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'Coaching is overrated' says Westside Metros' Cony Konstin
by Mike Woitalla, February 23rd, 2011 10:34PM

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TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls


Interview by Mike Woitalla

Cony Konstin is the Director of Coaching of Westside Metros SC, a small club based in Beaverton, Ore., that has gotten national attention with the success of its U-19 Internationals boys team and has sent players to the U-15 national team pool. Previously, Konstin served as the Director of Houstonians FC, which became a model for inner-city youth soccer. Konstin spoke to us for the Youth Soccer Insider's ongoing series in which leaders of U.S. youth clubs address key issues on the state of American youth soccer.

SOCCER AMERICA: If you had a magic wand, how would you use it to improve youth soccer in America?

CONY KONSTIN:
I’d create “soccer courts” all over the place, where children can play soccer, or futsal, anytime. You don’t need a giant soccer field for that. There are so many abandoned tennis courts they could convert to multi-purpose futsal courts and let the kids just play.

Coaching is totally overrated. Players win championships, not coaches. Talent wins championships, not coaches. For the USA to create great talent we need to create an environment for kids, in the inner city and the suburbs, to play everyday.

In American youth soccer, you don’t step on the grass if it rains a little bit. They throw you off the field. How are kids going to become passionate about playing if you punish them for going on the field because you want to keep the grass green? Who cares if the grass is not green? As long as they’re playing and staying out of trouble, we should be happy about that.

SA: What do you at Westside Metros to encourage players to play on their own?

CONY KONSTIN: We try and create other environments so they don’t think they have to go to a grass field to play. We take them to play futsal on the basketball court, on concrete. We play soccer tennis on tennis courts. We take them to play on the beach.

We try and show the kids, “You can play anywhere.”

SA: What’s your criteria for coaches?

CONY KONSTIN: At our club I don’t give a damn if they have no licenses or a million licenses. Here’s my criteria: Do you care about those kids? That’s No. 1. Period.

Whatever knowledge and experience, we’ll throw it on the pile. But the first thing is, does this person truly care about the kids and are they willing to go the extra mile for them.

To justify all this pay-for-play they have to have all this criteria crap. In the end, the coaches are not going to make the players better. They don’t work with the kids seven days a week.

I used to tell people in Houston, “I have the best coaching staff in all of Texas.” They’d say, “Oh yeah, who are the coaches?” I’d say, “The players. Those are my coaches, because I have the best players. They teach each other how to play with their talent.”

Coaches are there in case someone gets hurt, to make a sub, manage the team.

In the end, the only way you’re going to have magical players is when kids start at 5 years old, playing everyday because they’re passionate about the game.

SA: Perhaps the most common complaint about the American youth game is its high cost. What does your club do to reduce or minimize costs?

CONY KONSTIN: We create profit centers to raise money to help offset costs. We have soccer schools, camps, 3-v-3 tournaments, raffles, auctions -- so we don’t put the burden on parents.

One of the club’s founding fathers is Denny Doyle, who’s now the Mayor of Beaverton. He and the other founders are frugal and visionary, with the aim to keep costs down and creating a diverse club that is a reflection of what America is. And that’s one of the reasons we’re successful, because the club is multicultural.

We bring kids in who maybe didn’t have the money to play and they help the team be successful.

The suburban kids and the inner-city kids go out there and make magic. It’s great to see – there’s no division when they’re on the field. They bust their tails for each other. And the beautiful thing is, off the field these guys become friends. They do things together and it’s very positive.

SA: Before joining the Westside Metros in 2002, you helped create Houstonians FC, which turned into a rec soccer program for 4,000 while its competitive teams excelled. What was the key to its success?

CONY KONSTIN: Houston Mayor Bob Lanier had a vision to start an inner-city sports program with the Parks and Recreation Department as a solution to gang and youth drug problems.

It started 100 percent Latino. And then as time went by we started to get an influx of Caribbean and African players. And then all of a sudden even the suburban kids wanted to join, because they liked the way we played.

By the time I left, we were multicultural -- a reflection of what the United States is. … Today several of my former players are coaches of the Houstonians.

SA: You have a long history of working in the Latino community and with inner-city kids. What prompted that?  

CONY KONSTIN: It has a lot to do with the way I want to see the game played and people coming together – because I grew up that way.

I was a city kid myself. I grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District [a largely Hispanic, working-class neighborhood]. I learned my soccer across the street in an alley and hanging out at Dolores Park.

My mother’s Mexican, my father’s Greek. I’m all messed up [laughs].

SA: The Super Y-league, U.S. Club Soccer and the U.S. Development Academy have joined U.S. Youth Soccer in the youth arena over the last decade. Has the increase in options for youth clubs benefited America's young players?

CONY KONSTIN: I think everybody should be under the Federation, period. I’m not a big supporter of having a whole alphabet of youth organizations out there. There shouldn’t be all these little fiefdoms.

That’s one of problems of soccer in this country. It’s so helter skelter, nobody knows what’s up or down.

And it’s so damn expensive. First you gotta pay to play, and if you’re really good you have to pay extra. That doesn’t make any sense.

There are a few individual people who have worked their butts off to do things for inner city kids, but as organizations with all this money -- I've seen very little of them rising to the challenge.

(Westside Metros Director of Coaching Cony Konstin is also a FIFA Futsal instructor, USASA national men’s select team coach, ODP coach, and International Director of Coaching for Tahuichi Academy in the USA.)

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)



0 comments
  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.
    Cony -- keep up the great work. Someday they will erect a statue to you just don't expect it to come from US Soccer or the coaching elite. Your real reward will have to be the success of your players and I have no doubt there will be many of them.

  1. Rick Figueiredo
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
    Dear Cony Konstin. I like your attitude. Please go to "you tube" and search for Kevin Spacey - success. He has a short speech that you will like very much. Yes players are the best teachers. That is why this country is still second rate in the world. But I do not agree that coaches do not win championships. Players make a team great but it is the coach that wins championships by first picking the right player to start games. I have always thought that players must play the game in the present but coaches must think the game in the future. This combination is what brings in the crown! Thanks for your thoughts. RICK FIGUEIREDO. brasil@rickfigueiredo.com

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 12:38 p.m.
    To Senor Cony Konstin! MUCHSIMAS GRACIAS!!! As they say on line OMG!!! Someone who apparently seems to have gotten it right! He has hit the nail on the head on the whole scenario of the development of youth soccer, and the "alphabet mix" of youth organizations that permeates the youth soccer scene. Senor Konstin, please clone yourself and please continue to preach this gospel. The only negative aspect of your program, going back to Houston, is that I never heard of it until this article, for which I thank Mike W for printing, and I rather read more of the same instead of those previous ones "highlighting" the wealthy and mega clubs and the guys that enrich themselved in the pay-for-play arena!!! Cerrando este mensajito, otra vez, MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS!!!

  1. Thomas Brannan
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.
    I respectfully disagree with those that think that coaching is not important. I am 66 years old and have seen the era where there was no coaching. There were players who who were "good" but could have been so much better if they had been taught/coached more and with better quality. To say that quality of instruction is not important is an anti-intellectual and non-professional approach. Reference Ericsson and "Deliberate Practice". One "criteria" is quality instruction to become an expert. Sure it is possible without but only maybe one genius will get there. You need 11 to play. Also, reference Barcelona FC. I believe they have 7 UEFA A Licensed coaches giving instruction at their Academy. Would the players that have come through that enviornment be as good as they are today without quality instruction. Personally, it is my opinion they would not. They would be good but not as good as they are now. I do not say this with sarcasm, but Grandma cares, caring is not enough. The solution to the USA's soccer problems is not less coaching but more quality coaching. As I watch Academy games I don't see much going on there either. Once again I RESPECTFULLY disagree.

  1. Walter Leclerc
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 2:54 p.m.
    Kudos to Cony for speaking up!!! It is crystal clear that American soccer needs an overhaul; it has lost touch with its true customer...THE KIDS!!! Unfortunately, the clubs/coaches control everything, including the purse strings.

  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
    Man, I like this guy! Cony, I think you and I would get along just fine. Simple, basic, right-to-the-point. Plus all the walk to back up your talk. Still, I'd throw out one caveat: consider a bit of Thomas' 66 years of experience here, especially the one about needing "not less coaching but more quality coaching." I'd find it hard to quarrel with that.

  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 6:10 p.m.
    I couldn't agree more. Youth soccer is dominated by adults. The best way for kids to learn is on their own playing eachother on grass fields around their neighborhood. That is how I learned how to play football back in the 60's. I played pick up ball. Youth soccer, and other youth sports in general, are too adult oriented. When my son was a youngster he and his friends would go out and play pick up soccer, and guess what a certain father would always get involved and mess it up.

  1. ferdie Adoboe
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 9:16 p.m.
    Cony, i think you would appreciate this research. http://ferdiesoccermagic.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/player-development-whos-job-is-it-anyway/

  1. ferdie Adoboe
    commented on: February 24, 2011 at 9:43 p.m.
    I think there is a need to separate what happens at 5 and what happens at 15. At 15 it is good quality coaches because it is all about the game. At 5, it cannot be coaches since all players arrive at the club between 12 and 15. All of them. In this case, the player is made before they arrive. So between 5 and 12 are the critical building years. During these years coaches are no where to be found, therefore not as significant as family, siblings,friends, mentors, idols.

  1. Tommy McQueen
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
    Cony has been preaching this gospel for 20 years, we just weren't ready to here it. I really hope we are ready for it now and can see the damage our elite ID camps and lush green IMG fields have done. If you want your son to be a better soccer player send him to Tahuichi with Cony. It will open his eyes.

  1. Walter Arevalo
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
    The experiencie that Coach Cony has is amazing, specially on soccer development working with kids all the way to proffesional including his futsal experience working in different countires make him a expertisae on socccer to follow. Thansk Cony for the excellent guidance to new generation of coachs and players, a pleasure to know you..Let me know when you are in Brazil...ABRACO IRMAO CONY!

  1. James Ray
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 11:46 a.m.
    My son is a Div 1 college player now, he played for Cony in the past and loved him. He says he was the only coach that could actually help him score goals... Jim Ray

  1. Vasco Nunes
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.
    Met Cony last year in Montreal. He has a great vision about future of the game. I'm a great believer in small-sided games and player centred coaching therefore the quote "Coaching is totally overrated. Players win championships, not coaches. Talent wins championships, not coaches. For the USA to create great talent we need to create an environment for kids, in the inner city and the suburbs, to play everyday" hits home. Come back to Canada and try convince the local associations to change. Fuerte abrazo - Vasco "

  1. David Parker
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 1:36 p.m.
    Ha ha....Cony is certifibly crazy. My son played for him, I coach in his club and he is crazy....like a fox. One of the most creative minds I have been around. You tell'em Cony!!!....dp

  1. Lee Katterman
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 1:46 p.m.
    This interview, Cony's answers, don't make sense. As presented it's a diatribe against the establishment. Anyone can do that and get nods. Then to say kids should play more -- not rocket science. And make it cheaper, especially for the good players, with the solution to get others to pay via tournament fees, camps, fundraisers. It's all silly and meaningless, in my opinion.

  1. Cory Roth
    commented on: February 25, 2011 at 7:53 p.m.
    Cony Konstin - The Righteous Revolutionary! You tell them! Every basketball court in America should have a cage-fence goal built into it, especially in 'the hood' and all apartment complexes. There was nothing like playing 3v3 for hours on end in Bolivia. The only time my college team had a legitimately good and productive time was when the coach wasn't around. That is where we learned how to play with each other, were allowed to be creative, and didn't have to play within a stupid system of checking runs and direct balls. Out there positions disappear and the players begin to churn like a blender filling in spots on the field for each other just like Barcelona or Arsenal. That is where creativity is learned and practiced - because of necessity and creativity. Most coaches play nothing but favorites and their own idea of how the game should be played. If you don't make the right check or heaven forbid dribble past a player (pass or fail) you get yanked because his ego. At this point it is mainly an demonstration of authoritarianism, less a demonstration of the beautiful game. Any coach who bans creativity should himself be banned from the game and go coach the other football or pickup 'competitive underwater basket weaving' where its the same D*** motion every time!

  1. Oz LatinAmerican
    commented on: February 26, 2011 at 3:27 a.m.
    Yes the establishment is wrong, everything is wrong with youth soccer in America. Not even the MLS offers an alternative to the youth soccer system here. I said it before: until we create a soccer club a real club with its adult team and youth divisions in every town in America and letting the kids to play and not to pay to play is the only way to have better players in USA. Clubs can promote these young players,giving them a contract,paying them to play, sell them later on to other clubs, and start all over again. Just like the soccer clubs around the world. Until we do this nothing will change,so we can keep whining about it or start doing something. Start in your own neighborhood create a club, a league of your own, give better alternatives to the children, especially to the ones that can not play because it cost too much money to play. believe me there are plenty and not just Latinos kids that can not play, but also the Caucasian kids. I'm working on this in my neighborhood to do something like it, but everything is monopolizes around here,but eventually it will happen. How about you? I know, it is easier to say it than to get it done.

  1. Oz LatinAmerican
    commented on: February 26, 2011 at 3:36 a.m.
    Yes the establishment is wrong, everything is wrong with youth soccer in America. Not even the MLS offers an alternative to the youth soccer system here. I said it before: until we create a soccer club a real club with its adult team and youth divisions in every town in America and letting the kids to play and not to pay to play is the only way to have better players in USA. Clubs can promote these young players,giving them a contract,paying them to play, sell them later on to other clubs, and start all over again. Just like the soccer clubs around the world. Until we do this nothing will change,so we can keep whining about it or start doing something. Start in your own neighborhood create a club, a league of your own, give better alternatives to the children, especially to the ones that can not play because it cost too much money to play. believe me there are plenty and not just Latinos kids that can not play, but also the Caucasian kids. I'm working on this in my neighborhood to do something like it, but everything is monopolized around here,but eventually it will happen. How about you? I know, it is easier to say it than to get it done. Why all this because the youth soccer will not even allow other clubs to be formed here, the reason we will give competition to the only to them, to the existing clubs in the region.

  1. Beth Raizes
    commented on: February 26, 2011 at 4:51 p.m.
    Cony Konstin-Thank you! I, against all instincts, allowed my son, who had just turned 15, to enroll in school and live in a poor area in San Jose, Costa Rica. After playing Regional friendlies over there last year, he was invited back last summer playing soccer with a Costa Rican team and living with a wonderful host family for 3 weeks. He didn't want to come home! He came home, but not for long. His former coach, my son and my husband gave me no choice but to let him go. He went from living in a gated commmunity overlooking a golf course, living the American dream, to a home which is about the size of my kitchen and den. Why? Because he is immersed in the total soccer experience unlike anything we see here. He goes to school and plays soccer, futsol and probably sleeps with the ball. When not playing on his team he's out in the streets, a real uphill one at that, playing with kids of all ages. He plays futsol every chance he gets, which is often. He had no choice but to learn Spanish quickly. You get no respect on the field if your not willing to speak the language, he found out. As Mr. Konstin mentioned, they play in every condition imaginable. Many times I don't even know how they manage to find the ball in the mud and muck. I've shed many a tear over this but, as he's quick to tell me, "please don't stand in the way of my dream!". After all, the kid went from surviving a brutal civil war for the first 5 years of his life, but, sadly, his parents did not. I'm blessed to say, that miracle child became our son after we adopted him in 2000. Although he never got the chance to play soccer in Sierra Leone, he started kicking everything in sight at our home. Knowing nothing about soccer, we told his first, and only coach, to do what was best for him. Which I still have my doubts about. But I feel better after reading this article, that is, until he jumps to another country! He's a kid on a mission. That mission is to realize his dream to become a pro. I'm told he's got the talent and a soccer mind, so maybe he's alot smarter than I thought!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 2, 2011 at 9:39 p.m.
    We need this mentality desperately in Illinois. This is what I don't understand about these Top "Developement Academys". Why do they constantly replace their top players even in their older age groups (U15-U18) during the year ? Aren't they suppose to develop them for at least a year before deciding wether or not they are good enough to be on their top team? I think these Academys are working solely on the "developement" of the club name by getting "W's" at all costs. Why do Americans think that practicing only 2-3 times and playing 30-40 minutes( if your lucky) a week will make their child the next Messi as long as they are in a top club that charges $2,000 or more a year with a coach that has a Euro accent ?? Maybe this is why our U17's just barely got by El salvador in Quarterfinals. I thought El Salvador played better overall soccer than USA. We still rely on strength and speed to get by these physically inferior teams in CONCACAF except for Mexico who are close in physicallity but better skilled. Baseball and Basketball are played in pickup games by Americans, hence the best Basketball players in the world who are mostly black. Black communities seldom have a basketball court unoccupied by pickup games. Hispanics are seen the most playing pickup games in USA. Actually, I have seldom seen a white kid playing pickup soccer games anywhere in Chicago or suburbs. Why are all the top youth teams in Illinois and California mostly Hispanic but this doesnt reflect on the national soccer teams or even on their state and regional teams?? USA Basketball National teams certainly reflect that the best players throughout High School and even younger ages are Black. Animosity?? I hope not. I have nothing against the white community but here are facts. To be the best at something you have to ahve a passion for it. If you have a passion for it you will dedicate every possible moment to it(like pick up games). You will play for the purest of love it for it no matter the conditions, like bumpy fields, wich actually help your foot skills. Americans are spoiled, no passion, worry toomuch about playing conditions, getting sued for overplaying a kid, etc. Overplaying?? Burn Out?? Bad Fields? These were never in my vocabulary as a kid and will never be!!

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 2, 2011 at 10:19 p.m.
    What I am trying to say is that 9 out of 10 times the places where you see more pickup games of any sport are Minority communities who 9 out of 10 times are low income or poor. White communities are usually mid to high income, at least in Chicago and suburbs. I lived in Mexico and it is the same thing. In Chicago I grew up playing Basketball piuckup games everyday all day in the summer in a lowincome neighborhood. I lived in a high income neighborhood in Mexico for 4 years and had to ride a bus to the low income part where the only pickup games were going on. So this means rich or comfortably rich Mexicans are not as passionate about sports as well? I think the parents are to blame. The mentality is that if you make enough to pay for training a few times a week there is no reason to do pickup games with the low class. If this mentality is not deliberate it is certainly subconscious in a lot of cases. White America did not want Minorities playing Basketball at one point. Now that they are the majority in the NBA,national teams,etc. more and more creative white players are seen playing the game. This needs to happen in soccer in the USA. Like Blacks in Basketball, Hispanics have proven to be more skilled with soccer as a majority. This should reflect in the MLS and state,regional and national USA soccer teams as we are the largest minority in the country and the majority as far as interest and talent in soccer. When this fact finally reflects in numbers I gaurantee you that USA soccer will emerge at World Cups to come.

  1. Celestino Banda
    commented on: March 3, 2011 at 12:45 a.m.
    I was part of the first generation of the Houstonians FC or the greater Houston inner-city soccer program back in 1996. My team, Houstonians FC U-17 was the first team to be coached by Cony. We were a buch of poor teenagers that wanted to play competitive soccer and Mayor Bob Lanier and the Houtonians FC coaching staff made that possible. Two years into the program one of our teams (Houstonians FC U-20) made it to the Snickers National Championship held that year in Phoenix, Arizona, having the city Mayor Bob Lanier as an espectator. Those years were the best years of my soccer history. I still remember every single gesture and every single saying that Cony had. He was a very influential man in my soccer life. By far the best and the craziest coach that I ever had. Keep it up Cony.

  1. John Rexroat
    commented on: June 17, 2011 at 2:16 p.m.
    I met Cony back in 1994 in Los Angeles when Tahuichi Soccer Academy toured the USA. We roomed together in a hotel for a week in Bolivia while I attending Tahuichi in 1995 for coaching sessions. He spoke the words then but nobody listened. Hopefully they are all ears now. Preach it Cony!!!!


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