Saturday, March 31, 2007

Scott Alexander

Scott Alexander - In Memoriam
January 18, 1971 – March 26, 2007

Coach Scott Alexander was only 36 years when a brain tumor suddenly took his life. He was the Head Coach for Magruder HS in Montgomery County, Maryland - as well as a successful youth coach in the area. I got to know Scott a couple years ago when I was his instructor at the National “C” License. Scott proved very clearly that he was a talented and enthusiastic coach as he earned his license as one of the top coaches in the course. As I sat yesterday through a moving hour and a half memorial service (held in the auditorium of Magruder HS), it was clear that I had not been lucky enough to have known him well.

In a life cut tragically short, Scott was able to touch so many people in such a lasting way. I listened to coaching colleagues, co-workers and former players and friends talk about a man who put more into 36 years than almost everyone does in twice that time. He was in education and there can be no better compliment in that field than that you were able to make a difference in the lives of young people. Scott did.

One of Scott’s former players spoke eloquently about the way his Coach affected the lives of those on his teams. All the players former and present went onto the stage and one by one lit a candle of the player next to him. This had significant meaning to the guys as it was some sort of tradition that Scott had created with his teams. To me I saw one candle’s flame brighten up as it lit up another and then another and then another. This passing of the energy of the flame is symbolic to me of the way that Scott’s life obviously strengthened those of so many people – he shared his light and brightened up the lives of so many young people.

His memory and legacy will continue to affect the lives of many. I am sorry that I did not get to know Scott better. As a coach there is nothing more gratifying than to see your players improve as a whole person. I am quite sure that the Magruder HS soccer team past, present and in the future will continue to reflect Scott’s positive energy, his integrity and his obvious care for the betterment of those around him. I noticed they wear adidas… maybe next year every time they put on their uniform they can think:
All Day I Dream About Scott … I have no doubt that his legacy will live on in them for many years to come.

Rest In Peace

Friday, March 30, 2007


Keep it simple. We often complicate the game by over-analysis. We often complicate practices by having too many drills and rules. It is called the simple game for a reason. Broadcasters often over do it as well - Talk for the sake of talking instead of for painting a picture with a comment or an idea. In my openings to the matches it became obvious that this was something I already knew from coaching. Keep it simple and it works a lot better.

The view from the booth is better than from the field. The coaches have the worst seat in the house. When you are evaluating a game you must do it from above. We are always at midfield when we broadcast and high up. I have often seen the game differently than from the coaches below. It was something I always knew as a coach, but could never detach myself from the field to sit up high when my teams were playing. It might be a good thing to do once in a while. A knew perspective on the same picture. That is what broadcasting brought me.

Working as a team is better than as individuals. This is not a new concept, but it is so over spoken without backing it up. There has to be a leader (the producer – the coach). There has to be other important parts (cameramen, play by play guy, analyst, assistant coach, captain…). There has to be a lot of ‘workers’ (graphics, sound, cable men, starters, subs, trainers…) If each did there own thing, then the final product doesn’t play out. When everyone works together under a common direction, then everybody makes the show and team work best. The sum of the parts… We have heard it so many times – because it is so true.

My thanks tothe entire production crew - Sean Wheelock (play by play),Dave Bolton, the NSCAA with Pat Britx and Chris Wyche and Fox Soccer for showing that lessons from teamwork on the field carry to virtually everything off the field.

PS – Instant replays help too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

“My First Special Report: Penn State’s Grady Renfrow Beating Cancer”

Indiana at Penn State

For 5-6 long months in the winter/spring of 2004 Grady Renfrow – a Junior soccer player for Penn State – battled Leukemia in the Georgetown University Hospital in a room overlooking the soccer field. I became very close friends with Grady during that time period when chemo challenged everything he had inside himself. I told our producers about Grady a couple weeks before the match and they thought it would be a great piece to put on the air (with Grady’s permission, of course). I was given the task of getting the okay as well as all background information. On the day of the game all I knew was that they were planning on doing something…

…little did I know that they were going to have me do the story!

So another learning experience, but one I was honored to have. The saying in sports that games are decided in a matter of seconds and inches also holds true for live broadcasting. The story was partly taped a couple hours prior to the game, but was started and ended live at halftime – by me! In a quick rehearsal during the commercial where I had to give the history of Grady in about 45 seconds I finished 1 second late. And I was told (or reminded) that I could not be 1 second late. When the camera went live I was able to get everything in and give a smooth lead into interviews with Penn State head coach Barry Gorman and with Grady. Then back to me live to wrap up and send it back to Sean Wheelock in the booth.

I can tell you that I was more nervous about that then anything else I had done in my short broadcasting career because Grady deserved a professionally done story. I think he got it, and as I said on the air I was real proud to be able to see him play live after seeing him go through his courageous and inspirational battle.

As a side note, Penn State upset Indiana 1-0 on senior night. Had Grady not missed his sophomore year due to the cancer he would have been amongst those seniors, but he will be back for one more year and enjoy his senior night next Fall.

“2 Games Back to Back”

William and Mary at ODU
Wake Forest at Virginia

The last time I studied this hard was back in college – no probably high school! When I say study I mean finding out about the tendencies of the teams, the history of the rivalry, each of the starters and main reserves for each team, etc. This week we had games Thursday night and Friday night. I had to be careful not to overlook Friday while preparing for Thursday. This was no different than when I was coaching and we had Friday – Sunday games as is often the case in college soccer. We would always only prepare the team for the next game, but in our minds as coaches we had to prepare for both games. Inevitably one could not be as prepared for the Sunday game as the Friday game, but you had to try your best for both.

So I talked with all 4 coaches, read and re-read and re-read all the press releases, media guides, web pages, etc about all the teams and jolted my memory banks about those players whom I knew from seeing on the recruiting trails. Many of the players I watched while working these Fox Soccer broadcasts were players I tried to get at Georgetown, so I had a lot of familiarity with them. Most made me pissed off that I didn’t get them at GU, but some made me happy I lost out!! (No names-sorry).

Old Dominion secured a spot in the NCAA tournament (at least in this reporters opinion) with a 2-1 victory over the Tribe (who’s season ended with the loss).

The Wake – Virginia match was great. #3 vs #2 in the country and it fit the billing – albeit in cold, rainy conditions that kept the crowd down to just under 3000. Good weather may have brought upwards of 8000 to Klockner Stadium. Wake “upset” U Va 2-1 on a great goal by Freshman Cody Arnealt. The game of inches cliché was back in order as U Va came that close to tying the score with 3 seconds left. The goal was disallowed as the assistant referee flagged the ball out of bounds first – but just barely. I supported the referees in this decision. They were delighted to hear that- although probably surprised after 22 years of me usually arguing their calls! Hey – why upset the referees now…I may return to the sidelines someday!!!


January 29, 2007

Last night I saw Santos play in the “House that Pele Built” - my original name for “Vila Belmiro”. Santos defeated Guaratingueta 1-0 on some brilliance by Brazilian international Ze Roberto. It was over 30 years ago when I last saw Santos play as toured the US and played at RFK stadium. I don’t remember much about the game – other than the magical Brazilians led by the world’s greatest player in their White jerseys with diagonal black stripe (the same as they still wear). It was not many years later that Pele came to the NY Cosmos and changed the landscape of soccer in the United States forever.

On the drive up the mountain from Santos back to the hotel in Sao Paulo I couldn’t help but think that were it not for Pele very few of us may be able to have full time careers in this great game. I also started thinking what a mistake it would be to think that the MLS’s signing of David Beckham could possibly have anywhere near the same effect. A positive effect – for sure as he is a great player in his own right. However, Beckham certainly does not have the magic that awes us as did Pele (other than an occasional free kick!)

He does bring the international spotlight on US domestic soccer, and he may even be opening the door for other world stars to join our league under the new “Beckham rule”. However, he may be a disappointment as he lacks the flair that would draw and keep new fans. Hopefully, we can take full advantage of the fact that he is an ultimate professional, and will take the league seriously- unlike some previous mega-stars who came over… remember Lothar Mathias??? Thankfully most of us forget that he played in the MLS.

Hopefully someday I will leave Old Trafford and have similar thoughts about Beckham as I did about Pele – but I doubt it. There will only ever be one King.

“Broadcasting isn’t always in a Booth”

Maryland at UNC – Fox Soccer

Whenever possible they want the cameras placed where they film across the field into the main stands. That meant at UNC that the play by play (Sean Wheelock) and I were positioned high up on scaffolding between the 2 benches. The day prior to the match that would not have been a problem as it was a beautiful 84 degrees and sunny. What a difference a day can make. At kick off on Friday at 8 PM it was already 50 degrees and falling after a rain soaked day. On top of that was a steady wind blowing – you guessed it – right at us in the scaffolding? The main problem this presented for me was that it was not easy placing my notes anywhere so I was relying on memory much more than before. (For those who know me well – relying on my memory is not always a good thing. I could always remember a soccer player or a part of any game my team has ever played, but day to day memory has something to be desired).

Fortunately, both teams put on a good game which always makes it easier to commentate on. On this specific night I was able to experience (and therefore appreciate) the play by play part of announcing. We think moisture from the rain all day must have got into some of the wiring. 15 minutes into the match Sean Wheelock’s microphone did not seem to be working… As we are talking as if everything was ok, we were also looking at each wondering what was happening. Then I get the producer in my ear: “Keith – you take over…take over, now”. I am fortunate that Maryland and UNC were 2 teams I knew very well so that my 5 minutes or so of play by play was more descriptive than “the guy in red is playing it back to his teammate who is being pressured by the guy in white…”.

Technical difficulties do happen and it gave me a great appreciation of how sharp play by play guys need to be. I definitely prefer the analyst position where I only need to talk when there is something to talk about.

PS – AS one would guess in the cold and wind – the game went through 2 overtimes and ended correctly as a 1-1 draw. It was Md captain Steve King who equalized in the second half after Ben Hunter had put UNC on top after just 10 minutes into the match. Maryland Goalkeeper Chris Seitz saved the day stopping a UNC penalty kick ate in the game.

“All Preparation can go Down the Drain in a Second”

Duke at Maryland –Fox Soccer

One live TV match under my belt and now I was ready for anything. Seasoned after 2 hours on the air, I knew my main job would be to come up with a pre game introduction to grab the interest of the viewers. No tomato patches at Maryland to talk about (See Blog #1), so it was all mine to devise. And this would be easy: 2 of the top teams in the country in front of a frenzied Maryland crowd. I had prepared all day and virtually memorized my pre game piece (just as I had for 22 years for my games as head coach at Georgetown). I always walked into the locker room knowing exactly the points I wanted to make – the emotion I wanted to bring out. This was no different. When it came time to tape my intro I was standing at midfield an hour before the game and already the stands were filling. Showtime!

In my earpiece the producer says 5 seconds Keith… ready... go. I knew I nailed it right from the start. A fantastic opening that brought in the importance of the ACC match, the NCAA implications and the atmosphere. Then reality hit – it wasn’t my show… the next words from the producer in my earpiece was: “Keith that was great, but if we use all that we will have to start the game late. Now do it again and cut it half. I’ll give you 20 seconds to gather your thoughts. He gave me 15 seconds, and I learned another big lesson – simplify everything as much as possible. I think I nailed it in the short version as well! Preparation helps you adjust when things do not go as planned.

More to come…

PS – Maryland did not disappoint their crowd of 6 and half thousand as Maurice Edu won the center midfield battle with Duke’s Michael Videra scoring the lone goal. Impressive Terp goalkeeper Chris Seitz from California gain yet another shutout in his young career - a future MLS star for sure. Edu was this year’s first pick in the MLS super draft (Toronto) and Seitz was the 4th (Real Salt Lake)

“From Veteran Coach to Rookie Broadcaster”

“From Veteran Coach to Rookie Broadcaster”
Coastal Carolina at UNC-Greensboro

I have been a soccer coach my entire adult life. You would think that heading down Interstate 95 to Greensboro, NC last fall to do my first broadcast for the NSCAA and Fox Soccer Channel would be a chance to simply review in my head all the players for each team. Instead it was a 5 hour drive wondering about all the things that have nothing to do with soccer that could affect my rookie appearance as the color commentator for this match between Coastal Carolina and UNC-Greensboro. Where do I stand if I am doing an interview? Where do I hold the microphone? Do I look at the camera or the coach I am talking with? These were just a few of many questions going through my head over and over again. My first experience ended up relatively painless, but is worth talking about.

I arrived at the UNC-G soccer stadium 3 and 1/2 hours prior to the match to meet the producer Dave Bolton and Sean Wheelock (the play by play announcer). We were supposed to meet 3 hours prior, but my saying I always used with the players I coached for 22 years at Georgetown - “that the only way to be on time is to be early” – stuck in my head all day as I headed there. So 30 minutes early and what did I find? - No one who could help me with anything yet. In fact most people didn’t even realize I was going to be doing this game. I was hoping there would be an easy to follow users’ guide for a first time color commentator. I was also hoping this would be about 3 pages long only with big print so I could see it without my reading glasses! But there was nothing.

When I finally met with the Dave and Sean as well as Pat Britz from the NSCAA it was fairly evident that I was expected to be able to figure things out as we go. Dave’s productions are first class and he just gets people to do it right – with or without experience. Immediately I was told that I would do an opening piece that would be taped an hour prior to game time. It needed to be big, exciting – bring the audience into the game before the game starts. This was it – my Dick Vitale moment. Then I was asked to include a ritual that the UNC-G head coach (Mike Parker – a very close friend of mine) did before every home game: pick a tomato from a tomato patch he had planted in the corner of the stadium. So I had to throw out all my soccer lines and thoughts of the strategy the teams would need to battle each other and come up with an introduction of which the highlight would be picking tomatoes! (It was actually a good way to change a often similar opening).

Welcome to live TV. I don’t even like tomatoes! More to come…

PS – UNC-Greensboro won 4-0 with impressive performances by their center midfield duo from Iceland – Jokull Elisabetarson and Henning Jonasson , sophomore Tom Campbell and senior Randi Patterson - both from the PDA club in New Jersey as well as senior Scott Jones (drafted in this years MLS super draft by FC Dallas)


“Our First Blog”

After 24 years of college coaching (the last 22 as Head Coach at Georgetown University), I have created KTSOCCERWORLD. This will be a company of services and education on many aspects of soccer from coaching education to player clinics to lecture and consultations. The most exciting part of KTSOCCERWORLD will be the launching this spring with observations of 8 professional teams as they take up to a week to prepare for a game. How much time is dedicated to fitness, to technical work and to tactics? How do they combine these areas together? The goal of this study is to see teams when they only have 1 match during that week. What does the Monday through Friday look like as a team prepares for a major game on Saturday? An exciting part of this project is the teams we are observing. We will see 4 MLS teams as well as 4 of the top teams from BRAZIL with VIDEO, ANIMATION and COMMENTARY! I will spend 4 weeks from mid-January to mid-February with significant access to teams that will include Santos (Pele’s club) and the famous Corinthians.

As the web site launches I hope you will continue to come back to read various blogs on a variety of topics. I look forward to your feedback and comments on them. One of my new ventures after leaving Georgetown was working as the “Analyst” on Fox Soccer Channel for college games of the week. My transition from veteran coach to rookie broadcaster was interesting, to say the least. I will let you in on some of the behind the scenes challenges. I will also write about many of my experiences coaching at Georgetown. How have players changed over the years? How can you best prepare yourself or your child for college soccer? How to go about the recruiting process?

I will try and share some of my experiences and insight with you on topics that will help you as a coach, player, soccer ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, and fan. Feel free to start your feedback with topics you may want to hear about. Click on the “About Us” tab on the homepage to find out more about the background of KTSOCCERWORLD and the many years of experience I hope to share with you.

Enjoy and please pass on to your soccer friends. A main goal of mine after leaving Georgetown is to help promote the development of the game. This is my vehicle for doing just that. Welcome to KTSOCCERWORLD !