Wisdom for (soccer) Coaches

Haven’t posted in a long time but since the site just auto-renewed (again!) I figured I might as well use it.

Wisdom can be found in the most unexpected places. Since I’m forgetful (and getting more so each passing year) I try to write things down as I come across them. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets of knowledge. Obviously a wee bit heavy on the soccer /goalie / Dutch side of things, but the individuals quoted come from a wide spectrum, and will probably resonate with coaches in a variety of disciplines (Author noted where known).


“Only those that have the courage to take a penalty miss them” – Roberto Baggio

“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo”

“They can “stand up and say I did everything I could do to make it right. I did right, I worked hard, I was responsible to my teammates. Or, they can “have a lot of regret about how (they) played because (they) didn’t prepare right, didn’t do it right, and didn’t have the discipline to stick with it for 60 minutes.” Nick Saban.

“A man with new ideas is mad until he succeeds” – Marcelo Bielsa.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” – Muhammad Ali

“A good technique is rooted in proper mental preparation, which becomes second nature as a result of constant repetition” – Tomaslav Ivic

” What average players consider a sacrifice, great players consider a habit.”

“Hit hard, hit fast, hit often” – Admiral “Bull” Halsey, USN

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Peace is not the absence of troubles, trial and torment, but calm in the midst of them” – Don Meyer

“Average players complicate the game. Great players simplify it” – Thierry Henry

“ We don’t train to win championships, we train like champions and the titles seem to follow” – Unknown (often attributed to Sir Alex)

“If the player doesn’t have the freedom to think, he doesn’t have the ability to create”. – Jorge Sampaoli. Mexican coach

“Talent can win some games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” – Michael Jordan.

“Goalkeepers need an element of insanity. Who else would stand there and allow people to shoot balls at his face or abdomen, and still think it’s great.” – Oliver Kahn

“Nothing is natural. The talents and weaknesses we are born with get in the way if we allow them to determine what we can and cannot do. The only thing you really need to be good at is the ability to train yourself to get better” – Xunzi, Chinese philosopher

“Leadership is having people look at you and gain confidence seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control. – Tom Landry

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand

“Players lose you games, not tactics. There’s so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes” – Brian Clough

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” – Laird Hamilton

‟Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient that what should not be done at all.”
—Peter Drucker

“When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare”. – John Wooden

“There is no progress without change, but not all change is progress” – Frans Hoek, Dutch Goalkeeper / Coach

“If I’m not leading by example then I’m not doing the right thing. And, I always want to do the right thing”. – Pat Summitt

“Excellence happens when you try each day to both do and be, a little better than you were yesterday!” – Pat Riley

“ I like to win, but above all, I want to teach universal values. Giving everything while competing with dignity is victory” – Pep Guardiola

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful” – Albert Schweitzer.

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability” – John Wooden.

“What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future.” – Lev Yashin

“No individual should take the blame for a loss, because no individual should get the credit for a victory”. – John Wooden

“Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” – Mary Tyler-Moore

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Make every detail perfect, and limit the number of details to perfect.” – Jack Dorsey co-founder Twitter inc.

“Nothing that costs money lasts forever” – Ted Turner

“Those who push for excellence always offend those who accept mediocrity”.

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” – Oscar Wilde

“The point of training is to increase the speed at which one can be precise” – Cesar Menotti.

“Life is the sum of all your choices – Albert Camus.

“As a man sow, shall he reap. And I know that talk is cheap. But the heat of the battle is as sweet as the victory” Bob Marley.

“To risk life and limb and subject oneself to the ridicule that follows in hot pursuit of any silly error demands a special sort of courage and confidence”- Bob Wilson. Arsenal goalkeeping legend

“Master the theory of angles, and you master the men who score the goals” -Harry Rennie, Scotland goalie.

“You can have the best tactics in the world, but if your players can’t play, it won’t make a difference” – Brian Clough

You play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you.

Why does a player have to chase the ball? Because he started running too late.

Catch the ball, organize the people, make sure you’re ready for anything that comes across

The difference between a good and a bad player is speed of control.

Speed is often confused with insight. When I start running earlier than the others, I appear faster.

It’s like everything in football – and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It’s very simple in the end.

The good player is the player who touches the ball just once and knows where to run. I say, don’t run so much. Football is a game you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late –

If you use the ball well, the chances of a good outcome are greater than the chances of a bad outcome.

Goalkeeping at a high level is largely a matter of vision

“In order to be happy, you have to do something that makes you happy”


“You have to have fun. Once you work hard and do everything you can, the result is irrelevant. The key is to have conviction that what you are doing is the right thing “- Ivan Lendl.

– A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy

“Don’t try to be better than the other guy. Just try to be better than you were the day before. That’s all you have to do”. – Sam Wyche

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” – Arthur Ashe.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it” Henry David Thoreau.

“Success doesn’t happen in straight lines.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

“What I know most surely about Morality and Obligations, I owe to Footbal” – Albert Camus

“ Character is not luck or hereditary. It is the product of the people we surround ourselves with, the habits we form and the choices we make” Gary Curneen

“No stretch of grass has been the site of more glory or heartbreak in the world of sports than the few dozen paces between goalkeeper and penalty kicker in soccer” – Ben Lyttleton “Twelve yards”

“Adversity, reveals a man to himself” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” – Jackie Robinson

“It is what it is. But, it will be what you make it. – Pat Summitt

“A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.” – Albert Schweitzer

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” – Henry Kissinger

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried when you’ve actually been planted”.

“Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” – Phil Knight, founder of Nike

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis” – Thurgood Marshall.

“The greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.” – William James

“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I’m kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me” – Al Capone.

“Habit is the second nature of man. We need to create habits – not as much physical or technical as mental. And you do that by constant repetition – Tomislav Ivic

“The only thing worse than running, is not having something to run for.” – Scott Frey Messiah women’s soccer

“Freedom becomes chaos without structure” – Scott Frey Messiah women’s soccer

“We are all manufacturers. Making good, making trouble, or making excuses.” – H. V. Adolt

“At a young age winning is not the most important thing. It is to develop creative and skilled players with good confidence. – Arsene Wenger

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true”.

“Champions always have a way of adjusting and getting better” – Ivan Lendl.

“Rule your mind or it will rule you” – Buddha

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

“Dave Brandt” isms – Messiah, Navy, Pittsburgh Riverhounds coach.

A championship is not in any way “luck” or a sign of divine favor. A team of people working together with vision, discipline, singleness of purpose, and a commitment to excellence will always prevail

We believe in ourselves and our methods. Winning will be an affirmation of who we are and our methods.

As Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another – Proverbs 27:17

Confronting the human tendency to be comfortably mediocre is exhausting.

Winning is never the purpose, but always the point.


The Mundanity of Excellence: “Excellence is accomplished through the doing of actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, habitually compounded together, added up over time”

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” – Isaac Newton

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach

“With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp”. -Jim Loehr

“Goalkeeping is so mental you’ve got to be focused all the time. You come off the pitch drained in a different way to an outfield player. You’d probably be more mentally drained. Everybody thinks it’s about stopping shots and catching crosses but it’s not. It’s about being there for your team, providing a solid base, inspiring confidence for your defence, organising, and most of the play is with your feet these days. We look after each other because we know what it’s like to stand between the posts and have that responsibility. Not a lot of people know the feeling.” – Kasper Schmeichel

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Paul Brandt

“The hardest thing in the world isn’t to refrain from committing an evil, it’s to stand up and stop one” – Don Winslow,” the power of the dog”

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost” – Arthur Ashe.

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not on the frontier of discovery. I’m the sum of the correct decisions I’ve made and the incorrect decisions I’ve made: each one of those shapes the wisdom that I carry today” – Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see” – Arthur Schoppenhauer.

“Evil is anything that lowers our standard”s – Anson Dorrance.

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” – Roger Bannister, 1st to run a mile < 4 mins

“Harmony, balance and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack”. George Yeoman Pocock.

“It is important that, at the end of the day, your convictions are stronger than your doubts” – Novak Djokovic.

“Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t”.

“Think of your breed; for brutish ignorance
Your mettle was not made; you were made men,
To follow after knowledge and excellence” – Canto of Ulysses Dante’s Inferno.

“All great things in this life happen because somebody is not indifferent” – Igor Rabiner – Russian journalist

“Players don’t realize that their body language is like a billboard showing your toughness level.”

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” – George Bernard Shaw

“A life spent making mistakes is more honorable than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw
At some point in your life, you will meet someone that will expect greatness from you. The truly great ones expect it of themselves”. Don Meyer

“It is foolish to expect a young man to follow your advice and to ignore your example”. Don Meyer

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way” Marvin Minsky. American cognitive scientist

“You have to keep the potential that exists and forge ahead, without erasing the fingerprints of the past” – Vicente Del Bosque.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Victory has a thousand fathers , but defeat is an orphan”.

“In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

My hunger is not for success, it is for excellence. Because when you attain excellence, success just naturally follows. – Mike Krzyzewski

We should not forget our beginner’s spirit – Japanese saying.

The most powerful lies are always the ones you tell yourself – Raphael Honigstein “Das Reboot”

A good footballer is somebody who can offer the perfect solution in an unpredictable situation. – Arsene Wenger

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye”. Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind”-Buddha

“Neither smiles nor frowns, neither good intentions nor harsh words, are a substitute for strength” – John F. Kennedy

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” Archilochus Greek philosopher

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you descend to your level of training”.
US Navy Seals

“You have got to live like a champion long before you ever become a champion”.
Gus D’amato

“Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” – Buddha

“Without the work of the last passer of the ball, the goal scorer is nothing” – Thierry Henry.

“One of the trademarks of a champion is that he can outlast you” – Lou Brock

“Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication”. Roger Staubach

“Earn the right to be confident and proud “- John Wooden

“Bravery is being the only person who knows you’re afraid” – Col. David Hackworth

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them”. – Timothy Gallwey

“You can’t have greatness without discipline” – Robert Lansdorp, tennis coach

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” – Walter Lippmann

“To understand things, you have to understand the relationship between things”- JB Bakema, Theorist

“Doing the best you are capable of doing is victory in itself, and less than that is defeat” – John Wooden.

“Understand there is a price to be paid for achieving anything of significance. You must be willing to pay that price”. – John Wooden

“The secret of success is to do common things uncommonly well” – John Davidson Rockefeller

“I’d rather have a life full of scars than a life full of fear”

“Some think you become great on the big stage under the bright lights, but the light only reveals the work you did in the dark.” Damian Hughes

“Commitment is not about how a person performs, but if they perform to the best of their ability” – Peter Luongo

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own” – Bruce Lee.

“No one has ever drowned in sweat.” – Lou Holtz

“Good is not good, when better is expected.” – Thomas Fuller

Mental toughness is doing the right thing for the team when it’s not the best thing for you. – Bill Belichick

“If you fight you won’t always win. But if you don’t fight you will always lose” – Bob Crow

“Each coach has his own personality. My leadership is based on human values, on sharing and on being friendly. If you only know about football, you are lost” – Vicente Del Bosque

“Someone once told me not to bite off more than I can chew. I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity”.

“That best portion of a good person’s life: Their little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” – William Wordsworth

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

“A person can make mistakes but they are not a failure until they blame others” – John Wooden

“Success is about having. Excellence is about Being” – Mike Ditka

“The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself.” – Denis Waitley

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” – Amelia Earhart

“There is a big difference in wanting to and willing to”. – Bear Bryant

“Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man” – Aristotle

“Without technique, there’s no tactics. Every player at each level will have some technique, so you can therefore impose some tactics” Jim Gannon Stockport United.

Anthony Bourdainisms:

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.

“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying. If I believe in anything, it is doubt”

“All my happiest moments seem to revolve around meat in tube form”

“It’s those little human moments that are the ones that stick with you forever, the random acts of kindness.”

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”


The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it – Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf

“One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things”

“Don’t measure how valuable you are by the way you are treated” – Charles Mackasey

“If we agree on everything, one of us is not necessary”

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right”. Peter Marshall

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor” – Truman Capote

“In some way, when you give everything- win or lose- is that someone has to win, someone has to lose, that’s part of the game. But the personal satisfaction when you give everything and you play with the right attitude is the same” – Rafael Nadal.

“I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you, I stop, I raise my head, I look and, above all, I open up the pitch…The one who has the ball, is the master of the game…Thats the school of Joan Vilà, of Albert Benaiges, of Johan Cruijff, of Pep Guardiola” – Xavi

“No coach ever won a game by what he knows, it’s what his players have learned” – Amos Alonzo Stagg.

“Experience tells you what to do, confidence allows you to do it” – Stan Smith

There is no substitute for hard work and effort beyond the call of mere duty. That is what strengthens the soul and ennobled one’s character – Walter Camp Yale football coach

“The goal is to die with memories not dreams.”

Travis McGeeisims (by John D. MacDonald)

The only thing in the world worth a damn is the strange, touching, pathetic, awesome nobility of the individual human spirit.

Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will. Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset.

Old friend, there are people—young and old—that I like, and people that I do not like. The former are always in short supply. I am turned off by humorless fanaticism, whether it’s revolutionary mumbo-jumbo by a young one, or loud lessons from scripture by an old one. We are all comical, touching, slapstick animals, walking on our hind legs, trying to make it a noble journey from womb to tomb, and the people who can’t see it all that way bore the hell out of me.

Every day, no matter how you fight it, you learn a little more about yourself, and all most of it does is teach humility.


“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Socrates.

“Whatever you are, try to be a good one” – Abraham Lincoln

“You never get ahead of anyone as long as you try to get even with them” Lou Holtz

“The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious” Marcus Aurelius

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility” -. Peter Drucker

“Through endurance we conquer”. – Shackleton.

“The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven” – Knute Rockne.

“Don’t take criticism from anybody you wouldn’t get advice from” Jeff van Gundy

“Good is something you do, not something you talk about. Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.” Gino Bartali 2x Tour de France winner, Italian resistance fighter

“Sometimes it’s worth risking it all for a dream only you can see.” Megan Rapinoe

“Who dares wins” British SAS  (Qui audet adipiscitur)

“Good players can’t overcome bad coaching” – Bill Belichick

“All I ever wanted was to be a good man” – Admiral William H. McRaven, USN (ret)

“Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent.” – Hubert Reeves

“The goalkeeper has to play football” – Louis van Gaal

“You will have plenty of critics in your life. Don’t be one of them” – Charley Mackasey

“You can’t validate the process through the results. Human beings tend to generate what finished well, not what was done well. We attack what ended up badly, not what was done badly” -Juanma Lillo (Mexican Coach)

A player is never more vulnerable than when he has just won possession”. Pep Guardiola.

“A player who does not think cannot play football”- Jose Mourinho

“I want my players thinking, reading the game, so they know they have to change the shape because of something. I want to train my players so they can make decisions themselves as a team” – Louis van Gaal.

“You never lose. You either win or you learn” – Nelson Mandela

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing” – Jon Stewart.

“Don’t let your talent be your nemesis – Nick Saban

Mattisms (General James Mattis, USMC):

“The number-one authority you have as a leader is your moral authority and your number one power is expectation.”

“Attitude is a weapon”

“Everyone needs a coach, but nobody needs a tyrant.”

“Everyone fills sandbags in this outfit.”


“Prefer the errors of enthousiasm to the complacency of wisdom” – Branch Rickey

“Be quick, but never hurry” – John Wooden

“If you burn your neighbors’ house down, it doesn’t make your house look better” – Lou Holtz

“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding” – Burt Rutan, aircraft designer aerospace legend

About Coach Johan

I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and have been playing "real football" since I was old enough to identify a ball. Currently residing in Maryland, I hold USSF “D” and NSCAA “National” Goalkeeping coaching licenses, and have been a part-time Assistant / Goalkeeping Coach at the High School, Club, ODP and NCAA Div 1 levels since 1999. When not playing, talking, writing or thinking about football and goalkeeping, I remind airline passengers to keep their seatbelts comfortably fastened around them, in my day job as a pilot for a major US airline. I can be reached at jdevicq at icloud dot com. Please note that I do not do private training or camps
This entry was posted in goalkeeper and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s