Over the last 8 months I have had the unbelievable privilege of working with the Loudoun 98 Girls (U16) Youth Soccer Team in Northern Virginia as an assistant coach and goalkeeper trainer. During this time, this group has been able to rise above the plateau that they had found themselves on to become Regional Finalists and National Tournament Participants. Finally, this past weekend win the elusive State Championship that they have been working toward over the last several years.
This remarkable group of young ladies has been nurtured over time (nearly 7 years) by two unbelievably talented and dedicated coaches. The first, Rae Ann Taylor who built a foundation of technical excellence and tactical awareness that provided the girls with the fundamental skills which have allowed them to succeed in soccer and in life. The second, Randy May who is now the Head Coach of the team, has continued to build on their foundation and has added additional tools in terms of technical and tactical capabilities while helping fine tune the emotional aspects of the game that often come with being 16 years old.
One of the key aspects to this development has been the consistency and willingness of the coaches to stick to a plan. Over time, there have been numerous instances where players have grown and developed at different rates, players and parents have focused on winning over development, and some players have moved on to chase immediate gratification rather than focusing on becoming a complete player. To the credit of the coaching staff and a core group of parents and players, this group has stayed the course and seen the results of sticking to the process, winning the Virginia State Championship.
As many of us understand, nothing that is worth dreaming about comes easy. It is the hard work and dedication that goes into achieving greatness that makes it all that more wonderful when we achieve it. Additionally, it is only through a series of failures, corrections, and breakthroughs that true continuous improvement occurs. Like any other endeavor, sport is full of variables and processes that, when understood and properly accounted for, can be approached in a way that makes success inevitable.
During my 8 months with the team, I have been introducing Lean and Six Sigma concepts (without identifying them as such) to help the team to find ways to reduce the variation in their training, game day preparation, and performances to achieve more repeatable and reproducible results. We are just now beginning to see the benefits of this as most of the players are starting to grow in their roles and understand the concepts of team dynamics. You can find more information about using Lean Six Sigma for Human Performance in my previous post Human Performance Lean Six Sigma: A Process Based Approach: https://thecommonsensei.com/2011/10/07/human-performance-lean-six-sigma-a-process-based-approach-to-improving-human-performance/
Now that we have reached our initial goal, we must refocus and look for new ways to step up our game because sport, like life, is about continuous improvement. Trust the process.
Until Next Time,