Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ups And Downs

There's no doubt that life is like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you're higher than high, sometimes you can't get out of the low spots, and most of the time we all float around somewhere in the middle. Soccer is usually one of the high points.

The past ten days have shown me both ends of the spectrum.

After our first weekend of games, I heard some things I didn't really like from our team manager. Evidently, some girls on the bench were talking smack about some girls on the field. This is not cool with me, at all, so on Tuesday they all received a stern lecture about positivity, team work, and the fact that if I hear it again they'll run the entire practice. The message must have hit home, since we heard nothing during our next two games. Practice that Thursday was also good, and it was really cool watching some of the girls suddenly understand the idea of crossing the ball. It was similar to how I taught Stu's keeper how to fix her goal kicks. The girls were all under the impression that it takes a huge run up in order to send the ball long, but I showed them how to create a good cross with just one step. And hey, it worked!

I was nervous about our weekend games again, but Saturday saw the girl's best performance yet! They really, really played together well. We ended up tying the game 0-0, which was a huge accomplishment! I was so, so, so thrilled with the girls on Saturday. The keeper I picked up played brilliantly, and I awarded her 'woman of the match' for her shut out.

And then came Sunday.

We were playing a team we've played twice already, both loses, but good, close matches. I don't know if the girls were just out of gas, if I wasn't coaching them right, or what, but they tanked. We lost 5-0. The good side of it was I learned some more things about where certain girls should go, and the coach of the other team came over and told me that it should have been a much closer game, but still, it was really disappointing.

I think I've decided to split time with the keepers, even though the one girl is superb, I think she gets rattled a bit. It's her first experience on a travel soccer team, so I don't want her to be overwhelmed. I also think that I'm going to move one of my defenders up front. I put her in up top at the end of the game on Sunday and she had some really good chances.

I've been getting some complaints from parents, which is harder on me than I admit sometimes. I don't like complaints. I like peace and sunshine and butterflies. I'm finding, though, that it's impossible to make everyone happy, and that I just have to stay true to myself. 

Practice on Tuesday this week was okay. I had to make them run again because they just weren't focused.I can't help but wonder if 1) I'm pushing too hard or 2) if these girls don't want to be pushed.

I see so much potential in them, but I realized that if you don't have the competitive drive, you'll just never reach that potential. I realized that if you don't have the heart or the determination or the passion for it, it's just not going to work out.

I see that passion in many of my girls, but some of the others, I'm not so sure. I don't know if that is something I can teach. I don't think it is. I feel like that competitive edge is something you have to create within yourself, something you have to dig deep and bring to the surface on your own. If you want to be the best soccer player (or rider, or person or whatever) only you can make that decision. I could be the greatest soccer coach in the world, with the most talented soccer players in the world on my team, but if there's no heart, no desire.. then nothing matters.

People talk about heart all the time in sports, how teams, people, horses who are not supposed to be successful rise above the doubters and stand proud on the top of their games. Heart seems like such an intangible thing. You can't train it, you can't make it stronger, you can't make it jump higher or run faster -- it just is. You either have it or you don't.

But the great ones have it. You don't have to be the best, the fastest, the strongest, the most talented.. as long as you have heart and passion for what you do, you will find success.

I won't see the girls again until Oct. 12, and I think it's good for all of us. I hope that when I get back from my work trip we will all be refreshed, confident, and ready to go on and accomplish great things in our season.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Our second WAGS game saw us playing against the top team in the division, so I started out the game conservatively in a 3-3-1 formation. The girls really held their own in the first half, only going down one goal, and again, I learned some things about the players.

We ended up losing the game 2-0, but I was okay with that. I thought my girls were the better team, but we just haven't quite jelled yet. It'll come for sure, but it takes time. I did switch to a 2-4-2 with a holding and attacking midfielder and that worked much better, so that's what we'll play from now on.

The boy and I ended up picking up  a game last night, which was fun. It's nice to go onto a pick-up team and really be an impact player. Makes me wish I would have been the player I am now in college -- I bet my college playing would have been a hell of a lot different. Oh well.

Another busy soccer week with lots to do is ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Here We Go

I'm a closet worrier. Even though I give off this self-confident, self-assured, totally got it under control vibe, in my head, I'm constantly analyzing, worrying, and wondering what I did wrong, what I can do differently, and what I'm doing well. My boyfriend is a great ear when it comes to this side of me, and he's constantly reassuring me that I don't need to worry or stress so much. It's nice.

On Thursday we had practice and I had to run the girls for the first time. They were full of giggles and silliness and we had a lot to cover in a short time. I try really hard to have fun in practice, but there comes a point when I have to put my foot down and make them realize that they are here to play soccer, not gossip.

But sometimes I question if I am pushing too hard. My team manager assures me I am not and that she'll tell me if I get to that point, but the last thing I want to do is make them sour about soccer.

I just really want to push the point home that they are good players, but they could be great players if they apply themselves a little more. I'm looking for more quality, which I hope will come with time.

Friday saw me doing keeper training for Stu again, and this session was quite rewarding for me because I felt like I really fixed something this time around. The keeper I worked with is Stu's number one keeper right now, and she has a bit of a nonchalance to her that drives me crazy! However, she's also quite capable, and if she could ever get out of this self-doubt stage and build herself up instead of tearing herself down (she is 12.. hormones and all ) she has the potential to be something special.

Our topic of the day was breakaways, something I'm pretty confident in teaching. I started at the basic level, with tunnel drill, then moved on to line o' balls, and then shadow play.

Tunnel Drill -- Keeper is in a bridge, trainer rolls ball under keeper, keeper sprints to ball and makes breakaway save.

Line o' Balls -- line up at least four balls in a row, 1-2 yards apart (can increase with keeper ability). Keeper smothers first ball, quickly up to the next, and so on. Trainer strikes ball as keeper makes save.

Shadow Play -- Keeper has to shadow a dribbling player and make a decision when to take the ball off the foot.

Once we moved to the big field, it was like she got it. Everything I taught her clicked and she was making some ridiculous saves. Such a great feeling.

The other thing I fixed was her goal kicks. She was standing at such a horrid angle to them that she couldn't get her foot under the ball. All I did was change the angle of her run up and suddenly her goal kicks were spot on.

Today, my girls had their first WAGS game. We lost 3-0, but there were some really great moments. I was thrilled with the effort they put in, and I think they learned quite a bit today, and should really take it to them tomorrow.

My defense is totally solid, but I'm missing strength in the center. The two girls who I hoped would step into that role just aren't doing what I need them to. I'm going to make some changes tomorrow, so we'll see what happens.

On a good note, the girl I picked up specifically as a goalkeeper played a  bang-up game today. She has great instincts and is going to be special. The girls improve with every game, which is exciting for me, so now we just need to put the freaking ball in the net!

Wish us luck tomorrow, I think I might relax once I get my first win under my belt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Really Get Paid To Do This?

I made the easiest $200 of my life yesterday.

I played soccer for two hours with 9 and 10-year-old children.

I earned $200.

Someone please wake me up from this dream.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Self Reflection And A Crazy Week

After having mouth surgery from hell on Wednesday, I decided I needed to get out of Virginia and head north to the wilds of New Jersey for some quality distraction by my great friends. The boy and I try to head up there as often as we can, and as my schedule continues to fill up, it's becoming harder and harder to get away for the weekend. I've got so many great things going on now, and this week really is the first taste of what the rest of my fall is going to look like.

Monday: Goalkeeper Academy
Tuesday: Practice
Wednesday: (gasp!) Day off
Thursday: Practice
Friday: Stu Keeper Training twice a month
Saturday: Games
Sunday: Games

And of course, this schedule doesn't included my co-ed games, or my work responsibilities, though generally they don't conflict with each other. Generally. I'm sure that day will come.

I'm loving life, really, but sometimes I really miss riding. Like, really, really miss riding.

Maybe someday I'll be able to fit it all in.

Anyway, on Saturday I went and watched Centenary play Eastern at a pre-season tournament, and it was so fun to watch the girls play. Ashley, the goalkeeper who came in as a freshman my senior year, is in her final year on the team and played such a great game. I was so proud of her and how far she has come in the last four years. It was really cool to see how not only her game as improved, but her leadership on the field.

Way to go, Ash!

Of course, it's also always nice to catch up with some of the parents of the girls I played with, and catch up with  my old coach, the one and only Kevin Davies.

I have to say, he hasn't changed a bit, and although he's got a gruff, crusty exterior when it comes to what's going on on the pitch, he never fails to greet his former players with a big hug and kiss on the cheek, and say, "How you doing, girl," in that craggy Welsh accent.

Kevin Davies.

I loved him, I hated him, he drove me crazy, he inspired me, he made me hate soccer, he made me better at soccer, he pushed me until I broke then picked me back off, dusted me off and put me back out there, he helped me build layer one of my teflon coating, and he was, by far, the toughest and best coach I've ever had.

But I am so glad I don't play for him anymore!

Of course, I say this all in jest. I'd love to play for him again, especially now that I feel I am playing my best soccer, because truly, playing at Centenary under Kevin was definitely a turning point for my soccer career. He won his 100th career victory this year, and I sent him a congratulatory card. I told him that I would not be the person, player and coach that I am, right now, if it wasn't for him and the quality soccer I learned under his wing, and I will stand by that. I may not have been happy with his decisions then, but I understand them now, I have have enormous respect for the position he was in and the choices he had to make. He made the best ones. I know that, and I accept that.

Now when I stand on the sidelines, I feel a little taste of the pressure he must feel on a daily basis. Who to start, who to sit. Who needs the work, who can be a difference-maker? Who's not on today? Who is going to step up to the plate? Who has been working hardest in practice?

The questions and self-debates go on and on.

My girls start their season this weekend. I'm trying hard not to have too high of expectations, but my competitive spirit is dying to win a game. It's going to be a long week :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Patriot Cup -- Day Two

Umm.. someone must have switched my team overnight. We finished the tournament 0-4, but holy crap did they make an improvement between Saturday and Sunday!

On Saturday we lost the first game 5-1 and the second 5-0, and while the scores seem lopsided, I went home feeling like there was a lot of potential. Most of the goals were simple fixes -- defensive mis-communication, goalie mistakes .. things I knew I could fix. So while I wasn't necessarily excited about the first two games, I wasn't totally ready to shoot myself, either.

Well, on Sunday, we might as well have won both games, because they both felt that good to watch. The girls all clicked on Sunday. Where before I had eight individual players on the field, all of the sudden I had eight teammates on Sunday. They played together, they communicated, they passed the ball, they took shots, they worked their butts off, and they came off the field smiling.

"That was a win," I told them after their first game, which they lost 1-0. "That is what a win feels like."

Because in  my eyes, they had won that game. Their effort was far greater than the other teams, and they had so many chances.

The second game we lost 2-0, but again, I didn't feel like it was a loss. The girls learned so much this weekend that it was a really great tournament for them. The wins will come, for sure, and now I have a practice plan for the next three weeks until their season starts -- finishing!

I learned a lot about coaching, too. Saturday I was trying too hard to get everyone in, and I realized that I can't do that. This is a competitive travel team, and while I need to make sure the girls get playing time, I don't necessarily have to stress about equal playing time. I have five subs sitting on the bench when the whole team is there, which is fantastic, but it's also tough to make sure everyone gets the same amount of minutes.

So on Sunday, I put in my starters, then let them play. I didn't make changes right away, but let the team get into the flow of the game and find a rhythm, then I started making changes. It worked so much better. I was much more organized, and I still was able to get everyone in.

I have a lot to learn still, and so does my team, but now instead of being a bundle of nerves about my coaching ability and the ability of my girls to compete, I'm a lot more confident that not only will we be competitive, but that we have the potential to have a great season.

Until next time, we're working on offense. Lots and lots of offense.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Patriot Cup -- Day One

I made my coaching debut today. I mean, I've been a coach at games before, but this was my first team, my first tournament, my first stint as the leader of the pack (and believe me, I've got a pack!), and my first taste of what is in store for me for the rest of the season.

I don't know whether to be amused or to curl up in a ball and cry.

Actually, it really wasn't that bad. I had to step back and realize that I am coaching a brand new team, and I am a brand new coach, and this is a brand new experience. Things aren't going to be bright and shiny just yet.

We lost both games, but I certainly learned a lot, and I have a definite plan for tomorrow.

There's a lot of improvements to be made, mostly offensively. We need to learn to shoot!

All in all, though, I'm pumped. There's so much talent on this team, and we just need time to develop it. I wish I had more to write, but my brain is fried, and I have a rum and coke in hand.

Life is good.