Friday, September 7, 2007

Why Not Just Play Direct?

Dear Jay,

As I've said here before, my U13 team is pretty good. We've played six matches and have had trouble building the attack. The problems stem from comfort with the ball under pressure and proper runs off the ball. We are working on that.

This week, we worked a lot on supporting runs, joining the attack, off-the-ball running and passing accuracy, At one point the other night, we were struggling with both the concepts and the execution. Half-joking, my assistant says to me, maybe we should just play direct.


In one of our six tournament matches, we played a very good team from Virginia. We lost 3-2. Neither of our goals came from any kind of build-up. On one, we won the ball and the girl hit a great shot. The other was off a corner that we created by banging the ball into their end and pressuring. The entire game, we played direct. Not by choice, but because the of the reasons I stated earlier -- comfort under pressure and naive movement. So why not just play direct? Why don't we just whack it down the field, pressure it and try to win games on effort, heart and hustle, qualities we rarely lack.

I think we all know the answer -- it's wrong. It does the players no good, it creates a false sense of how good you actually are, and it hinders (perhaps halts) development.

So we will continue working on the things that make us better, smarter soccer players and the goals will come. But let's be honest, there is a time and place for direct soccer. It should be one of your team's offensive weapons. But never the sole means of attack.

When I think of more, I'll write
You know who

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why I Coach, Part III

Dear Alex,

I was reminded the other day of one of the reasons why I love coaching. My players make me laugh.

A few years ago, one of my players was running high school cross country. At practice one day, she came to an intersection, and there was a car on her left at a stop sign. The car stopped, my player started running across the street. The driver, however, looked to his left and turned right, slowly. He ran into my player.

That's not the funny part.

The girl was fine. The car barely hit her. But when she told the rest of the team, they couldn't stop laughing -- after seeing that she was okay, of course.

Okay, so about three weeks later in a game, a big girl on the other team steamrolled another one of my players. This girl is pretty flexible and rarely -- if ever -- goes down with an injury. So when she stayed down, I assumed she was in a fair amount of pain. When the ref waived me on the field, I jogged over to the player, still concerned about her.

When I got there, she was laughing. When I asked her what was so funny, she said, "Remember when Kristine got hit by that car? This was just like that."

We laughed all the way to the sideline.

When I think of more, I'll write
You know who