Hi there, I’m Simon Ireland, founder of TES.
You’re right, that picture isn’t the best, but it is me on the training field one night in the cold and pouring rain and loving it. I do not want to bore you with loads of unnecessary text, but I thought some of you may find the story below informative…
Quick Facts: Married and father of two kids who happen to enjoy the game. I’m a former professional player and a current pro youth coach and developer of recreation, competitive and elite level youth training curriculum.
Yes, you could say that football, or soccer, is a ‘passion’ for me. It would accurately the reason for my lifelong relationship with the worlds beautiful game. I am also a fan of Liverpool & Barca, though I am not limited by that fact in who and what team I will watch. I do watch football from across the globe and will watch any game played with creativity, intelligence, flair, technical excellence and exciting attacking play. My favorite players range from Eder, Socrates, Platini, Nevin, Laudrup and Fowler to Zidane, Messi, Son, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi, Scholes and many other wonderful players throughout history.
I grew up in a football/soccer household (one of 3 brothers) with both my English grandfather and father having been professional players and coaches. And so, I guess, it isn’t a big surprise that I too became a professional player spending a career with teams in Europe, North America and even Asia, New Zealand and Australia.
During my playing years, I got into youth coaching in my 20’s for several reasons, but one key reason was that it helped me become a better player. I had to ‘learn to teach’ what I was asking young players to do. In doing so, I broke down the movements and actions into two parts — the visual (physical demonstration of the action) and the audio (describing the skill or action in such a way it made sense to my students). The result was my own game improved and I began to see the game with more clarity. It came from a better knowledge, attention to detail, pursuit of excellence and intelligence. Excellence leads to success and intelligence wins.
Together with my brother, I was recruited to be a personal assistant by the man himself, the world renowned dutch technical skills guru ‘Wiel Coerver’. To be clear, we never worked for the ‘Coerver Method’ (a separate entity) and if you don’t know, it is another story.
We travelled the world demonstrating at Pro clubs and state and national associations, in what was at the time, a revolutionary training system.
Since then, over the last 20+ years, I have continued to travel the world, observing and borrowing from some of the top club academies in the world and from some of the smallest clubs in the world, for what I believe are some good training, teaching and learning tools that I can utilize in my own coaching sessions with young players, whatever level the players are at.
So what, are you on a mission? Yes, sort of.
You wouldn’t believe it, but I identified a bit of a problem in youth soccer (and sports in general). Better still, I believe I found a part of the solution. So I built TES to help try and do just that.
I’m not at all going to suggest that TES has all the answers to all of youth sports problems, but I am going to say that TES does address a big part of the the bigger issue of communication, relationships, reality and expectations between players, parents and coaches.
Why? - Go on, tell me more.
Since I began coaching, I have been looking for the ‘magic formula’. Of course it doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean I stop looking or I stop thinking about it. After all, I want to find the best way to improve all the players in my sphere of influence. And especially for kids, because it is possible to have training sessions that are informative, challenging and yes, fun.
Obviously there is more to this game than what happens on a training field. After all, the kids (and even the Pro players) want to play games, with goals, and against an opponent.
But, when you have just played in that game, how did you do? I remember asking myself the same question as a young kid and even as a Pro. Of course I had a personal opinion on my own performance. But I thought, what did my coach think of my performance and how does it differ from mine? Could I, should I, have done something different, something better, if so, what? Questions, questions... The fact is, most players don’t know the answers to these questions and many others... Did I have a good, mediocre, poor game? What were my strengths and shortcomings? How was the opposing player/team today? Fantastic, average or, no they were really not that good? It was the weather, the field, the time of day, the long drive, too many games this weekend, playing a different position, off the field and personal problems, injury, illness, sleep, fatigue... Truth is, all sorts of things influence player performances.
The question presented itself... Can I measure or gauge any given performance, quickly, visually, accurately, consistently and communicate that information back to the player to help them understand their own performance?
So, the first attempt was on a spreadsheet, and that was a good way to start, sort of. Though after a while, I had to try and refine the system and to speed up the method of communication. I tried several methods, however, the obvious solution was to try and do this with an app. I mean, just give it a go right?
As things exist today, players (may or may not) receive once a year written evals. This is simply not the answer. It’s too little, too late. Most end of season evals are (grudgingly) written by coaches who really mean well but cannot stand this cursory process. They just don’t want to spend the time trying to condense a season into a few lines of ‘cheerleading’ phrases.
Instead of this, TES will provide a season long interactive evaluation and feedback. Players love it and just as important, their parents love it too. Quick and easy and valuable for everyone.
Creating the TES process
So, over 15 years ago, I began a personal process of identifying key evaluative criteria that could help describe and define the components involved in player performance and development.
But, in creating that very long list, it was soon apparent that there’s just so many of them it didn’t make sense to try and communicate them all. Anyway, coaches really don’t have the time to do this in person at training or at games. I had to edit the list down to the more ‘crucial’ and ‘relevant’. Even then, that could/would depend on what age and level a player was currently in. So that list had to be flexible and it had to constitute a suite or selection of criteria specifically tailored to the group I was working with. A thorough list of criteria for the older and/or higher level players and a shorter list for the younger and/or less competitive level players.
In the next version of TES, we will provide a flexible list of criteria that enables coaches to create a custom list of criteria that better serves their team/player needs and to permit the coaches to customize their criteria. But for now, we have decided to use a fixed list.
In addition to the criteria itself, in order to provide clarity for the users, I even created a rubric (and I can type with only 2 fingers, so you can imagine how long that took) with detailed descriptions and definitions of the criteria and just exactly what does any score in any of the criteria mean to a player.
Whatever the case may be, I first had to create these lists of evaluative criteria on my laptop computer in an xl spreadsheet with a couple of formulas in columns and create a ‘total eval score’ — so I just called it a ‘TES’ score.
And in a time consuming process, I would slowly enter the data for each criteria (a numerical eval score between 0-10 on a .5 Scale) for each player after each game performance to create their individual TES scores.
At trainings, I would then go over a player scores individually to provide feedback. Their first reaction was of someone trying to comprehend the numbers without context, but after several games worth of data, the consistent coach/player feedback using the same criteria, it all made more sense every week thereafter and they were soon very comfortable with TES.
Even more, players were visibly delighted by the whole process and began to approach me demanding to know about their scores and how they were now going to apply themselves on a specific skill relative to their TES score… That is the moment when I knew I had them hooked… I now had them invested in their own personal development, but more importantly, the power of the psychology behind the numbers (as I like to refer to it) was the greatest influence. Their preparation and participation was now positively impacting their performances. They had been challenged by my subjective performance evaluations and their objectives were now more apparent.
To enhance the value of the individual player data associated with the criteria scores, I added a TES score for our game day opponent using the exact same criteria. This provided greater insight because of the context. What is an individual TES score without the ability to compare to the opponents same skill set?
And to take this even further, I then suggested that a player must participate in this process. I decided to add the requirement of player self evaluation using the very same criteria. As a coach, I also want to know what a player thinks of their own performance. This will provide perspective that can only help improve relationships between players, coaches and yes, to the parents. A relationship that remains one of the biggest challenges in youth soccer and frankly, every other youth sport (and arguably, society in general).
Eventually, and because of the time consuming nature of communicating the data to players in person at trainings, I began to cut and paste the data into email and text.
Not too long after that, I can honestly tell you (especially having the system employed across 3 teams) that the whole logistical process of entering data, cutting, pasting and emailing/texting was laborious and if it wasn’t my own creation, I would have tired of it quickly, no matter how useful anyone else found it.
First, a better method for data entry had to be found. I began to use an online data entry app (it was free) which streamlined some of the process, though I did still have to manually cut and paste the finished results to the players.
Ultimately, because of the fragmented process that I could not completely solve by this piecemeal approach, I determined that this whole process needed to be created from scratch...
An app is born. Well, not quite. That took quite a while and it is always in development…