Putting the Work in, With Passion with Greg Simmonds

Greg Simmonds is the founder of Own Touch, a soccer skills/futsal center providing educational and developmental opportunities for young players. Greg is also a former soccer player, with a 10-year career across the United States representing various College, MLS and USL First Division sides.

He joins Soccer Parenting founder Skye Eddy for an insightful interview for High Performance Week on how players can develop that passion for the game, and why a dedicated work ethic will get you to the top.

You can find the transcript to the interview below, and interact via the comments box below.

Enjoy!


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Comments on Putting the Work in, With Passion with Greg Simmonds

  1. Gail Maurice says:

    Great interview

  2. Skye Eddy says:

    A big thank you to Greg for this interview! Greg’s insights hold so much weight for me because he is raising 4 aspiring players and working with hundreds more at Own Touch every day. I especially liked the conversation about his daughter – and the time and dedication she has put in to reach her goals.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Skye:
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to more of High Performance Week. We're joined now by Greg Simmonds, a great friend of mine and my children who have been lucky enough to work with him over the years. And we're talking about this concept of putting the work in and doing that with passion, which is something that both of my children, especially my daughter really learned from his programming at Own Touch. I want to dive into a little bit of Greg's kids too, because he has four kids that are all very different. His daughter is playing at a very high level and to peel back the layers on that a little bit too. So Greg, thanks for being here.

Greg:
Thanks for having me as usual.

Skye:
For those of you who haven't heard Greg before, there are a few interviews with him in the library at Soccer Parent Resource Center. We talk once about Futsal, we talk about technical trainings. So be sure to check those out as well. Hey Greg, why don't you start just by giving a little bit of a background, your playing coaching background, just to give people a snapshot of who you are.

Greg:
So hi everybody, it's Greg Simmons, I played Division 1 soccer at Howard University and went on to play pro for 10 years and then got into the coaching realm of the game that I love. So now I have a technical training company called Own Touch where kids just come in on their own time and just work on their technical abilities. And also we add Futsal to that where kids can play Futsal all year round. So my passion is just helping individuals get better at the game.

Skye:
And you do that so well, I think, let's chat about this concept of putting the work in. You seek thousands of kids come through your programming throughout the year or over the years. What does that look like when kids are putting the work in? What does that actually look like to you?

Greg:
No, it's amazing. For me, we just try to make sure kids have fun. So once they having fun and they put in the time, then everybody will see the difference in their abilities, in their performance, in their level, the skill level. So it's everything. And that's why the Own Touch program is set up where you just pay a monthly fee and you can come in every day for four hours, if you want, make it very simple for them and make sure it's a fun environment. Once they having a good time, and we have quality coaches doing the technical training and make sure those are fun, sky's the limit for them. Again, and everything you do is repetition. So once they're coming in having a good time and getting a lot of reps, you're going to improve.

Skye:
Absolutely. How do you create fun? Because it's a kind of a word that comes up a lot in the youth game and gets confused. Like, my kids don't want to have fun, they want to work hard. Can you peel back that just a little bit? What does the fun environment look like? Or what are you trying to create? How do you do that?

Greg:
Well, fun is, I mean, we working hard and they're sweating and having a good time doing it because the drills that we do will make sure it's very competitive, but fun, challenge the kids in a fun way. Again, I would say not every kid loves that part. And that's why the program is not for every kid, it's just for the kids that really love the game and want to get better. But the coaches laugh with them, they challenge them and we, the coaches play with them and just encourage them. And we tell them, you come to Own Touch, you come in here to make a lot of mistakes. So we have no, if you're not making any mistakes, that's not fun for us, you need to be making mistakes, you need to take risk. So that's the main part. And at the end of the day, to be honest, they all love it.

Skye:
Watching the kids come off the fields, with these smiles on their face, running over to their parents, you can see just this elevation. Since you brought up the coaches, I'm curious on the role of a mentor and maybe if you've sought somebody, a mentor for your children, I'm just curious about that. But that's what I think was so unique for these kids. So these are kids that want to get better, that want to work hard. And your coaching staff acts as a wonderful mentor to them. For parents that are listening, who have kids that have dreams and are wanting to work harder. Can you just talk a little bit about the role of somebody that's maybe not their coach in impacting them?

Greg:
So like our coaches at Own Touch, it's not, they are soccer coaches, our coaches are like college kids or been out of college for three, four years. Some played a little bit for a year or two and then coming back. So our coaches are more close to those kids' ages than they kind of know what's going on in these kids' lives. So they can mentor at them a little bit more on and off the field. They can tell them sometimes, again, the biggest thing for our kids is to make mistakes.

Greg:
And I think that's a big piece, it's okay to make mistakes. You have to make mistakes to learn. So we kind of drill that into the kids, but for mentors, for me personally, I seek mentorship from everybody. You mean, it's not just one sole person. I can learn from every... I talk to a parent, they give me some thoughts of what they're thinking about the program or their kid. And I'm like, huh, okay.

Greg:
So I take a little piece and I tell my coaches to do the same. That's why we encourage them to talk to parents, have a little relationship with the parents. And we all in this together, it's a village that really mentors and helps these kids, it's not one specific person. So our belief is just when it comes to mentorship, we all, I've been mentored by you, Sky. And it's these things you tell me or your opinions. I just look at that as mentorship.

Greg:
So we just care for all the kids. And I think that's peace. If we see them not in a good mood or they're not being challenged enough or they just coming to training with a little bit of down and we try and prep them up. So that's kind of what I envision mentorship as.

Skye:
No, I agree. And it's interesting because you, the leader, for this organization and that's sort of what you've layered into these children. You're saying, make mistakes, it's okay to make mistakes. But you're also saying like, be curious and keep learning and keep an open mind to things, don't be closed. And I think so much in our kids' environments, unfortunately, if they're in a competitive youth environment where they're feeling stressed during the training environment, they don't necessarily feel that openness. And so it's something that it sounds like you have to be really intentional in talking to the kids about, like this might be different than your club environment and this environment, it's okay to make mistakes. Is that sort of part of your thought?

Greg:
Your keyword you used too that I didn't use was open minded. You have to be open minded, not just the kids, but the parents, everybody have to be open minded and be open to learn. And criticisms, you have good and bad criticisms, but criticism, you learn from those. And it's important for us to be very open minded and not be so defensive all the time. And we want to win, win, win all the time. You learn from losses. The more you lose, the better it is, trust me.

Greg:
But you want to win, obviously, it's about winning, but the only way to win, you have to lose to win. So if we also really have that open mind and our kids know that, they're going to go out and have fun and take risk and who cares if I mess up or miss a goal, I'm going to try again and I'm going to try it again. So that's kind of mentality we want to create in the kids.

Skye:
What I love about that mentality is this open mindedness leads to a deeper connection to the game. Because then the game becomes a little bit more. How important has that been to you, just you growing up with such a deep connection to the game and now being able to impart this, give moments of inspiration to kids and parents and families. How important has that been to, well, one just for you personally, but bigger picture, like to the process of what you're doing, like getting these kids to be excited about putting the work in is having this deeper connection?

Greg:
I was fortunate to fell in love with the game at a very deep, deep level when I was young. So I've been through so much trial and tribulations, I've learned because I was that kid that was scared to make mistakes. And what I'm saying is what I've been through. And I've seen parents, I've talked to millions of parents throughout this program. And so that's why I'm convinced right now that my journey is a reason why I'm even more passionate about helping kids. And I love and respect the game so much that I have to try and do it the best way possible for all these kids to love the game.

Greg:
My whole philosophy is if you don't get to the highest level of playing or any level of playing, even if you stop playing, I still want you to be a fan of the game. That's so much, I love the game. We need more fans. So I don't want anybody walk away hating soccer because of my relationship or anything to do with any of my programs. So I want them to love the game even more. So that's kind of where, I was just fortunate again, to fall in love with the game for such a young age and was so passionate about the game that today I'm even more passionate that it bothers me if a kid leaves and don't like the game, which is, that's a failure for me. That's the biggest failure for me right now. If I hear a kid, oh, I hate soccer. That hurts. I think that personally.

Skye:
Well, let's talk about your kids because you have four and they're all playing too. The twins are both playing, right?

Greg:
They're playing.

Skye:
So I want know about how you have walked to this fine line with your children, who I see videos of you guys out, training on your own and doing all this fun family stuff together. Like how have you walked the line between encouraging, supporting, empowering, enabling, and not pushing too hard? Has that been hard for you?

Greg:
It's been hard. And my wife, Nicole, has helped me tremendously, again, because when you have your own kids, it's actually different from when I'm like mentoring other kids. It is different. We all parents, we know it's, you want so much for your kids and you see them potentially, you really want to drive them because you don't want them to make mistakes that you made. I want to say I went through a tough time with, I want to say with Nicolas, my second son, where he was just more cheer laid back.

Skye:
I remember talking to you about that.

Greg:
Not super passionate, but his talent was so high, but he was just not there mentally yet. But for me, I was like, you're wasting time, like every parent. We all parents, we're all human. I'm not scared to say that. And then I was, I just wanted to push him even more, but it just didn't click for him yet. Right. So my wife was just like, he has to love the game for himself. You can't force anything on anybody. Not until they're ready, that's when he's going to click, let's just continue and encourage him, give him opportunities. So one day will click and then you'll see the difference. And that's what happens. And I learned so much from him, with my other twins, young coming up that I don't even, I just let them be now.

Skye:
You're making me think about the conversations that I have with so many parents that are like, it's my second or third child. And I finally figured this out, if I had only figured this out for the first one, everything would've been so much easier for my others. And it takes, there's a learning curve to this. And plus all of our kid's mentality is so different and it was really hard for me parenting my daughter, Cali who you know so well, because her mentality was so different than mine too.

Greg:
Exactly.

Skye:
That's been a lot of soccer parenting work for me is finding these solutions and helping other parents along the way to support your kids. So the keyword that you were saying then, you said it twice, you were talk about Nicolas is yet, like he just hadn't figured it out yet or he hadn't developed that mentality yet. And now it seems to have clicked for him. And can you just talk about that concept maybe for parents and what you've seen related to Nicolas, but also maybe related to so many kids that have come through the Own Touch pathway with you that sometimes there's just this yet that's in the back that's kind of encircling this child.

Greg:
As they say, kids develop at different times, not just develop physically, but they develop mentally at different times. And that's what happened with Nicolas. He was just not mature yet to the point where he's like, okay, this is what I want or it just didn't click yet. Right? But my advice and I've always told parents, that's why the technical piece is so important, to keep going. Because if you keep that going and you keep playing and then it clicks, then your foundation is there. So now you can really start thinking about tactics and all that when you come to a certain age, that's why the technical foundation is so important.

Greg:
Because when you click now and then you're mature and then your body's changing, but your technical is there and your mind is ready and then you're ready. But if you put those things aside and then it clicks and then you don't have those foundations, then you're in trouble.

Skye:
I was at the West Ham Tottenham match couple weekends ago in London and I was sitting pitch side and you watch these games on the television and you see these beautiful long balls being played across the field and them receiving the ball mid stride and bringing it down and you go, oh wow. That was an amazing like how he received the ball. And then you're sitting there and Harry Kane's right in front of you doing it, and you hear the ball on his foot and you sense just how much it belongs to him. Like there's just this beautiful rhythm. That is what foundation that you're talking about.

Greg:
That's the repetition. He done a million of those. That's why it's become natural. It becomes second nature. That's what you want, the ball becomes second nature. Because then is so much more to the game after that.

Skye:
Exactly. And we experience that with Cali, Cali experienced that absolutely, that between that and fitness, when she's really fit, the game's so different and easier and open so much to her. And also just having that ability to manipulate the ball and being in control like that. So that comes from just putting the work in, absolutely. And when you're doing it with passion, it makes it a lot more enjoyable and a deeper connection.

Skye:
I want to talk about your daughter, Cameron, because I just love her story. I think it's because I remember seeing her show up to Own Touch, not a soccer player at all. And she was like, are you not a soccer player. And you were like, nope, she doesn't play soccer. And now she's playing for the Jamaican u20 team. So it's amazing to me and people say things about her like, oh wow, she's so strong. But I've seen her putting the work in, she's working, lifting and this is not something that just happened for her. Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Greg:
So Cameron is very, I don't know, I'm super proud. So it's amazing her journey and her story and it's all her, it's all, she's just so mentally driven and so passionate. She just fell in love with the game. And once she falls in love with something she's going for it and she put everything. And it's funny because she puts in so much work. I don't think she takes a day off because she knew how much catch up she had to do to catch up with all the other girls. So she was like four years behind all these other girls. And she just told me like, "Dad, I want this." I'm like, it's going to take a lot of work. And she's like, "Let's do it."

Greg:
But she's so a person pleaser and she wants to please in school and just in life, that's just how she is. So she's very passionate. She's very driven. And with that mentality, that's why she is where she is. It's all our mentality. I mean, she's putting into work and every time I call let's go training, she's in, she calls me to want to train because she needed to get her technical down. Because she's naturally gifted with her strength and speed. But at the next level, you need way more than that. So we just grind it out and she's working with Onyx every day, once a week, twice a week, all the time, year rounds, even in season, during season, she's still doing that.

Skye:
That's the strength training. And for those of you listening to higher performance, Chris Gorres, who's the owner at Onyx that Greg was just mentioning will be one of our live webinars. So you can catch that interview as well.

Greg:
It's very important to keep that piece, all of that. Because again, she wants to be the best, she wants to be in the work up, she wants to play at a highest, highest level. Once you want that, you got to put in a lot of work in, it's not just taking days off anymore, you have to sacrifice a lot to get to that next level.

Skye:
And I find it interesting too, what you're saying. I've had these conversations with other national team players that I've interviewed or that are friends of mine and we were talking about them growing up and they're all like, it was just there. Like the motivation was so strong for me. Nobody had to say, oh, it's a big sacrifice that you're missing this dance. Or like, it was never, this is all I wanted. I think it's important that we maybe just backtrack just a little bit for parents listening because Cam's playing at this highest level and she's arrived with this mentality just because your kids are saying, I guess I just don't want parents to put too much pressure on their kids. You have to do this, you have to do this, the kid's not bought into it. It's just really not going to work.

Greg:
Not at all. And that's why I've never. You've seen, Cameron didn't start playing, I never pushed her, I'm still not pushing her. She asks for advice and she wants to train and I'll push her in those moments. But it's all her. And I think there's a very important piece though for me, is that there still needs to be balance in your life, right? You can't just be all soccer 24/7. You know what I mean? You still need to balance, you still need to go out with your friends. You still need to take days off. So I believe in that as well. So it's not just all straight soccer 24, you need to have a life. You don't want to miss your childhood, there's moments that you might miss in like a major problem because you have a game here and there. You still need to balance it. Because life is about balance. So don't just go going home.

Skye:
Absolutely. There's Greg Simmonds, words of wisdom. Any other closing thoughts for parents? Some final words. So these are speaking to parents who have kids that are expressing that they have high performance dreams, just maybe any little final advice for parents as we wrap it up.

Greg:
Final advice would be just follow your kid's passion. So don't force them, please don't force them, it has to be there, just like us as adults. If I'm not passionate about something, I don't want to do it, I don't want to nobody forcing me to do it, that's not really what I want. Same thing with the kids, but you just kind of continue to provide the best opportunity for them to continue in their development in anything. And then when it clicks, they're ready. So it's like anything else, be ready when the time comes. That's what we want, them to just be ready mentally, physically and technically.

Greg:
And then when it clicks for them, when they wake up on morning, it's like, oh shoot, I love this game. I want to play it next level. And then, so they're ready to do that, but I wouldn't advise just beating them down in their head, go juggle, go train, it's their life. So they have to want it. So that's my advice. And if it don't work out, then, I mean, these kids are smart. There's a lot opportunities. There's other things going on. They'll be fine, either way.

Skye:
Greg, those are such great words. Thank you so much for being involved with our high performance week and for just the passion you've brought not only to my kids, but to so many children in the Richmond, Virginia area where they're able to be impacted by your programming and all of your staff's programming. So thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Greg:
Thank you.

Skye:
Awesome Greg. Thanks. That was perfect.

Greg:
No problem.