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.