Todd Beane

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Todd Beane joins us to discuss critical thinking and creativity in the context of holistic development. Todd co-founded the Tovo Institute and Academy with his wife, Chantal, to continue the mission he began with the Cruyff Institute – to rethink and redesign talent development and education. This episode is serious fun, touching on art, education, poetry, football, business, family. Listeners will learn to face change with confidence and set themselves on a journey to the extraordinary. Yes, with a dose of inspiration, but also with concrete action steps, like the 4 P’s – moving through uncertainty from panic to poise and purpose into proficiency.

Todd is the co-founder and CEO of the renowned Tovo Institute in Barcelona, dedicated to developing intelligent footballers and coaches. Prior to founding Tovo, he led the Johan Cruyff Institute for sport studies and help found Cruyff Football. He played professionally in the United States and he also played while he was in university at Dartmouth. There he earned a degree in English literature and holds a master’s in education from Stanford.



TOVO Facebook

Todd Beane Linkedin

Respectfully Rebellious

Cruyff’s approach online

Interview with Elite Soccer

Interview with Player Development Project

Inside Coach Interview

Just Kickin it Podcast

Modern Soccer Coach Podcast

Sport Psych Show

Getting Players to Think

The Real Giants of Soccer Coaching



Tony Nicalo: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Beautiful Game, a show dedicated to helping us face change with confidence and improve a little each day. Beautiful Game is produced by Weasels FC, a community of smart tenacious, and sometimes underestimated people exploring resiliency in an uncertain world. I’m your host, Tony Nicalo.

Join me as we learn to live, work and play better.

I’m here today with Todd Beane, founder and CEO of the renowned Tovo Institute in Barcelona, dedicated to developing intelligent footballers and coaches. Prior to founding Tovo, he led the Johan Cruyff Institute for sport studies and help found Cruyff Football. He played professionally in the US-  he also played while he was in university at Dartmouth. There he earned a degree in English literature and holds a master’s in education from Stanford.

Welcome, Todd.

Todd Beane: [00:01:00] Thank you very much. Thanks for the invitation.

Tony Nicalo: [00:01:02] the podcast beautiful game is produced by a community known as weasels FC. And we always start off by asking what you think of the animal. A weasel.

Todd Beane: [00:01:12] What were you thinking of? Animal weasel? You know what? I haven’t put much thought into it.

It doesn’t have a lot of positive connotation, so I hope you guys are having fun with it, I guess.

Tony Nicalo: [00:01:21] Absolutely. They are a misunderstood creature for sure.  you strike me as an educator who has managed to retain your inner camp counselor. That love for teaching has stuck with you throughout your career.

Your work and writing is also full of literary quotes. And you’re a bit of a rabble rouser. I think of you a bit as a, you’ve seen the movie dead poet’s society. It’s set where you grew up in the Northeast of the United States. That’s a story of a teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.

And so to me, it’s no surprise that Yohan Cruyff’s artistic and poetic view of football resonated with you. You studied a bit in England has a master’s from Stanford while you were there. You were teaching high school and coaching then went on to run native American programs at Johns Hopkins university, and then to something called the cloud forest school in Costa Rica.

While you were there, you got a phone call from a buddy that said, Hey, come work with Johan Cruyff in Spain. Must’ve been an amazing call. How had your experiences prepared you for that phone call and to go and work with the legendary Johan Cruyff?

Todd Beane: [00:02:38] Yeah. I mean, the first thing I’d say, as you mentioned, I think is probably most appropriate.  I started as a junior camp counselor in New Hampshire at 16. I just consider myself, you know, 40 years later doing the same thing.  Education and coaching is all about counseling people and maximizing their potential. So I think you’ve aptly said I’m basically just an older camp counselor.

And the second thing is  you get a call from the Cruyff organization and you’re a football enthusiast and you want to do an education project that doesn’t take too much thinking to accept that call to action, get on a plane and arrive in Barcelona just months later. So that was one of the easier decisions in my life to take that opportunity to work with Johan.

Tony Nicalo: [00:03:17] And with the Cruyff Institute you worked with Johan to advise Joan Laporta and provide sort of continuity to the division and development of Barcelona along the total football path there you helped Johan in particular helped hire Frank Rijkaard and advocated for Pep Guardiola. How did he evaluate their leadership potential?

They were both sort of young, inexperienced unproven, really as coaches. How did he know that they could excel in roles with much greater responsibility and scrutiny?

Todd Beane: [00:03:51] Yeah, I think Johan always looked first at a person’s character. And Frank Rijkaard was someone who’s going to represent the motto of the club, which is ‘mes que un club,’ more than a club.

If you put that as your club motto, that means that you’re talking about values in addition to the quality of football you want to put on the pitch. So when Johan evaluated character, I don’t think it was difficult to recognize that win, lose, or draw, Frank Rijkaard was going to be a gentleman that he is. And you couple that with obviously his experience playing at the highest levels under the greatest scrutiny as a player. I think that was it. It was character first in the case of Frank. When you talk about Pep Guardiola. I think it was simple. It wasn’t so much about age because Johan had worked with Pep and knew him to be not only a person of great character, but of a player of great intellect.

And Johan valued that. Johan valued the ability to, to represent your club yourself and your club well, and have the knowledge and the vision to articulate that through a group of players. And so I think first and foremost, Johan selected those two gentlemen specifically on character, knowing that they had the experience to survive the deep scrutiny that would eventually come as leaders of Barcelona. And to his credit, but more importantly to Frank’s credit and to Pep’s credit, they made good by that recommendation to say the least.

Tony Nicalo: [00:05:11] Absolutely. But not all of the recommendations went over so well. Many of the high profile projects that you worked on with the growth Institute, whether at Ajax or Chivas in Mexico, to a certain extent, Barcelona ended in quarrels, let’s say. And if you ask any consultant from McKinsey or Bains, they’ll tell you it’s incredibly hard to change culture.

And Johan is widely known as someone who insists on playing the game in a certain way. And I assume coaching it and teaching it in a certain way as well. What did you learn from those experiences that helped Tovo be a better consultant to players, coaches, teams?

Todd Beane: [00:05:54] Well, I mean, I think first of all, I take, even if you look back at the initial part of the question about ending in quarrel, change management is incredibly difficult. But if you want to talk about real results, Ajax after five  years of Joha’ns vision had returned to the UEFA Europa League final. And after that had come back to a Champions League semifinal, seconds away from going to their first final in many moons. And I don’t think anybody at Ajax would suggest that that ended as a failure. So you look at, when you talk about change management, and say, what are you attempting to change? At Ajax, it was a matter of returning to their roots of emboldening the youth system; getting the economic solvency that they did not have; and putting back onto the world-stage, Ajax at its best. So I think that was incredibly successful. Chivas was a short term project, mostly because behind the scenes, Jorge Vergara, who’s passed on and his wife, Angélica Fuentes were on the road to divorce. So it really had nothing to do with football, it had everything to do with that. But when I look at that, I think, again, if I have to evaluate in terms of football success, not about cultural change because that’s that’s about Mexico and you raised a good point about cultural change. Our agenda was not cultural change at Chivas. It was returning the club to the prominence that it had once enjoyed.

And so we took the club from last place, second to last place in six months, they were in the playoffs. Normally you get a bonus for doing that. Right. So when it ended in quarrel, the quarrel was not with us. The quarrel, I think, was more with the internal quarrel within the leadership. But you look at the results- what we could control was a better football product and taking a team that had for the first time, historically earned more points from one season to the next season in the history of the club. So I think that anywhere else that would be considered a success.

And then you look at Barcelona again, are you going to change the culture Barcelona?

Well, Johan had done that in the late eighties and the early nineties. So now you talking about the restoration of quality and success, quality and results is how Johan would put it. And then you take a look at where they were in 2002 and three before Laporta taking charge and what they’ve accomplished since.

And I think if you live in Catalonia, you would not say anything, but the reality, which is they won more trophies in those years, since that advisement than they had in the previous hundred years of history. So again, you look at football success. I think you have to look at Chivas as a first team success. You have to look at Ajax as incredible first team success, not to mention that youth structure and what they’ve come out of that. And you look at Barcelona. I don’t think anybody would argue with the success of Barcelona under Johan’s advisement, but your question about culture is a separate part, right? 

Tony Nicalo: [00:08:33] I think they’re related. In that when you talk about change management and culture, and you want to build enduring successful institutions, there are often individuals within those organizations for whom their interests, their own personal self interest are not necessarily aligned with the new culture and, or the results that may come, you know, at Ajax you had to turn over the board, et cetera. Right?

Todd Beane: [00:09:02] Yeah, exactly. That’s a great point. 

Tony Nicalo: [00:09:03] I understand that you can get results, but if you think about enduring success and change management and culture, let’s then dive into that component and what you learned there and how you do it better or differently. Or maybe don’t try and do it at Tovo as a result.

Todd Beane: [00:09:18] No. I think if you look at culture, you know, you have to, obviously when you, we talked about character previously in the broadcast about the individual culture becomes a collective culture.  The individual characteristics of people start to form organizations like Ajax or like Barcelona, like Tovo, and ultimately culture it does not exist outside the humans within the organization. It’s  not like, you know, painting the stadium red makes it a cultural stadium.  So culture only exists within the people dedicated to the organization for the length of their commitment to the organization. Now, ideally with that turnover, you get people that come into an identity and contribute to that core identity and then continue the results that you would hope in the case of football. It’s about quality and results at the end of the day, right? So I think then when I looked at Tovo, what we needed to do was to think about the character of individuals. Coming back to your first question, how do you bring in people that are intelligent and positive and passionate? If you get enough of those people in any organization, football or otherwise you’re in a good place.

If you can channel their energy into a common goal, then you have some of the best or most extraordinary organizations. And I think that’s where the greatest leaders over that time have established such a clear identity for an organization that it can endure beyond the leadership of one man or a woman. And I think you’re right, that’s probably the most challenging thing to do- sustained identity, such that that identity carries the results through generations. And if you go back to football, I think Ajax has done quite well with that. I think you look at Barcelona. Those are two institutions that have a clear identity about how they approach their craft.

And then ideally they’re bringing in the best people. And that has to recognize that not every coach, not every youth coach, not every player, not every marketing director or even CEO of an organization is going to work out as well as the organization would like. So that’s where you get, you referenced it well, you get these individual quarrels. What I’ve noticed is those individual quarrels are usually a conflict between what that individual wants and what the identity is trying to achieve in terms of a collection of positive, innovative, and professional people, you know, meeting that mission. So it told though is quite simple relative to these larger historical institutions.

I had to pick a small team, an agile team of people who were positive, intelligent, and passionate about what we wanted to accomplish. And that was to rethink and redesign talent development. And we have to be on the same page as an agile, small team to affect any change. Any change. And particularly if we want to have some global change, which is a pretty ambitious agenda, but something we decided to take on.

Tony Nicalo: [00:12:02] Well, when you started working, you went to Barcelona for work, but it turned out to be a bit more than that. You ended up joining a family business to a certain extent because you met Johan’s daughter, Chantal and married her. And somehow you figured out how to make it work since Chantal’s one of the co founders of, of Tovo, you know, other than Don Corleone’s advice of never let anyone outside of the family know what you’re thinking. What advice do you have for succeeding in a family business?

Todd Beane: [00:12:32] Yeah, I think just, you have to, um, be crazy enough to do it, right. You really have to have a sense of separation between what is going on in business and what’s most important, which is the family. And I think Chantal and Johan always had family first. Even with all that goes around with being a family, not my family, but her family of fame and fortunate, since she was born. There’s a lot of good that can come from that and there’s a lot of maelstrom that can come from that. I think what she’s been able to deal with long before she met me was to divorce the relationship between what it means to be family and what it means to execute a business.

So I would say that if anything, I learned from her. That you can do family business as long as business doesn’t interfere with what’s most important, which is to have a father, a grandfather, children in a nurturing environment. So I wouldn’t advise people do it, you know, because it’s quite a challenging tightrope to walk. But if you do it, just know that there’s only one thing that matters most and that’s the family unit and the love and the support and the respect that’s in that unit. And if you happen to hit it off together in business, then, you know, wonderful, then more power to that. But as I said, it may not be the easiest road to harmony for those that are just looking for the smoother path.

Tony Nicalo: [00:13:47] Was your boss on board from the beginning?

Todd Beane: [00:13:49] Boss, me, you know, my boss Johan or my boss Chantal?  I had two bosses. You have to be more specific.

Tony Nicalo: [00:13:58] So Johann knew your character and was because he was working with you, he was already happy with it. No concerns.

Todd Beane: [00:14:04] I mean, what Johan liked, I think admired about people is that they would have intelligent ideas to common challenges, right. And that’s how we approach the game. So he admired doctors. He admired people that worked in parking garages that were just really positive and really good at what they do. It didn’t matter if you were the King of Spain, who he knew by his first name or whether it was someone he met, as I said, you know, in a restaurant somewhere. He always was fascinated by really positive, intelligent, creative people. Solution oriented people. And it didn’t come with the economic status or the status of royalty, it may, it may, they come with a doctoral degree. And so he was interested in medicine and other things, but it may come in a more humble circumstances where he would be on the street and he’s talking to someone and find it fascinating to speak to somebody because that person kept him intrigued about something that was positive and usually intelligent and creative. And so I admire that about him. And I think that maybe we had a mutual respect, obviously he’s a legend of the game. And when you legend of the game, like him or others, you just take notes. That was my job. Just take notes and to learn as much as possible. But I think we had a mutual respect.

He saw the relationship I would have with his daughter, which I think was wonderfully positive. And he was part of that. He would come down to Sitges where we live and he, and I would get on the bicycle, and we’d go into town and get rotisserie chicken and french fries and bring it back to the house. So again, what people don’t see behind the scenes of legends, if you will, or famous people is the private family life. And so oftentimes they just perpetuate, what they see in public into the private life. Johan always placed private life as a primary purpose, right? So it was always about taking care of the family, taking care of the kids. He loved more than anything else being at, you know, as I said, it’s just the family picnics together or jumping in the pool together or taking a walk together.  And, uh, of course, when I take a walk, I don’t have to sign autographs when he took a walk, we’d have to stop with some patience and sign autographs.

But again, it comes back to your other question. First and foremost was what we had to do together to be positive with our family. And then as a secondary  initiative, what could we do in the Cruyff Institute for Sport to accomplish a mission, to educate athletes. And I’ve always admired Johan for keeping that priority in order. Family and then business. And I know that that can get mixed up, but I think we had a mutual respect about first, we took care of his grandchildren, my children. And second we’d talk business about how to advise clubs on being better at kicking a ball around the football field.

Tony Nicalo: [00:16:40] Hats off to Johan, and also to you for prioritizing family. I think we don’t hear enough of those stories because they don’t necessarily write headlines like that you’re a good father take care of your family. You know, people aren’t picking up the paper to read those stories, but it’s important that those stories are told so that successful people can understand that it’s important to prioritize those things. So I appreciate it.

You’ve been a vocal critic of soccer coaching culture in the country where you were born, the United States, where training is essentially a deconstructed version  of technical components. I think the education system in the United States, I’m a product of the United States education system is similar. You know, they teach a common core, you learn subjects, but the system doesn’t teach children to become lifelong learners, to think, to reason, to explore. So I have a question for you and it’s one, do you think that us soccer is just a subset, a product of the reductionist education system? And two, are there lessons you think from sport that can improve education as a whole?

Todd Beane: [00:17:52] Yes and yes. Yes I do I think it’s not just the United States, but we live in a Western society that tends to use a Cartesian model of deconstruction. Hoping that when the children, in this case of education or football Training is involved, will reconstruct meaning from its isolated parts, you know, and I just don’t think that’s the way that that happens. And there’s a lot of research that would suggest that that’s not really the way that children learn. The second part of your question with respect, you know, to how can sport and education feed off of the best of one another in this case? I think it’s essential that they do that because I think part of that deconstructive model is we’ve separated the mind from the body. And what has happened in the eighties and nineties and the early two thousands, we thought, well, we have to get the math and science and English and history.

And where have we done with that? We have done it at the expense of art, music,  the exploration of arts in so many different ways, of philosophy. Those are minors, right? And you said you were a product of the US system. What are your majors? Your majors are math and science and social studies then do credit to those, to those subject categories. But the minors are physical education, right? You pass a physical education class if you change into your gym shorts in the United States.  How serious can you take that? But in math you have to do math to pass. I didn’t just show up, put on a math shirt, right? So there’s a whole different set of circumstances and then expectations.

So you don’t have to worry so much about exploring photography or art or music or dance or creative writing or physical education, because those things are literally in our common language in the United States called minors. Or optional or additional courses, once you frame language around something, it takes a hierarchy. So I’m not suggesting that math and science and English literature aren’t important. I was part of that. But to do so at the expense of the holistic learning, which is like dead poet’s society referenced before poetry, music, and art. What are we left with? We’re left with a hollow shallow of oneself. That isn’t really the whole picture.

So you can’t deconstruct something to the point of it being so isolated from the whole, that it makes meaning, meaning a story and story is about the entire child. So I think both sport and the intellectual exercise is one. It’s about being nourished holistically. And when we nourish children holistically, guess what, they are more capable of taking on the challenges with the core knowledge that you referenced, but also with the flare to take on challenges with poise and purpose. I think once you do not educate the entire child. You have done them a disservice. And I think the same as in football, as it would be in the classroom.

Tony Nicalo: [00:20:51] I was fortunate enough to meet a teacher who had encouraged me to take an elective course going into high school called debate. And then I proceeded to major in debate and learn to research and write arguments and learn every side of a position up and down, and then continued to do that in university. And it’s part of the joy that I get from doing this podcast is getting to know someone and their story and researching them and understanding a bit of what makes them tick. And it’s really that joy of learning that sticks with me and is so important.

Todd Beane: [00:21:29] Can I applaud? Can I take a moment there? I love what you just said. You chose to explore debate initially as a, as a minor, as an elective. All of a sudden, because you have passion. In that subject, it became a major. Think about the metaphor there. It’s fantastic, right. Something that was just part and parcel of what you thought you may be, became so much more of who you are. And by extension, you are passionate enough and dedicated and disciplined enough to figure out what skills you needed to fulfill your ambitions. That’s the way that humans learn. The knowledge is important, but the application of your knowledge was motivated by passion, which took your learning and that subsequently the people in your weasel group are benefiting from.

 And I think that’s the way it happens. Passion with skill applied, leads to expertise. And I think your story is  a great example of that being played out perfectly in your case. And that may not be the story of the person next to you or your wife or your family or your children.

Their story may be something far beyond or far from debate, but if they have the passion and the will to dedicate themselves to learning the skills required and play with those skills In the application of them, they will find their own passion. That’s exactly what I mean by nurturing the entire child so that they become an adult like yourself, you know, doing these sorts of programs, you know, for audience worldwide. I mean, what better story is that? I don’t think there is one really on an individual level really.

Tony Nicalo: [00:23:03] Well, I think we’ll talk about a little bit about that. There’s going to be an opportunity for many young people around the world, certainly for the next year or so to really explore what they’re interested in and how they learn and what’s important to them. And it’s an opportunity that everyone has for a lifetime. It’s just a question of not just passion, but whether you are are willing to put in the application. One of the other challenges, certainly in the North American sporting system, particularly in youth sport is pay to play. Tovo itself is a paid institution, both for players and coaches.

That being said, the online reviews from coaches and players are overwhelmingly positive. Any presentation I’ve seen you give at a coach’s convention, you’re immediately mobbed by adoring fans of coaches who love what Tovo represents and the work that you do, you’re obviously having a positive impact and resonating. You’ve talked about that ambition that you have. How do you reconcile that desire to educate thousands of coaches and players and change the way that the game is taught with the reality that you’re running an expensive boutique school?

Todd Beane: [00:24:12] Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, that’s one of our greatest challenges, right? I mean, what we’re offering is a high quality high intensive program that has as part of our team, you know, chefs and nutritionists and educators and Spanish teachers on the shores of the Mediterranean for Tovo Academy. And so one step in the direction of getting this out at a greater rate of influence and at a lower price point is obviously to come online with that. And that was really a grassroots suggestion from a couple of clients in India and in Australia that would never be able to come to Sitges or afford a personal experience. So you raise a good question. The online movement is an attempt to do that. Even there there’s a price point barrier. I can say that what we try to do personally is we offer.

You know, we are trying to offer scholarships to particular groups of people that would otherwise not be able to engage with us. We do that privately. Sometimes we do a little bit more publicly. My agenda or term is to figure out, is there a way to have some sort of viability, but a broader base so we can get more influence to kids as they’re learning to learn in a more dynamic way. And is there a way to bring that price point down for coaches so that those, with whom this message resonates have greater access with greater frequency to affect that change. But it’s a perfect question because I don’t think we have that solved. And it’s something that we would like to solve and we’re taking small steps, steps that I would wish we could accelerate it quicker and ones that I hope that we can provide that sustainability with the mission of perpetuating a message that we feel is positive for children and coaches worldwide. So it’s a really poignant question.

Tony Nicalo: [00:25:54] It’s a hot topic this week as well, because I don’t know if you saw, but Harvard just announced this week that all of their classes for the 2020- 21 school year are going to be online, but no change in tuition. MIT said, well, we’re gonna do mostly online and we’re essentially gonna open source it so you can just participate in all the courses. Now you won’t necessarily have the same instruction, but materials are all being made available. So I think that there’s a kernel in there around balancing online and the fact that you still need to make money, but there’s a related question, I think, which is people are trying to say, what is the value of a Harvard degree? I don’t think you’re a big fan of credentialism yourself, or you probably have more pieces of paper that say, you know what you’re doing. How do you balance those things where, you know, you’ll have some coaches who just want to be able to put on their LinkedIn and on their profile that they’ve done Tovo 1 and Tovo 2. There’ll be others who have ignited a passion and have the application and will help spread the message.

Todd Beane: [00:27:11] Yeah. I think one is, you know, the online course I set up specifically as a course that coaches will develop their own methodology. Well, then I unapologetically through that process, explain what popped out of that in terms of the total methodology, because that’s my opportunity and my obligation to do so for people that come to us with questions. To find out if it does indeed resonate. With respect to Harvard, I mean, who the heck wants to go to Harvard when you can go to Dartmouth? Right. So I wouldn’t think there’s any value in Harvard education. Okay. I’m teasing. So you make sure that that doesn’t get just tweeted in isolation.

Talk about destructionism that could destroy me. I think, when you talk about a school like Harvard or any club or any opportunity for someone to pay a premium, to be engaged, I don’t think you’re ultimately paying for anything else other than the experience. I think people will always pay for experience. And that’s okay. Now, what I find to be most important is that that financial commitment is a fair exchange between what I’m willing to pay for and what I feel I have had as return on that investment. I think to be fair to Harvard, most people who have made the commitment, that great financial commitment to attend Harvard probably feel that there was a remarkable exchange, although an expensive, one of value.

So if you like in that, in a mundane case to cars, right? If I go here and I pay for a Sait with all due respect to the Sait company, I’m at a price point where I can probably not expect a Mercedes. If I choose a Mercedes, I have chosen myself to expend financial resources, but I expect the Mercedes to be better.

I think people are okay investing in very price points, as long as there is a demonstratable feeling that it was worth it. If I pay Mercedes dollars for a Sait car, I have a right to complain. But if I know going in that I’m paying for, what am I paying for in a club now we’ll come back to football. What am I paying for? Am I paying for a logo? Okay. That’s where your comment I think is really apt. Like I would not pay for a logo. What I pay for a place for my child to go get an experience where he’s constantly learning and constantly in a state of joy within that club? I would pay extra. And I have the luxury to do so. So then you come back to your pay to play question, how do we offer a great learning and joy to players who cannot afford that premium?

That’s where I think clubs can take a greater responsibility and diversify their population through scholarships and financial support. That’s where I think US soccer could play a role. And that’s where I think larger corporations that are sponsors of US soccer or the corresponding teams can really promote opportunities for children who through no fault of their own, what not have access to that. Outside of football, I really remark at Khan Academy, for example, Saul Khan, who started teaching his niece, if I’m not mistaken online, putting YouTube videos in math from MIT, I think it was at the time, opened up a whole world of an institution now Khan Academy that allows my child in Spain to have free access to math knowledge.

That’s remarkable in my wildest dreams, I would like Tovo Institute to be free of charge to anybody who found that as a wonderful platform to learn about the game and the development of coaching and by extension, the development of players of great cognition, competent character. Saul Khan got a benefactor.

If I had a benefactor that allowed me to do that and feed myself these children, then I would find the equilibrium. But I would love to have Tovo Institute be a platform for learning and have a chance for children who do not have those resources to get the same access to that knowledge. And I couldn’t agree…maybe it’s a little bit utopian to think that way. Maybe it’s a little pie in the sky. I know I’m a little bit crazy in that way, but, I think it can be done if each of us that are involved in the game, do some small part at a minimum to open access to knowledge and experience to children that otherwise might not have of that experience. That would be for me an ideal world. And I know I’m not there yet until though I’ve tried to be honest with that. And I know that maybe Harvard isn’t there yet, but I do believe that there’s good people at both of those institutions have desire to make that happen.

Tony Nicalo: [00:31:48] I think that there are lots of examples, good business examples, even Khan Academy at this point is one of them where it’s essentially a freemium model where you combine giving away, lots of the content and material and a certain extent of the experience. And then you offer additional components on top of that, whether that’s the in person experience or tutoring or advanced materials or access early. Lots of different things around it, where value can be created that people are willing to pay for but you also get that sort of broad distribution. And I think there are lots of internet business models are built that way. So I think you’re headed in the right direction there and we’ll touch a little bit more on what you’ve done in online learning in a second. You’ve said the words and I’m surprised it’s taken us 30 minutes for you to say the three C’s where Tovo is about developing players of cognition, competence, and character.

That’s a hallmark of the Barca Academy known as La Masia, is its holistic approach producing outstanding footballers, but more importantly, people with humility and civility and a great part of that is in recognition of, of what Johan started there with their Academy. And the reason was because he knows that humble people are capable of learning and thus improving. You know, with the world today in social media, we see a lot of hubris more than we see a lot of humility. At Tovo how do you do it? How do you ignite it, that passion for learning and continuous improvement? You’re often with players or coaches only for a short period of time, and then they go away. But it seems that you’re still, they’re still getting results, that you’re really having an impact on the way they view the world. How do you do it?

Todd Beane: [00:33:45] Well, you have kind of two extremes, right? One is Tovo is useless and we just get lucky. Like the methodology really has no pedagogical merit, and we’re just lucky. You can suggest that, right? I just got lucky because I get good people and they’re going to be successful, whether or not they use the Tovo methodology. I’m willing to entertain that, that extreme. The other extreme is that Tovo is actually an effective methodology because it’s pedagogically researched. It combines the best practices of educators and sport in a whole development program. So either those two, and I’m old enough to know that, hey, sometimes you just get lucky.

And so the players that come to you are going, but I would suggest about the three C’s when you go to commit to a player and your primary purpose is pure development, which is what Tovo is.  Pure development. Good things happen and good people are attracted to it. And by extension, when you have good ideas executed by good people, the results are extraordinary.

So while I may suggest that we’ve gotten lucky, we’ve gotten lucky because positive people came in and got became well-educated about a positive methodology. And when you get that one, two punch, the beneficiaries are children worldwide. And so I don’t think it’s hubris to evaluate coaching performance because we do that for doctors. We do that for nurses. We do that for lawyers. We do that for teachers. We do that for every restaurant, people, service people, you evaluate the performance of an organization by the efficacies of their actions. And I think it’s okay. And I tweeted about this the other day. People should scrutinize Tovo’s methodology because I have opted to put that methodology into the public arena.

You and everybody else that has access to that should scrutinize it because your scrutiny is going to be how we hone the methodology to become better. And my scrutiny of the US system or other coaching practices is not a personal attack. I admire the people that put their ideas in the public arena, but I feel that there’s an onus upon me as a professional to have discourse with other professionals about what is actually affecting positive change in the development of our children. And when we encounter something that does not actually accomplish what it professes to accomplish, it needs to be thrown into the bin of ideas past. And I’m not afraid to suggest that in 20 years, I hope that people that are educating their young and football we’ll look at Tovo in 2020 as being, having woefully adequate for the future, because it will have to be refined. It will have to get better. Ultimately we’ll know more about how effectively we can develop players of great cognition, competence and character much more than I know now. And those people that follow along are going to make that product and that service better. So it’s a challenge, but it comes with a sense of humility knowing that what we’re doing today is going to be woefully adequate in the future if we  have any chance of progressing with our kids,

Tony Nicalo: [00:36:51] I have no doubt that you personally have no problem with criticism. That you are someone who seeks continuous improvement and innovation, but I want to dig in a little bit into how you get that out of players and coaches, because you must encounter some players who have had joystick coaches or have parents who want to go on holiday and they can bring their kid to Tovo. And they’re sort of maybe a helicopter parent and have high expectations as a customer and maybe their child didn’t have the best character or the most cognition. So how do you. I understand that you have that personally, and that you’ve instilled that in Tovo’s culture, that desire for continuous improvement and the desire to have feedback. We’re starting to see in the business world, some people are talking about feed forward instead of feedback. And you know, this very well in football that you can prejudice the development of a player through the wrong kind of criticism. So, not for yourself, but for the players and coaches that you work with, or maybe even some of your employees that you’ve had to, to rehabilitate, how do you do it?

Todd Beane: [00:38:09] What you can offer young people is an opportunity and not an obligation. So when we talk about pure development, whether or not I want a child to become their best selves is not as important as motivating that child to see their best selves in small steps at a time. So we talk about this a lot and it bleeds through every day. If they decide to train. A specific example in a given day, when a child decides to train with us, they’re 100% in. And if they’re not the culture demands that they sit out. They have to be there. Now I don’t make the choice for them to be there because that’s just obligation and obedience. That’s not going to do very well by a child in the longterm, as you made note of lifelong learners previously.

So at a very specific level, what we do from training one is we get together. We prime ourselves to be our best selves and that given moment. We don’t worry about whether my best self or a player A’s best self is better than players B best self. I ask that they do their best, that they have fun and that they behave.

And they hear that my children here every day, when I literally ad nauseum, I could pull them in from the backyard and say, what does that say every day? They’re like, I know do your best, have fun and behave. That’s the culture that you asked about earlier. Our culture is you show up to do your best. And when you bring your best, you’re going to help somebody else be better, but just bring your best, have fun, this is sport, and behave. If you do not want to do those three things on any given moment or any given training or any given program or season that’s okay, that’s a conversation you have to have with you and your parents. Not with us, because we are here to commit to giving our best. We’re going to have fun. And as coaches, we’re going to behave. So the culture is a culture of giving your best, having fun and behaving. And if you don’t want to be part of that culture, it’s okay. Then maybe you’ll find your passion elsewhere. And because it’s a pure development environment, that’s okay. Find some place like you mentioned in debate, you found a place where you cared enough to give your best. You were having fun in debate class and you behaved.  That’s why you succeeded in my opinion.

 I’ve been working with kids now since I was 16, you know, so I was 16, I worked with nine year olds and I was 25, I worked with 18 year olds. And when I was fifties, I worked with 20 and 30 year olds.  So what you learn in the craft of teaching is you can facilitate the opportunity learn, but you cannot obligate it. So don’t spend so much time making a long list of rules of don’ts. Make a list of the things you need to do to be successful. And you’ll be surprised how many children resonate with that ideal and people are attracted to positive ideals at their core. Maybe not in the short term, but for sure they recognize who’s in it for pure development and who’s in it for the logo or the trophy and doesn’t really care about me as a person. So I’ve had the good fortune to have coaches that I’ve seen operate that are far more capable than I am of really bringing out the best in people. And the common denominator that I’ve seen, it’s not an empirical study, but it’s just  pure observation over the years is positive people tend to be better educators because they attract that opportunity rather than obligate that necessity. And that’s the distinction I’ve taken note of from every great educator I’ve had the opportunity to see in action.  Positivity attracts opportunity and obligation attracts compliance. But lifelong learning isn’t about compliance. It’s about opportunity.

Tony Nicalo: [00:41:58] That’s a perfect point for what I wanted to talk about next, which is, you know, the world is by necessity, moving towards remote work and online learning because of the pandemic. And I’ve seen two approaches with my own children in the last several months. And one is approached from a world of opportunity. And the other one is from a world of obligation. One, which is this online computer science school, which is built for online first and their programs run pretty smoothly. And then there’s the existing school where they’re trying to take their classroom mix in some zoom calls and call it education. With Tovo, you’ve talked about you’re pioneering a lot of online learning for coaches. How have you structured it to support that sense of autonomy, of learning of joy, but convey it through an online platform?

Todd Beane: [00:42:50] Well, first I don’t pretend to suggest that knowledge alone is going to help anybody. Ultimately the knowledge that you have needs to be applied in your own environment. You study debate tactics, techniques, and the knowledge to debate a particular subject to apply that in the arena of debate. I continue with your example. So one, I don’t pretend that an online environment is going to just be a pure dissemination of information. Otherwise I would just put ABC and say, great, you got your degree and off you go. Education isn’t about just knowledge. It’s about the application of knowledge in the community in which you both learn it and apply it. So we’ve learned some lessons about that. You go into an online environment, you know your limited in some ways, and you get to expand in others. So I think your reference to schools that have just been forced online, they’re not prepared.

I know my educators, I know department heads that I’ve talked with recently, they were not prepared. You don’t just put your curriculum online and think that you’re the same institution. You’re not. Those institutions that have struggled with online learning previously and thought about what is the relationship between digital learning and the knowledge and the interaction with the pupil and that pupils application of the knowledge in their home environment have been more successful.

I do agree with other educators that would suggest that the best combination is the process of acquiring knowledge and facilitating the application of knowledge in a community that supports the trial and error process that takes place. Now is the digital world catching up? Yes. Zoom is a good example, some sense of interaction, some sense of visual community, although be it digital and he’s trying times, and the incorporation of knowledge and the application of knowledge into the home environment. Is it ideal? Probably not. Is it capable of giving access to people that might not otherwise be an experiential learning environment? Yeah. So I think we’ve recognized at Tovo that the online environment has certain pluses. We get access to people that we would not physically get access to otherwise. We can diversify our population so that when we zoom in together, literally and figuratively. We have people from South Africa, Asia, and the United States that otherwise in Canada and other places that otherwise would not be able to create a global community. But we lack the application together. And ultimately the application of Tovo knowledge or any knowledge has to take place in the community.

And that’s probably the most frustrating part for children. We have a footballer’s course that we offer. We can give them conceptual knowledge. We can build a digital community. But at the end of the day, they have to go out and put it onto the pitch. And not being able to go on the pitch has probably been one of the most frustrating periods for children that enjoy that social interaction.

So I think there’s great limitations to online learning. There’s great opportunity. But ultimately online learning will never solve the social application within the community of learners or teammates in the case of football. And ultimately if I were to believe that that were the case, I’d be fooling myself and be fooling the participants in our program. We have to recognize the limitations of online learning and give the opportunity for those community learners to engage with one another that makes that a fruitful endeavor. Not easy and less, more difficult for institutions that were not designed to do so. So they were just thrown into a situation, ill prepared to affect the type of change they would hope in their students. And we’ll see that once we’re out of this pandemic, the dip that has occurred.

Tony Nicalo: [00:46:27] Well, I think that we live in a world where the pandemic is one example, but it’s more important than ever to be able to learn, to create, to adapt, to be resilient, to face change. You gave a presentation at a coach’s convention where you were saying sort of mocking the deconstructionist nature of coaching and training in the US where you had some people learn the mechanics of cycling. So they were sat on the ground, learning to peddle, learning to steer, without a bicycle at all, and then said, okay, now you’re ready for the tour de France. I think of it as someone who passed driver’s ed is now ready to drive in formula one. I was a professional chef for nearly a decade, and we get kids from culinary school at the time. Straight out of school would be their, maybe their first real job. They had done some stages and some internships and their first night on the line dining rooms full you’d see, just failing under the pressure of the real work environment.

You managed to do it in your work. You help footballers have great cognition, to be resilient. What advice do you have for business people, artists, parents, to help them face change and uncertainty? I think about it, particularly based on some of your writing, how, how do you help them be more Ulyssian? To strive to seek, to find and not to yield?

Todd Beane: [00:47:59] So at Tovo we talk about four P’s. We want to move from a sense of panic, which, it was a little bit clairvoyant because this is, I developed this before I met P as in pandemic panic. So that was just a bit unfortunate I wasn’t envisioning such trial and tribulation over these last few months. But we talk about it on the field, but then we apply it beyond the field, which is when you start any endeavor, there’s a sense of panic because of that uncertainty.

But we want to move from the P of panic into a P of poise. And that takes practice and application of knowledge and skill. A sense of confidence that you can overcome those challenges and move through that panic. So we moved from panic to poise, and then when we get that poise, we start to think about the purpose. I want to be poised as a player poised as a person. I want to be beyond panic. I have to move into purpose. What is my objective? What do I want to accomplish? I want to be healthy. Well, then follow certain protocols. I want to be a whole family. Well, then take time to dedicate yourself to what it takes to create a family.

I want to be a great footballer. Then you need the knowledge and the skills. So you work with purpose. And the fourth P beyond panic into poise, and poise into purpose is proficiency. Well for us, proficiency is just greater success ratio of purpose. If you are purposeful at a higher rate of success, you become a proficient chef.  But it’s artificial to suggest that without that uncertainty you could ever become proficient at anything. Because you have to get into the kitchen and cook. If it was just a cookbook okay, great, then I could be a master chef.  But you have to get into those panic circumstances, those pressure circumstances to confront your knowledge in its application, with the character to become resilient. And you only do that by putting yourself under pressure and putting yourself into the match and putting yourself into the kitchen. And that’s what we call context. So we believe that you learn best in context, you can move in context from panic to poise, poise into purpose, and then purpose into proficiency. And once you do that, you’re on your journey to extraordinary.

Tony Nicalo: [00:50:19] So Tovo uses a systems based approach and pedagogical insights to train cognitive development through football. You use fun and science. You talked about context and ecological dynamics and continuous innovation. I like so much about you is the joy that you’ve maintained of your camp counselor time, but the seriousness and intelligence of a professor of education. Tovo is a product of your experience and worldview in so many ways. And to me in the grandest sense, it echoes the work, not only of Johan Cruyff, but another son of Catalonia, Gaudi. You have a vision for the game that combines science and art and has potential impact that extends well beyond your lifetime to change the way that the game is taught. What I want to know and end with is what about the game is so special to you? What makes it beautiful?

Todd Beane: [00:51:22] For me? And you I think you answered this for me in your question, be it architecture or football for those. Who were impassioned by those endeavors. It’s serious fun.  Football doesn’t matter, less so in the sense of pandemic, except for to those, to whom it matters. Architecture doesn’t matter. Except for, to those that find their passion within the Sagrada Familia or find themselves closer to their God because of their worship. So these great artists and I would put Johan as a football artist and Gaudi as an architectural artist, people who took their craft, seriously, people who I had a lot of fun doing something seriously.

Those are the great leaders of our time. Those are the great leaders of any generation, and those will be the future leaders of the next generation. People who are so impassioned by a subject that they found it to be serious fun, and that’s different than frivolous fun. Frivolous fun is something else. If you want to be an architect, you can make designs of buildings that could never stand. Literally. That’s not what Gaudi did. When you visit Barcelona, you go to Sagrada Familia downstairs, you see the architectural and structural engineering that would allow this magnificent church to stand. So you need knowledge and the passion, and it has to work in the context of the environment in which it will stand. And football is beautiful because it is open as is art and architecture to any number of interpretations. But the ones that end up being beautiful are the ones that are seriously fun because it inspires us as Gaudi and Cruyff have done here in Barcelona.

Tony Nicalo: [00:53:11] Thanks so much, Todd, I seriously had fun talking to you today.

Todd Beane: [00:53:15] Yeah, I appreciate you taking… and also, you did more research on me than I know about myself. So I appreciate you doing your homework. I can see that your debate teachers of the past have taught you well, and you’re probably passing that scrutiny on to your children, I hope. It’s well done. I really appreciate the time to speak with you and we’ll look forward to having a, maybe sometime in the future, getting to see each other in person.

Tony Nicalo: [00:53:35] Yeah, that would be great.

Thank you for joining us today on the Beautiful Game. We hope you are ready to live, work and play better, to be a weasel yourself smart and tenacious. If still sometimes underestimated. Join our community online at weaselsfc dot com. And if you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend.

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