Framing Matters

I came across a news story this week that was reported by a local news station differently on-air than on the story linked to by the same station’s Twitter feed.

On-air, we learn that a franchise of a national restaurant chain closed, at first temporarily, and then permanently, after an incident last weekend where two customers were accused of dining and ditching the previous day.

On-air, viewers learn that the two African American female diners were “racially-profiled” by “at least one of the restaurant’s employees”.

In the written story, from the station, linked to in their Twitter feed, I learned that the restaurant employee was the restaurant’s manager and that there were two others involved, a local police officer and mall security guard.

That made me wonder why the station didn’t report those facts on air.

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New US Soccer President

Last weekend, Establishment Candidate B was elected as the new US Soccer’s president, much to the chagrin of folks clamoring for change in soccer.

I think he was the Establishment’s 2nd choice because he is slightly more open to change that could introduce more risk for the Establishment than Choice A was, which may be good.

First…

I think folks who want change might want to be careful what they wish for. Being an armchair critic is easy. There’s no cost to you for being wrong.

Not to say that I disagree with some of the armchair critics. But, I’d just caution that things aren’t always as simple as they seem and they might want to consider that they might be wrong.

Many people have thought they’ve had all the answers and then when they find themselves in charge, they fail spectacularly.

Had one of the change candidates won and made the changes they want and those changes didn’t produce immediate results, what would they do?

What if those changes ended up taking soccer back to the 80s and early 90s when soccer was a fringe sport like ultimate frisbee, lacrosse and rugby is in the U.S. now?

They’d just say “Oops”.

Ron Johnson, former CEO of JC Penney, was confident of the changes he wanted to make when he took over. One of those changes was “Everyday Low Prices.”

Sounds great. That price strategy works in Walmart. But, it nearly sunk JC Penney. Sometimes things that work somewhere else, might not work everywhere.

Second…

Public choice theory says that with centralized processes, decisions are such that not everyone gets what they want.

US Soccer and school-based sports. Neither has good competition in the in the U.S.

Competition is good.

I don’t know exactly what will or won’t work. Nobody does.

What works isn’t always obvious.

Unfortunately, a centralized decision-making body like US Soccer, doesn’t lend itself to finding what works rapidly, because it has a couple of dynamics working against it to try new stuff.

 

First, a single organization has limited capacity to try new things.

Second, there’s a tendency to get locked into trying the conventional-sounding things, because trying crazy ideas that fail get people fired quicker than doing conventional things that fail.

Competition solves these two problems.

Competitors can try the crazy things. Many fail. But, every now and then, one succeeds and fundamentally changes things.

Subway was one of many sub sandwich shops that succeeded and ushered in a ‘fast casual’ concepts that were adopted by the likes of Chipotle and Panera.

Third…

Waiting for US Soccer to solve the problems you think exists in the U.S. is like waiting for the Federal government to find a job for you. You will never be happy.

Don’t wait for US Soccer to solve the problems you think exists. Look for ways to solve it yourself and prove your concepts out.

I’ll hand it to the guys at 3Four3.com. They are loud critics of US Soccer….BUT, they are also doing exactly what I describe here, trying things and proving their methods out.

They sell coach training, coach youth teams, organize ‘pickup’ soccer activity for youth and host a blog and podcast to help spread their beliefs.  They aren’t just sitting back and criticizing.

 

Fourth…

For US Soccer…I’d encourage adopting more of a decentralized approach to moving the game forward in the U.S.

 

More on that in later posts.

 

Tom Byer’s ‘Connector’ Skills

I’ve already written about Tom Byer’s and his thoughts on developing technical skills here, here and here.

After reading the book, the deficiencies he points out are becoming more obvious to me as I watch kids and adults play.

Credit to him. It’s like one of those obvious things you don’t notice until someone points it out.

In his book, he wrote:

Soccer is a passing and shooting game, but passing and shooting has to come after learning how to control the ball. And passing and shooting comes so much easier if you do that.

I watch kids’ teams play soccer and despair sometimes. ‘How can they be so bad?’ I ask myself. Most kids can’t even move the ball from one foot to the other.

What’s the problem?

The problem is people don’t know what the problem is.

The problem is the lack of what I will call connector skills, which are the skills Tom describes in his book:

Passing the ball from one foot to the other. Turns. Pullbacks. Cuts. Moving the ball in any direction with both feet. Starting. Stopping. Protecting the ball. Changing speed.

Why do I call them ‘connector skills?’

Because they connect the moment a player gets the ball (e.g. wins 50/50, intercepts pass or receives from a teammate) and the next pass or shot.

Connector skills are the the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and on touch that players often need to take to move the ball away from an opponent and to find the next pass or shot.

Another thing I notice now, the skills worked on in soccer practices I’ve seen are primary skills — first touch, attack dribbling, passing and shooting.

Connector skills don’t get as much, if any, attention. Players do work on these as a natural part of the small-side games played in most practices, but I don’t think that’s near enough repetition.

Since reading Tom’s book, it has become more apparent to me in games that 30-50% of turnovers result from deficiency in the connector skills, which is big.

Connector skills aren’t about turning players into attacking superstars like Messi.

They’re about giving players the ability to ward off a defender for a few seconds to keep the ball with the team and set the next thing up.

Connector skills are learned through pickup play, small sided-games or practice at home, like Byer describes in his book.

They can also be worked on and demonstrated in practice so kids get ideas on how to work with the ball at home to work on those connector skills.

How are your connector skills?

Mini pitches in Iceland

A piece of info that I didn’t know about Iceland’s rise in the soccer world was the mini-pitches they installed at 111 elementary schools around the country.

From the Men in Blazers, I heard about the high number of UEFA licensed coaches and the large indoor football halls they built so they could play year-round.

I had not heard about the mini-pitches at schools until I read about it in the book, Soccernomics.

Mini-pitches at schools was also part of the German soccer revival.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup. Iceland, a country with the population the size of some U.S. suburbs, qualified for the 2018 World Cup.

In this post, I contrasted the typical U.S. soccer field with street soccer courts in Brazil (which are Brazil’s version of mini-pitches).

Generally accepted false narrative

On his blog, economist Mark Perry, rather easily debunks a narrative about the ‘shrinking middle class.”

The middle class has shrunk!…because the higher income households has increased. That’s a good thing.

Yet, Perry shows a case in an exhibit at the Building Museum in Washington D.C. where the opposite is implied.

The sad thing about false narratives is that they take attention from real problems.

The clipper

What is education good for? Not what we normally think.

Interesting podcast about Burning Man.

Walter Williams explains the Electoral College. My short explanation is that’s why our country is called the United STATES of America, not the United PEOPLE of America.