Keidane McAlpine joins us in this unique time to guide us through an opportunity to reset, refocus and redefine on our way to achieving our goals. In these tumultuous times, his sage advice for facing change with confidence can help us all live a little better. As he has done with all of the teams he coaches, Keidane offers insights that build a pathway into achieving goals through small improvements that lay a foundation for tremendous success.
Keidane is the Head Coach of the University of Southern California Women’s Soccer, whom he has turned into a perennial contender and won the National Championship in 2016. He was previously had the head coach at Washington State and assistant at Auburn and the head coach at Birmingham Southern.He played at Birmingham Southern as well, where he led them to second in the NAIA in 1996 as the team captain. And he had a brief professional stint at Tennessee Rhythm after some international and elite tryout attempts.
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 WeaselsFC, 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 joined today by Keidane McAlpine who’s the head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Southern California. He turned USC into a perennial powerhouse, won a national championship in 2016. He was previously had the head coach at Washington State and assistant at Auburn and the head coach at Birmingham Southern.
He played at Birmingham Southern as well, where he led them to second in the NAIA in 1996 as the team captain. And he had a brief professional stint at Tennessee Rhythm after some international and elite tryout attempts. But really his family knows that he started his coaching career with his younger sister’s soccer team.
And happy to have you here.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:01:14] Thanks. Thanks for having me. Man, you did your homework.
Tony Nicalo: [00:01:17] Try to try to
Keidane McAlpine: [00:01:18] That’s good stuff.
Tony Nicalo: [00:01:19] So 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,
Keidane McAlpine: [00:01:29] Weasel? Resourceful, but you know, always pitched as the villain, but even villains have their day.
Tony Nicalo: [00:01:35] Nice. So you’ve got a reputation for being able to turn programs around, really make them sustainable and, and often do that through building a culture. But you also have a tremendous impact on the individual players that you work with. I spoke with Allie Prisock who’s now with the Houston Dash and she had nothing but effusive praise for you.
And said that you had really high expectations, both on and off the field for school and personal character, as well as their playing and that she saw almost all of the players that their confidence between the first year that they play for you and the fourth year really grows and develops. So talk to me a little bit about how you build confidence in your players. .
Keidane McAlpine: [00:02:24] I don’t know that it’s me alone. I try to create a space where they’re free to make mistakes and they’re free to own their own decisions and in doing so I think that they realize they can conquer just about anything. And it’s okay, in failure. Failure actually is the time where we grow the most.
Having that growth, regardless of whether it’s a mistake in the elite eight or just, tripping over yourself in practice, either way you go, it’s something that we can learn from. Right? So a lot of what we do is, is strictly try to create space for them to grow while, while still holding the standard, of course, but preaching that the real goal is for them to learn how to analyze information, take it in quickly, make a decision confidently and then live with the consequences. You know, that’s what we, as adults have to do every day. and, and as much as the soccer is, is wonderful. It’s really about that. Like how, how can they make those decisions and live with what comes next?
Tony Nicalo: [00:03:24] And Allie, as an example, is a player who maybe struggled with that in the beginning, she started with you at very early, like graduated from school early and, at the team was, was initially a bit of a follower, which is a great way to learn. Understanding the example of others, but, you know, she turned into a leader, there’s an LA times story about her and where they said that you actually held her to a higher standard arguably than her teammates.
Now, whether that’s true or just how it was reported,
I want know
Keidane McAlpine: [00:03:54] Oh, it’s true.
Tony Nicalo: [00:03:57] As a coach, as a leader, how do you identify the players that have the capacity to be held to a higher standard, to become leaders themselves. And related to that, you spoke about failure. Do you think your own failure as a professional player sort of helps you in, in helping players like Allie reach the next level as professionals?
And what did you learn from that experience?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:04:21] I’ll start with the first part. Yeah, I think one of the ways we identify is in to try to build it into all of them as they come through the program. You know, we tell them real quick, I’m not gonna yell at you as a freshman, the same way I’m going to, you know, get onto the senior for the same mistake, because the senior knows.
And I know they know because we taught it. Where it’s the freshmen is still learning, so they get a little grace. And sometimes positionally, there are some higher standards center backs, goalkeepers holding mids. You have a little bit more than I got to get into you for because you see it all and have to control it all.
Tony Nicalo: [00:04:59] Especially goalkeepers, not allowed to make any
Keidane McAlpine: [00:05:03] And so it’s automatic the standard built into the position, right. But Allie and players like Alli they have goals past college, they have goals of being elite. And so as you know, I asked them, I’m like, well, where are you trying to go? Okay. Well, if that’s where you’re trying to go, then the standard has to be higher than your competition here in training, right?
I mean, I think our staff does an amazing job of holding those players who have aspirations for more to a much higher standard. While everyone, yes, gets a standard, those players in particular, get a little bit extra. And, and as far as the failure aspect for myself, absolutely, I mean, the path wasn’t one that I chose per se in terms of going into coaching, but it,it was the path that was right for me.
And recognizing that, okay. I, I try to, for a couple of teams here, I went overseas and tried out and the doors kept closing. I think God was good to me. Let me get my, my one taste of it. And let me, let me get it out of the way, because it was a youth youth goal, right? It was the dream. got my little paycheck, checked it off, but at the same time also gave me my next opportunity. I was already an assistant coach when I had my playing career and I wouldn’t have even gotten my playing career if it hadn’t been for a relationship in college where my old teammate and coach had a team that I could go and get my feet back on the ground after being out over a year and a half.
And so I take that and I take those experiences and I use them from time to time. I let them know, Hey, I’m like, I wasn’t even good enough on my pro team. And they shot me out on loan for weekend. Let me play it the lower team so that I could come back into training. I was bad, but I can say that I was bad very easily, but I took that and I said, okay, well, what do you got to do?
You got to work harder to get your time. You know, that was at Lehigh Valley Steam. That wasn’t the place for me. I ended up going to Tennessee. Put my time in and ultimately was a starter and was an everyday player and got my feet back on the ground. But had I given into the fact that I got put on loan, got my feelings hurt, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the fact that I ultimately became a legitimate starter as, as a professional and felt good about knowing had I been given time and had the right opportunity, I feel like I could have succeeded. I never would have been elite. Let’s be real. I was a role player.
But I was a good role player. I was a good professional, and I can handle that . And I think that’s the goal and trying to help them understand, like everybody has a role and sometimes your roles change. You don’t have to be content in the role, but you do have to execute the role. You have to be, you have to have an impact in your role.
And that’s how we get through the quote unquote failures of coming in and not quite living up to the expectation and dream we have in our heads. So, it works.
Tony Nicalo: [00:07:39] That transition into coaching that you talk about. Yes, your coaching career, you sometimes tongue in cheek, say it started with your sister’s team.
Although you were really were coaching your sister’s team, but you were an assistant at Birmingham Southern, where you had also played with, Lauren Etka- Shepherd, who told you, you were going to take over the program when you were just 26 years old. You’d only ever been in an assistant other than your sister’s team.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:08:03] Yeah.
Tony Nicalo: [00:08:03] How did you have the confidence to step into that role? And what role did Lauren play in mentoring you to get you to that point?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:08:12] Lauren was masterful in helping me understand the different kinds of leadership. She understood what her strengths were. She understood what her weaknesses were.
She understood inter-office politics very, very well. And she had a vision for how everything would go. So my time with her was full of growth, full of understanding that how to navigate relationship, how to navigate my own strength and weaknesses and not being afraid to say, you know what, I’m just not good at that right now.
And being able to use that as a tool, rather than a weakness in my coaching. And so, as she quickly told me that I was going to be the head coach, she navigated the interoffice politics to put me close enough to the seat where it gave me an opportunity to do the rest. The comfort level of being at a place that I knew and knew well, because the program started while I was playing there.
I knew every player that had come through the program, that there was a comfort, you know, sadly, having been so young when I started as an assistant , my friends are actually the players playing for me. So there was a comfort in there. You know, there was, there was a little give and take in terms of them listening because I had relationships with them. And that was the beginning of understanding, the power of relationship and coaching, right? Granted your sisters, one thing, her friends or another, you know, one thing, but on that level where I’m now the leader of these women and their lives are in my hands.
That part was probably the scariest. I’m like, I don’t even know how to take care of myself. And I’m supposed to take care of these women. I mean, one of them was older than me, you know, it was like, it was, it was wild, but I took their feedback too, though. I wasn’t afraid to ask them so, Hey, you’ve played for me a year, how can I be better? How can I serve you better? And they gave me a lot of great insight and things that I tried to carry forward and implement to make their experience a better experience. And as I kept that as the front of my thought process, how can I give them a great experience while also helping them grow their game and be competitive?
You know, and mind you, we were transitioning from NAIA to Division One. So it was a whole different ball game as well. So there was a lot in it, but personally, being willing to take that information and then not take it as a negative, but take it as a way to actually improve their experience and improve myself.
Tony Nicalo: [00:10:21] And one of your own experiences that, I think perhaps you bring into your current coaching in some way, as you were in a boy band called Nuance.
Yeah. You were in the show choir. You thought maybe music was going to be a path for you. But what I want to talk about from that is when you think about performance, there are moments where you have to be fully present and perform no matter what else is going on in your life.
And so on a stage would be one of those moments or public speaking, giving a presentation or on a football pitch or in a boardroom or a half-time team talk. So what lessons have you learned from your performance experience that you use today?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:11:06] I mean, you said it, the show must go on. It’s the first rule, right?
Show must go on. Sick, upset, when the lights go on you, there are people who paid for a show and you got to do a show. Now, granted, we didn’t make any money back then, but you know, you understand the idea, but, it’s one of those things that reality and trying to get your players to understand, Hey, this is supposed to be your sanctuary.
This is supposed to be a space where, where you can just be free and enjoy yourself. Put everything down for a minute. Enjoy this while you have it. And even for myself, just put it all away for a minute. I learned very quickly as a head coach, I’m not going to be able to get everything done.
Especially at Birmingham Southern without all the assistant and assistants to the assistants and support staff, that it wasn’t going to happen. So take the time to enjoy the time you have with your team on the field and the space that, that got you into this in the first place, I can enjoy that. Enjoy it, just, live into it a little bit of breathe into it a little bit.
And, and with, with the team, try to get them to recognize that part. And coaching man, you know, you go through life with these, these women as they come through probably one of the biggest development spaces in their lives. And you know, you see it all, you see every last aspect of it. And so you cry with them, you hurt with them.
You go through their successes and, and you go through, you know, some of the craziest times of their lives and, and you just try to go, okay, Hey, we made it, we survived it. And you know, it may suck right now, or it may be awesome right now, but we still gotta rewind and grind through the next space.
Tony Nicalo: [00:12:35] You were on a podcast recently called College Soccer Nation, and you mentioned your former assistant Jen Klein, and the way that she’s shifting the culture at Michigan. You’re known for, for building culture. We spoke about that in the beginning. When she started at Michigan, her mantra there was Make It Michigan. And I’ve talked to her about, the values at Michigan and sort of the program values that maybe existed traditionally in the football team or the basketball team that she’s bringing into the women’s soccer program. In 2016 at USC, your mantra, if you will, was Leave Your Mark.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:13:12] Yeah.
Tony Nicalo: [00:13:12] Talk to me about how messaging and simplification of goals around a common cause both helps build culture and helps people execute in their role in the context of the larger goal.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:13:32] That’s a really great question. I think, we talked about the music background and things like that, and there’s always a hook. Every great song has a hook. And in your messaging, in having people speak with the same voice, look through the same lens, understand where you’re going, the roadmap per se, that hook, that message, that underlying theme that you can always come back to, I think just gives clarity. It gives, it gives a reset space, when things kind of go off with, okay, let’s go back to this.
What are we trying to do? Oh, we’re leaving our Mark. Well, In the way that we’re behaving today or how is that leaving a Mark? Did we do what we were supposed to do to leave our Mark by like really, truly leave our Mark on this space? So you can always come back and really reset, refocus, redefine the moments that could be highs could be lows.
Hey let’s you know. Okay, great, we had a great moment, but if we’re going to leave long lasting Mark. We got to let that go in and lock back in. So regardless of where we are high, as low as what not is, it’s sort of grounding, it’s that foundational space that I think gives you a way to really. Take a deep breath when things kind of get, get it all, all over the place and out of whack, I think it gives us that that really foundational space, that foundational message to go back to.
And we always have one, every year, we lock in on a new one and oftentimes as a coach, I try to find something that is sort of in our journey and our path that is a theme because every team is different.
Tony Nicalo: [00:15:01] I mentioned leave your Mark. That was 2016 when you won the national championship.
But what is it this year, for example?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:15:06] This year is a grind to shine. And I, when I started thinking about it, a pandemic hadn’t hit yet. And so I had no idea that the grind was going to be this, this real, but, it’s fitting. We were a good team last year that I thought. Over came a lot of injury, a lot of, a lot of things.
I think this year, we have to go back to the grind that some of those seniors from that 2016 team. And before that 2016, the original crew that we came in with, they had to go through some things in order to, to shine on the back end. And so taking last year and using all of the things that were trying to set us back as sort of the foundation to grind through this next phase. And even more so now, the discipline that it requires just to show up and train every day, what you have to do on and off the field in order to give yourself the space, just to come out and play; forget games, just to come out and train. The discipline that we have to have right now during this time is a grind mentally, physically, emotionally.
And then you, you throw on the layering of everything else that’s happening in our country right now. And I give these women a lot of credit, they’re really disciplined. They’re really focusing in, they’re really giving them, giving it all in this moment. And so it turned out to be a great message in a terrible time. not quite meant to be that way, but it was the right message for us right now.
Tony Nicalo: [00:16:26] You mentioned Jen Klein. I talked to Jen about you, and she said that one of the things that you taught her was patience and really that having trust in the process. And that you’re a collaborator that empowers and trust your staff and make them feel both a part of the process and that they have a role in the team’s success.
So from a leadership perspective, how do you do that with your staff and what do you do around setting expectations and giving both very specific roles, while making them feel a part of the, of the larger mission.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:17:05] That’s another good question. I think going back to the Lauren Etka-Shepherd days and really understanding strengths and weaknesses of the people around me. And even at Auburn, to an extent, my role shifted as new assistants came in and then different pieces came in. But the one thing that, I think also helped, the whole bow on it. It’s going back to the idea of showmanship and stage and like, and I never really thought about it until right now.
It’s kind of scary, but you think about all the people that go into making the show happen, right? The lights, the grips, all the people behind the scenes that make it happen. But without them, you don’t have the show. And as I think about teams, there’s an outward facing team, but, what I recognized as a player that not every last person in this program is going to connect. I didn’t connect with every last person. My players, aren’t all going to connect with me in the same way. And so the goal was to wrap our team with as many touch points of people that can help them through and navigate their time with us. And by doing so, I had to allow space for all of them to be forward facing.
Your athletic trainer- she’s a professional. I don’t know anything about medicine. Do your thing. You let me know when they’re ready and I’ll use them. If I can’t use them, I’ll give them back to you. However, these are the things that I need from them. Okay. Great. Nutrition. I don’t know anything about nutrition.
You’re the nutritionist. Do you think here’s what I need from them. Here’s what I’m seeing on the field. Okay, great. My assistants- hey, this is, this is your space. You’re really good at this. Have at it. I’ll be over here, if you need me. You know, and, and trying to give them that space to be forward facing.
So all of these players can connect with them in different ways, whether it’s sports, psych, whether it’s your equipment person, if they’re that good of a touch point, academics , compliance, you name it. I want them to travel with us. I want them to be around. I want them to be visible. Strength and conditioning, all of it. I want them to be as close as they can to our program and to our women, because I think all of our women get served that way. And without those people, because I’m one person and anywhere from 24 to 32 people, it’s difficult to get to them all. But if we are working as one, then they all get served and they all can have the experience that I believe they should have.
Tony Nicalo: [00:19:18] it sounds like approaching it of course, with confidence, but also with true humility so that you can be a real collaborator and that you can know that there are people around you who are better at other things than you. And that helps you, helps the team really be able to move forward.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:19:37] Absolutely. The people that you have around you, if you don’t trust them, then why have them, right. If you don’t trust them to be the greatest in what they do, then why have them. And if they’re not quite where you need them to be, you know, show them. oftentimes we get younger people coming in or, even just new people that don’t quite know your way.
Well, Hey, Here’s kind of what I’m looking for. I’m going to let you go do it. No, I’m not in it. You do it. I’ll let you know if I need some tweaks, but show me who you are. Show me your personality, show me how you do it. And then if I need a little bit more, I’ll let you know. And I think having those people, having them feel good about it, I think helps them grow, but also also helps me and it makes us better because they may show me something I’d never seen before. And I find out way more by letting them be themselves and be the best version of themselves. And I think we get more out of it.
Tony Nicalo: [00:20:27] People still worry about, you know, it’s natural to compare yourself to other people. And people look at those who are successful and sort of assume that it was a straight line. of course we hear the stories about overnight successes that are a decade in the making, but it’s fascinating to me that you mentioned the way that you just considered your performance background and music and the impact that it’s had on your career.
My own career journey, I can explain it in a way that makes it seem like a natural progression, but it hasn’t. There’s ups and downs and twists and turns. And so, I guess I want you to talk a little bit about how you think about your own career development. you’ve turned USC around. You’re known for turning programs around, you’ve turned them into a year in, year out, competitor. How do you think about your own progression and career path either, how you got to where you are or what your aspirations are going forward?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:21:32] It’s just hearing you talk about that. I think it’s funny when people say turning them around, that would say they’re broken and they weren’t necessarily broken. They just, they didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t know how far they’d already come. And I think that sometimes is the piece that’s missing in programs, but
Tony Nicalo: [00:21:50] maybe it’s not turned around, not broken, but you know, even just the way that you described it as they didn’t know where they were going, you know, maybe it’s not turn around, but maybe it’s a veer to the right a bit.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:22:05] Gentle push, gentle, nudge. You know, the, the one thing about Alabama and there are a lot of coaches that go through Alabama that are really great coaches. And, and I think some of the, the reasoning behind that is in Alabama, the player pool, isn’t massive, right? It’s a smaller player pool. And so you have to be creative with the pieces that you have. You actually have to find ways to execute with the pieces that you have. And my associate coach, Jason and I, we, we spent a lot of time tinkering. You know, he was a youth coach, I was a college coach and we shared ideas. We shared thoughts around that thought, this is what I got. How do I make it? How do I make it competitive? How do I take random players from different cities that only get together twice a week and go out and compete against the one team in our state that’s got three national team players and two region players. How do we make this group competitive? Like they need to be really smart.
They be neat to be technical enough. They need to know what their role is very, very well. And then they just need to go out and do it and needs to be as simple as possible to execute that. And I think, I think sometimes we make the game really difficult. The goal is to pass and trap to us and to put more in the net then after that, like all the other stuff is great.
But how do you do that? How do you get there? How do you teach them that to support each other to play for and with each other? How do you teach them to look outside of themselves and share that space. I look at that and I go, Alabama helped me find those things to help me take all of those pieces. Oh, these pieces are a little bit better than I had before.
I should be able to do something with this regardless of the competition. Oh, I’ve got a whole lot more talent than I have before. Okay. Let’s up the ante. Let’s try to do a little bit more than we did before, but foundational information is the same. it’s, it’s not that different, but I think Alabama helped a lot in terms of just being willing to take what you’ve gotten and rolling with it.
and making it the best version of what it is that it can be while having high expectations. I think we should be able to win and trying to get them to understand that if you believe it, we might actually be able to do it. Most people don’t believe it. I think honestly, that’s one of the most frustrating things that I found in winning.
It was looking back at all the themes that I I’ve been able to coach. And especially some of those at Auburn and realizing we were so much more. We were so much closer than we ever thought we were. We just didn’t know.
Tony Nicalo: [00:24:40] Well, I want you to talk about that a little bit where, either as individuals or teams who are close and they don’t know, you now have that knowledge, you’ve gotten over the hump before. So what do you do now? How do you get them there? How do you get individuals or teams quote unquote, over the hump?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:25:00] Yeah. It’s and we talked about it. Well, let me go back. Karen Hoppa, one of the things she always said was, you know, in, in trying to change levels, the going from average to pretty good is not, it’s a huge step, but not very difficult realistically, but going from good to great, great to exceptional. Those thin margins are extremely difficult, extremely hard, and there’s some truth to that. But I do think if you can create belief while going through the other steps, now it’s about transitioning that belief into, in, into an actual something that can happen. That’s tangible. And the best example that I can give of that is, is our transition at USC. In year one, it was, hey, this is the discipline that it requires just to show up and be a competitive collegiate athlete day in and day out in the PAC 12 right now, not in the Pac-12, you’re talking about Stanford, UCLA, Cal, Arizona, Colorado. Like you go down the list in the Pac-12, this is what it requires. Okay. Now that we understand what it requires, we need to actually go out and have some, some games where we get our feelings hurt.
And, and what I mean by that is in year two, we actually, well, year one, we had some success. I now believe a little bit coach. I now understand we went from not making the tournament to make the NCAA tournament. Though, most of those women’s first opportunity to ever play the national tournament. They would have been the first group to come to the program.
We’d never been. So that in itself was like, Oh, okay, I got this. Year two, though. Now that we start to believe in ourselves, we start to make this push. We go to Virginia, who’s a tier above us at that time. And we got our feelings hurt, but to me it was the best thing that ever happened in our program because they got their feelings hurt because they actually thought it was possible to win. And in the past that wasn’t always the case. And so going into the next year, that belief system had already shifted. And I think we as coaches, we have to make sure that we recognize and we call out those moments of in failure where we actually really got better. Our belief system shifted. That we finally understand what it is to compete against the elite and believe we should be there. And I think that to me is the constant message. We at SC now, every player that comes into the program, there’s an expectation that we should be competing at the highest level. And so I try to dig into that as much as I possibly can.
Tony Nicalo: [00:27:37] You were a captain at Birmingham, your old assistant, Jen was captain at Arizona. Your new assistant Sammy Towne was a captain at Auburn. What is it about playing as a captain and early leadership development that helps players either turn into coaches or be able to be leaders?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:28:01] One of the things that that creates good leaders is the ability to care for others. To truly care for others and their success and help push the group to more success.
Because in most cases, especially when you’re speaking about youth, you have to help them curb behavior. we have to curb behavior. If we really want to go there, we have to curb behavior. And I think, I think, you know, our goal is to create as many captains as possible, whether they have the title or not. and if we can grow women who have the confidence, like I said earlier, to make those decisions confidently and live with the consequences and to hold the people behind them accountable and to care for the people behind them, then all of them should grow up to be leaders, regardless of where they go, whether it’s in the business world, whether it’s in a school teaching, I don’t care where they go.
They should all be able to lead because they’ve had the experience of taking care of others. Holding others accountable. And I think, I think as they do that, they become great leaders an end. But, but I do think as coaches, our passion for the game and our care for people in our care for the success of the group, there’s a natural transition into, into coaching.
Tony Nicalo: [00:29:15] So, is there something that you look for, is it empathy? For context, you’re known as a great recruiter. You’ve had had top classes, you know, in 2018, 2019. So what is it that you look for when you’re recruiting? I mean, obviously there’s a base level of talent identification, but, wha
Keidane McAlpine: [00:29:36] Quality people, you want quality people. You want people that, that are competitive, you want people that are willing to drive their own development, like they’re hungry for success. They’re hungry for more, whether they’ve arrived or not. You want people that are willing and are capable of putting their teammates in front of themselves.
You know, we don’t always get it right. But we now believe we have a group of women that can hold people who go astray accountable and can help them understand how we work and how we operate. But that is that that’s really what we look for. Like, you know, yes, we build teams and we have to be very strategic about what pieces that we add in terms of positional and technique or, or even quality.
But at its core, we’re looking for high character people who are committed to their own development, who are willing to put the team in front of themselves and everything. we believe, if we can find those types of people, we’re going to be like-minded enough that we’re going to push each other to greatness. We’re going to push each other, you know, farther along. And greatness is not necessarily soccer greatness, like individual greatness, personal greatness, personal growth. Like the soccer will take care of itself.
Tony Nicalo: [00:30:45] So when you identify someone like that, I want you to talk a little bit about how you get them on board. There’s somebody who’s listening, who has a great candidate that they want to hire. Yeah at their company and they want them to join and they met there, there in terms of quality person values, but now they need to get them across the line. And you’re recruiting against UCLA, Stanford, Virginia.
I mean, you’re recruiting against everyone now because you want the top player. So without giving away. Yeah, the secret,
Keidane McAlpine: [00:31:21] there’s no secret. It’s really simple. It’s really simple.
Tony Nicalo: [00:31:23] How do you do it?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:31:24] You have to be really clear in your messaging, on who you are. You have to be willing to lose them. And I don’t coddle, none of that, no fluff, it’s very direct and very to the point. Hey, here’s how I think you would fit into our culture. Here’s how I think our culture would help you. Here’s my vision for where I think we could help you go. We would love for you to be a part of it, but if not, that’s okay.
We’re going to do us anyway. I want the best experience for you. End of story. That’s it. It’s not some magic sauce. I think the simplicity of messaging, but really being clear in where I think we can go and where I think they can go. I think helps those people who are the type of people we would like to have in our program find comfort.
It’s easy. and those that it resonates with. It’s not a problem. Obviously there’s a whole lot more in the formula, but I think those that it resonates with it’s, it’s a really simple and easy message. And once they get in and around our culture and then around our group, it makes it even easier because they go, wow. Okay. You can feel it. You know, you could feel, you can feel how this group works.
Tony Nicalo: [00:32:27] And we’ve, waited a while to schedule because the first time I spoke to you, we were, you were in the middle of recruiting season. How has the process changed for you? I mean, obviously there’s a global pandemic and there’s employers who are, these meetings and recruitings are happening via zoom now instead of when they would traditionally be in-person.
So how’s the process changed for you and what advantages or opportunities have you seen in this sort of forced zoom recruiting instead of in-person?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:32:59] I will say this, it takes me back to when recruiting was done more senior year and you spend a lot more time invested in the conversations. You were on the phone a whole lot more back in the day. This feels a lot like that. And I think for me, I think is better because you actually have to get to know people. You actually have to really invest in, in the conversation. No, you’re not waving to me on the sideline. We actually have to talk. We actually have a dialogue. You actually have to get out more than three words while we’re on the phone. So it’s, I love that part of it. I hate the fact that we can’t be out on the field. Selfishly, I miss seeing a lot of my friends out there, but also I think there’s something to be said about players who can feel the weight of coaches on the sideline, watching them and seeing how they react to that, that I miss. And I think, I think we’re all going to find out how good we are in that aspect of it. But yeah recruiting is ever changed. I think there’s going to be something that we all take in terms of this zoom recruiting, to be able to be face-to-face.
And even the relationships built in the conversation. Unfortunately with the extra year and all that it’s changed the trajectory of a certain classes. And a lot of there are a lot of nervous young women out there, but at the end of the day, I think. The relational aspect of it, I think is going to be very good for parents, for young people. I think that the connection and that pressure and that weight from being on the sideline is going to be the miss.
Tony Nicalo: [00:34:35] You’re known as a, as a relational coach where soccer is secondary and you help players grow and reach their potential. You’ve mentioned Jay Jacobs, who was the athletic director at Auburn, where you heard that you should always be green and growing.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:34:51] That’s right.
Tony Nicalo: [00:34:52] I first heard that from Dr. Coleen Hacker. Yeah. Who wrote a book with Tony DiCicco called catch them being great. And I think what you said earlier about even in failure, there are components that you can recognize that are still great. in terms of the, lesson, someone was learning. Just talk to me a bit about how you helped players grow and reach their potential and what it means for you.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:35:16] Well, I’ll go back to my days at Birmingham Southern first . My second year where we were transitioning from NAIAI to Division One, we graduated and through attrition lost probably 10 of our best players. So I go out and get this really young group and we were absolutely atrocious. The first part of the season, we went 1-10 and 1. And in that, one of the things I had to learn was how to find wins, when losing. And , it’s a weird concept to think about how do you find wins when losing and spend a lot of time and, you know, the whole goal setting. Again, I was young, but, finding small goals, finding small ways to let those women feel and see their growth.
Even though the scoreboard didn’t say that we were growing and it translated even to Washington State and to USC, here are the benchmarks. Here are the things that I think if we can concentrate on these few things, But they’re tangible. We can see it. We can, we can face it. And I think ultimately will help us find results. And I think if we’re real with ourselves and we self reflect and we dig into who we are, where we are and where we’re trying to go, we can all find those moments where you know what, I need to spend a little bit more time in this. And it may seem like the most simplistic thing. I know players sometimes they’re like, no coach, that’s not enough.
I told one woman, I’m like, I just need you to smile. And she’s like, what are you talking about? You know, what do I need to do? I need you to smile when you play. She’s like, what are you talking? I need you to smile when you play. And it was simply so that she understood that there was a joy in playing.
I don’t know if she ever truly got it the way , I wanted it for her, but at the end of the day, it was like, everything else. Doesn’t matter until you actually get back to the joy. Yeah. Yeah. And so, as in a lot of times, there are little things like that that I think are foundational that are the roots that will actually set everything else free.
And when those players get that, and then they hit that moment, those women find that moment, man, they take off and you start to see the rest of it, come out. And some, it takes a few months, some, it takes a couple years, but it’s those moments it’s finding those little small, small wins along the path that I think ultimately lead us as we learn how to conquer those things consistently.
Tony Nicalo: [00:37:38] So what do you do to evaluate your own performance and career to make sure that you’re continuously improving?
Constant evaluation. Constant. We ask our players, our staff, I’ll ask colleagues, I’ll go back and we’ll watch film over and over again. And then I, then I challenged myself in areas, I think, you know, for me, one of the goals in the pandemic window there was to find new ways to be better defensively. And so I started, doing what all coaches do, going online and talking to different coaches, you know, trying to pick ideas and then see if there were little nuances, things, verbiage, words, going to webinars to see if there’s something that I can pull.
I go to convention every year, I can go. To find that one nugget that I can, I can add, you know, I’m not looking for 30 of my one, one simple thing that that will be the difference in, maybe the way I do a session or the way that I describe, an activity , or fundamental skills. So those are the things. I was scheduled to try to go get my UEFA B this year. I wanted to go do that and increase network and, hear a different way to speak and talk about the game. And I think that’s the hard part as coaches. we’re three 60, give us five days somewhere in there, there’s gotta be a holiday or two we’d take off for real, but. The rest of the time we’re on. And we’re, looking over people’s lives, trying to manage our own space, trying to get ready for the next season, analyzing film, so I think we have to spend that time really in self care and self reflection and really pushing ourselves forward again.
I think the calmness that comes through in your tone and in your approach, even as we’re talking is not surprising because you’re known for being calm on the sidelines during a match. I talked to Anson Dorrance about you.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:39:20] Oh, wow.
Tony Nicalo: [00:39:21] And he says , that my impression is that this is a very high compliment from Anson, but that he said that you are completely legit as a coach.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:39:31] That is high praise.
Tony Nicalo: [00:39:33] And that your teams are tough to beat. But what really impressed me is that he said you are honorable. And I know Anson as a man of faith. And I want you to talk a little bit about the role of faith, in your career and in your coaching and in being green and growing. And I want you to talk about it in this context.
You’ve spoken about the importance of Christian character. And we live in a time where I think people who seriously consider where the world is and where it’s going and what can be improved often associate organized religion with hypocrisy more than they do being a path forward, a basis, a foundation of character , and of society. So what role has faith played for you and what lessons do you give not only to your players, but what lessons do you think there are there for humanity?
Keidane McAlpine: [00:40:30] Wow. First of all, the compliment from Anson , that’s probably one of the best compliments. Honorable that’s an extremely, extremely good compliment.
My faith is built on serving others . If we truly look at the core of why Jesus was sent, sent to die for us. It wasn’t about him. It was all about us. And if we go out and we do that, golden rule, we learn it, we learn it- treat others like we want to be treated, but also take it a step forward, care for people, serve people, look out for people, be honest with people, give them the best version of yourself, not what you have left.
If you’re willing to do that, if you’re willing to really look after people and we can’t do it in everything . Do what do what you can, where you can, when you can, how you can. I think that piece for me is we set culture and we try to get our players to truly look after, that’s your sister, that’s the woman who’s going to be in your wedding. That’s the one who’s going to be at your baby shower. That’s the, you may not like her today, but you’re going to love her for a lifetime. Like if we understand that, you know, in families, families, families, don’t always get along. Families argue families don’t always have to same viewpoint, but we’re still family. And if we can take the time to have tough conversations, to love each other through it, to actually listen to the other viewpoint. I think that is where we start to really, truly, serve and love each other the way we should. And that’s the way I try to approach it.
I try to coach from that space and the values within, without not, don’t always talk about the Bible. Don’t always talk about faith, but the values does the simplicity of just treating people well, serving people, loving people, I think go a long way and it helps teams be better teams. It helps people be better people.
It helps us to be more accepting of our differences, more accepting of each other. And I think, right now, especially when we need, we need a whole lot of love. We need a whole lot of serving each other. We need a whole lot of understanding and realizing that there are a lot of hurting people out here. There are a lot of people who aren’t doing well or struggling through this thing.
And if we can take a moment and just be cognizant of it, it’s not like you got to do everything, but it just in your everyday walk, try to be a little bit better than you were yesterday , in taking care of somebody. I think we’ll all be a little bit better off.
Tony Nicalo: [00:42:55] You can’t help, but mention the times that we’re living in, I want to end with you offering some of your advice for how people can face change with confidence. sitting here in Canada, you look at the white house and see that its current occupant could use some help with, facing change with confidence. But you know, he’s not who I want you to talk to. I want, I want you to, to, well, or you could imagine talking to him and explain like really at the root, what is it that, that helps people face fears and face change with confidence.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:43:31] I think if you’re faith people, the sheer fact that faith is a lot of times accepting and breathing into the unknown. If your faith people, and that is your foundation, you have to believe that we’re going to be taken care of. That we’re going to be all right. That tomorrow is going to still come. That we’re going to be okay if you’re not a faith person, yesterday happened and today came. It’s every day we’re gonna wake up and we’re going to go at it again. And I do believe at our core and our foundation if you look through time and look through history, we’ve been able to continue to adapt and evolve.
And I have a lot of confidence in our young people right now. They’re highly aware. They’re highly unified through the social media space. They’re highly tuned in and not always into the right things, but at least they’re willing to to speak. They’re willing to challenge. They’re willing to search for other pathways. They’re willing to lean in to conflict. I think we’ve seen it. And I think by having those type of young people that are willing to communicate in the open and challenge and work together, I think we’re going to be all right. I’m blessed with the opportunity to work with a lot of young people.
And we got some really great people coming through. We’ve got some really great people that are on there, on the scene and they’re not going away. they’re just arriving and they’re going to carry it. Just like those before that, that fought in different ways. They move the needle forward.
They push the needle forward and confidence in change is looking back and seeing where we’ve come from. The confidence in change is understanding that we were in a much worse space a while ago and we moved the needle a little bit forward. Yeah, we’re all impatient, you know, especially here in the US, we want it yesterday, but at the same time it’s coming.
and it’s going to continue to come in and we have to be hopeful. We have to be faithful. and like I said, we just have to breathe into people and then make it happen, whether it’s slow or whether it’s fast, it’s coming and, we’re going to be okay.
Tony Nicalo: [00:45:23] Thanks so much Keidane. It was a pleasure to speak with you today.
Keidane McAlpine: [00:45:25] Thank you. Appreciate it.
Tony Nicalo: [00:45:27] 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 email@example.com. And if you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend .
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