Friday, June 16, 2006

I'm Here For You, Bruce

Our family has been involved in soccer since our boys were in elementary school. You bet we’ll be watching TV to see if the United States national team under coach Bruce Arena can redeem themselves against Italy in the World Cup. I can empathize with Bruce. Youth soccer is the only sport I ever coached. And my teams didn’t win much either.

“You made it fun for the kids,” my wife would console me. True, I concocted some soccer tactics rarely seen in our co-ed recreational league.

I took my coaching role very seriously, though probably not as seriously as Benny, a middle-aged taskmaster with a thick Italian accent and a stern, dramatic approach. Once, when his goalie strayed too far from his mark resulting in an easy goal for the opposite team, Benny stormed the field in front of awed parents, spectators and the other pre-teen players.

“You stay between this post and that post,” he scolded loudly, pointing to each soccer goalpost. “And don’t come out of here unless it is an emergency.” I could see the poor kid was confused, as if thinking, “Does he mean a bathroom emergency?”

One of my innovations was introducing the position of “shadow defender” to the kids. We were playing against a team with a striker extraordinaire, the Pele of kid soccer in our league. I assigned one of our players, a girl actually, to do nothing but follow this kid around the field to make sure he didn’t get the ball.

It was a fairly successful strategy as this young lady followed the little stud here and there about the field. And she would occasionally dart in to kick the ball away from him. He seemed a bit unnerved by my tactics too. Of course, he did eventually score a goal or two and we were badly beaten again, but in my mind, point made.

Another innovative tactic was having two kids play the same position. Every time I made my line-up, kids would beg to play one of the favorite positions, usually center midfielder (England’s David Beckham plays a similar position). So I came up with the idea of having TWO center midfielders. Since we changed positions after every quarter, that meant eight kids, or over half my team would have the opportunity to play center midfielder. Great idea in concept.

In practice, it didn’t work well. It was like having two pitchers on the mound, or two goalies in the same net in hockey. The kids didn’t know which one of them was supposed to step in when the play came their way. Oh, well.

Lastly, I had my kids practice something often seen in hockey, but rarely seen in soccer: pulling the goalie. Not that I actually would pull the goalie out of the game as happens in hockey, but I would send him forward to the attack. What team wouldn’t be terrified to see the opposing team’s goalie dribbling forward in his brightly colored, flowing silk shirt.

Alas, I didn’t try this for real in a game, since my goalies seemed too reluctant to do this even in practice. I think they were all veterans of Benny’s team.

But, hea, Bruce! If you need some ideas on your match-up with Italy, I’m here for you. I’ll have the phone on my lap, awaiting your call.


Blogger Peter said...

I don't like to be the sounder of the death knell Dave, but I think your plight is much like the Aussies against Brazil, the gods of the draw have been unkind.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

I wonder if he'll use his "phone a friend?" If I see the goalie pulled while watching, I'll know you two have been talking.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Me1issa said...

i was a soccer mom, but i can't imagine having to coach. more power to you. my son is into archery now.

6:08 AM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

The U.S.A. is still hanging in there. A tie with Italy helped! ~ jb///

3:33 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

A drawn game with Italy isn't too bad a result Dave, our moment of reckoning is near with Brazil, fingers crossed.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ Thanks for your comments and I liked YOUR joke. Glad you liked some of mine too. Like a lot of Aussies, I will be up half the night watching the
Socceroos and Brazil. Just maybe, we can do it. We may have to call on your coaching experience !!Take care, Merle.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Ms. Vickie said...

Soccer---hockey just give me baseball I think after all I named my cat
"Smoltz" so you see where my loyalities are.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous bernadette said...

Happy Father's Day, Coach!

We Francophiles can only hope that the French do better racing Orange II than they did at the World Cup!

5:19 PM  
Blogger NoSurfGirl said...

I don't have a TV, so I'm not following soccer this year... :( :(

I want to get my kid involved in soccer... she's 4. Thinking of doing a city league this fall. Is that too young, I wonder?

Yes, Happy Father's Day.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Happy Father's day Dave - Well, soccer is not my game so I'll have to beg off on much commenting about the game. We are the all American family and love baseball. My daughter had a friend who played soccer all the way thru two years of college. She had knee surgery several times and finally had to quit the game because of that. No, never got into the game. Where's your dad? I haven't seen him commenting lately.

10:53 PM  
Blogger bornfool said...

I'd guess that Bruce didn't call. He should have. :)

11:53 AM  
Anonymous kristy said...

Winning is way overrated, at least in kids sports. If they were having fun, you were an overwhelming success!

2:19 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

"I'm here for you." Great line, Milt. He could probably do worse, too.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Happy Father's Day! Great coaching tactics! I had my oldest in soccer when he was 4, and I and hubby were the coaches for the team. I loved it!

3:37 PM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

If you made it fun for the kids, you did good!


6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:05 AM  

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