The World Cup has always been a source of inspiration for me. In 2010, I saw kids playing together for just the sake of playing. No adults, no teams, just playing with the ball and each other. That helped inspire the idea of a soccer “home” as I opened LeftFoot as an academy with a facility shortly after. I wrote the “Problem of Player Development” to address the issues I saw in youth soccer in 2010. The Solutions of LeftFoot Coaching Academy were the tenets of the Academy. In 2011, I documented the LeftFoot Coaching Values to prepare the organization to grow.
While LeftFoot has grown and made an impact on the local soccer scene, unfortunately the state of youth soccer as a whole has not changed to be more inclusive. When I went to Winnipeg I had a desire to be re-inspired, and I realized my contributions to the game couldn’t just be about building a business and being an entrepreneur. I was bored with team coaching, expanding the business, and dealing with the politics of youth soccer, and henceforth memberships and policies. I was searching for more meaning in what we do, but more importantly why we do what we do.
At that point, the need for LeftFoot Six was starting to become more clear. Since the inception of LeftFoot Coaching Academy in 2008, there has been an increasing need for an evolved “operating system”. LeftFoot Six was ready to emerge and would provide the Academy with an infrastructure that would address the key issues that have arose over the past six years.
This is an attempt to bring more clarity to the six interventions, or “core concepts”, within LeftFoot Six. I hope to start the conversation, which will ultimately guide us toward more locations and allow us to broaden the experience for more players to have Access, Opportunity and Flexibility within their journey through youth soccer.
Once a Leftie, All Ways a Leftie
Being a Leftie has to be more than just paying over $1,000 a year for coaching services. Our purpose as an Academy strives to define within the youth soccer community that there will be a voice of advocacy for the player through the complex journey traveled by children and families through youth soccer. A Leftie is committed to their own personal development within the larger context of a team. The commitment to belong to a community of like minded parents and players has to connect us together not just at LeftFoot, but beyond as well.
The transitions between club levels, high school, and college are only stages in the soccer players lifespan, not barriers. LeftFoot is an idea that we practice our technical expertise to enable us to play soccer together for a different purpose than a competitive team. The concept that restricts membership based on tuition has to be eliminated from the business, or at least we need to separate what is membership and what is tuition. A Leftie is someone who believes in being a member of something bigger than themselves. If we cannot be together on the pitch we can be together in spirit within community by contributing a creative space for all players to play, grow, learn, and develop.
“All Ways a Leftie” means that we’re different and traveling alternative pathways toward our goals of creating a home, not only for ourselves, but for others. Our High Elbows Out has always meant, “thank you” and “good job”, for “without you, I couldn’t be here either.” In the deepest core of our values since the Academy was founded, our membership dollars contribute to the whole and creates a space for children to play. While “always” suggests that our membership is linear, the “all ways a Leftie” clarifies that membership is inclusive and all encompassing on different levels – we can in all ways participate together through the journey of youth soccer for ourselves and others.
Establishing an annual membership contribution, separate from tuition, is part of this evolution of LeftFoot Six. It allows students and families to continue to take part in the Academy, identify with the core values through the journey, and re-engage the Academy on their own schedule by enrolling in our Trimesters. All Ways Membership allows a student to stay connected without having to adhere to an attendance schedule dictated by our Guidance in Coaching.
An All Ways Open Experience
LeftFoot was originally designed to work backwards from creating sessions that supported one coach through the year. We know that players in May don’t have the same demand for supplemental coaching in October or July but the majority of players isn’t what we’re designed for…we’re designed for individual students to choose how often and when they want to practice.
In the former models, we would work backwards from how many members we had and then design a schedule to fit coach availability. This created a back log of time constraints — counting members, planning sessions, releasing schedules, players booking and so on. This would lead to a frustrating scheduling process for both administrators and families.
In the early days of LeftFoot, players used to be able to attend sessions for less than $9 per visit. The idea was that once they were a member, they could use these cheaper visits to fill extra classes and then allow coaches to play with new ideas, take risks, and experiment in their sessions. Players get better, coaches get to coach full sessions and parents love the prices — it was a win/win solution, but it was difficult for us to price our sessions according to “market demand.”
As we got “older” we stopped allowing risks from coaching and parents. Our current prices in our 5.0 model hover around $35-45 a session. These prices don’t allow us to sell off the excess space we have when we schedule the Academy to it’s fullest capacity. Higher prices require higher expectations for a coaching quality that struggles to perform, what is not always an exact science. High priced repetition is a dangerous expectation for both the student and the coach.
To offset this mindset we have to change the economic model — lower prices allow parents and coaches to create a space to practice the art of coaching as we allow students to reduce demands on performance. Creating a conscious space of practice that is All Ways Open allows us to establish a container to experiment without economic demands for both the parent or the player.
“All Ways Open” means that we’re going to open up full capacity in our scheduling matrix rather than limit the restrictions based on coaching boundaries. This will allow us to expand the hours and diversity of coaching sessions. What’s more is that it will create more space and flexibility for families to participate in higher frequency.
This past year we identified and created a scheduling model that allows us to price for seasonal demand as well as coordinate membership allocations based on years of experience tracking attendance patterns. We’ll now offer Seasonal Bumps in a similar fashion that a Groupon offer would allow the general public to utilize a promotional discount. These Seasonal Bumps will be low priced monthly “deals” for all members to capitalize on our open space in the Academy. With one month allocations for faster access — scheduling will be easier for every parent and student.
An “All Ways Open Experience” will allow members to utilize lower priced access for less than demanding times while using a membership pricing model to pay for higher demand seasons. Our LeftFoot Six model includes a variety of pricing models linked to modern membership programs, which offset costs so that we can continue to deliver premium coaching, expanded hours, and unprecedented access to our Academy.
Coaching within Trimesters
Along the journey of youth soccer we tend to think in seasons; fall season, high school season, and spring season. Administrators and parents navigate the seasonal process by including events throughout the year; tryouts, pre-season prep, tournaments, summer camps, and various select programs. However, our coaching model manages both a macro and micro cycle of physical, mental, and emotional experiences for the student as they develop skills that complement the events within the very context that exists through their seasons. Traditionally, we’ve used the months to guide our coaching but we’ve learned to utilize a different process to help guide parents through the best ways and means to develop their player — the struggle was defining a simple way for parents to enroll and understand how to utilize the Academy experience.
The Academy will now make use of a Trimester formula similar to colleges and universities that manage growth throughout the year. Our Academy Trimesters will help organize our seasonal demand by creating different opportunities for high frequency repetitions, as well as supplemental development through the seasons. Each Trimester will be during the natural seasons of the youth journey and create registration breaks for the parent. The First Trimester; January through April, will allow us to provide sessions, programs, and workshops within the context of the pre-season experience of most players. These programs will cover weekends, evenings, and weekly opportunities for the student. Daily scheduling within the All Ways Open model will still allow parents to reschedule and cancel but programs (or products as we’ll introduce in the Catalog of Options) will allow dedicated pre-booked scheduling for parents that want predictable access.
The Second Trimester; May through August, will consist of performance training aligned with the experience for students that are in the peak days and weeks of their summer teams. Managing performance through the season by allowing structured programs to predict attendance and options for parents and players will be the majority of our options. However, dedicated flexibility and options for students to “randomize” their experience will still be at the heart of our programming. Products such as our Privado’s, Intensives, Accelerators, and Academy Series will consist of 12 week programs on the longer scale, or one and two week programs on the shorter scale, of macro/micro programming for performance athletics.
The Third Trimester; September through December will, focus on post-season and off-season programming allowing students to refine, rest, and develop technical expertise while still continuing on the journey through the Academy season. Our Academy will split it’s orientation toward age group programming allowing the Youth Academy for U9-U12 players to run through a 16 week curriculum while our Academy Series, designed for U13-U16 players, will begin in late October for a 12 week curriculum. Our Youth Academy will now have three progressions simply titled: Youth Academy I, II, & III.
Our Membership Allocations will accompany our coaching model and change to suit the progressions of our technical development. This will allow more alignment with how and when students attend based on over five years of data and analysis.
Finally, canceling a membership will no longer be a tricky financing operation for our staff or members. Members will stay members for years and have the option to take breaks through the Trimesters or stay a member based on their Academy Series and only attend through Seasonal Bumps. Instead of canceling a membership, a family would not enroll in the next Academy Trimester, but could return the following Trimester.
An Academy of Coaches
If LeftFoot is an idea suggesting that we can create a home for players to improve along the journey of youth soccer, then the Academy of Coaches emerges as the fruition of the reality that exists for a coach as they experience the spiritual and professional growth of leadership, teaching, and collaboration.
Since 2010, LeftFoot has been defined by me as both the leader and head coach, however, behind the scenes I have collaborated tremendously to allow my ideas to bear fruit in many fashions — establishing a structure that guides people and processes to evolve through progressions.
Upon reflections over the past three years we’ve asked tough questions about how and why a coach succeeds in the Academy. What educational experience creates the transition from a purely technical instructor in a one on one environment toward facilitating small groups and then managing large group instruction? At what point does our coach on the field become an expert off the field?
Our Seven Phases of Coaching @ LeftFoot Coaching Academy that we’ve developed over the past two years creates a defined pathway of over 1,500 hours of coaching experience within the Academy in one year. (To put that in perspective, most seasoned club coaches acquire contracts for only 60 hours in the spring and summer seasons.)
While coaching at LeftFoot is extremely demanding, the educational experience and process of learning “how” and “why” to coach what we teach is expensive and challenging. We have invested a considerable amount of time and money to develop our Coach Development Training as a premier coach education track. Yet, we’ve found that we need to create a more elaborate and extensive network of opportunities for our coaches to take risks and fail within an environment that allows them to coach within a supervised community of experts.
While hours logged doesn’t always create a great coach, we wanted to create an economic incentive for parents and players to participate in sessions with the expectations that newer coaches would be guiding the session under the supervision of mentors. Our Foundation Series and Youth Academy programs are our best and most refined curriculum progressions that I’ve successfully scaled past just me…we’ve organized hundreds of sessions, techniques and progressions to help develop more players every day by improving coaching standards and operations.
The Academy of Coaches indicates that some of our programs will be designed for our new coaches to try and fail, learn to take risks with how and what they’re teaching while under the guidance of our senior coaches. Our Phase II and Phase III coaches will be indicated as such in our scheduling models so that parents and players can know with intention that the Academy of Coaches is supporting the session.
However, the Academy of Coaches isn’t just about young coaches and their educational journey. We’ve also noticed through the years that hiring and retaining seasoned, expert coaches is time consuming, expensive and challenging in terms of scheduling. As part of our model we want to provide exclusivity and ease for our coaches so that they can “just be” a LeftFoot Coach. In order for them to give up all of their extra work we often have to sign them at a pretty high salary to guarantee that they’ll be accessible to our students that want exclusive access to quality coaches. Unfortunately we can’t always offer the same flat rate for one player and then pay the coach a higher fee to reward them for their licenses, education, experience, and dedication to coaching.
Thus the Academy of Coaches will begin to segment the quality and appropriately manage the fees and tuition based on the quality of the coach and the Academy Series to begin diversifying the experience for All Ways Open to succeed. Fundamentally, LeftFoot argues that the best coaches need to be with the students that need it the most and not organized based on the old model that “the best players get the best coaches.” Within the LeftFoot 4.0 model we needed to adjust Creative Series sessions toward six players to accommodate for higher level coaches to get their costs covered. What didn’t work for our values were the needs of the younger players that wanted Access to coaches like myself but couldn’t get it. And, the Semi-Private session of six players went against our concept of a 4:1 model. — It just didn’t work.
Our Academy of Coaches core concept will open up a diversity of options for players to get good pricing on the best coaches while still allowing us to provide premium coaching. For instance, a Foundation Series progression with an 8:1 ratio might be $15 per player in August for our Phase III coach for 75 minutes. However, in October our Phase VI coach might have 16 players in a one hour specialty workshop for $15 per player and full field access. For the parent, the price is relatively the same but the access to the coach is different and adequately pays for the coach and the space for the revenues we create while also decreasing the amount of time a premium coach needs to be in the Academy.
Moving forward, our tuition pricing will be adjusting toward standards and expectations that are clear and forthright about the experience, education, and Phases of Coaching standards that our coaches must pass to coach progressions within our Academy. Our Creative Series students will be playing with Coaches that exceed our Phase IV experience, education and licenses so that the expectations meet the costs. While pricing will change for all of our series progressions, families will have adequate notice for progressing within the Academy. Therefore, promotions within the Academy Series and Youth Academy will have extra meaning now. Our Foundation Series will be a different price than our Combination Series, which will be different than our Creative Series and so forth to match the quality of the coaches and the expectations of the players.
Finally, as part of the unique inter-dependence of the LeftFoot Six model we will no longer limit membership to the Academy, but we will limit enrollment in each Academy Series per Trimester. This will give us more control over how many sessions we offer to our elite coaches within All Ways Open model. Both Youth Academy and the Academy Series will have specific annual numbers that can be supported by the coaching staff.
When we attacked the concept of membership and tuition as a fixed relationship we recognized that the costs associated with coaching education, talent acquisition and retention were some of the highest in the market. However, quality is our number one concern — managing quality coach education by quality coaches has to be our foremost concern every step of the way. LeftFoot Six allows us to grow our coaches without killing your pocketbook or ours.
Guidance in Coaching
Over the years of building LeftFoot I’ve coached many players through different phases of their life. Mom and Dad have asked me to guide their player not just on the field, but off the field as well. Knowing that one of the most important relationships a child can have is an adult outside of their nuclear family that can guide, support and serve a child’s growth without personal gain.
Yet this poses a challenging relationship to our business. What level of involvement do our coaches have in the life of the player? What are the time boundaries that contain a coaches commitment to a player off the field —yet still create a professional boundary that can sustain a healthy coach? At the same time, when does coaching ever really end? Within the journey through youth soccer players develop the need for employment and are asked to support their extra time by creating “spending money.” Our Guidance in Coaching concept aligns our off the field work with what I call “recycling leadership.” By including players in our Academy of Coaches and aligning our concept of progressions based skills instruction we develop more than just soccer players, we create great young leaders.
For years, I’ve argued that great coaches don’t count their hourly wages. In fact, to be a great team coach it’s impossible to count your hours of preparation, involvement, dedication and contributions. However, your wins and losses as a Head Coach are completely different from a private coach. As such, the need for parental and player guidance exceeds our experts’ time and energy. Thus an integrated model between players, coaches, and parents has to be created to separate the notion that our coaching is just extra training along the path.
There’s a difference between coaching and training. Training assumes that the only aspect of the relationship is on the field and in the body. Coaching assumes that the body, mind, and heart are an inseparable relationship between the coach and the player with no boundaries related to the field of engagement — coaching continues beyond set time limits.
What a player does outside of the Academy is as vital to the players’ improvement as is their time on the field. When a player needs additional services that aren’t related to striking a ball, other business models need to be consulted. In the LeftFoot 2.0 model we suggested it was part of the membership fee. In the LeftFoot 4.0 model we included it as part of the membership, but couldn’t track the long hours of promotions, tryout preparation, coaching calls, and parental engagement.
In LeftFoot Six we’ve structured a relationship with the parent and the coach, as well as with the player and the coach that rely on phone calls, development meetings, and the beginning of life-long learning within the game on both sides of the economic relationship. In the past, anything “off field” was time consuming hours that connected our membership to the value, but more and more we learned that the expertise of the coach is built off years of managing players, navigating the terrain and gaining experience that has a true value to parents and players. It wasn’t just a value any longer — it was a drain of resources and talent.
Now LeftFoot Six will create distinct program interventions with each parent to book and manage clients in the Academy. Parents will be able to exchange, purchase, and schedule programming guidance with coaches that meet specific criteria for delivery. Guidance in Coaching takes everything I’ve done for clients over the years off the field and expands our services throughout the Academy of Coaches.
Our Guidance in Coaching serves two purposes to connect the parent, player and coach: 1) It creates a structured program for the parent and coach to progress through the academy. 2) It facilitates and tracks an internship program that allows us to build upon player to coach relationships and communication.
Our interns currently support hundreds of hours of coaching services and allow us to manage sessions, track players and provide “training partners” in private sessions and groups. The Guidance in Coaching concept builds a formal intern process that allows players that have reached the driving age to continue on the path of becoming a mature participant within the game of youth soccer and in our Academy.
The Internship track has three tracks; Contributors, Training Partners, and Young Coaches. These players are active learners on and off the field in a variety of disciplines. Contributors develop a special project within the Academy that “makes us better.” While the intern may choose a variety of topics, special guidance is given to the intern to develop plans of actions and develop a true product. It must be something they can hold, touch, and reproduce. Contributors often intern through a paid internship for over a year and participate in our Training Partner program from time to time. Former Contributors renovated the upstairs weight room, created our coaching attire arrangements, as well as supported our Tryout Prep program.
The second track is for the Training Partner. Training Partners devote extra time to enhancing and mastering their skills within the Academy. They can choose a specialty to master the finer technical aspects of the game and must provide documented expertise of their chosen field. While they play, train, and support coaches on the field, they pursue extra training and guidance from coaches to provide a multi-media experience of their craft. Their hours of refinement within their own domain is both paid and unpaid through stipends and adjusted membership fees. These are dedicated players who will spend hours adjusting their own technique, playing in the academy and participating within sessions.
The final track for interns is our Young Coaches Program. Our Young Coaches contribute and learn through coaching, leading and training. Their development is structured to become a coach in the Academy within a year. Whether they are learning how to progress our “entry” sessions, or coach in our studio with new students, they are determined to give back to our future generations. While receiving extra coach development training within our Academy of Coaches, they are also invited into our Elite Academy to train with coaches and receive supervision of their own coaching process. Our Young Coaches compete for two positions offering 40 hours of summer work prior to college and maintain their status throughout their college years.
Catalog of Options
The final concept of the LeftFoot Six model is channeling the diversity of experiences into a Catalog of Options. The concept emerges from how I’ve always worked with a player as I guide them to technical proficiency. I consider my craft a form of art – like sculpting the perfect player – I try to create enough range to explore the player through a variety of contexts.
There is a time and place for One on One — it’s needed to refine, coach and address the finer details of technique. Yet a player needs to study within a large group to experience game, and play in a 2v2 or 4v4 situations. How will my shot emerge in the context of the game? — You can’t get the “game” context in One on One, no matter how great a coach, you can’t replace the game. And then finally, you have to practice within a smaller group — our Semi-Private model allows high frequency repetitions and intense study of specific topics.
We can explore more definitions within the Semi-Private model than we can in the large group context and it’s important to know which is which. Finally, we have to provide greater access to our experienced coaches through workshops where I can reach more players than just an 8:1 quarter field process. LeftFoot 4.0 was beginning to limit our opportunities to help more players.
For the parent it’s been hard to catch up to us — most often our curriculum is designed just before the weeks begin — presenting both challenges for us as coaches and for parents to pick and choose. Now that we’re defining our space first and then allowing the All Ways Open model to utilize an Academy of Coaches it creates hundreds of opportunities for players to pick and choose how and what they want from LeftFoot Coaching.
The Catalog of Options creates a guiding light to experience topics and programs that players and parents ask for constantly. During our High Lofted Ball programming we don’t teach the Low Instep Drive. It’s just been a limitation to our programming in the past. Now with the Catalog of Options we can sign up for a workshop on the Low Instep Drive while our Academy Series is coaching the High Lofted Ball.
At the same time we have taken the refined programming of our Academy experience to define the opportunities that exist – much like a Course Catalog at a college or continuing education study. This allows parents and families to purchase specific experiences for their player as well as participate in a “done for you” experience like our Privados. The Catalog of Options will also help us manage quality of coaching as we focus on specific technical expectations and objectives for students to master through the coursework.
Finally, the Catalog brings everything together for families to get what they want, when they want, and how they want it. It also allows us to define and redefine our own expectations to limit coach burnout and manage expectations of quality. While even our youngest coaches are held to a high level of service and proficiency within our model we can begin pricing our “products” and “coaches” in different ways without having to manage “exchanges” or “booking fees” — it will all be in the price of the product.
When and how will this all come to be?
One of my favorite Buddhist slogan’s through the years, is “abandon all hope of fruition.” It’s a teaching that allows us to let go of the process from an attached point of view, but aligns our focus on the present. What can I do now? Where can I begin? It’s a great slogan for me, because LeftFoot Six was done in my head in May. Building the systems and processes through my team of coaches, my investors, my staff, and finally you, our clients, has been challenging. We’re not an Academy of one hundred students any longer. It takes a while to move us now.
However, we are going to attempt to pull off everything this September as we move into the October Trimester. September allows us a considerable amount of time to still service sessions yet allow our “financing plan” of the 4.0 and 5.0 model to come to a complete fiscal balancing point. If you pay us $135-$165 a month for Tuition or Tuition Premium pricing we’ll be all settled from our summer programs during your September payment. Half of the September payment balances the payments from Summer and basically makes a deposit on the October allocation.
We’re going to begin the Academy transition at that point so that we’ll enroll the current members into the next Trimester and allow members to change their programming. There will still be annual packages, but there will be a greater diversity of options for students that want to stay involved but at a minimum of around $400 a year.
While we’re still finalizing the details we’re getting closer to having a complete package of what LeftFoot Six means for the future of the Academy and how it will fit into the second location that we’ll be announcing soon.
Thank you for taking the time to read this business plan, vision statement, and guiding testament to my dedication to your success,
Christian Isquierdo, M.A.
Founder & Visionary