"In this scenario the manager knows the amount of money he has available to him and can decide how much he should spend on each player according to the needs of the team.
Friday, February 27, 2009
"In this scenario the manager knows the amount of money he has available to him and can decide how much he should spend on each player according to the needs of the team.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"Instead, he ran into that standard coaching problem the minute the results turned. The 2006 Cup campaign didn’t quite go as planned and when the US team returned home without making it out of the opening round you just knew Arena was doomed."
This notion that you had to have been a superstar player to understand the game still baffles many. Look at Arena and Bradley as two simple examples of how this antiquated, shortsighted viewpoint lacks any credence."
"They are not at tip-top physical level,” Hiddink said. “They are at a high level of fitness but not near the top for games like this. It is something we will work on."
Look for both the expectations and demands at Chelsea to return more to what was common when Jose Mourinho was in charge, which was the most successful era in the London club's history.
Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner wrote in his blog 'Defense on Autopilot' http://www.socceramerica.com/blogs/soccer_talk/?p=101 that despite most of the free-wheeling attacking play on display in the European Champions League this week, teams and players are so conditioned on individual and team defending that it kept goal scoring at a premium.
"Think about this: eight teams — Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Lyon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, a list that arguably includes the top seven teams in the world (sorry, about that, Lyon). Teams bursting with attacking, goalscoring talent. On the field, at one time or another, were Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Adriano, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Nikolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Raul, Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Juninho."
"A glittering gallery of goalscorers — and what did we get? Despite all that talent, despite all the money spent on acquiring and paying that talent, after 360-plus minutes of soccer, we got just four goals. Of those, one was from a direct free kick and one from a set play; only two resulted from open play. So that’s the best that the world’s best teams, with all their superstars, can do."
Gardner referenced the fact that this was not caused by first-leg matches forcing away teams to sit in and defend - Juventus (17 shots - 4 on goal) and Manchester United (15 shots - 5 on goal) were the two most offensive minded teams in their first-legs, and they were away from home. Manchester United drew their match 0-0, where Juventus lost their match 1-0.
"You could read into those few stats a simple tale that attacking play does not pay. But there is another revelation here -- one that should not be a surprise. Defensive play has now become so organized, so standardized -- in fact, so easy -- that even when a team is not playing defensively, it has little trouble in snuffing out its opponents' attacks. Even when those attacks feature a bunch of the world's top goalscorers!"
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
“Obviously I’m disappointed we’ve not won here but the second leg is at Old Trafford where we have a great record," said Ferguson. "We must have a good chance of going through. The game’s not finished, obviously, but we are capable of winning it.”
When you start evaluating your options available after finishing without a victory, logic would tell you that it would be harder for Inter to score 1 goal, let alone defeat United at Old Trafford, than for United to come away victorious - Old Trafford, as well as the Champions League in general, have become a fortress for United this season. Their draw yesterday made it a record 20 Champions League matches unbeaten, and the last time Edwin van de Sar had conceded a goal in the English Premier League was in October.
"We'll improve in the second leg and will be more attacking at Old Trafford, and we know we can score," said midfielder Ji-Sung Park.
Playing a tough cup tie on the road in what had been billed as the clash of the titans - English Premier League leaders versus the Italian Serie A leaders - United deployed a 4-5-1 formation for the majority of the game at the San Siro, with Dimitar Berbatov as the lone striker. Even with the exclusion of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, United still created a boat-load of chances in the first half of this match, dispelling the idea that they came out looking solely to defend.
"We played very well and showed the right spirit," defender Patrice Evra told ManUtd.com. "We came here to win, not just to defend. So we're happy with that part of our game."
"But it's a little bit frustrating because we had a lot of opportunities to score, particularly in the first half."
"Now we have a game at home that we have to win, and I think we have the power to do that. I know the fans will get behind us and hopefully we can get the result we need to go through."
A crucial away goal may have evaded the visitors, but United's desire and commitment throughout the 90 minutes give hopes for a repeat showing at Old Trafford in two weeks time.
A lot will be made of aggregate score at this stage - if Inter score once, United would lose out on away goals in a 1-1 home draw, as away goals count as double. Saying that, all United need to do to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition is beat the Serie A leaders on home soil. United captain Ryan Giggs believes the tie remains finely poised.
"It's still a tricky tie, and we would have liked to have scored that away goal," he added. "But if we perform like we did tonight at Old Trafford then we'll win."
"Experience is going to be very important. Inter are a top side and they have got goals in them. We will have to defend well and make sure we put our chances away."
Even if United come out in their usual attacking-minded alignment with two strikers and two wingers, expect the home side to get it done on the defensive side of the ball again.
"It's not just the defenders who defend, at United everyone works together to do that - the midfielders, the forwards, the defenders and the goalkeeper," said Evra. "We all try to give our best because we all respect the shirt."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
If you're lucky enough to play seventy plays, that amounts to about six minutes. Six minutes of your time. Out of fifty years, six minutes doesn't seem like much. But a loser will regret it the rest of his life.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Out of the Mouths of Babes
By Emily Cohen
Driving the school or sports carpool always affords the opportunity to eavesdrop on what's really happening in kids' lives. While kids may not tell their parents about an embarrassing or unsettling experience with a teacher, a coach, or another authority figure, they'll almost certainly tell each other, especially if they're in the backseat of a car and they don't think the parent is listening.
It was just this situation in which I found myself, driving my daughter and some friends home from a soccer game. In between surfing radio stations, I heard the girls comparing the coaching styles of various coaches. One girl said to the others about a past coach, "One minute, she yelled, 'Go to the right!' The next minute, she yelled, 'Go to the left!' I was so confused, I didn't do anything. I stopped to figure out what she was telling me to do, and the girl with the ball dribbled right by me."
I laughed to myself and wondered if the coach realized that her yelling was completely counterproductive. In fact, I wonder if most coaches really think about how their bellows and screeches from the sideline, which they think of as helpful instructions, are perceived by their players.
If coaches ever stopped to ask players whether instructions yelled from the sidelines motivate the player to do what the coach wants, the collective response would be a resounding "No!"
All but two of the 15 kids -- ages 7 to 17 -- with whom I spoke said that their coach's yelled instructions didn't help them at all. In fact, it made it difficult to focus on what they were doing -- playing soccer. And the two who did say that shouted instructions or directions by the coach helped them perform better qualified their answers by saying that they thought the coaches were trying to help but, when they thought about it, what the coach was trying to explain to them would have been better communicated off the field, during a substitution or at halftime -- or, better yet, at a practice.
But enough of my interpretations. Let's hear it from the kids themselves:
"Getting yelled at by my coach isn't helpful at all because it makes it harder to concentrate. It's more difficult to control the soccer ball when someone's yelling at me."
"When the coach yells at me to mark someone or run somewhere else, I can't focus on the game. I think I make more mistakes because I was listening not playing."
"Both the coaches were screaming instructions. I tried to do what one of the coaches said, but it was hard to figure out, because the coaches were saying different things."
"I hate it when the coach screams at me to 'play better' or 'run harder.' I mean, really, I'm trying my best already and that just makes me feel worse. It doesn't make me play better or run harder."
"Most of the time, when the coach yells something to me, I saw it already and I'm trying to get there. But I can't yell that to them because I'm too busy running!"
And my personal favorite: "I don't like it when a coach yells at me to do something because I usually figure out what to do on my own."
There it is, in a nutshell. Isn't that really what youth soccer is about? Figuring out how to play the game and gaining a sense of accomplishment from doing just that?
I wonder how many of those screaming coaches could play an hour of soccer (or play a tennis match or a run a 10K race or cycle up a steep grade) with someone yelling at them the entire time to "run harder," "cycle faster" or "play better." Most would likely lose their patience and yell back at the offender.
I just hope the next time one of them coaches a kids' soccer game, he or she thinks twice about yelling at the players and decides to just let them play.
(Emily Cohen is a freelance writer living in Berkeley, Calif. She is the mother of a son, 12, and a daughter, 9, who both play multiple sports. She has been a team manager for her children's soccer, baseball and softball teams.)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Manchester United striker, 27, arrived at Old Trafford last August after a two-year spell at Tottenham. After getting a taste of domestic, European and World Club Cup success this season and discovering just how hungry his new squad mates are, the Bulgarian has got the buzz.
"The players here who have already won it, need it again and again and again. I have none of that. When I am here, it is like I need it - I want it."
"With the help of everybody, with the right amount of effort on the pitch and with the team we have, I am pretty sure we can win it again."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
If Sir Alex Ferguson is the English Premier League's Superman, then Jose Mourinho is his kryptonite.
Sir Alex has only beaten Mourinho once in a dozen attempts between Mourinho's stops at FC Porto and Chelsea FC. Their next match-up is ahead next week when Inter Milan takes on Manchester United in the European Champions League, and proves to be a true clash of the titans.
Matt Barlow of the Mail Online reports of the genuine threat that Mourinho and his Inter Milan team pose to United's quest for European glory.
"Ferguson will warn his European champions how threats can emerge from the most unlikely places — Mourinho’s Porto knocked United out of the Champions League on their way to winning the trophy in 2004 — and if any team look capable of halting United’s bid for history it is Inter, nine points clear in Serie A chasing a fourth straight title."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"It hasn't been done, but this club is always making history and breaking new ground."
"Of course, Hiddink enjoyed European Cup success in 1988 - but that's a long time ago - and has won Dutch titles but how does that translate to Premier League success? Not easily, in my book.
The Premier League, as Scolari found out, is a totally different ball-game. I'm not saying Hiddink won't revive Chelsea because I've huge respect for the man.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I can give you my best 14 or 15, but better than that, all I can say is that is a squad game and that we have a damn fine squad. In fact it is the best."
There has obviously been a lot in the UK media recently about Chelsea's management after the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari and the subsequent hiring of Guus Hiddink. As I continue to read articles in favor of or against Scolari, it makes me wonder about the expectations that go along with a job that massive.
Clubs like Real Madrid in Spain, or even the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball, spend so much money that the only expectations they can meet is immediate - either win now or be replaced. Apparently Chelsea is also now in that exclusive club.
Scolari mentioned in this Reuters interview http://football.uk.reuters.com/premiership/news/LD152601.php that he was lacking a difference maker on the pitch - a player who can run at defenders and take them on to create scoring chances. While attending the Manchester United 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea last month, I also thought it was strange that Scolari opted to play with five midfielders, one striker (Drogba) and really no attacking support on the flanks. Knowing that he had Abromovich at his disposal, and that he was given free reign to purchase whomever he wanted - he was able to buy up the likes of Deco, Quaresma or Bosingwa while at the reigns of Chelsea- it leads me to believe that maybe Scolari's demise was less about not being able to have the right players at his disposal, and more about the expectations being too great for him to manage.
As the national team manager of arguably the most colorful countries in South America (Brazil) and Europe (Portugal), he had the most creative players in the world at his disposal. It was less about coaching players, but rather managing them in preparation for a tournament. It is certainly unfortunate that Scolari was not given more time to make his imprint at Chelsea, but given the fact that he was able to spend as much money as he needed to put together the team of his choice, he must have understood that with those amazing benefits were tremendous responsibilities - maybe Abromovich is unrealistic and unreasonable to think that any manager could put together a team to compete at this level in only 7 months, but if that was the case, Scolari shouldn't have accepted a position with this kind of responsibility.
I worry in some regards about one of my favorite players from the past - Mark Hughes - and his ability to meet the expectations that go along with the spending spree taking place at Manchester City. Where I worry in some cases, I also know that he is financially secure in his massive salary to deal with whatever road his team (and his chairman, board and ownership) take him down.
I know that there were also questions within the team about Scolari's training methods - putting together a training rhythm for a marathon-like EPL season is much different than a sprint-like tournament you find in a World Cup or European Championships. I know while I was over there last month, there was a lot of talk about how light the training sessions were - which is not uncommon to find while you are preparing/competing in a tournament, where you are trying to pace yourself and keep your players fresh over a very short duration of time. There were also questions about their ability to practice or prepare for defending set pieces. At the game I attended, there was certainly support to that- United scored twice on corner kicks (one being disallowed) and on a service off of a free kick. I'm not there in training every day - and I always tend to be sensitive to the manager from the standpoint that unless you are on the training pitch or in the locker room, it is hard to be critical about what a manger does or doesn't do - but they certainly looked a little disoriented on defending restarts.
I have been happy to see players like Ballack or Kalou taking some of the responsibility - it certainly seems easier to fire one manager than to fire 11 players - which is unfortunate...ultimately, Scolari can't play for his players. Perhaps if there were more key players who were willing to share some of that responsibility, maybe Scolari would still be at the helm.
Was Scolari treated unfairly? Respond back and let me know your thoughts.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The US team were the mentally and stronger team last night as they knocked off CONCACAF rival Mexico, 2-0, in wet and windy conditions at Columbus Crew Stadium. This match was the first matchup in this final stage of 2010 World Cup qualifying.
Michael Bradley scored late in each half to pace a cool and composed US attack. He finished a rebound during a goalmouth scramble to post a 1-0 lead shortly before halftime- taking advantage of a great corner kick by DeMarcus Beasley, a cunning header back across the goalmouth from Landon Donovan, and a driven header from Oguchi Onyewu that was knocked down by Mexican goalkeeper Sanchez before Bradley finished.
His second goal in stoppage time was a driven shot from 28 yards out that skidded underneath Sanchez, which also came from a brilliant combination betweeen late substitute Jozy Altidore, Donovan and Bradley.
"As a player, these are the games we want to play in," said Michael Bradley after scoring the fourth and fifth goals of his international career. "In the locker room before the game, we looked at every guy and knew we were ready to play. I don't think it's one guy, it's not just Landon [Donovan], it's 11 guys committed to do every little thing on the field to make sure we were going to get the result."
While weather conditions and perhaps jitters from playing in a 'cup final' atmosphere affected the early stages of the game, the Americans dug in and held off some early Mexico attacks.
"Our midfield play tonight, their work as a group, was really important and that sets the tone in the game," said Bob Bradley. "Tonight is a night where we'll go around and talk with each guy about how they played. I don't think it was necessarily a night where we got our best performances from each guy. But I think collectively there was an understanding of the game that had something to do with Mexico and something to do with the conditions."
The US seemed to deal with the conditions of gusting, swirling winds better than their Mexican opposition, proving to be the mentally tougher team and avoiding distraction of peripheral factors like weather.
"On nights when the conditions are bad, when the wind is like this, it's very important that the team moves well together," said Bradley. "You can't have gaps on the field, you have to feel tactically that you're disciplined. Obviously there are adjustments when you're against the wind. The ball isn't going to go as far on goal kicks, you still have to string passes together. You don't want every ball to be up in the air. We talked about all those things, but the major emphasis was just on the way we would move as a team in order to handle the conditions."
As committed and focused as the US team proved to be, it was the lack of composure from a key Mexican player at a critical phase of the match that proved to be a difference in their side. Midway through the second half, defender Rafael Marquez studded US goalkeeper Tim Howard in the knee as he caught a high ball and the referee whipped out his red card. This was the second time that Marquez, a defender for world power Barcelona FC, let his lack of composure affect the outcome of a match - seven years ago at the 2002 World Cup, a flying head-butt on Cobi Jones earned Marquez a red card in that 2-0 defeat.
Howard stood up tough enough in goal for the US, dealing with a number of challenges to preserve the shutout. In the early stages of the game, Howard denied dos Santos from close range; He was connected well to his back four, coming out to collect long through balls played behind his backs; Howard controlled his box as well, charging out to collect a ball lobbed high into the box when Marquez crashed into him high and late and stupidly.
Howard must sit out the March 28 game at El Salvador, however, after earning his second caution of the qualifiers when he tossed the ball away angrily after being felled by Marquez.
Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra weren't exposed one-v-one by balls played into space, a credit to the US tight and organized defense. Frankie Hejduk patrolled the right flank on both sides of the ball. Heath Pearce held up the left side.
"We were always around the ball and we made it hard for them to play," said Hejduk, who saluted his hometown fans as well as his teammates. "That was our game plan and Columbus did its job again. The weather came in and the fans were there and it was crazy like it was supposed to be. We're just all excited and it's good to get a win tonight."
It was a great night for US Soccer, as well as for the Bradley family. Even though the winning coach and two-goal star are father and son, the duo are pretty grounded and focused on the task at hand.
"Right now I'm the coach, it's about the team," said Bradley. "When you coach at a professional level there's a way that you want to do the work. There is an environment that you create and you want to establish a high level of being a pro in terms of what the right mentality is. The one thing that happens with Michael is that he gets a steady dose of that, not only when he's in with the team but in terms of the father-son relationship that we've had."
"You are never a loser until you quit trying" - Mike Ditka, one of only two people to win NFL Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
"If I could have done school in a year, I would have done it in a year," Grella said while in the United States this week.
Grella was a third-round pick of Major League Soccer's Toronto FC, but he chose to go on a two-week trial with Leeds instead. In his debut for Leeds' reserve team last month, he had a hat trick to prompt interest from other teams and the contract offer from Leeds.
Leeds won the English championship in 1992, but financial woes dropped the club two divisions to England's third-tier league. Still, it has the facilities, fan base and tradition of a top-flight team, which made it an attractive destination for Grella, who avoided immigration red tape by obtaining an Italian passport through his parents, who are first-generation immigrants.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I have heard people say that, at times, life imitates sport. With the winter weather that hit the area this week, it brought an important lesson I had shared with my University of Evansville men's soccer team to life.
Long-time University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler preached to his players the concept of "Sudden Change" — that there will be times in a game that you will be forced to deal with an adverse situation, and your instincts will require you to deal with that situation quickly.
He felt that understanding not only that mistakes will happen but that if you embrace that fact and deal with or perhaps fix the mistake, it makes you and your teammates stronger.
Our team at the University of Evansville embodied that concept of "sudden change" and used it as a rallying cry for this past season.
We wore the slogan on our practice shirts, and along with Dr. Gregg Wilson created a "Rules of Engagement for dealing with Sudden Change." We stressed the fact that each member of the team will be confronted with a sudden change every day — whether walking to class or during the course of an NCAA tournament game — and would be measured by peers by how they dealt with the situation.
Stressing the fact that you can't let the things that you can't control affect the things that you can — whether it was bad weather, poor field conditions, or a referee's call — these were some of the important rules we used:
— When receiving feedback, "don't take things personal." Understand that a teammate shouting instructions or encouragement is trying to help. Trust your teammates.
— When giving feedback, be constructive and understand the "2-second rule." Feedback on the field shouldn't be a distraction to a teammate, so be specific.As for the "2-second rule," don't give any feedback that will create a conversation any interaction between teammates (or between a player and a coach/teammate on the sideline) longer than 2 seconds becomes a distraction. If the feedback prompts a response any longer than a nod or a thumbs up, save it for halftime or later.
—When coping after a mistake, don't play with the fear of failure. Too many players play afraid to make mistakes, and never take chances or be creative. Be confident that you are prepared properly and are capable enough to play without fear.
— Keep giving feedback rather than go into a shell. Understand that your teammates need your help, and the more you talk the more it re-focuses you back on the game rather than on the previous mistake. Pouting or being moody are not options.
— Keep calm under crisis, as the players who lose control and drift from the game plan tend to make the most mistakes and compound their first mistake into additional ones.
The "Sudden Change Rules of Engagement" have helped our players, both on and off the field, and came in handy the other day for me as well.
With power going out at our home and my young children bouncing all over the house, it would have been easy to flip out about variables I couldn't control — the loss of power, car in the driveway being stuck. I don't know that I was able to turn dealing with that adversity into a victory (being still without power), but it was much easier to create a plan to solve these problems.
As a player or a coach, there are only so many variables you can control during the course of a soccer game — a call that a referee makes (or doesn't make) is not one of them.
Longtime Duke University soccer coach John Rennie used to always say to his players "do not let what you can't control affect the things that you can" with a referee's decision being one of the major factors you can't control.
Here are some reference points about dealing with referees or assistant referees (linesmen) that could assist players, coaches or spectators:
'Working' the refs: As much as athletes and coaches probably feel that 'working' the refs is glorified by watching ESPN, the idea of shouting at the referee during the game becomes more of a hindrance and distraction to the officials and your own players. As a player, arguing with the referee or even getting yellow-carded for dissent are signs of a lack of mental toughness or focus.
As a coach, it is worth referencing that at higher levels, crowds are so large and loud that the officials can't really hear you anyway. In most levels of professional soccer in Europe, the technical area (coaches and substitutes) is actually located in the stands — so you don't see coaches roaming the sidelines as much as you might see here in the U.S.
Don't 'cry wolf': The coach who complains about every call gets tuned out pretty quickly by an official, and now the coach has lost a forum to even discuss a call with the referee. Understand that the more professional you behave toward the referee during the course of the game, the better chance he or she will lend their ear if there is a concern you need to have addressed.
Use your captain's role appropriately: One of the reasons why the captain of a team is asked to wear an arm band is to distinguish themselves from their teammates. The captain is the only player who should address the official about anything relating to the game, and the coach should encourage any contact between the players and the referee be through the captain. I think a good practice for coaching youth players at an early enough age for a teaching opportunity is to substitute any player other than the captain who addresses a referee, and/or substitute any child who has a parent that is too vocal in their criticism of the officials. Knowing that, could help make your player (and maybe their parent) mentally tougher in learning how to deal with adverse situations when a call doesn't go their way.
Being offside is not 'your' interpretation: The laws of the game actually read that a player who is offside is deemed in the official's interpretation that an attacking player was in an offside position. Regardless of what you may (or may not) have seen, if the referee or assistant referee (linesman) was in the proper position — in line with the last man on the defending team — it is not a worthwhile argument to debate whether a player was in an offside position or not. In most cases, I tend to debate whether an 'AR' was in line with the last man more so than whether a player was offside or not — if the 'AR' was not in the proper position, they wouldn't have the vantage point to make the correct call.
If you are going to voice a concern with an official, don't make it opinion-based: In all cases in the laws of the game, the rules state either a clear definition or that it is in the referee's interpretation — meaning that 'your' opinion doesn't matter in relation to the rules. Make sure that any dispute you have with an official mirrors your own understanding of the rules, and don't allow it to become a 'he said, she said'. You will always lose a debate with an official that isn't supported by fact.
Set a good example: Whether you are a coach, or a parent spectator, understand that your players or your own child will mirror the way you treat the officials. Why should your players or own child show respect to the official if you don't? In most cases, the coach or parent spectator that shouts and screams at the official regularly isn't showing a lot of respect to their team, its players or even themselves by doing so. Set an example that you would like your own child to follow, and hopefully this is a life lesson that transcends sport.
Every athlete needs help in setting goals to achieve. Whether it is making a team, being a starter or winning a championship, most of that process starts within the individual athlete first.
When we have individual meetings with our players and it is crucial for a team's success to have regular dialogue we try to clearly outline and define objectives for the player. Hand in hand with that process is having the player identify what is important to him on an individual and team basis. Once that is done, we work on creating an action plan and set of goals to help that set out on that path.
Highly regarded strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Conneely has created a plan for motivating professional athletes that really crystallized some of these items. Whether it is taking on challenge to meet a specific goal, or helping set one for your child, here are questions that he asks his athletes that you should ask yourself:
— How bad do you want it? Every player says that they want to achieve it, but how many actually do it? It's like the adage 'If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.' If your goal is that important, you will do the little things to make it possible to achieve it. Training or practicing is something you do through all conditions not just when it is convenient.
Athletes who are successful at meeting goals train outside their comfort zone, and because of that, tend to be mentally stronger. Former baseball great Ted Williams commented about running around the bases after hitting a home run, despite his team being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, that "I try to play each game like someone is watching me play for the first time." Players who meet their goals don't take days off from meeting it, and their character is most likely tested when they think no one else is watching.
— What is driving you toward your goal? Is it recognition? Is it for the sheer enjoyment of the game? Is it to seek approval from someone else? Is it because of your competitive spirit or drive? Find out what motivates you, and make sure that it is the right reason.
— What am I willing to do to achieve it? Ultimately, it comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice. It is one thing to say you want to be a great athlete, to play at the collegiate or professional level. But what does it take to get there? What are you doing on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis to reach that level? You may have to live a different lifestyle than your friends, adjusting your free time and prioritizing your goal. Are you willing to make those kinds of sacrifices?
— How much do I really invest into it? How much time do you dedicate to sharpening the skills needed to achieve your goals? Be honest: Are you really ready to invest the time necessary to be great? Are you willing to put in the time and hard work necessary?
— Do you love it? Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Passion, enthusiasm and desire are key components. This is what keeps you going when times are tough. Most people quit because they are not truly passionate about what they are doing. If this goal is something that you love, don't let anything distract you from that.
Whether it is an individual goal like making a team or becoming a starter, or a team goal like winning a championship, make sure that you ask yourself these questions before you set out on your journey. The hard part is not the training — it's the map that you follow to get there.
You know that age-old question about 'what came first, the chicken or the egg?' It seems similar in trying to gauge whether the system determines the players or the players determine the system?
A 'system' in any sport could be described as what alignment is used, but I think the alignment is probably based on what I would use to describe as a coach's 'system' — how will his players try to attack, and how will they try to defend.
The challenge that good coaches find is whether to fit their players into a specific system, or to create a system that utilizes the players. The goal for either is to maximize the strength of the group.
If you are in a setting where you can purchase players (professional level) or recruit players (collegiate level), it is easier to bring in players to fit a system. But it also be restrictive if you have dynamic players capable of doing more in a relatively rigid system. Remember the old saying that the only person who could hold Michael Jordan to under 20 points in a basketball game was Dean Smith, his coach at the University of North Carolina?
In a level where you can't bring in players to fit a system, these are factors you should consider:
Who are your key players, and how can you utilize their strengths? If the best passer/distributor in your midfield is a really good athlete as well, that will influence how many players you use in midfield. If your best 1-on-1 central defender is a step slow, perhaps he will be deployed as a 'stopper' with a 'sweeper' behind to cover the lack of speed.
What is your team's overall athletic ability? That could determine the areas to attack and defend. If you have pacy defenders, you can hold a higher defensive line and press more — playing in the other team's half. If you have speed up front, you can try to play off the counter-attack more to create space behind your opponent's defense.
What kind of depth does your team have? Having a deep player pool can allow the opportunity to play in a fast-paced system. With limited depth, you might have to be creative with either substitutions or pacing your key players.
The key to any good system is to find a way for your team to be successful. A coach is only as good as his players, so the best way to measure a system's success is to see how the players' comfort and how they're utilized affects the outcome of games.
The fall high school, cub and travel seasons are underway, and a scene that is not too uncommon might be to have your child come home unhappy after a day of practice.
Perhaps he or she didn't get to play as many minutes as they would like, or played as large a role as they would have liked. Not every kid gets to be happy all the time in sports, whether it be winning or losing a game, being a starter or a reserve, or having a larger or smaller role in their team.
Here are some helpful hints in dealing with your child as he or she starts their fall season:
Whose fault is it?
When your child is not playing the role you envision, there are two options:
1) The athlete or parent to accept that the child isn't performing to the fullest of his abilities, and/or another player is performing better. That is hard to do, both for the athlete and the parent; it requires being honest with yourself, as well as to block out the natural emotional attachment.
2) Blame the coach. I always tell disgruntled players that you can't blame the coach when you don't play the role that you want, then credit yourself when you do play yourself into that role. Either it is all on the coach, or it is all on the player's shoulders. I do maintain that the coach's decisions are based more on how your child performs than on a personal preference. Give yourself, your child and the coach more credit if you are going to point fingers, point at the person in the mirror first.
Fix the problem
If your child is not happy with their current role or playing time, it should be resolved between the player and the coach. Take it from me — the only thing worse than sitting on the bench and watching the game is watching your parent embarrass you by meeting with the coach to talk it out.
Put your child in a position to succeed by giving them more responsibility — have them meet with the coach to find out what they are not doing, rather than what the coach is doing wrong. In most cases, similar to a teacher who is asked for extra credit by a student, the coach will bend over backward to help the players who are trying to help themselves. The player who has a parent intercede is labeled "high maintenance."
Create an 'action plan'
Once your child identifies why he/she is not playing the role they seek, they need to create an 'action plan" — a series of exercises or activities to work on away from practice, or a mentality to adopt in practice. An 'action plan' is steps to improve the problem that has been identified by the coach.
Things you can control
The hardest part of being a parent of an athlete is that perhaps unlike your own job or household, you can't control the variables that go along with success, or lack of, in athletics. That's hard as a parent, because the initial instinct is to protect a child by helping them through adverse situations.
In soccer or any sport, there are some variables that you will not be able to control — the weather, a referee's call, the playing surface, a coach's decision. The only things that your child can control is attitude and effort — having a positive attitude is something that every coach wants from every player; without a positive attitude, you are a detraction or distraction to the group rather than a part of its core.
Having a strong effort and work-ethic is something that can help you work through problems — the harder you work, the greater your luck improves. Rather than moan about situations that they cannot control, worry about the factors that the players can control — their own attitude and their own effort. If your child has a great attitude and puts out excellent effort, regardless as to how large or small their role, they will be a successful member of the group.