High School

The world’s oldest known high school is in Edinburgh, Scotland. It began in 1505 and is the Royal High School. Thisl was used as a model to start the first high school in America, located in Boston, Massachusetts. The English High School began operations in 1821.

In the United States, a high school is a secondary education system that will educate children who are in the ninth grade trough the twelfth grade, or in the case of others, tenth grade through twelfth. Each state and district will have their own specific guidelines when to start the high school year, either adding ninth or not. Typically a child will be eighteen years old or approaching eighteen when he or she graduates in the United States.

There are several different categories of high schools in America. There are those that prepare children to hold basic technical careers, which they will work on during their school years. These schools are vocational schools, where many school districts within one county will gather students together. Another type of high school is the college preparatory school, which can be difficult to get into unless you have the early high grades throughout middle school.

These schools will teach subjects that children will need to go on to a university or college, especially if that college or university is an Ivy League one. Another type of high school is the alternative school, which is usually for children who are having behavioral problems for whatever reason and sometimes a judge or a therapist will insist that the child be enrolled in this high school. Some of the children who may attend this alternative school may have mental health issues that preclude them from attending a main stream school. Security risks would be too high to allow other children to attend classes with children who are suffering from severe mental health concerns. Some of these alternative schools are catered to those children who are experiencing drug and/or alcohol problems and need supervised treatment. A component of their treatment may include daily or weekly treatment with a therapist or drug and alcohol counselor.

Most schools in America begin their classes in late August or early September, and go until the next May or June, depending upon calamity days during the year. Children in the United States typically have the entire summer off from classes. Many people, especially some educators, would like to see American school districts adopt a year round calendar. Those who propose going to school year round state that it would benefit parents, who would not need as much day care help during the summer months and it would also benefit the children, because many times children lose a great deal of the knowledge during the summer months. Teachers sometime complain that the first month or so of the new school year is spent playing catch up, trying to remind children what they learned toward the end of the previous school year.

Building and Managing a High School Soccer Program

The following interview is with Coach Bill Bratton, who was my Soccer Coach at Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, Georgia for the school year 1989-1990. I asked him for an interview to share his thoughts on Soccer. He has been involved with Soccer for over 25 years so I wanted to pick his brain on the subject.

Stafford:

Hello Coach, you have been coaching high school soccer for over 25 years. How did you first get involved in the sport?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Hi Stafford and thank you. Well I started coaching soccer in 1982 in DeKalb County in my first year teaching at Sequoyah High. The previous coach had left and the school needed someone to coach. The principal offered me the opportunity to take over the program.

Stafford:

How was that experience for you and how did you prepare for this new role as a High School Soccer Coach?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I will admit I had never played or coached soccer before. In the off season I spent time preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics. I will also admit that the players knew more about the skills, the formations and what it took to play the game than I did but it was the coaching organization of putting a team together to play as a team that was my strength. I really enjoyed coaching soccer once I mastered the knowledge I needed.

Stafford:

How long did you coach at Sequoyah and how did you end up at Cross Keys?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I coached Sequoyah for 4 years before DeKalb began a consolidation program and I transferred to Cross Keys in 1986. I had the privilege of coaching the Keys program for the next 20 years. I earned my Georgia class D coaching license as well as a Class C level National Coaching license from the USSF. The situation at Cross Keys was much like Sequoyah, they needed a new soccer coach and the AP who would become the principal offered me the position.

Stafford:

How was the situation at Cross Keys, and what did it take to build the program?

Coach Bill Bratton:

It took hard work and discipline to build the program. My job involved rebuilding a program. It had lost its organization, discipline was amuck, and the program wasn’t winning, just 2 years from finishing 3rd in the state. I had to incorporate discipline into the program and to teach players what playing on a school competitive team meant and was needed to win. This progress was going to take many years to complete.

Players would tell me “Coach we just want to play”. Cross Keys was a highly transient school. It was a constant rebuilding progress every year. They had no understanding of playing as a team, that they had to come to practice, to commit, and to be successful they had to play as a team. As I look back that took 2-3 years to get across. Once we reached the point of players returning consistently, I started instilling in the players that we were playing to win. They were playing in a competitive environment. If they just wanted to play there were rec teams, club teams, and other leagues they could go and “just play”.

There were teams that we could beat just based on talent and skill alone so we had to start winning those games. Slowly players started to understand, but they had no knowledge of what playing for a State Championship” was or meant. But we started to win games we should of and it was time to go to the next level, winning games that were 50-50. Again this level took 3-4 years to develop. I constantly had to preach to the teams what we were out there to accomplish. We wanted to win games and develop. After getting to the point of winning 50-50 games, we needed to win games that we were not expected to win. Our goal was to make the region playoffs to go to the state playoffs. The final step in the development was to defeat teams no one expected us to. It was always my belief that we had the ability, the skills to play with anyone and defeat anyone on any given day. In my last 5 years at the Keys we had two teams to reach the 2nd round (sweet 16) level of the state playoffs.

Stafford:

Awesome! I see a pattern here and a valuable lesson to be learned. An opportunity was presented; Rather than turn it down because you had no prior experience in soccer at that time, you made the effort to learn about the subject by spending time ” preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics”, etc. You mentioned it took work and discipline and eventually you mastered the knowledge that was needed to coach high school soccer, which I saw when my old high school merged with Cross Keys and I ended up playing for you in my senior year. You seemed to have had a passion for soccer and knowledge of the game and the know-how to get players excited for the game and team unity. But all of that was accomplished through your own hard work and effort. How important is “discipline” for the aspiring soccer player and anyone in general?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Let me start out by saying that I believe discipline is an important attribute for anyone to have. To achieve individual or team goals one must have self-discipline. Discipline can have many different meaning to each person. It can be a commitment to attending practices, to going beyond what is asked of one to do to prepare. Discipline comes from having goals and achieving goals come from being disciplined. Some say that my teams were disciplined. On a team there can be only one chief who must lead and lead by setting the discipline of what is expected from others. The others must be willing to accept the standards and work together to achieve for the benefit of the whole and not the individual. If the team has discipline many other honors will come their way.

For many years as the coach I would tell the teams our goals, the purpose of what we will be trying to achieve, and that to reach these ideals we must all be on the same page. Some years I would have players who as the season would progress would disagree with the discipline and feel that certain things were unfair. They would question the purpose, the lineup, and the style of play or other team discipline. Of course I would try to talk with them, explain what was being done and why, listen to their side of the picture. I always had an open door if a player wanted to talk or discuss issues but not in public or at practice or during a game. I recall one instance where 5 players who I had taken out of a game and disagreed with my decision that they left the team bench and set in the stands. These players were removed from the team immediately after the game. On another team years later the players felt the formation we were playing and the players in those positions was wrong. This time I gave that team the chance to play the players and the formation they felt we needed to be playing. I said you have a half to show me that I am wrong and if it doesn’t work it will be done my way and there will be no more discussion and if you cannot agree with my decisions you have a decision that only you can make. Well the team’s way didn’t work so at halftime I told the team I gave you your opportunity now it will be done my way.

I always in my 26 years of coaching have told every team that I coach (you might recall this)… I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good you are (even if you are the best player), or who you know… If you have to be disciplined you will be disciplined. No matter how much it might hurt the team, you know the rules and you know if you break the rules you will be disciplined and I will discipline you.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach. Have you had any experience with Club Soccer (soccer outside of the school system)? What is your thought on Club Soccer and its impact on High School Soccer? For example, some players who play high school soccer in the Spring may have Club teams that they play for that trains Summer, Fall and even Winter!

Coach Bill Bratton:

My experience on coaching Club has been limited as I coached one year with a U-14 boys’ team with Roswell Santos club league. We won the Fall and Spring season championship. A few years later I worked with Concorde Soccer coaching a U-12 boys team for a year.

If a player is looking to be seen and has the dream of playing at the college level then the club system is the way to go. But keep in mind that this is for elite level players. If they are good enough there is a program that they can go through to reach a higher level of play if they have the talent. First is to be selected on a top level team, to try out for the State select teams, to reach Regional recognition, etc. In the summer they should attend a quality soccer camp to improve their skills and to be seen by college coaches. In high school some club coaches look down at the high school programs and encourage players not to play on their school teams for a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, and low level of play from many schools.

I encourage my players to find a club team to play on in the off seasons as it can only help to make them better. In the Fall if they are not playing on a club team, I encourage players to practice Cross Country to start developing their stamina and if possible to go out for wrestling in the Winter. Some club players come into the High School level and will tell me they can only play a midfield or an outside wing position. I try to teach my players that even though they played center midfield on their club team they are a great fit in the defense on the school team. Players need to keep an open mind and be willing to play the position that will give the team they are on the opportunity to be competitive and a chance to win.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach! Having been a club coach for several years, I can relate to the statement “some club coaches look down at the high school program and encourage players not to play on their school teams from a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, level of play from many schools.” Not that I have ever made that statement. However, that statement may have had some validity in the past, but do you see this changing as new generation of teachers who may be coaching high school or middle school presently are actually former soccer players who are also teachers, but may want to use the high school experience as a career path for some form of College/Professional coaching? This may be the case for some private schools.

Coach Bill Bratton:

Yes I see this getting better. The coaching at the high school level has shown major improvement in the coaches’ knowledge of the game. High schools teams now, like club teams can hire community coaches to help coach teams now and pay a stipend. These individuals must take the state required courses to become a community coach and follow the rules of the school, the county and state as they coach. So high school coaches who might lack in the skills and able to find someone willing to coach to teach/work coaching the players the skills or to work on the strategies and tactical aspects of the game. This is what many club teams do now. They have a person to run the run but pay hundreds of dollars a month for a named/quality individual who was a former player, etc to actual do the coaching.

Stafford:

****Coach Bratton retired in 2006, but after 7 years he wanted to get back into coaching and took over the varsity boys position at a High School in Fulton County (Georgia) as a community coach. It was great speaking to him again after so many years. ****

How Does A High School Athletic Program Become Great?

I have often wondered what makes excellence in high school athletics? I grew up in an high school that demanded excellence in all of their sports programs, boys and girls. But, it was not always that way. Actually, when I attended this high school, our school was very average in sports. But, during my senior year, something magical happened. It just seemed like all of our sports teams started to get better and better. We won the state championship that year in both boys basketball and football. The next year, the school won state in football, track, cross country and girls tennis. After that, my high school has never looked back. What happened? How did we go from being average to being great? What was the tipping point? Was it just a great class of kids? Was it the coaching staff? What happened?

Well, before I Get There, Excellence In High School Athletics Is Earned…

By comparison, many years later, I know of a high school that is just the opposite. Academics in the school are great. I really believe the teachers, administrators and coaching staff are terrific. And… so are the kids. But, on the athletic field or court, they just don’t have it. They finish at the bottom of the pack every year in every sport. Why? How can one school set records for the number of state championships, while another school sets records for the number of losing seasons?

I have had the fortune of being involved with both types of athletic programs. You would think that being involved with a winning program is much easier. I would beg to differ. Being involved with a winning program is much tougher than being involved with a losing program. It’s tougher on the administrator, the coach staff, the parents, and especially the players.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Here’s Why It’s Tougher…

Being involved in a winning athletic program demands excellence. Everyone in a winning program knows that winning requires a total commitment to excellence. Winners don’t take shortcuts. Winners come in early and stay late. Winners work-out in the off-season. The community demands winning. The school demands winning. The parents, the school administrators, the coaches… they all demand winning. In order to win… everyone must do their job. It’s just not performance on the field. That is actually the end result of each person’s everyday effort to reach the same goal… to win.

But, how does a high school get to that position? How to you go from bad to average to great. I believe it starts with the school administrators. The administrators of the school must develop this attitude. This attitude must then be demanded of the entire coaching staff. Being average is no longer an option. If the coach is not willing to demand excellence, to put in a 110% effort toward the development of their sports program… they are out. The coaches need to develop their current high school players. And… they need to work with the middle and elementary schools to develop their feeder program. They need to understand… being average is no longer an option. Period.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Parents Are Key…

After you get this attitude down with the coaching staff, the school needs to move on to the parents. A culture change needs to happen. Some people say this takes time. This is total nonsense. Excellence in athletics needs to happen now! The school needs to step up and tell the parents how things are going to change. The school needs to ask the parents for their help. Make no mistake, if the athletic program is going to change for the better, the parents must be a big part of the change. The school needs total buy-in from the families. Everyone needs to understand that winning comes with a price. If everyone is willing to pay the price… winning will happen. The school might not win the state title every year, but more kids from that school will play sports in college, and the school will see a huge positive difference in their athletic program.

To get this all going, it takes one person. One person in authority at the high school needs to stand up and say “enough!!!.” Until that happens, nothing will change. One person needs to stand up. In my school is was the athletic director. In other schools it might be the principal. But, it always starts with one person.

Excellence In High School Athletics – Getting Back To the Losing School…

The losing program just does not have the commitment. It’s that simple. When you go to meetings, it’s always time to hear 100 different excuses why they can’t compete. The culture of winning is just not present. The difference maker, the one person who starts it all… does not exist. In the losing program, no one runs the program. In the losing program, no one is willing to stand up and make a difference. So, what happens… because the school does not demand excellence, that attitude filters down to the coaches, the parents and to the players. If they win great, but if they lose… well, that’s what they expect anyway.

Excellence in high school athletics starts at the top. It’s an attitude. To win you must be willing to pay the price. It’s really that simple.