The Journey with EOS —
In November of 2014 we began the journey through the Entrepreneur’s Operating System, or “EOS” training for short. At the time I knew I needed to invest in LeftFoot Coaching Academy from a strategic level to build a quality team that could function without me — but also bring the vision of LeftFoot alive to multiple locations. In order to reach more kids and change lives we needed to escape our limitations to growth. Our three-year vision was to have several locations and to design a model for “popcorn” growth throughout the nation.
Through the process we uncovered some challenging issues. We evaluated our people, our positions and created an Accountability Chart. We created values and told ourselves that we would hire toward our values and hold people accountable to their roles and responsibilities. Some of these “accountabilities” started at the top with me and then cascaded through the organization.
We knew that we would need to re-hire a significant amount of staff as we re-built the company from within and at the same time we would have to tolerate some uncomfortable growing pains. I’ve always surrounded myself with excellent advisors as I’ve built LeftFoot — one of the strategies in 2012/2013 was to surround myself with young and eager talent that would “grow” with the company. But in the early stages these young guns were with me – inspired by me from the daily interaction with the founder.
In 2015, this strategy was starting to hinder our growth as those young and talented coaches and leaders gave way to huge learning lessons because they were farther from me in the day to day operations of the company. At the same time the commitment to longevity and stability wasn’t the primary goal of some of our younger coaches. For several great young coaches, they needed to expand their wings to continue to play and I had to be wise enough to let them go pursue their passions.
Challenges of Growth — how we lost our way
As any small company does within its fifth year, I started confronting challenging issues. (Granted we were less than 10% of all small businesses in America that we survived into our fifth year!) In 2012, at 200 members, I could coach daily without a lot of systems in place and then have a weekend off with a couple of younger and growing coaches to take my place. It wouldn’t be a hindrance to our growth, as most members would be okay with an occasional substitute. Mentoring a young coach was a daily process—there was no book about LeftFoot to read or write, but young coaches could learn directly from me.
At the advent of the Rolling Start and Semi-Private Coaching (or LeftFoot 4.0) in August of 2013 I was able to expand our daily capacity and coaching model from 48 players to 77 daily. I didn’t expect our capacity to grow to a maximum capacity in 2014 as fast as it did. In March of 2014 we reached a breaking point and had to go one of two ways — either expand beyond just me or stay with just me. What we were doing was working, but I struggled with my own challenges of finding coaches that wanted to work with the kid who couldn’t do it. The player who was behind and came to us to take them forward. That’s why LeftFoot started. To make sure players’ weren’t left behind in their development.
We began to intervene in the development of a Coaching Pipeline. Tyler, myself and several consultants designed a seven phase model of coaching development and education process that would scale the company and recruit, develop and retain coaches. We knew it wasn’t perfect and that it needed a lot of trial and error. We figured that at least twenty coaches would need to go through the process before we could refine it and scale to multiple locations. We had to find passionate, determined, altruistic coaches that would go above and beyond “punching” a clock.
How do we develop coaches? —
The focus became, “How do we develop coaches? Where do we put them, and how do we pay for them to learn and grow while still keeping our customers who expect a high quality of coaching?” In every aspect of developing a small business —and also a club—we need to expect that the professionalism of youth soccer coaching is still in its infancy. There aren’t many professional coaches who understand the demands of great coaching– and the number of people who understand that great coaching is a long and tiresome journey through the season is few and far between. A great coach is driven by their heart to make people better around them – their rewards are more than money.
When I got hurt this past November, the company rallied around me, and it wasn’t until January that I returned to the office knowing that I needed to adjust several issues that would take a lot of time to take hold. The Academy needed a coaching mentor as well as a coach educator. These roles needed to be quality professional coaches who wanted to coach coaches. I had to find mentors who could carry the torch for me regarding the “soccer,” and if they could hold “soccer” –then I would be the heart of the Academy.
They needed to be like me in some ways, but different in others—I would need to be able to remove myself from the educational process and allow them to mentor, influence and guide coaches. I thought that I would be the “businessman” coach and only develop systems and processes for them to adhere to…that was my first mistake — But I knew that I wanted to surround myself with people that would remind me of the heart within the business — not just the motive to pay the bills — I needed to surround myself with people that I would want to learn from — or as I’ve interviewed and said in our hiring process – “I’d want to work for them myself.”
The young talent in our Academy this winter wasn’t directly related to or learning from me, and the guys like Andy were still playing and pursuing professional soccer as a player. There was a dichotomy and a chasm that was threatening LeftFoot at its core function. Coaching became a job and we weren’t developing young people outside of training sessions. Even an employee told me, “it’s just supplemental training.”
And then it hit me. LeftFoot was never just a training session. Why you came to LeftFoot wasn’t to kick a ball. It was a home, a place to be safe, take risks and experiment like crazy — we were driven to succeed but innovative in our approach.
LeftFoot has been known as a place for great coaches who are professional, dedicated, and committed to growing personally and professionally. The expectation has been that we, as coaches, would continue to “hone our craft.”
As a coach, I need to “want to get better” if others around me are expecting that I’m going to guide them on their own journey of self-improvement. It’s essential that as a coach I strive for self-improvement, that I tirelessly work to address my weaknesses, that I leverage my strengths, and that I become a whole person—mentally, spiritually and physically.
Make the Team and System Better —
Finally, I need to listen and to execute when I know things aren’t working. I need to have the courage to fix broken systems—as I’ve said many times, my role as the CEO is similar to that of a head coach of a team. If a player isn’t helping the team get better—if the team isn’t getting better—then it’s the head coach’s role to add quality people and to replace or fix a broken system and team. Sometimes you change the tactics, the formations, but most of the time you have to change the culture and the people that aren’t fitting in.
My role as CEO is to make the team better—to constantly add quality talent around me—to support my team in executing our business plan and to execute through phenomenal customer service. And so in a sweeping action this week, I addressed some coaching quality issues that had been hindering our development.
Our clients who had the courage to let me know that sessions weren’t up to your expectations have been heard, and I made the difficult changes necessary. We cleaned-up our coaching staff while adding seven new coaches who have been screened, developed, and recruited to specifically step right in at a higher level. I took steps to add significant quality to our coaching ranks by hiring not only “young and eager” but also “committed and successful” professionals who carry significant name recognition and quality around their work habits, experience, and dedication to young soccer players.
With these changes I’ve also radically addressed some of our scheduling and coaching procedures. One thing I’ve always known is that, “No one complains when I’m on the field,”and so I’ve accelerated my return to the field to replace coaches whose performance had not met LeftFoot coaching expectations.
You’ll see me on the field immediately this week with listed sessions addressing the “Why” we’re different at LeftFoot….and I’ll stay on the field and lead the company from the pitch. It’s a lot better than sitting in an office.
—————-Price Increase —
As part of these changes in addressing quality we are moving forward with a price increase that was first announced last October. Starting June 1, 2015, prices will move from $129 to $135 per month for our customers on the 4.0 subscription. Also, beginning July 1, 2015, there will be a price increase for new members who are joining the 5.0 Tuition program. We will also release a new cancelation policy which includes a “termination window” twice a year.
With our Elite Series beginning on June 5th, the quality and experience of the coaching supersedes our current pricing model — which suggests that one price fits all– It doesn’t. Our elite players require elite coaches — they cost more time and energy to schedule than do our Academy Coaches. As such, in August 2015 we will be releasing a new pricing segmentation model that aligns with having premium coaches coaching in the Academy. It will be referred to as LeftFoot Six in recognition of our sixth Anniversary.
——————— Price Segmentation —
The pricing segmentation will be based on the Academy Series progressions, so that Creative Series students will pay a premium for Creative Series coaches like Steve Bellis, Colleen Carey, Rueben Ndely, Anthony Kellar, Andy Lorei and myself. To support this model– all Creative Series, Combination, Foundation, and Youth Academy students will receive one-year commitment contracts at prices relative to the coaches’ qualifications and to the students’ access to those coaches. We will no longer have a one size fits all pricing system beginning August 1st, 2015.
It’s not to say that the Andy’s and Anthony’s won’t be working with every level of player—they will. Nor will I escape to my office. What I have done is build the company around me so that I can return to the field on my own terms—I love coaching. I love working with players more than I love working with spreadsheets and investment options. Our second location will be built within the framework of LeftFoot Six so that our future includes remnants of our past.
I said at our company retreat , “Great players without a foundation of great technique will never expand their horizons.” As such, coaching academies without great coaches can never expand locations.
Our commitment this summer is to make sure our quality — and our “why” is our number one focus so that our expansion is second to the pre-eminent focus of being a great coaching academy.
Closing Trial Applications
Because of our commitment to developing talent and stabilizing our coaching ranks, we will be slowing down our growth and accessibility to the Academy. New students will have a window this summer of May 15th to June 15th to start training at LeftFoot. We will also introduce a limited Summer Expansion Pack for current members to add on sessions.
On June 15th we will continue our time tested pattern of only working with our current members to prep them for tryouts. From June 15th to July 30th we will not be accepting Trial Applications – nor providing Academy Orientations. We’ll re-open to the general public in September of 2016.
Several interns and coaches will be promoted within the ranks of our coaching program that I’m excited to have return for the summer.
———————— Hall of Fame Students Return —-
Rayni Pemble, my coaching assistant and scheduling coordinator, will return from last year’s Entry sessions and will hit the Academy field this summer. Rayni joined LeftFoot as a fourteen-year-old player, rehabbed a torn ACL with me, and is our first “Hall of Fame” student to coach in the Academy. A five-year member of LeftFoot, Rayni earned her USSF “E” license last year and played for Augsburg College this past fall. Rayni is documenting and coordinating our Mental Toughness Coaching program, and this summer she will be working with Foundation and Youth Academy I students.
Anna Morrison is our second “Hall of Fame” student to hit the LeftFoot Soccer Studio™ and Entry progressions this summer. Anna started with me as a U13c2 player in 2008 and finished as a U18 Premier player at the St. Croix Soccer Club. She finished her first year playing at Duluth and she’ll be working with Foundation Series as well as Youth Academy students this summer. Anna also earned her USSF “E” license this past year and will be joining us this summer full-time developing our Tryout Prep process.
Both young women have been directly coached by me for years, and they will know the ins-and-outs of our techniques, style of coaching, and LeftFoot personality more than any coach we get off the street. We’ve added several more great coaches to our Academy staff that we’ll introduce in coming weeks.
We’re excited to have these young women mentor and guide students through their journey of youth soccer.
Thanks for your patience in our growth and my hope is to be as transparent as possible with our development, struggle and challenges.