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May 24, 2022

Nothing Without Work w/Jim Konrad

Nothing Without Work w/Jim Konrad

#42.  Jim Konrad had a unique path into education. While in medical school, he was coaching a youth team and fell in love with the idea of teaching and coaching for a career, so he left medical school after his second year to pursue a career in education. 

In 1997, Jim was hired by his alma mater,  Naperville North HS (IL), and became the head soccer coach in 2003. NN soccer program accomplishments during his 18 years as HC:

  • Myro Rys Sportsmanship Award Winner
  • 3 State Championships (including a 45 game winning streak)
  • 4 Final 4 appearances
  • 7 Final 8 appearances
  • 16 Dupage Valley Conference Championships
  • USC National Coach of the Year (2018)
  • NFHS National Coach of the Year (2019)

His program is based upon the idea of "Nothing Without Work" (Sine Labore Nihil), and clearly, Coach Konrad's dedication to his team off the field is yielding the result on the field.

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Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 42 of The "I" in Win podcast

Jim:

we're teaching our kids about the value of hard work. even if the success wasn't what it has been, I would still believe in this message to send the kids about, doing all the little things right on the field and in your life is gonna those pile up and we'll get success.

Luke:

Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of The "I" in Win. The podcast that features uncommon leaders who focus on people rather than outcomes. Really excited to introduce today's guests. We have coached Jim Konrad, who is the head boys' soccer coach, Dean of students and assistant girls' soccer coach. That's a mouthful. You've got a lot of jobs that are coach at Naperville north high school in Illinois. We're going to cover a lot of topics with coach, including his interesting path to education. What it means to be back at his Alma mater, leading the men and women at Naperville north high school, the challenges of being a head coach, most importantly, how focusing on people have led to the combination of three state championships, 16 conference titles, and four final four appearances coach Konrad. Thanks for being on the show today.

Jim:

Thanks for having me. It's a real honor and I'm excited to talk.

Luke:

Let's talk. about your interests. Path to education after a successful playing career you decide to enter medical school. So first, what was your initial thought? What were you studying in medical?

Jim:

Well, my, my, my grandfather was a dentist and I always loved math and science as a kid. And. School was something I did pretty well at. And so that kind of was the path, to when like I want, you know, how do you win at life? You become a doctor or a lawyer, right? Writer going to finance themselves. Let's set that up. It goes to be a I'm interested. It'll be a neat field and give back to the world. but as I finished college, I started coaching a club team. And, um, my brother, Jay who's who's younger than me was an educator who was going into education. And I started doing this real poll. Um, and so while I was in medical school in downtown Chicago, I would drive home, afterschool some days, and then on the weekends and coach these boys. And I just felt a stronger and stronger pull to coaching education. So after my second year, I met with the school and asked for a year off to pursue education to see if it was the right fit. And I, uh, fell in love and, and never looked back. So, um, it was, uh, it's, it's been a great move for. absolutely love them and educator. And, I taught science for a while, but now I'm administrator. So, uh, it was the right path for me.

Luke:

So let's talk specifically what it was about coaching that youth team that ignited this passion of coaching and teaching.

Jim:

Uh, it's cliche to say, you know, to see kids grow and become a better version of themselves, but it really was true to see the excitement in kids as they developed. Um, Technically tactically. And then as, as young men, I mean, I was a kid, I was 22 years old when I started doing this. And so seeing the impact you can have on a bunch of 14 year olds, through coaching, was powerful. And then I think the part that really gets is the emotional part where, kids are. Shy and they learned to compete, you know, kids compete. They want to do with class. your best kids kind of learn how to take care of others. So there's those little sub categories within the team, that you see role growth. And then at that age too, you get, there's such positive feedback from the kids and parents. And at that age of my life, that felt great, right. To have someone say, Hey, thank you for what you're doing for my kids. and seeing the kids grow, um, you know, my dad also was a businessman and he. I said, I went to work every day. I provide for my family, but never loved my job. And you just would always hammer us saying we have to love what you do do. So that makes a difference in the world. We will love your life way more than I did as a provider. So, um, all those things kinda came together and, uh, yeah, like I said, I, I stepped away from med school and haven't looked back.

Luke:

Yeah, absolutely. Uh, it does sound cliche, but you don't realize the impact you are having on kids until you actually step into the arena. Right? It's easy to sit up in the stands and judge. But when you're actually out there each and every day, working with these kids and to me after a practice, when a kid just says, thanks, coach. That really means a lot to me. And those are the moments that keep you coming back, right? Just those simple thank you's. And, uh, how far it really, really, uh, you know, take someone in life because I like you did not start in education. And my football coach called me. I was like, Hey, I really need a freshman year. And I'm like, man, it's interesting. I was 22 years old, just like you. I never really thought about coaching and I stepped out there and like first, second day, I come home and tell my fiance. I'm like, I'm in this is it let's go. And, uh, it was funny cause I, I never thought about it until I stepped out on the field and I absolutely. Also, we share another similarity and we are at our Alma maters how to feel 1997, you get hired back at Naperville w Naperville north. Excuse me. What's it mean to you to be back at your home?

Jim:

I had a, at a wonderful experience as a kid here, you know, I refer to the, my freshmen soccer. Yeah. When you got those old vinyl jackets with the matching color sleeves. And I thought I was the coolest kid in the world that I had a Husky soccer jacket and that feeling. And I was fortunate that, um, I'm biased obviously, but Nicholas has a special place where they truly, value excellence across all areas. You know, not just our program, but from our special ed kids to our math team, to our just team all the way up the chain of the football for. There's only been a real commit to excellence and kind of celebrating each other. Um, and so in high school, I truly love my experience in the soccer program was special. We had a great coach, Dr. Dave Hoover was a, you know, it was a legend in the eighties and nineties and early two thousands in the soccer community. And I was forced to play for him. so when I got a chance to come back and coach, I coached with him for six years, which was really neat experience. With my coach. And then when I took over, he stayed with me for three years as my assistant. So it's really the dream situation, to be a younger coach, come in, have an opportunity to, to gently make some changes, that I want to see in the program with my coach still there and then have his support as I move forward into that coaching role, which, uh, no matter how much you think you're ready for it, having someone there to hold your hand and kind of guide you through those first couple of years, really, as a helpful.

Luke:

Your success that you have had as a head coach, I'm sure you've had opportunities to coach at the next level. Why have you chosen to stay at the high school level? What is it that keeps you.

Jim:

Again, I, this sounds cliche, but it's such a pure level. Um, especially in a public school where the bus drops off the kids you get and you, and you're in these kids really buying into the program, knowing it's It's a four-year process. you see the young kids, complete games, watch the older guys play. and they're so excited to be a part of that varsity level. It's just, it's an exciting place to be. you also have the true integration of the classroom, you know, into the, um, into what you're doing. I see kids at school every day. I'm around them. I see them interact with their peers. I just, you can have such a big impact, at the high school. I think it'd be fun to coach the Constable as well. Um, it's just that my high school experience a love of education, the classroom, and all that we can do at high school, I would just, it just makes it a special, arena for me.

Luke:

You referenced earlier, you're thinking you're ready to be a head coach, but there's no way you're ever truly ready and you need some type of mentor to get you along. Difficult first couple of years, what are the challenges of being ahead of.

Jim:

Uh, kind of a cute story. When the head girls coach Steve Goltz has been phenomenally successful. Um, but he just went through state championships as well. He was my assistant for years and gave me a hard time as my, about during tryouts and cuts and some play, you know? And I said, coach, you know, you, you, your heart hurts for kids. We have to deliver bad news, you know, and, and as a young assistant, you know, he's like, come on, it's, you know, it's not that hard, but. The first day of him being head coach, he walked in my office and said, Jim, I'm really sorry. He's like, I get it. Now. I understand now how hard it is and how difficult it is to run a program and monitor the coaches and understand the parents and take care of kids. Like I, I get it now. So I'm not that I enjoyed the told you so, but it was a, it was kind of cool to see a young guy, cause he was very, always started, kind of go through that process. So, I think some of the channels. you have to really believe something. So you have to believe something about your program and how you're going to handle kids. And if you do that, every decision becomes very easy. for instance, if you value keeping kids in the program, that's what you value. You're going to make every decision about size of teams, levels of teams, how you handle the trial process. You're going to handle it differently than someone who believes in. I want to have a small roster, so. Focused on more time with each kid. Um, and if you have someone to guide you through some of the pitfalls, and rules you might make at a great coach, tell me once Jim, when you take over, just be careful to never make a rule, you don't want to truly live by. and so little tidbits of advice like that, or when we get, uh, a parent email, which, you know, doesn't happen as often as people make it seem, you know, out there, but it's good to have a mentor that you can say, Hey, you know, how should I work? I want to keep the relationship solid with this parent or this player. So please help me, navigate those situations. and then all the things you might forget as a head coach, there's so many things that we have to do outside of the field, that having someone that, that reminds you, Hey, it's time to fill out this form. It's time to submit this document. It's time to make sure the buses will be there. Um, having someone like that is really helpful.

Luke:

So since you brought up the parent piece, I think that's, that's becoming more and more delicate balance for head coach in any sport. how do you manage that relationship? How do you create relationship with your parents, that you get them in your boat rowing in the same direction? Because I think that's really important. To the enjoyments of both the coaches and the kids, and even the parents, once everybody is on the same page and realize that, you know, here's the mission and I'm gonna do everything I can to help your son or daughter. And it may or may not go well for your son and daughter. And you're going to have to just trust me that I have their best interests at heart. So how do you develop those relationships with.

Jim:

you know, I, I'm fortunate as are you to be in the community that I went to school. And so, you know, I'm coaching kids of people I went to school with, or that we grew up in the same community. And so I think there's a little bit of built in trust there, but with that said, um, I think, really focusing on loving on the kids, and that doesn't mean that you can't be hard and, and coach them and, and, and hold them to a standard. But yeah. Showing the key that you care about them and not just with your words. so some things I, every year I meet with every kid who is an aspiring varsity kid in the off season, and we have a real honest conversation about how the last season went, what their aspirations are for next year and how do we get from a to B and I, and I try to be very honest with them so that there's no illusions about where they fit in with understand that things can change and you work hard, good things. and I also want that to any kid in the program. So we've got about a hundred boys in the soccer program and then I make time to meet with them and kind of lay out their path and explain the challenges. And, and I think that that helps. Um, and then, um, I know Douglas later, but some of the things we do in the program about focusing very much on character and some of the, non soccer things. and I think parents appreciate that we are trying to do more than just that. and that as a coach that buys you some social capital with the families that know that, Hey, this person does care about my son. They're trying to do the right things. They're upfront and transparent. and I think those things all work together to do creating a healthy environment. Um, and I, and as I've gotten older, it's way easier. We know when you're 25 or 30, it's really tough to step into that coach because the parents are older than you. And, you know, Now I'm also with the, you know, in our blue orange scrimmage, I'm very pointed with my families and parents about my expectations of what I want the program to look like. I would expect I'm going to represent the program, including the parents in the stands, how we treat officials, other other fans. Um, I think just being open to being very honest of your expectations, it puts her in the right spot going into this.

Luke:

Another interesting aspect that you deal with each years, you have to kind of shift your mind from head coach to assistant coach come springtime when you're helping out with the girl soccer program, how do you shift your mind from going from being the guy that makes all decisions to be in the best assistant coach?

Jim:

That's really fun. And the soccer world, there's quite a few situations like us. So we kind of switch roles, you know, I'm his assistant, he's mine. And it's really a great situation because one we're like-minded tactically and how we do things and beliefs, which makes things wait. And you would be hard to, it'd be hard to be assessed for someone who doesn't share the same values. Processes rules as you that'd be hard. So I'm, I'm fortunate in that respect, but, being a head coach, the roller system is fun, right? Because you truly there for the kids and purely coaching. And my mind is always, always been what what's gonna help Steve the most right now, is it managing these three girls who are upset, right. And that are while playing time or, or are working on something specific or can I pull three kids away that needs me to specific, um, Training in a certain area or is it just being another set of eyes for him and kind of whispering to him, things that I see during a game, that while he's focused on one thing, I can be focused on another, but really it's more, you know, being a sounding board and someone that's shares in the pressures and responsibilities of the head coach. but I've, I've loved being an assistant coach and I'm very I'm and I'm. Able to escape them to be humble. This is I'm the second guy now. And, whatever he needs I'll I'll do. If I need to film, I'll go run up and film the game for him. But, uh, I, I enjoy that role. I'm truly loving head coach, but I love being an assistant.

Luke:

So let's put that head coach hat back on. How do you create lasting relationships with your assistant coaches throughout your program to make them want to come back each year, want to be a part of your program, and really ultimately you want them to treat the program as a, as if it is their own and it's not just yours. So what do you do to create those relationships with your coach?

Jim:

Well, I think part of that is, is having a program that they're proud of. So I hope that by doing the right things at the varsity level and treating kids the right way, that they're proud to say I'm a part of this program that the varsity, the outfacing piece of ballroom looks good. the second piece is probably. Our summer camp program, you know, we have all hands on deck and, uh, I use it kind of as a coaching clinic, as much as a player's clinic. So I am, providing detailed drills exercises for the guys for every day of camp throughout the summer. So it's our time to kind of, kind of reorganize the staff and citizens. What we believe in these are the drills exercises I expect everyone to be doing. And in the coaching points in the neck, I think then that gives them some confidence. I'm also very fortunate. My whole staff are soccer guys, which is a rare thing. Okay. We have five levels, all coached by guys who were played at a, at a, at a solid level. That's not common. So I know I'm blessed to have that. I also have 1, 2, 3 of my coaches are guys that played for me at some point in their career. Um, so that's another, you know, that I kind of raised them in what, in our programs, beliefs. Right. And now they're, they're back coaching. And so, and then, you know, I also want to give them some autonomy. You know, we, we play a certain style and a certain system, but if there's a time when they feel like, Hey coach, we'll do what you asked. But, for the success of this level, can we tweak some things? And it's always, of course, of course you can, because we want kids to have the opportunity to win and feel successful. and building the programs is important, but those feelings are important to. And so, uh, yeah, I've been, I've been very lucky, to do that. And then when, you know, the guys are great about stopping by for senior night, always. And if there's a game coming up and they can be there, you know, if their family time allows them, they'll, they'll sit on the bench with us and kind of be around the guys. And, uh, and obviously then the big celebrations, right? The banquets and those sorts of things. We have the whole program together and try to celebrate what everybody does. and each coach and, and all that they've given program. Yeah, I think the combination of those things, it's made a really healthy environment for our staff.

Luke:

So earlier you referenced being the head coach and having to have difficult conversations with kids, maybe it's, they're cut from the team. They're not a starter. Those are definitely not fun conversations. Within the school day, you have the title of Dean of students. Also not always the most positive role of the day, right? I mean, you have to have difficult conversations with kids again. And I know from talking with you prior to us recording the episode that you really valued the relationships with kids and you want to have a positive impact on their lives. So how do you, as the Dean of students. And the head coach, essentially, you're seen as the bad guy, a lot of the times, because everybody loves the assistant coach. How do you still develop those positive relationships with the students there in a day and your players afterschool? Despite having to be the bearer of bad news sometimes.

Jim:

I think the kids here, the knucklehead kids would know that I love them too. And I think that, you know, we treat kids with respect. Again, sounds so cliche, but it's, but I mean, you know, you respect them and you can talk to them about what happened, why it had. At times admit, I agree. That was really funny what you did. I still have to punish you for it, but I, I get why you did it. and then work through the impact on those around them. And then kid the kids understand they do. There's sometimes they're frustrated, but I think if you take the time to listen and process and explain, almost every time that this student knows that they deserve whatever discipline is, and then there's times where if you sit and talk and hopefully you're proactive at times, you can develop that relationship and some good faith. And when you're fair to them, and you're talking with their parents, you'd say some positive things yet. Johnny made a big mistake today, but he handled it well. He was honest with me, you know, I see my school is a really good kid. He just made one mistake and the kid feels like, oh, this person isn't just beating up on me. They're supporting me. We talk about the mistake. Not that he's a bad guy. Um, and that starts to earn you back that, social capital with the kid that you can, then when you need it, you can draw on it. and I think the kids see you're fair. and you treat people the same way. You know, my kids go to school, I've called both of my children down to give them the tensions and I make them get a pass from me and I make them walk down and check in. And, and I think that hopefully that consistency as a Dean helps and the same thing with head coach, I think, um, like we said earlier, you don't make ones. You want to file. you better treat your star the same way as you treat the last kid on your team. And, um, when kids see that over and over, when you do bear, you know, give someone bad news about playing time, a starting position honors at the end of the year. I think if you're, if you kind of hold true to what you believe in all your kids can deal with it better, they can handle those tough conversations because they know that it's coming from a place of care. and, uh, and.

Luke:

So I know your kids are older now, but back in the day, when you had a drive in the school, what happens if you're late to school and it's your fault? I mean, who has to serve the dimension then? Do you have to put yourself in tension?

Jim:

I got the magic binder. Excuse him, I guess if I had to. But yeah, there, they knew the stakes that they were if they were late in the morning. So I, my daughter's a swimmer, so she was here like at five 30 anyway, but, um, yeah, but, uh, yeah, we've, we've navigated that throughout.

Luke:

So your program is built upon a slogan, nothing without work. Why did you decide upon that?

Jim:

As I mentioned that the former coach, you know, Dr. David Booker, he was, we've been kind of known since the program originated as kind of a hard hat, hard nose work harder than anybody type program. And I grew up in that program in my, dad was a big, like. Blue-collar play hard. You earn what you get type guy. And, and I think I'm going up in that and then seeing how that impacts the team and success you can have from just being tenacious and working hard. definitely shaped me as a player in person. and so when I came back, that's always been, we've embraced that as a program, but I was reading about, um, the coach over in England. He had that thing on his desk and I thought, boy, if that's, if there's nothing. Truly is what our program is about. Your name will not. And so we adopted it, um, it was around 2009 or 10. I've been a head coach for a few years when we saw that it was just kind of, you know, lightning bolt and every boy the program can tell you that that's what we're about. And like I said earlier, if you have something that you believe in that makes other decisions easy, and if kids know. If you don't work hard here and the boys or girls program, you're not going to play period. You might be Uber talented. If you don't work our job. Step one of that. As we run a fitness test, every year, Stanford fitness test is eight levels, and varsity kids have to pass it. And if you don't, you run after practice. And that shift in, in what we've done is helped us because in the old days I would make the kids run and run and run and run. And now we never run during the seasons. We don't, I mean, maybe one time, because our is tough. We play a lot of, you know, intense games, and to protect the boys legs and their mentality. We, if you come in fit, we don't make your run. And that, so the first thing we're teaching them is if you work hard before you get here, your life's better. Our life. As a team, we will be healthier. We'll be more. and so that's been a big indicator. And then, when we make decisions about kids between levels or playing time, we always reference the hard work piece. And sometimes admittedly, a kid can work harder than anybody else, and it's just not in the cards. Right. Other kids would be more talented and work hard too. so, yeah, I think, every coach, every level talks about it, ad nauseum, um, it's on everything that we do. And I think when, you're lucky as a coach, when you can win a game, you win a big game because your kids worked hard. Now you can draw from that bank, right? So you guys that worked hard, it happened for us and they start learning those. They start seeing the value of it, and then it becomes, you know, just, you start rolling downhill where that moment. Carries you forward from year to year and your senior, your juniors, and it becomes expectation, in the program in the community. I would hope that if you ask any person in Naperville, they would say the name of our soccer program. Those kids work so hard everyday. And that's what we're do.

Luke:

Previous episodes I've had the same conversation with coaches have taken a slogan and transforming it into where it's actually your call. And by culture. I mean, it's your actions, it's, it's your behaviors. And those, those behaviors are what leads to your results. And what you're describing is really your culture, your culture is this idea of working to reach your goals. This might be tough for you to answer, but if I walked into one of your practices or went to one of your games, because I don't have access to your. Your date of your testing, your right that's hard data to prove that kids are working hard. I don't have access to that. So I just come and I see Naperville north soccer play. How am I going to be able to register that this is the culture. Like this is clearly a culture of hard work. And I understand it's a tough question. I was just curious how you can monitor and make it tangible for.

Jim:

I can give you a couple examples and I want to look a quick offshoot. The, and a lot of coaches do a different slogan every year, and I would struggle with. 'cause I feel like you're trying to reinvent culture every year or a new slogan. So we have this, as you know, we're over a decade of this, just pounding this into the community and the kids. And I think that helps with that. But to your question, I know you're not a soccer guy, but your kid plays so you can appreciate this. I think that, if a soccer person is watching our team, they would know that we value our work by the fact that we do all the little non-glamorous things as good as possible ever since. For instance, you know, on the weak side, defense are outside back will be inside shoulder goal side every single time, not most of the time, every single time. And those are things that go unnoticed, but that we celebrate that every chance we get, um, in the program, because those are the things that make you successful and win. And you're in, you're tying in that message of, if you work hard to do these little things, right. Even the team that's better than using the, we really struggled to get. If you're inside shoulder, they'd also noticed that every kid in my team will track defensively. I'll have forwards tracking back 80 yards. And that's not something that typically is celebrated in soccer, because if you want to talk about playing pretty soccer, the beautiful game, connecting 50 passes. And at north, we are very outspoken. We will win in a different way. We're not going to play as pretty sure we won't in. You might not like our style. but you're gonna have to prove to me and the kids. And your style is going to be more successful and the message we're teaching our kids about the value of hard work. even if the success wasn't what it has been, I would still believe in this message to send the kids about, doing all the little things right on the field and in your life is gonna be those pile up and we'll get success

Luke:

let's talk about once they graduate, have you seen this culture of hard work where kids have come back and told you, Hey, coach, this has really impacted me and helped me in the real.

Jim:

Absolutely. And, and. You know, as I've gotten older, right? Those relationships are even more special where kids that I've coached, kids are now in their thirties, you know, and kids in their forties, I've gone in and they've got, children are home and, and they will. And that we all have these friends of kids sharing memories of their time in the program, whether it was a brutal day of running or a terrible loss or a great win. but yes, they, they will reference lessons. They've learned. Conversations we've had about dealing with their own kids. Some of my guys are now coaching, right? And they will call and try to Institute the things that we've done the program. And probably the best example is I had a kid a couple years ago, Allen Iverson, who happened to score the game winning goal in two of our state championships. And he actually has it tattooed on his arm is our saying in Latin, tattooed on his forum. There's really not a bigger compliment that big kids say, I love this program so much. I'm going to put it on my skin forever. and he's got education and I see him being someone that might take over someday and get to that culture here at north. Um, so I know it's kind of a dramatic example, but I think that, my thing as a coach is that I want the program to be proud to wear that t-shirt for the rest of the. That when they're 50, they'll throw their Husky soccer shirt and they're proud to wear it. and so I, yes, I do think the lessons of hard work have carried forward with these kids. obviously I'm not taking credit for kids going to college and doing well because upstairs mainly their parents and their families, but, um, I'm thinking that a small part of kind of teaching the value of.

Luke:

Another thing you do off the field that are. We love to hear is you assign a book to each level to read. let's first start with the very basic question. Does this happen during the season, or is this done during the off season?

Jim:

It had happens during the season. And, um, you know, obviously like all coaches, I read a lot of books on the side and how do we get advantage and how do you get to. my brother recommended the hardhat, by Gord, which everybody knows. and in 2016 I had kind of an interesting group of kids, a freshman, a bunch of fresh on my varsity team, which is rare. So we're talking to some special seniors and we had a good year, but I just felt like we weren't quite connected. So it was a, it was a rainy day. And I said, Hey guys, I got a kind of a goofy idea. I know that it's kind of cheesy, but just please give me, give me a half. I'm going to read to you like. And so the heart, I would read a chapter two, I read that day and said, Hey, can you just help work through this with me? Because I think sometimes we make a mistake as coaches is when you act like what you're doing is the most important thing in the world. It's going to change the world. Kids snip out, like, come on. It's like, let's be real. So kind of coming out from that, that approach. And then, we read that book together. Going into the postseason, um, between stoppage, you know, and we stopped for a drill. All right, guys, come on, let's read a chapter or two page chapter. So it ended up being this kind of special story where the kids bought into it. they believed in it. We, we ended up winning 21 games to win the state championship that year. The 21st one was, I mean, so it was kind of this kind of lucky thing for me that the stars aligned. I introduced a book when the state champion. And now kids were clamoring for what's the next book. So, now at the level we draw, we read legacy, by James Kerr, which is, uh, is about the New Zealand, all blacks and they're 15 lessons. And that has been something that has truly transformed our program. And I'll talk about that in a second, but art hat we do at the JV one level and the freshmen and JV, two levels, we read, the chop wood, carry water, books. And so the coach will read those books to their players. After practice, we get, if we don't make them do it on their own, because we all know what happens, it's just not realistic. Um, at the varsity level, I prepare a note guide for every chapter of legacy and whether it be after practice or usually is before games for us, I will hand out the, um, this handout with the key points and we will talk through it as a group. I know that it works because one, I think it's, we've continued to have, a higher level of success than before we read books. But what really made me feel great was when I listened to my guys be interviewed after games or in the paper and they are quoting back the book. To the paper, the key braces, you know, whether it be, you know, the first chapter sweep the shed about being humble and doing work for your teammates and, and pressures of privilege and keeping blue heads. And you hear this, this constant theme from my team about, lessons they learned from legacy. Um, it's made them better kids and it increased the character of the program. And it's also led to winning, which is a pretty good combination to keep up.

Luke:

So is this something that's done once a week, you do it everyday after practice. How often are you meeting and reading the book together?

Jim:

We do it before every, before every game we have a lesson. And so when I run out of legacy there's we use what drives winning. it's another buy led better. And that's a book that we will pick depending on the year and the team, what the team needs. We'll pick out lessons from that book to kind of round out the season, but we always revisit later. As we go into the playoffs, the lower levels, we'll find days where they've got to practice. so a non-game days they will do it in the grass after practice. They'll sit in a circle and they'll, go through that chapter of the book and discuss it as a group.

Luke:

So does each kid have a. Copy of the book and you're reading it to them or is it, how does.

Jim:

No. So at each level, the coach just typically has the, has the books and I, I let the parents know in advance that they like to buy the book. I think there, the kids don't need to, we try to make it as easy as possible for the kids to absorb the lesson and not give them a, another thing to do. Not that would be valuable for them to do that. We just want to be realistic about kids' time, coach's time. And so, that reading and then having conversations about what they just read has proved to be valuable and like the price level of that for them. Do the handouts. And then for the seniors, every year I do, that's my gift to them is the legacy book. With a note I write each day.

Luke:

And what do you do with the kids? He's a sophomore. You went with the varsity, so. Rear varsity player for you, assuming you keep using the book legacy. I know you said you keep going back to that. Does it reach a point where sometimes kids like coach I've, I've read this three times already. Are they because of your success? Like let's do it.

Jim:

Yeah, it's funny. I asked the captains that this year, because I had a couple kids who were four year varsity guys. Hey, do you want to do something else? And they said, no. Legacy is who we are. We have to do this book because the younger guys, the new guys have to hear it and go, which we love to hear it again. Um, and again, not making them read it and doing the kind of the guided handouts I think has helped with that. so yeah, so I, it, it felt good to know the kids, they, they truly believe in it. and so, and I had the same concern that you just asked about, but I was reassured by the boys that they want to keep rolling.

Luke:

I know you're probably a humble guy. Most successful coaches are very humble, which in my opinion, that's what leads to their success. But let's brag a little bit while brag about ya. Three state championships, 16 conference championships, and one of the toughest conferences in the state, by the way, four final fours, I think you had seven elite eights. So it's an amazing career coach congratulate. And I know that the culmination at success is due to these things. Like the book reading program, like developing this culture of hard work, kids, getting tattoos on her forearms says it all, like you said, with winning though comes a lot of pressure. So how do you manage that pressure of being selected?

Jim:

it's, it's real. I mean, there's no, you can't sugar. God, it's, it's real. Um, and you know, we all dream of winning our first state championship as a coach, you know, that's a, it's a big thing. again, it's, it's easy to say, but trying to focus on. What made you successful? and not getting caught up in the accolades. It's, it's a tough thing. but I'm gonna go back to the books and say that I, after the hardhat, I was looking for a book about sustaining excellence and about the process, not about, tactics or the technique, and I, that's why I found legacy. And that's the whole tone of that book. These are the rules that we live by and we don't talk about winning or losing. We don't talk about it. And I think to a fault, I probably don't celebrate with the boys enough where they accomplish things, the wins and I, and I need to do better at that. because it is special to win a conference championship and it is special when a regional championship, but when you get to a point where all the community and team cares about is winning state championships, it's those things kind of go unnoticed. So they should be celebrated, but. Anyway. So, part of the, the big push of legacy is humility and, focusing on cleaning up the bench after games, carrying the balls in making sure we do things the right way. at once one of the things I'm really proud of about the program is I stole it from guide Calipari with south. Um, and so after every game, my captains walked across the field with a pin that we had in customer. That actually has the book legacy on it and sweep the shed and sportsmanship award. And my captains have to award that to the player on the opposing team who exhibited the best sportsmanship, during the game. And it's cool to see my guys walk across the field. Carla, Tim together give a real quick little speech award the pen, because when we win a big game, it resets their mindset quickly to what, why are we. And when you lose again, especially to rival and you have to humble yourself and walk across the field and award a pen to somebody else. I think it, again, it sets that tone and the culture of, we're not just going to say things and have a pity party when we lose, we're not going to run off the field, we're going to take it accepted, learn from it. And we're still going to honor our opponents win or lose. Um, obviously don't do that in the state tournament cause that's an emotional time, but in regular season games, it's. kind of a cool thing, for the program. I know it's an offshoot, but I think that kind of plays into, hopefully it plays into your question.

Luke:

Yeah. It's funny, what you mentioned about celebrating the victories. Like you, I'm very process oriented. And I believe in that so much that sometimes I probably diminish a victory because let's be honest, it's hard to win. It doesn't matter if it's one game or winning a state championship. It's, it's very, very difficult. And I like you sometimes get so caught up in a process that I probably don't let my. Enjoy that individual victory enough, because it is a big deal or you win a regional championship. You qualify for the state playoffs, whatever the case may be. And sometimes because you're so process-driven, you're right on, like, hold on. We probably should celebrate these little victories because that too will help keep the pressure off our backs because we're enjoying the moment. Right. That's really, really important. But are you noticing kids are struggling a little bit more. With process over results because I feel like more than ever, we are so driven by results.

Jim:

Yeah. Um, fortunately we've had that, we've had a great run the last few years, you know, we've had a great run, so that success has been there. I do, I hope I don't have to deal with it, but I do worry about the year that we fall out early. Right. Or we'd have a, we have a down year and, can you power through that? Um, I think I'm fortunate. I think, the families in this community really value the things that we value and they push, and if enough kids are buying into it, they kind of get swept along. Uh, but you're right. I think they're, that's why sports are so important. I, you know, it seems like sports, the only real thing left anymore where, you know, if you're better than me, I have to. Right. You're going to beat, you're going to beat me and I've got to either work harder to get better or accept the fact that I'm not going to be able to win. and I think those lessons are so valuable for our kids, that they are getting them through sports. And, I think that's the power of a coach is navigating those conversations about the importance of the process and that it's a longterm, to tell kids you might not, if you come to me and ask how you play more tomorrow, I probably can't help you. But if you asked me about next year, I can, or your junior year, I can't your senior year and talk about the long-term process. And it's a wonderful thing when those things play out and you can talk about the next generation of kids, with those things. Um, yeah. And I, and I, um, I wanna talk about pressure real quick here, because that you've mentioned that. And again, to go back to the book, there's a chapter is called pressures of privilege, and we emphasize the fact that it's so special that you guys feel this pressure. Celebrate it that if we were one of 15 right now, you wouldn't have an opportunity to feel pressured because there'd be none and you wouldn't want to be in that environment. You have to embrace it. and say there, you know, the jurors, you were give us you that, um, that right. To feel this pressure, and it's going to make you better and it's gonna make it more special when you, when it's gonna stay when you lose. But, it's, it's your. To feel this pressure, because believe me, there's lots of people who would wish they could feel the pressure you're feeling tonight, or, during the season.

Luke:

That's a great point on pressure. And that's also a great point. I w what you mentioned about the process and my final question to you is with the challenges of being a head coach with the pressures of success with that drive of following and embracing the process, how do you keep your, why on the forefront and the why being the kids? What do you do to. Recalibrate those moments where you start to maybe focus a little too much.

Jim:

I think you have to constantly. Remove yourself from the program and look at a kid. I think I, I try to focus on individual kids, you know, and how is this young person, experiencing the program. And when you, cause you have to make decisions for the program, but you also make the decisions for each individual kid. And when I get back down to how do I make sure that this kid, this one player has a great experience, whether he's number 24 on the team or. that centers me because there's times where you can get so wrapped up in the paper and the accolades and stuff, but then kid number 24 7, the terrible time, I feel bad. I don't want that kid to have a bad experience. Like I said, I want him to feel proud of wearing the t-shirt when he leaves. and so I have to constantly reset, my focus on individual kids, making sure they're happy and taken care of as well. The big picture of tactics and winning the big games. and so, um, fortunately that's, you know, I've had my two nephews have played for me. I've had plenty of family, friends play for me. My son is here now. That definitely helps your perspective too, when you've got people that, that are your family, the program that makes you, um, always did a good job of that. But I know I'm probably even more, especially thoughtful. Um, but this is kids, a friend of my nephews, you know, I need to take care of them if they're not playing. but, um, yeah, I think focusing on individual kid and their, experiences.

Luke:

Yeah. I always said that that the greatest coaching clinic I ever went to was when I became a parent. The kids started playing sports and watching their interactions and their experiences and what they say when they come home from practice completely transformed me as a coach. So, that's really important to get, to see both sides. And you really have a new appreciation for your parents because it's always been an adversarial relationship coach, the parent, and it doesn't need to be. And I think when you become a parent, you could relate. With the emotion and relate with some of those phone calls or emails. And you may not agree with it, but at least you get it.

Jim:

Absolutely.

Luke:

But with that coach, I really appreciate your time. I know you're busy during the school day here and, uh, you know, Just whatever you're doing, it's clearly working. You're going to run. You're like Tom Brady gonna run out of fingers for all those rings between the boys and the girls. So congratulations to all your success on the field. And thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge with our listeners. And if anyone wants to get in contact with you, what would be the best way for.

Jim:

Just the school email, uh, then they can find it on the, on the web, but J Konrad with a k@naperville203.org.

Luke:

All right. Well, Thanks so much And I hope you get to experience some nicer weather. It's been a horrible spring in Chicago land, but like you said, you know that you had a successful spring season in girls soccer. If you're playing and it's actually nice outside. So I hope you, I hope you get to experience the nice weather hoping to do really well unless you play that team up in Gurnee. That's the only, that's the only time I don't wish you well,

Jim:

Thank you.

Luke:

This is episode 42 of the I in Win podcast. This is episode 42 of the I in Win podcast.

Jim Konrad Profile Photo

Jim Konrad

High School Soccer Coach/Dean of Students

I grew up in Naperville and attended Naperville North (89) as a kid playing soccer and basketball. After high school, I played soccer collegiately at BGSU and Benedictine and then went to medical school after college. While in medical school I was coaching a youth team and fell in love with the idea of teaching and coaching for a career. I left medical school after my second year to pursue a career in education.

I was lucky enough to end up back at Naperville North in 1997 (taught at DGS for one year) and became the head soccer coach in 2003. I have been fortunate in my career to work with some incredible kids and families, which has resulted in a fair amount of success.

A couple of interesting things about the program is that we relentlessly hammer the idea of "Nothing Without Work" (Sine Labore Nihil) into everything we do. That slogan is written on our practice shirts, jerseys, etc. Secondly, we have each level of the program do a book reading to incorporate the lesson learned into our daily practices. The varsity group has done Legacy by James Kerr for years and it has made a large impact on the boys.

NN soccer program accomplishments during my 18 years as head coach:
Myro Rys Sportsmanship Award Winner
3 State Championships (including a 45 game winning streak)
4 Final 4 appearances
7 Final 8 appearances
16 Dupage Valley Conference Championships
USC National Coach of the Year (2018)
NFHS National Coach of the Year (2019)