Alison Foley on Developing Team Grit 

At the beginning of a season, why not discuss goals with your team?

Alison Foley on developing team grit and overcoming adversity. Alison is presenting for Arlington Soccer Club.

More How To Coach Girls videos here.

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Three bonus chapters in new eBook of How To Coach Girls!

New How To Coach Girls ebook with 3 bonus chapters! Purchase it here.

There are 3 bonus chapters in eBook of How To Coach Girls:

  • When Girls Don’t Want to Be at Practice
  • Integrating Injured Players
  • Making Connections Team Building Games

Three bonus chapters in new eBook of How To Coach Girls!

When Girls Don’t Want to be at Practice

We heard from parent volunteer coaches who coach younger girls’ teams. What do you do when a parent has signed up their daughter to try a sport but she doesn’t want to be there? Perhaps she is not participating or distracting others. How do you get these players engaged?

Integrating Injured Players

Whether it’s a long term injury or a short term one, how do you keep injured players from feeling like they are part of the team when they can’t do the practice?

Making Connections

We have found that girls stay in sports when they have meaningful social connections with teammates and coaches. Sports is a great way to meet new people and coaches can facilitate connections between girls through quick, fun, and easy icebreakers and games that are easy to integrate into a practice. Special thanks to Sidnie Kulik, Alison’s daughter, for the ice breaker games and topics in this chapter!

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Alison Foley featured on Fox Sports

Alison Foley featured on Fox Sports

Young athletes barely out of elementary school committing to college teams

By: Jim Morelli

Soccer players about to enter middle school might suddenly find themselves the objects of surprising attention — from college coaches.

“In women’s soccer right now in Division One, there are 333 teams,” said Alison Foley, former coach of the Boston College women’s soccer team. “Everybody’s out there. All the college coaches are out there every weekend… recruiting.”

Foley, who coached the Eagles for more than 20 years, says new NCAA recruiting rules for Division 1 and 2 schools restricting back-and-forth communication between players and collegiate coaches until after 10th grade will probably curb some of the middle school recruiting. But she doesn’t see it going away.

“In general do I think it’s a good practice? I don’t,” Foley said. “I just think there are so many more things to think about that you don’t know to think about or consider such a big decision in 7th and 8th grade.”

But Foley, who now works with a Boston-area club soccer team, says recruiting young adolescents sometimes makes sense. She recently found an 8th grader who was a good fit for Boston College and that player verbally committed to that school.

COMMITTING TOO SOON? 

Unfortunately, some verbal commitments made by young student-athletes come with a dangerous assumption, says Kim Penney, owner of One on One College Consulting of Wakefield, Massachusetts “It does not mean that the student-athlete is accepted to the school. It is actually just a handshake.”

Penney warns that if there’s a coaching change at the college or if the student’s grades aren’t good enough for the admissions office, that verbal commitment might not mean much in the end. “To have that sport… the ball so to speak… move that process.. in my opinion is the biggest mistake ever,” she said.

She suggests first finding a school that is an academic and social fit — so that if the sport part of it doesn’t work out, the student won’t be somewhere they don’t want to be.

And keep in mind, Penney said, once you announce a verbal commitment to a school — other coaches will usually respect that — which could prematurely cut off other options. “You are off the market… essentially,” Penney said.

That’s why Penney advises not committing to college until junior year of high school. And to maximize your athletic options — crack the books. “Do the very, very best you can academically,” she said. “The better you do academically the more offers you will have athletically.”

THE ROLE OF COSTLY CLUB TEAMS 

Along with good grades, one other thing is becoming increasingly important for athletic recruitment: playing on a club team. “I don’t remember the last time… it was probably 20 years ago that I got a player who only played high school and wasn’t involved in a club,” said Foley.

For some players, club teams are cost prohibitive. “You’re looking at, per season, usually around three thousand dollars,” Foley said. But that’s just the beginning of the expenses. Club team games often involve travel with sometimes overnight accommodations required. And then there are the tournaments.

“So there are normally three or four tournaments a year,” Foley said. “One may be local. The others might be in Florida, which is very common. Or California.”

Some parents feel the money is well spent. Often attending those tournaments, as well as events known as ‘showcases,’ are collegiate coaches looking for future talent.

Foley helped organize one such event earlier this month at Brandeis University. Some fifty college soccer coaches evaluated more than two hundred girls in grades 7-10.

Fifteen-year-old Grazzie Bhatia and her Mom, Michelle, came to the event all the way from Singapore.

“This is a great opportunity to meet some coaches and some other players and get a feel for what it might be to be a college player,” said Michelle Bhatia.

Tina Datta and daughter Sarah also traveled from Singapore. “This gives a wide opportunity for a multitude of coaches to take a look at your child, Datta said. “We’ve been talking to a number of Division 3 schools that have expressed a lot of interest in Sarah.”

Ryan O’Neill of West Bridgewater watched as his daughter Shea, an 8th grader, played a scrimmage with mostly older girls. “It could pay off,” he said — but added that it’s ultimately up to her. “If she wants to throw the towel in, call it a career at the high school level or advance to the collegiate level. You know it’s a big commitment.”

That’s the part about playing college sports some overlook, said Kim Penney, who played basketball at Tufts University, a Division 3 school. “If you can play a sport in college it’s wonderful,” she said. “You have an instant family… you have camaraderie… you have friends you go through a lot with.”

But, she adds, you also may have restrictions on your life if you’re playing on an athletic scholarship for a Division 1 or 2 school (Division 3 schools do not grant athletic scholarships). Certain majors are off limits because team travel will interfere with classes, she said. You might have to attend summer school for the same reason. And sleeping-in might not be an option if there are early morning practices.

One reason Penney chose to play at Tufts was because she wanted the option to study abroad — which would not have been possible playing for a Division 1 or 2 school.

She said always remember… you are in control of your destiny.

“Even if you’re great… you can play at the highest level… do you want that?” Penney said. “Sports is wonderful. But what else do you want? “

View the footage here.

Alison Foley featured on Fox Sports

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Alison Foley Featured in Boston Globe

Alison Foley Boston Globe

Alison Foley, co-author of How To Coach Girls, is featured in the Boston Globe.

 

BE MAGAZINE

How young is too young to recruit kids for college teams?

As women’s soccer coach at Boston College, Alison Foley grappled with practices that had girls committing to teams while in middle school.

Alison Foley, the winningest coach in the history of Boston College women’s soccer, became troubled by the sharp rise in recruiting middle school girls through “verbal commitments.”Alison Foley, the winningest coach in the history of Boston College women’s soccer, became troubled by the sharp rise in recruiting middle school girls through “verbal commitments.” (JONATHAN WIGGS / GLOBE STAFF)

 

By the time Alison Foley entered her senior year at Plymouth-Carver High School in 1987, there was little doubt she was headed for big things in college soccer. Still, under NCAA rules, she waited until that fall to take her five official college visits and decide where to spend the next four years. She ultimately accepted an athletic scholarship to Keene State College, going on to earn All-America honors.

But as the head women’s soccer coach for Boston College for the last two decades, Foley saw the landscape change dramatically. On the books, the NCAA now required prospective recruits to wait until junior year to visit colleges. In reality, though, at most elite Division I women’s soccer programs, team rosters were all set by the time of those visits. College coaches had long ago buttoned up their recruiting class through an off-the-books “verbal commitment” process that made the official one look like something of a sham.

The trend started with offers to 10th-graders, and then ninth-graders. About six years ago, Foley was troubled to see Division I coaches turn their focus to eighth-graders. The nonbinding verbal commitments were contingent on the girls being able to keep up their grades to meet college admissions standards for recruited athletes.

Still, how in the world were girls supposed to make that kind of consequential decision about college while in middle school, Foley wondered. Yet she could only see the trend accelerating. She’d become the winningest coach in the history of women’s soccer at BC. But for her program to continue thriving in the intense Atlantic Coast Conference, she’d need to spend time talking to middle school girls.

NCAA rules prevented her from initiating calls or sending texts to any girls before junior year. But it was perfectly legal for college coaches to give their phone numbers to promising players’ club coaches and then wait for those girls to call.

When they did call, Foley found that questions she typically asked high schoolers didn’t make much sense. “Do you want to do business or economics?” she says. “Half of them don’t even understand what economics is. They still have a piggy bank.” She noted that a large share of middle schoolers gravitated to colleges near them, too young to imagine ever being away from home.

Foley’s own daughter was developing into a more serious soccer player, and Foley felt a gulf growing between the advice she was giving as a parent and the strategy she was pursuing on the job. She told her daughter: Give yourself the chance to bloom academically, develop physically, and get to know yourself better so you can make a well-reasoned college choice. But as a coach, she joined her competitors in pursuing the top middle school athletes. “My value system,” she says, “wasn’t lining up.”

Lilly Reale and her younger sister, Sophie, had been all-in on soccer since shortly after they joined the South Shore Select soccer club eight years ago. Both committed as eighth-graders to playing for Boston College. Lilly, a chatty 15-year-old defender and member of the US national soccer team for her age group, has played in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, and China. Sophie, a ponytailed 14-year-old striker who wears braces, just returned from her first overseas trip, to Spain.

Their mom, Melissa, says all the shuttling to practices and tournaments has been challenging but worth it. “It’s not easy being a 14- or 15-year-old girl in today’s society,” she says, “and I think soccer has been a wonderful distraction for them.”

She says she and her husband, Jeff, were careful never to pressure their kids to get a free ride to college via sports. Instead, they hoped soccer would eventually help their girls get into a good college that would be a good fit. Alison Foley had a close association with their soccer club and saw the girls develop over the years. The Reales felt reassured their daughters would be in good hands with her at BC.

Just before Christmas, though, Boston College made an announcement that stunned the world of women’s soccer. After 22 years, Foley was resigning as head coach. Other veteran BC coaches had departed following the arrival of a new athletic director on campus, but, with Foley’s record 280 wins, few people had seen her exit coming.

“I made the decision,” Foley says. “It wasn’t necessarily one thing. I’m a big relationship person, and things have to feel right for me.”

Lilly Reale learned the news while scrolling through Instagram and called her mom in tears. The entire family felt bewildered. They had nothing in writing to back up the verbal commitments. Would the new BC coach “decommit” one or both of the girls?

Foley says now, “When I gave the offer to Sophie, I certainly didn’t think I was going to leave so soon.”

After BC named Foley’s replacement in January, and he got a chance to see both Lilly and Sophie play, he made it clear BC remained committed to them, according to their mother. Though the Reales remain grateful for what soccer has done for the family, everyone’s eyes are open wider now. “Five years is a long time away,” Melissa says. “When the girls started in soccer, did I think they would be committing to a college in the eighth grade? Absolutely not.”

These days, Foley runs a consulting business advising girls (mostly high schoolers) and their families on how best to navigate the waters of college soccer. She tells her clients to choose their college based largely on what the campus offers. “If they have engineering, they’re going to have engineering four or five years from now,” she says. “But the coach might not be there.”

Foley loves her new role but acknowledges that she has her work cut out for her in trying to make the recruiting process less stressful. “There’s too much panic, in parents, in players,” she says. “Once a kid commits, it’s on their Instagram. Then everybody else thinks, ‘Oh no, there’s one less slot available. That window is closing. I’ve got to hurry up and make a decision.’ ”

All of this is leading to burnout and rushed decisions and, in some ways, lost childhood. The pressure that starts as early as kindergarten soccer and escalates all the way to the college quad has become insanely fierce, she says. “I think it’s unstoppable.”

But there is one surprising new development that has left her feeling more optimistic. On April 19, the NCAA adopted a new rule that prohibits coaches in many sports, including women’s soccer, from having any communication with prospective recruits before the end of their sophomore year in high school. The restriction went into effect May 1.

I ask Foley if she thinks this new rule will fix the problems, or if coaches and families will simply find a new loophole. (The NCAA decided against an outright ban on verbal commitments, saying it would be too hard to enforce.) She replies, “I hope everybody abides by it, and they don’t fight it.”

This conversation I’m having with Foley takes place on the last day of April, the eve of the new rule going into effect. “There are probably a lot of calls going on right now” between coaches and kids trying to wrap up verbal commitments, she cracks. “And there will be all night.”

If the new policy helps bring some sanity back to recruiting, she says, she might even want to return to coaching. Right now, she’s content to take the advice she gave her daughter — a 10th-grader who has yet to commit to a college — and just slow down.


Neil Swidey is the Globe Magazine’s staff writer. E-mail him at swidey@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @neilswidey.

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We’re Keynote Speakers for 3rd Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Symposium

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)

 

Alison and I are thrilled to be presenting the keynote address for the 3rd Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Symposium!

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)

We will also be leading a breakout session on Gender Equity – Empowering Women and Girls

Friday, May 10, 2019

MIAA/MSAA Office, 33 Forge Parkway, Franklin MA

Registration: 8:30-8:45am

Opening Session: 8:45-9:00am

Concurrent Sessions 9:00am-12:00pm

Lunch: 12:00pm

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)

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How To Coach Girls wins Silver for Benjamin Franklin Award™

How To Coach Girls wins Benjamin Franklin Award™

We are thrilled to announce that How To Coach Girls won a Silver Award in the 31st Annual IBPA  Benjamin Franklin Award™ !

The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards™, which include over fifty categories recognizing excellence in book editorial and design, are regarded as one of the highest national honors for independent publishers.

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) is a not-for-profit membership organization serving and leading the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. With over 3,000 members, IBPA is the largest publishing trade association in the U.S.

How To Coach Girls was in the Sports & Recreation category.

How To Coach Girls wins Benjamin Franklin Award™

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We were featured in AYSO 90 Second Soccer Parent Newsletter

We were featured in AYSO 90 Second Soccer Parent Newsletter

Thank you to the AYSO for including us!

How To Coach Girls featured in 90 Second Soccer Parent Newsletter, a national e-newsletter for all AYSO parents.

The newsletter can be found here: https://madmimi.com/p/c4f75d

We were featured in AYSO 90 Second Soccer Parent Newsletter

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Volunteer Parent Coaches: Free Forms to Get Ready for a New Season!

Did you know that 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, with girls quitting at 6x the rate of boys?

Alison Foley, Boston College’s Women’s Head Soccer Coach, and Mia Wenjen, parenting blogger at PragmaticMom.com, help coaches — both parent volunteer and professional — crack the code of how to keep girls in sports.

As a mother of two daughters who played a lot of sports, Mia provides personal accounts to illustrate issues discussed throughout the book. Alison, also a mother of a young female athlete, has hands-on advice from coaching young women professionally for more than two decades.

Volunteer parents and experienced coaches alike will find invaluable advice on creating a successful team that motivates girls to stay in sports beyond the middle school years. Twenty-two chapters cover major issues, including how to pick captains, the importance of growth mindset, issues around body image and puberty, as well as the challenges of coaching your own daughter.

In addition, fifteen professional coaches from a range of sports, including former Olympian athletes, give their advice on what girls need from a coach to allow them to flourish in sports, and most importantly, have fun. This is a hands-on manual to help coaches keep girls in sports!

How to Coach Girls Pre Season Logistics Check Off Downloadable Form

Volunteer Parent Coaches: Free Forms to Get Ready for Fall Season!

To help coaches get ready for a new season, we have FREE forms including:

p.s. Want to learn more? Two free chapters here. Three additional chapters are here:

Soccer America: Coaching Girls: How To Deliver Feedback Effectively

Coach and A.D.: How To Coach Girls: Developing Team Chemistry

Soccer America:  The Clique Factor — how coaches can mix it up to make a stronger team


How to Coach Girls is available through Audrey PressAmazon, Barnes & Nobles, and  IndieBooks.

If anyone wishes to buy books for their town team or club team, Audrey Press offers volume discounts.

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