Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gotta Have Heart

Dear Aly,

Had a game with my U13 last Saturday. Played like crap for the final 50 minutes. First 20 were pretty good, though.

We played a very good team and lost 4-0. We gave them two goals -- one own goal and then handed their player the ball 10 yards out. One of their girls swerved a corner kick into the far, upper corner. So we were down 3-0 and had made just one mistake. Then we gave up. Never challenged for a ball, didn't look like we wanted the ball. Sloppy passes, no movement, etc., etc.

So it gave me a chance to talk about heart, effort, courage and standards. And let's face it, those are concepts that U13s don't usually think about. First, I told them that playing pretty possession soccer is great, but that alone is not going to win you any games. Heart wins games, effort wins games and personal courage is a by-product of heart and effort. Then we talked about standards and how that performace was well below the standard they have set for themselves and what I expect.

Fortunately, we had another game the next day. I was able to expand on Saturday's talk. Next, I told them that I was going to pick the starting lineup from the warmup. If they were not working hard and showing me effort and heart, they would not be starting. Okay, I came up with that on the spot and had determined the starting lineup on the way to the game in the car. But it worked.

I am a firm believer that your warmup sets the tone for the game. In a warmup you are preparing for the game. I will sometimes pull them in during the warmup and explain that to them and then say, "Right now, you are preparing to lose."

Anyway, we went after it hard in warmup. I pulled them together and said, "This is outstanding. It is exactly what I was talking about."

During the game, at least four of my players played better than they ever had for me. Everyone worked extremely hard, played their nice possession game but played it with some bite. And we won, which was a nice reward for them.

I am now able to talk about maintaining high standards, the value of heart and effort, and how we need to bring that to training every day. The girls now have some success to draw on when they think about those concepts.

And we are working on the fine line between the fury needed to win the ball and the composure to do something smart with it after you win it. And after three games, that's a nice place to be.

When I think of more, I'll write.
You Know Who

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