September's D.C. United Coaches Association Coach of the Month is Mark Janis. Janis coaches Courage '90 of Prince William Soccer. This fall, his U-14 boys side will compete in Division 3 of the National Capital Soccer League, having won promotion in the Spring 2004 season. They finished second with a 7-2-0 record, their only losses coming to the eventual division champion and third place finisher.
A long-time coach, Janis got his start as an assistant coach for his daughter's U-6 team, and currently holds a USYSA National "D" License. As a coach, he often carries at least two teams for each season, and this year is no exception as he is holding the reins for his youngest son's first foray into soccer, a U-7 recreational side.
There are three aspects that are central to his coaching philosophy, most notable of which is the importance of using positive reinforcement to help his young players mature and learn.
"I don't think there's much, if anything, to be gained by belittling, demeaning, or threatening young children to try to influence better performance," said Janis. "Even all of us old guys at the coaching clinics pick up our pace a little when we hear the clinician identify someone else with a 'Well done!', because we all want to hear it said about our dribble, our pass, our moves or our shot."
His coaching sessions are based on what he calls the "five E's": Energy, Effort, Enthusiasm, Encouragement and Education. By designing practices sessions overflowing with the first four, an atmosphere is created that creates marked progress in player's desire for self-improvement.
Finally, he strives to create in his young charges an appreciation for hard work. He believes that no matter what the natural skill and ability of a player, persistent effort will always bring about an improvement in skill.
Although the team hasn't necessarily enjoyed overwhelming success, Janis is nonetheless pleased with his work. Although the team has been together for five years, several players have left the side. Very few have left without improvement, however, as most of the departing players move on to higher-division teams, continuing to progress in their soccer development.
In addition to the success in other activities - Boy Scouts, church groups, drama and music to name a few - most of Janis's players are certified Grade 8 referees.
"I make it a point to emphasize that the boys should learn to referee for several reasons," explained Janis. "It helps them to learn a great deal more about the game, it gives them a chance to observe the game very carefully from a unique point of view, it gives them a better understanding and appreciation for the men and women who officiate our games and it gives them a chance to see what it's like to make split-second, high-pressure decisions. Finally, it gives them a tremendous opportunity to serve in a position of serious responsibility and helps them develop both a little pride and humility at the same time."
To nominate an individual for recognition as the D.C. United Coaches Association Coach of the Month, or to bring your team to a D.C. United match, log on to www.dcunited.com or call 202-587-5000.