Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Beautiful? Game

Last Thursday was the worst. soccer game. ever. from our team. Anything they could do poorly, they did. It seems that the opponent had always been bad in the past, but this year they got a new coach, and that made all the difference. They played with discipline, and they were obviously in shape. They were unselfish and made great passes. They always ran back on defense. On top of it, they played an extremely clean game. We lost 5-0, but it could have been worse.

Friday in practice, I laid into the team. Of course, one of the biggest culprits wasn't there, but I don't think he would have listened to a lecture anyway. I told them that the game should serve as a wake-up call -- the season can go either way from here. We can just accept mediocrity, or we can focus and concentrate and maybe do something.

The bulk of the damage, however, has been done already. The end of September is too late for a high school soccer team to get into game shape. They should have been running all summer to get themselves into shape before practice even started. Barring that, the first couple of weeks of practice should have included "conditioning" practices as well.

Secondly, the team has been conditioned to think of themselves as a second-rate team in a second-rate sport. This is not to get into any meaningless debates about if football or soccer is better -- it doesn't even come into the equation here, as NK doesn't have a football team (undefeated since 1927). They have come to accept that soccer is a second-tier sport, but the truth is, even if it were (which I don't believe at all), it doesn't go head-to head with any "first-tier" sports in its season here. Meaning, it doesn't compete with basketball or baseball.

Thirdly, if I hear a parent shout "boot it!" from the sidelines again, or scream, "they're going the wrong way! THE GOAL IS THE OTHER WAY!!" I'm going to puke. The problem is "booting" the ball works for little kids (and the English) -- if someone kicks the ball really far, then someone can run to it and get it out of the swarm and maybe score a goal. But to what end? Doesn't anyone teach the basics anymore? Is this season so important (for a 10 year old)? What about next year? What about the beauty of the game? What about allowing some creativity? What about teaching a kid to look up for the open man, and teaching a kid to be the open man? What about teaching the kids the fundamentals and working on them so they might be able to use them as high schoolers?

Finally, if a kid can't receive a ball and settle it at all, well, then, that kid should be practicing that behind the bench while the rest of us play.

It really is a beautiful game. I just hope that nobody who needed convinced of that was among the NK audience Thursday. Or, if you were, I hope you were watching the boys in red.


The Dunce said...

As I'm sure you know, it takes loads of time and just as much solid coaching for any soccerfootball team to progress past the positional mainstays of minimal play:

1. If you are a forward, kick the ball at the goal.
2. If you are a midfielder, kick the ball toward your best player.
3. If you are a defender, kick the ball hard.
4. If you are a goalkeeper, block the goal, and kick the ball hard when you get it.

(and 5: if you are a coach, put your players from forward to back in decreasing order of skill).

These will mostly work if your opposition is similarly weak (and similarly arrayed by skill) and you have a good player or two on your team (UP FRONT).

So this kind of "strategy" is rewarded against mediocre opposition: the team that is better at booting the ball away from the opposition's forwards is less likely to get scored on.

As far as the parents hoping for the big boot, well, most parents are probably hopeless anyway unless they have previous exposure to soccerfootball. Most probably are thinking in terms of gridironfootball where bad field position is bad no matter what's going on. If the players know better, it doesn't matter that some blustering jackanape is on the sideline shouting (BOOOT IT! [unless that blustering jackanape is you, of course, dear Sir]).

An aside, booting the ball doesn't work so well for the English, either....

BiG Mama said...

Glad to see you are back on again. Am I to take from this that you are working with the high school team again? Thought you weren't...

Don't give up: a good coach will help them along and if this year isn't the best, next year will be better.

The Sister said...

I am pleased to see the dunce use the term "jackanape" in his comment.
Furthermore, I am also gratified to read the proper strategy (steps 1-5). Though it begs the question, why was I, with my extreme skill, always a defender?
oh, yes, I know the answer.

Derek said...

Hey hey hey! Easy with the ragging on the English for the long-ball game.

Brian B said...

OK, so I know this post was a while ago... BUT I had to comment... I soooo feel you!! I have been coaching rec soccer two seasons a year since my 12 year old son was in U-6. I coached his team and my daughters, it drove me nuts to hear the old "Boot it Johnny" or "Just kick it hard". The parents were always short sighted. All they could see was a win. If you had a fast kid.. heck just boot it up there and let him out run the other players. rrrrrrg NO. There were even many coaches who actually TAUGHT that as a strategy.

I'm so with you. The rec league should be all about player development. I'm now assistant coaching my daughters U-9 Academy team and we have several players who are just frustrated because all they were taught is "kick it and chase it down" they can't receive a pass or make one for that matter and their parents just don't understand. "Whats happened, little Johnny was the best player on his team last year..."

Anyway... I love the game and yes... its almost considered a second rate sport many here too.

Brian - too