressed, disagreed with the discipline and felt that certain things were unfair. They would question the purpose, composition and style of play or other discipline of the team. Of course, I would try to talk to them, explain what is being done and why, listen to their side of the picture. I always had an open door if a player wanted to talk or discuss problems, but not in public, in training or during a game. I remember one case when 5 players that I threw out of the game and they did not agree with my decision left the team’s bench and stood in the stands. These players were removed from the team immediately after the game. In another team years later, the players felt the formation we play and the players in those positions were wrong. This time I gave that team the opportunity to play the players and formation that they felt we should play. I said you have half to show me that I am wrong and if it doesn’t work it will be done my way and there will be no more discussion and if you can’t agree with my decisions you have a decision that only you can make. Well the team way didn’t work so at half time I told the team that I gave you a chance, now it will be done my way.

I have always told every team in my 26 years of coaching to coach (you may remember this)… I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good you are (even if you are the best player), or who you know… If you have to to be disciplined, you will be disciplined. No matter how much it might hurt the team, you know the rules and you know if you break the rules you will be disciplined and I will discipline you.

Stafford:

Thanks coach. Have you had any experience with club football (football outside the school system)? What are your thoughts on club soccer and its impact on high school soccer? For example, some players who play high school soccer in the spring may have club teams they play for that they train for in the summer, fall, and even winter!

Coach Bill Bratton:

My coaching club experience was limited as I coached for one year with the U-14 boys team in the Roswell Santos club league. We won the autumn and spring championships. A few years later I worked for Concorde Soccer coaching the U-12 boys team for a year.

If a player wants to be seen and has dreams of playing at the college level, then the club system is the way to go. But keep in mind that this is for elite level players. If they are good enough, there is a program they can go through to reach a higher level of play if they have the talent. The first is to be selected for the top team, to try out for national selections, to achieve regional recognition, etc. They should attend a quality soccer camp in the summer to improve their skills and get seen by college coaches. In high school, some club coaches look down on high school programs and encourage players not to play on their school teams due to lack of quality coaching, injuries, lack of talent and low level of play from many schools.

I encourage my players to find a club team to play on in the off-season because it can only help them get better. In the fall, if they are not playing on a club team, I encourage the players to practice cross country to start building their endurance and if possible get out to wrestle in the winter. Some club players come to the high school level and will tell me they can only play midfield or wing. I try to teach my players that even though they played midfield in their club team, they are a great fit in defense in the school team. Players must have an open mind and be willing to play in a position that will give the team they are in a chance to be competitive and a chance to win.

Stafford:

Thanks coach! Having been a club coach for several years, I can relate to the statement “some club coaches look down on the high school program and encourage players not to play on their school teams due to lack of quality coaching, injuries, lack of talent, level of play from many schools.” Not that I’ve ever made that statement. However, that statement may have had some relevance in the past, but do you see this changing because the new generation of teachers who may be coaching middle or high school right now are actually former football players who are also teachers, but perhaps they want to use the high school experience as a career path for some form of college/professional coaching?This may be the case with some private schools.

Coach Bill Bratton:

Yes, I can see this improving. Coaching at the high school level has shown a great improvement in the coach’s knowledge of the game. High school teams now, like club teams, can hire coaches from the community to help coach teams now and pay a stipend. These individuals must take state-required courses to become a community coach and follow school, district, and state rules while coaching. So high school coaches who may lack skills and are able to find someone willing to coach to teach/work coaching players on skills or to work on strategies and tactical aspects of the game. Many club teams are doing that now. They have a person to run the race, but they pay hundreds of dollars a month for a named/quality individual who was a former player, etc. that training really works.

Stafford:

****Coach Bratton retired in 2006, but after 7 years wanted to get back into coaching and took the boys varsity position at Fulton County (Georgia) High School as a local coach. It was great to talk to him again after so many years. ****

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