What Do Coaches Produce?

By: Drew Carlson

“What do coaches produce?”

And I think the best answer for modern coaches is:

Systems that build better players and teams.

When I talk about coaching systems, you might think about Phil Jackson’s Triangle, Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, or Jürgen Klopp’s Gegenpress. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about…

When I talk about systems, I want you to think about a process-driven machine that produces a consistent result.

This can be a “system” of play, but when it comes to producing a result, you want to systematize your knowledge so that you can solve increasingly more challenging problems year-over-year rather than having to re-invent the wheel every season.

Tanner Reklaitis Article: What Makes a Coach “Productive”


I loved this from Tanner. He talks about this from a singular coach perspective.

Let’s build on top of this.

What about the “system that your system is in?”

Is there an even longer timeline we can leverage to build better players?

Yes, I’ll explain.

The Academy System Needs to Be Adopted

US Soccer was the first adopter of the “youth academy” system among major sports in this country. And they are being rewarded. The idea to put high-level coaches in charge of the development of 12u,14u, and 16u players is something to copy.

To educate the parents that staying within the Houston Dynamo organization from U8 to U18 is actually the best thing the parent can do for their child. This is a development “system” or a “machine” that produces better players.

The reason they work?

A player development plan that is on a longer timeline than 1 year. They are in a “machine.”

When you find a machine… Gone are the days where you play for a coach for a year and then look for the next best thing. More winning, more playing time, a new coach that will put up with you as a parent, etc.

Longer Timelines

In great academies, the player development runway is longer. They make sure by the time your player reaches 10u he/she has certain skills and competencies. By 12u they add another layer, 14u another, 16u another, and then when it’s time to try and make a first-team at 18…

The academy hands the 1st team a complete player that doesn’t have “developmental grenades.”

The goal of the coach is to make sure all of those players develop the requisite age-specific skill competencies to move forward. They earn their way to the next step. The player progression is intentional. The system is intentional. And the machine creates the player.

Uncommon Idea

One question I always ask myself… Why don’t youth organizations adopt the US National Team Development Program coaching model?

They have a U17 and a U18 team. And the coaching staff that coaches the U17 team moves up with that team to U18.

In youth hockey, it would be your U15 coach moving up with the team. The next year he coaches U16, the next U18, and then can drop back down and start the process over.

This does 2 things:

  • Fosters deeper relationships
  • Proves or disproves that your coach can develop players

Deeper Relationships

Most coaches are looking to make a “meaningful impact.” Just ask them.

But how many deep relationships can you make in 7 months?

Look to your own life. How many of your friends are making more impact on your life today than they were 2 years ago just because the relationship had a longer runway to develop?

Ask a junior coach. Unless the player is advancing to the next level, they would rather have the player for 2 years than 1. And they would choose 3 years over 2.

If we can set this up intentionally at youth hockey… Why aren’t we?

Can you Develop a Player?

This is what great coaches want to be tested on. So why not put them to the test?

There is immediately more ownership from the coach’s standpoint(or there should be) if you’re going to take a player from U15 to U18.

Do you want a more “bought-in” player? Give him more responsibility.

The same thing applies to the coach.

Do you want a more “bought-in” coach? Give him multi-year player development responsibilities.

The Environment: What to Start and Stop Caring About

The reason La Masia works and produces players for the first team at Barcelona is the process-driven environment.

They don’t care about winning the Spanish Championship at 12u (if that’s a thing).

They do care if your player can’t use his weak foot at 12u. They do care if he’s pre-scanning the field before first touch. They care about things that matter. Things that translate to success in the 1st team.

Great academies are also building the whole player. Education and training before getting to the 1st team on:

  • training
  • sleep
  • nutrition
  • behavior skills
  • leadership skills

We have to start earlier with these players. They are getting through to very high levels of junior hockey on their own talent and then the junior coaches have to spend time “fixing” instead of “building” the player further. Imagine how much better the game would be if we were handing off better, more complete, higher-agency players to the junior teams?

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

If our goal is to develop better players, we need a better system. And we don’t even have to build it from scratch. The blueprint is there. Who wants to go to work?

1 Response
  1. Alvin Chan

    Awesome read! Sometimes I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel but being a Canadian volunteering at all levels from learn to play to youth club all the way to the men’s national team in the context of where hockey is a grassroots program is a challenge.