Thursday, July 19, 2007

U11 Fitness Session -- Why?

Dear JT

I just read a youth soccer coach's blog. For the first time, he is coaching a travel team, U11 girls. It's mostly a new team, and they are getting ready to start practicing for the fall season. He's excited and so are the girls.

So what is he planning for his first session? Fitness.

Drives me nuts.

First of all, do U11s really need fitness? That's debatable, obviously. What isn't debatable is that U11s need the ball. I'm sure this coach will preceed his first training session with a speech about commitment and work ethic and how it's important that the team be able to play a full game without tiring out, etc., etc. And the girls will hear none of it.

Then they will go through some ill-conceived running drills and when it's all said and done, they will say, "Dad, how come we didn't get to play soccer tonight?"

How about this instead. Start out by putting them through some individual touch activities. Maybe a 10 cones in a 5-yard grid. Avoid the cones by chopping, rolling and pulling back the ball. While some are doing that, have others do some Coerver training. Then switch them to a different station.

Now put some cones down in gates. A ball for every player. See how many gates you can dribble through in two minutes. Rest 30 seconds, do it again. Then put them in pairs and tell them it's 1v1 through the gates. Then the pairs work together to pass through the gates.

More water.

Add an activity that involves sprinting, maybe something like 1v1 to goal where two players sprint after a loose ball and try to finish it.

Finish with something fun that has them changing speed and running backwards and send them home. The fitness they get from this will be far more beneficial than anything called a "fitness session."

When I think of more, I'll write

You know who

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TV Is Better With Foudy

Dear Amy,

I wrote yesterday that without Julie Foudy on the field, the national team is missing some personality. What I didn't mention is that the TV broadcasts are much better with her in the box.

Some guy in Tampa agrees with me. I do enjoy Foudy's commentary. The example the guy from Tampa uses is a good one, but Foudy had several other observations, among them:

* That the U.S. trains by position. Defenders train as a group, midfielders train as a group and forwards train as a group. Foudy wondered if by doing that, the team is missing the last crucial piece of competing in a World Cup. And against Norway, it appeared the team lacked cohesiveness, the same type of cohesiveness you get by training together.

* Abby Wambach and Natasha Kai were flip-floped for much of the second half -- Wambach wandering back into midfield and Kai staying up high. Foudy pointed out that Wambach needs to stay high. I think that says more about Wambach's confidence (or lack of) in Kai's willingness or ability to track back, pressure defensively, and win balls than it does about Kai's ability as a striker.

So while the team may not be as dynamic as it used to be, but the broadcasts will be better.

When I think of more, I'll write

You know who

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Miss Foudy

Dear Tonya,

I watched the women's national team game against Norway this past weekend. I haven't paid much attention to them since 2004, and I feel bad about that.

The 2004 Olympics was the first women's soccer world championship that I didn't cover since 1996. I watched on TV as the old ladies got their final gold medal and was thrilled for them.

Now it's different, though. I love watching Lilly play and play and play. I think Kate Markgraf is one of the funniest people I've ever interviewed, and I think the world of Cat Whitehill and Briana Scurry. But there's a lot missing.

And I think it is personality.

That's where Julie Foudy comes in. When Foudy was around, it was fascinating to watch her work. On the field, she was energetic, determined, polished and brilliant. Off the field she was energetic, determined, polished and brilliant. No matter where she was, she got things done. And she was funny. She never took herself too seriously, but she took her work very seriously.

I'm sure the US team that will play in China has its share of characters, and its share of people who will make a difference in the world. But it just doesn't hold my interest very long.

I will watch the Women's World Cup on TV, and the wins and losses will mean a lot to me. It just won't be the same without Foudy. I'll try to remember some Foudy stories.

So when I think of more, I'll write.

You know who