Competitive Cauldron Details

I read Anson Dorrance’s book “The Vision of a Champion” a while back, his 2nd book where he talks about the competitive cauldron system they use for UNC Women’s Soccer. He talked about a coach who had adapted it for youth teams, but the links provided don’t work anymore and Google failed me, so I’m working on my own adaption. In order to do that, I’ve been tracking down any online versions of presentations that Anson has given and finally found a good one over at the North Carolina Girls Soccer Camp website. I figured I’d share.

On the competitive cauldron note, I also found a decent article by John O’Sullivan from Oregon Rush Soccer: Creating Intensity In Training.

We have all seen it; our top player lollygags his or her way through yet another session. We have prodded, cajoled, whispered and yelled, and yet, another display of average effort is put forth by a talented player, and a talented team. It is a problem all too common for the American coach, a result of our poor youth soccer structure in the US. With yearly fixed rosters, and little avenue to promote and demote players between teams, we are faced with players who know that their spot on the roster is pretty much guaranteed until the next tryouts.

My 96 girls team (which plays a 3-4-3) is in an even tougher spot as their spots are pretty much secured for as long as they want – we have 15 players and there are no other players trying to make the team since our overall numbers at this age are small. So incentive to play hard just isn’t there. I hope to touch on this in a lot more detail soon.

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  1. Great link. I read his books this past Spring and the level of competition as the kids grow older can be so daunting (my daughter is only 9!)

    From your experience, are camps like this (on the college campus) a critical “rite of passage” to kids who want to play at the college level?

  2. I’ll definitely try to post our experiences as we try to implement some of this. Some upcoming posts will outline why we’re doing this and how we got here.

    As for the camps… I can’t speak from personal experience as I haven’t any kids that old yet. But Anson’s books make clear they’ve found players through the camps. If you live near a college that your child might want to play for, I think a summer camp would be a good thing.

    My son went to Duke’s soccer camp for a few years when he was younger – mainly because I worked there at the time and it was convenient. But he had a blast and it was a great experience all around. Just very expensive.

    I don’t think it’s a requirement, but it certainly can’t hurt.

  3. I like what John O’Sullivan had to say in his article. I wonder how that works with girls though? I know the girls I have coached are not as motivated by a lot of this. How would you get younger girls to see their worth and get them into this type of competition?

  4. That’s the million dollar question. Many of the competitive girl’s coaches I’ve spoken with talk about the need to make the girls ‘compete’ in practice. Otherwise they always try to finish ‘together’, lest they show anyone up. It’s a real challenge. I haven’t figured it out yet. I had some success with it a year ago, but didn’t do a good job of carrying that over this year. But as I’ll explain in some future posts, our team really struggled with the move up a level and the move to 11v11, mainly from a competitive aspect. Never played up to our level.

  5. Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it. The thing I did for girls motivation was a 1v1 competition. Points were awarded for first touch, creative skills, vision (looking up before the shot), getting a shot off, and scoring the goal. This I put into a league standing and posted it after everytime I held the exercise. It seemed to work well for the youngers, but the older girls didn’t like it so much. The challenge seems to be the consistancy of it all.
    Thanks again.

  6. Can you expand on the older girls comment? What age and why/how didn’t they like it. Will come in handy for some posts I’m working on about my own teams.

  7. The older girls have a problem with standing out, they simply want to fit in. When you start getting them to compete against one another and post the results there is always a winner and loser. Unlike boys, if you are in the losing spot you want to work hareder to get to the top, and if you are at the top you can walk around full of yourself saying look at how good I am. Girls don’t do that, if they are at the top they need to make sure everyone still likes them, and if they are at the bottom they just feel bad about not doing well. It is a struggle to find the correct balance that will bring the best out in the teenage girl. I have worked this type of league standing and they deal with it, but I don’t think they really like it. I have worked this with U15 through U17 and the older they get the more they dislike it.

  8. That’s is what I have heard and found as well. Interesting tidbit – Anson Dorrance doesn’t use video tape because the players loathe it. They hate being on display for everyone. It was such a disruption he stopped using it. That said – the competitive cauldron idea makes them compete, but while there are some ranking, the focus is on showing previous scores for each girls and improvement. So he has the players focus on their individual improvement and also posts the scores. My thought is to post them in alphabetical order, not rank. So girls are prodded by knowing their teammates can see it, BUT, it’s the improvement. I might even think about doing something like Green/Red up/down arrows by each girls name showing individual progress, etc. Delicate balance for sure.

    The trick is while your girls hate it – has it helped them…

  9. I like the up and down arrows,it makes sense to give the kids the ability to focus on their own performance week to week. The 1v1 league standing helped the younger girls, it got them playing with an intensity that they did not have before. The older girls, I’m not so sure, I think any 1v1 exercise would have helped them just as much as the one I held. I do hold practice sessions based on my Pure Game format and all the girls love that. The funny thing about that is, it is all based on individual performance and league standings. I think the difference here is they can play the game, have fun, and not feel that it is something were the league standings are important to anyone other than themselves. Not sure why this is the case, but when I announce a Pure Game sessions I get cheers from all the girls. I am going to find ways to implement the up and down arrows though. I see so many areas that you could use that system. Thanks.

  10. Any updates on the competitive cauldron for U14’s? I read your introduction and it reminded me of our team. No real tryouts, only 17 girls tryout and make the team and sometime the effort isn’t where it can be. I would love to implement some form of CC but w/o a reliable assistant I may not be able to acccurately track performance.

  11. Citing Soccer Dad, what about personal goal setting? What about showing them their current level, asking them where they want to be, and then doing it more personally? One on one, vs as a group? What about, if publishing standings for all to see, you remove the names and put in numbers, like birthdays or social security numbers or something to make it more anonymous. That way the girl can size up performance, but not feel she is being judged publicly by peers, or singled out, etc.?

    I think one of the things to remember is for what purpose we are creating a competitive environment in the first place. Is it to win games? Or is it about building character? I know many people who will perform when their environment is compelling them to, but what about when no one is looking? I hope we are creating adults who will dig down and be the best they can be, for their future families, because they have learned to motivate from within.