Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Soccer Ends With A Bang

I am not a real soccer coach. I know some basic concepts which I try to teach to nine-year-olds as patiently as I can. I want them to learn some basics and improve on them, all the time keeping in mind that the goal of recreational soccer is not to win games or even to score goals. That said, I do want to win the games even though I'm not supposed to care. The reason I harbor such feelings is that the girls want to win. They really want to win.

Still, I try to get every girl equal minutes, and, with a few exceptions, play them at every spot on the field. Competitive soccer is the place where the girls find out which positions they are good at, as opposed to which ones they like to play.

The best moments for me are when it clicks with the girls and they execute the things I've been drumming into their skulls all season. Today we had just such a moment and thankfully it included Macy.

We were playing our final spring game today. It was beautiful, 70 degrees and sunny with just a light wind, none of the usual prairie gales we are accustomed to. We were playing a team that we frankly outclassed. Our girls were better athletes generally and certainly had a rudimentary gameplan beyond "let the best player get the ball and see if she can score". That said, we were losing 3-2 in the second half. A quick aside -- we don't keep score in recreational soccer officially, but you'd better believe the girls know exactly what the score is at all times.

Anyway, back to the game. We had several scoring chances but couldn't put it in the net with any regularity because the girls just weren't following the gameplan. When our forwards have the ball down in scoring territory we tell the girls to rush the net -- put bodies in front of the goal so any passes, misplays by the defense or rebounds from save tries by the goalie can turn into scores. Instead, we inevitably had one girl trying to get a shot off in traffic while the rest of the team hung back.

With about eight minutes to go in the game, our left wing got the ball past the defender and, for the first time all day, didn't try to go down the middle of the field with the center right next to her. Instead, she went left, got the ball into the corner and sent the ball right in front of the net. Also for the first time all day, the center was there, having sprinted full out to get herself into position in front of the net. The center took the pass and one-timed it into the net.

It was exactly what I had been trying to get them to do all season, and it finally clicked. That Macy was the center made it even sweeter. We went on to score two more goals in the last six-or-so minutes. The light went on and they got the idea.

I'm not much of a coach, but every once in a while the girls let me pretend.

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