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21 July 2006 @ 11:36 am
Dream start  
Yesterday was my first game as the head coach of a soccer team. I've picked up two indoor soccer teams (U-7 and U-8/U-9) at Soccer Dome America as well as an outdoor U-6 team for Goldstar SC that starts in the fall. While the U-7 team's first game was Tuesday night, I couldn't be their because of festivities associated with the USL All-Star game this week (in short, I had to work). But with all that finished on Wednesday, I was able to make the first game for the older team, called the Storm.

I won't lie to you. I was thrown right into the deep end, and it was a little disconcerting. There are 8 players on the roster, and right away I knew two of them weren't going to be there because I had been on the phone with their mother a few minutes before, so I knew they were on the other side of town. I guess this is the point where I should mention that at this age group, there's seven-a-side, so even if everyone else showed up, we'd be down a man. Five of the six boys showed up, but luckily we were able to pick up a couple of U-8 kids would had played the game before (and were there because their siblings were on the team we were playing against) in order to field a full side. No subs for us!

After introducing everybody to each other (and to me) and finding out what positions they liked to play, I watched some of them warm up and made some decisions. We soon found ourselves down 4-1. This was not a good start. Thankfully, there was a water break in the middle of the half so I could bring the boys together, make a couple of adjustments. At halftime, we had brought the score back to 5-3.

Despite the score (and the start), we were playing quite well. This team is a U-9 team playing in a U-10 league, so they're playing against older players. This is made up by the fact that they're in what's called the ATP (Advanced Training Program) so they're more highly skilled than most players their age, and can handle playing up. That didn't stop me from coming up with excuses in my head (especially when were were down by three goals) such as "they're younger than their opponents; we've only just started; I don't know their strengths and weaknesses; that center half on the other team is as big as a house. U-10? More like U-13 if you ask me.)

But I made some more adjustments for the second half. The team we were playing ran all the offence through one kid, so I had my best ball winner (who is also deceptively fast) play a central midfield role in an attempt to stop this kid from bringing the ball up, as well as tracking back on defence as necessary. I also moved another kid who is adept at winning the ball back on defence, and gave him the freedom to push up and start attacks, so long as he knew he'd need to head back as necessary.

It seemed to work a treat, as we scored within the first minute of the second half to cut the lead to 5-4. Unfortunately, the other team booted the ensuing kickoff toward the goal, and instead of just letting the ball roll in (which would have resulted in a goal kick as a kickoff is indirect), our keeper tried to play it, bobbled it, and it went in for a goal. Oh well. Those are the kinds of mistakes you expect a 7-year-old to make. We'll talk about that in practice.

The good thing is, they didn't let it get them down. We looked a much more organised team the second half, scored some very nice goals (both by moving the ball around and some long-range blasts), and absolutely shut down the other team's best player. It really  started to look like we might win this thing. but every time we scored,  it seemed like they would respond fairly  quickly. Finally, we tied things up at 8-8 with about seven minutes to go, and then, with five minutes, one of the boys drew the opponents over to his side, then passed it across the top of the box where we had an easy finish. It was a great goal, and it turned out to be the game winner.

I'm impressed with the boys. Not only are they good players for their age, but they listen to my instructions and try their darnedest to do what I'm telling them. Some of them, even at this fairly young age, are starting to develop a good sense of tactics and strategy. At halftime, I drew a graphic to explain the formation I wanted them to play in, and they were able to follow it. That's something that we'll work on more in training. But it's nice to see that they already have the baseline of knowledge to work on it.

I think it's going to be a good season.
 
 
How I'm feeling: excitedlooking forward to the season
What I'm listening to: The Open Championship (on TNT)
 
 
 
Eleanorrcc94 on July 22nd, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
I drove past the Soccer Dome last night, so I could have stopped and cheered the team on. Congrats on the team's first win!