Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Tri-Cities Tournament

Another weekend, another soccer tournament.  Luckily for my body and my truck, this time we're playing in Fargo.  The Tri-Cities Tournament brings together teams from the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as sides from the all over North Dakota and Minnesota.

The first game was 8:00 am Saturday morning, so forget all that sleeping in crap just because it's the weekend.  It was actually a good thing, as we got the game in just ahead of a big thunderstorm.  The opponent was the Red River Soccer Club Strikers, a U-10 team that crushed us 11-0 in the opening day of the Sioux Falls tournament.  Our Pumas played tentative from the start, letting the older girls push them around to the tune of a 6-0 deficit in the first 15 minutes.  I turned to another parent, my assistant coach on the rec team, and said, "they're not pissed off yet.  They need to get pissed off."

Sure enough, they got tired of getting pushed around and started pushing back.  The scoring went 2-2 the rest of the way for a final of 8-2.  If they had come out mad to start the game...

During the game Macy played goalkeeper in the second half and did very well.  The coach wanted her to punt the ball though, which mortified Macy as she didn't know how.  She felt terrible about this.  Seriously.  So we headed back to the field an hour before the second match so I could teach her the basics.  I was pretty stoked that a couple of my girls from the rec team showed up and wanted to learn too.  It's like they see me a coach or something.  Anyway, we got a half-hour of punting practice in and were ready for the game.

Our second match was against a team from I'm not sure where.  I believe they were from the Detroit Lakes, MN area, but don't hold me to that.  Macy started on the forward line, and for once the team came out playing hard and wasn't intimidated.  We led 3-0 at the half and Macy took a nice center from the wing to score a goal.  It was her first tournament goal and she was excited to say the least.  Good times.

She played goal in the second half and wasn't as successful.  She played tight for some reason; she didn't have a lot of get-up-and-go.  She made a ton of saves, but also gave up three goals.  Luckily we also scored in the second half and hung on for a 4-3 win.  I will say her punting was excellent though.

We've got one more game tomorrow, but for now here are some Macy pics:

(This is it -- Macy's first tournament goal!)

More pictures can be seen here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What A Difference A Week Makes

All that time I spent throwing balls at Macy's head really paid off.  A nearly identical scenario to the one last week which resulted in Macy seeing little birdies flying around her head happened this weekend during the Wal-Mart Cup in Blaine, Minnesota.  This time though, Macy was ready for it, slapping the ball down with the sort of contemptuous disregard that could only have come from my DNA.  Good thing too, as the girl who struck the ball could kick harder than I could.

Macy played 75 minutes (across three games) in goal this weekend and was only scored on once.  One freaking goal.  I'm so proud of the way she played. More than that though, I'm proud of the way the whole team played.  It was a complete turnaround from last weekend.  The first game didn't go so well and a repeat of Sioux Falls looked inevitable.

Instead, the Pumas won their second game on Saturday.  I wish I had video of the aftermath of our first goal (the first one we've ever scored).  The girls celebrated like they just found out Twilight was real.  They jumped up and down and several of them actually shouted, "our first goal!"

They got used to it though, as they scored five more in a 6-4 win.  Macy played goal the first half of that game.  The score at halftime was 4-0 Pumas.  I told you Macy had a pretty good weekend.  We lost both our Sunday games, but the final scores were 2-0 and 1-0.  After last weekend these seemed like victories.  The 1-0 loss was actually by far their best game.  They had several scoring chances that didn't work out and they played like demons on defense against a team that, had they played a week ago, would have wiped the floor with us.  Some lights are starting to come on for the girls.

Lots of pictures here.  Also, here are some videos from our victory.  I'm proud to say that Kennedy and Emily are from the rec team that I coach.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Next Up: The Wal-Mart Cup

This afternoon I am heading to Minneapolis (well, Blaine, anyway) for the Wal-Mart Cup, which is this huge soccer tournment where every  team in the universe comes to play.  Well, it's pretty big anyway.

Macy is looking forward to putting her new skills to the test.  I threw balls at her head for an hour this week to get her used to defending high shots.  She is getting it and will do great.  I'll be there shooting pictures and taking video.  This time around there is a U-9 division, so Macy's team will get to play against girls her own age instead, which will be a nice change.  Also, the weather is supposed to be pretty good, so I might get to wear shorts.  Apologies to all the fans in advance.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Videos From The Sioux Falls Tournament

There  weren't a lot of highlights for the Pumas in the Sioux Falls tournament, but I did get a few useable videos.  The first one is the most important: it's the one in which Macy finally learned the lesson that your hands are jsut as important while playing in goal as your feet.  The opposing team's striker nailed a shot that Macy expected to be low.  Instead it caught her right in the jaw.

She was hurt and tried to make her way off the field, but of course play hadn't stopped.  It turned out that she made a second save, inadvertently kicking the ball out of bounds.  I checked her out from afar; she wasn't bleeding so I stayed away.  Since the Puma's coach was by herself over there I thought I would go take car of Macy if it was serious.  No blood, no big deal, however.  Macy didn't reenter the game (which still had about seven minutes remaining), but I found out later this wasn't Macy's decision -- she wanted to go back in.

Thankfully, the next day the coach put her back in goal and she was fearless.  She threw herself on every ball and ran down everything in sight.  Last night we went out in the backyard and set up the new goal she got for her birthday and we did some drilling.  I think she wants to get good.

Anyway, here's the damage:

Here she is the next day making one of about 400 saves.  She doesn't seem gunshy to me:

And finally, here she is trying to chip in a crosser against the Moorhead U-10 team (10 year olds).  Their goalie was phenomenal and stopped a ton of shots.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sioux Falls Teaches Some Important Lessons

Macy's Moorhead Pumas finished their tournament today in South Dakota and I must say it was a pretty cool weekend. The team lost all their games (did I mention that our players are all eight and nine years old, but entered the tournament where the youngest teams are ten and eleven year olds?) and didn't score a goal.

That sounds terrible, but after a bad first game where the girls seemed dispirited in the immediate aftermath, they played their butts off in the two remaining games.

With about five minutes to go in the first game of the day the score was I-don't-know-but-it-wasn't-pretty to zero and the girls were visibly down. They lacked energy. The older girls on the other team were pushing them around and generally doing what they wanted. Then in the second half it happened: they got tired of being pushed around and started pushing back. Suddenly, it wasn't only our girls who were getting knocked down and tripped up. They put about eight shots on goal that half. None of them went it, but it was only because the other goalie was so incredible. Seriously, I think England may sign her for the rest of the World Cup. Against any other team we would have scored at least five goals.

The second game was played in the rain against a team that appeared to have several girls who drove themselves to the game. Seriously. Macy is the biggest kid on our team but the opponents had two girls who were a full head taller. Still, our girls went after them hard. Couldn't be prouder. When they get another year under the belts they are going to be dangerous and the value of playing in these tournaments against older competition is going to make itself obvious.

It was kinda sorta hinted to me before the season that they were looking for a coach, but the deal I made with MYSA was that I would sign Macy up only if I could sit on the sidelines and watch, so I suppose I should put up some pictures.

For more photos from the tournament, go here.

I have lots of video to edit, so that will be available later this week hopefully.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Reality Of Playing above Your Level

So the Pumas got a taste of what it means to play in a U-10 tournament when your team is made up of 9-year-olds. Most U-10 teams are made up largely of 10-year-olds that would be starting 5th grade in the fall. Macy's entire team is made up of girls a year behind and it showed.

How bad was it? Let's just say if there had been a mercy rule the game would have been over at halftime.

The girls were pretty dispirited, especially with the rough play. One of the things that stands out for me about these girls is they they largely lack the mean streak that athletes need to develop. Our girls don't get physical and it shows. That will change for most of them at some point, it's just a question of when.

Twenty minutes later we were all sitting in Applebees catching part of the Engand-USA World Cup match over a beer and everything was fine. Well, I was over a beer, anyway. The girls were excited to get back to the hotel and get to the swimming pool. Tomorrow they'll be exited to play again. The advantages of youth.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Destination:Sioux Falls

So Macy and I hit the road today for her first ever travelling soccer tournament. I took off work early so we could beat the crowd and we made it down here by 4:30. We are laid up in a fairly nice hotel (it ain't the Rio, but it'll do).

Because we got here so early we got to make use of the pool all by ourselves for awhile, which is why this post is so late. Right now we are showering and trying to figure out what to do for dinner.

Tomorrow Macy plays in her first game as a Moorhead Puma against teams from all over Minnesota and South Dakota. It should be fun as I get to be a parent for once instead of a coach. The camera and video camera are all charged and ready to go.

More updates as the weekend progresses.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Macy Takes To The Road

Last night we made our annual trek to Thunder Road for Macy's birthday for some go-karting, bumper cars and mini-golf. For the first time ever, Macy was tall enough to drive herself. This is the first step to her becoming street legal, which is far scarier than any recession, oil spill or Osmond reunion.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Let's Just Give Everybody A Vagina In The Middle Of Their Foreheads And Call It Good

When I was a wee lad growing up in Georgia, there were only two ways to participate in organized sports: baseball and football. No soccer. No lacrosse. Not even basketball. That sounds bad, but consider this: there were no options if you were a girl. Apparently, girls were supposed to be cheerleaders or play with dolls or bake mudpies with their EZ-Bake ovens or something.

The first year I played I was a tight end (shut up) for the Cataula Bulldogs. The team was comprised of about three real players and a bunch of kids who had no idea what they were doing. I was firmly in the latter group, and pretty far down the list at that. We were terrible. We finished the season 0-6 and scored one touchdown the entire year. We couldn't tackle, block, cover, throw the ball, run the ball, or successfully count change at the concession stand after the game.

Before each game ended we expected to lose. After each game we were humiliated. We sucked hard and we knew it. But each week a funny thing happened. After an hour or so we all forgot about the outcome of the game. We showed up at practice and worked hard. We looked forward to the games because they were fun. We'd show up at the field (no one ever missed a week, or at least it seemed that way) ready to play. We'd get killed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After the season there was no talk of our crushed self esteem. We went on with our summer lives and dreaded the end of summer; for me the end meant no more expeditions into the woods behind my parents' house. Our parents made subtle jokes about our ineptitude on the gridiron or told us not to worry, but no thought was given to how we would grow up with diminished expectations or lacking the ability to succeed because our peewee league football team was outscoured infinity + 1 to 6 (we missed the extra point). Life went on.

A year passed, and we suited up again, this time as world-weary eleven-year-olds. A funny thing happened: we got good. I still don't know how; certainly, some of it can be attributed to having another year of physical growth. Some of the other teams in the league probably lost some good players to age. Personally, that was the year I developed the toughness to handle being bashed by kids in armor who were out to hurt me. The year before I had avoided as much contact as I could get away with. When I turned eleven I looked for it. I remember showing up at the first practice and having Keith Dozier (one of the few real players we had the previous year) run at me, shoulder down. I have no doubt he expected me to side step him or perhaps collapse to the ground in terror, soaking in a puddle of my own urine. Instead, I lowered my shoulder and ran towards him. We met in the middle and bounced off each other. It didn't hurt. Actually, it felt good. When the coach showed up the first thing Keith said to him was, "I think Jay's ready this year, coach". He was right.

That year our team went 6-0 and we gave up one touchdown all year. We had become some unstoppable killing machine that knocked quarterbacks out of games and made teams afraid to throw the ball. I was moved to center and had a great time pushing kids into the secondary so Keith could run off another 60-yard touchdown. Let's face it: winning is way more fun than losing.

The thing is though, losing has its place. It's good to encounter losing, because losing is something you're going to do when you get older. Hopefully not always, and if you work hard, you can "win" in the end (depending on your definition). But you're going to have days where things don't go right. Where you don't get the job you apply for, or the promotion, or the girl.

That's why I've always hated the way youth sports try to take away the possibilty of losing nowadays. Macy's soccer league doesn't keep score. There are no records. There are no statistics kept. The goal is supposed to be to make things fun, but we don't have to do that; the kids already think it's fun. No, the real goal, unstated but still there, is to make things equal. To make it so that no one ever loses. The problem is that when no one can ever lose, no one can ever win. Not officially, anyway. I've said many times before that Macy and the girls on the team I coach always know exactly what the score is. They know when they lose and when they win. They feel sad when the former and happy when the latter. But, like her dad so many years ago on The Worst PeeWee Football Team Of All Time, Macy gets over it in a hurry. She's always ready to play again. And when she loses in the future, when she doesn't get into her first choice of colleges or that totally cute hottie that looks just like the guy in Twilight: The New Class doesn't ask her to the prom, she won't be encountering it for the first time. It won't make it all better, but it will help whether she knows it or not.

Then, there's Canada, long time laughing stock of me personally as well as most right-thinking people. I thought that not keeping score or recording team records was enough wussification for a youth sports league. I should have known Canada could outdo the U.S. in the complete devaluing of sports. In at least one Canadian youth league, if a team gets ahead by more than five goals they automatically lose the game. I'm going to call this "playing by French rules" for obvious reasons. Yes, Canada has taken the idea of winning from a goal (see Bulldogs, Cataula) run past unimportant (see Youth Soccer Association, Moorhead) and proceeded straight to undesirable.

It just goes to show you that when things aren't going your way, laughter is the best medicine. And nobody dispenses laughter quite like Canada.