Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Un-Special One

I'm no Jose Mourinho, but I've taken on the head coaching duty for our older son's U8 team this season.  I already told you about my playing experience.  As far as coaching experience, I ain't got none.  But I do watch a lot of soccer on TV and yell at the players to pass, shoot, and defend.  And I have managed teams on internet fantasy leagues.  It's the same thing, right?

As if my car trunk doesn't have enough stuff, it's now has a big bag of soccer balls, cones, and pinnies (for the uninitiated, these are brightly colored practice vests).  Because my trunk lid could still close, I got a couple of collapsible goals for practice.

I did buy a coaching book.  Picking one was really confusing because every person who has ever coached a youth team has also written a coaching book.  First, I eliminated the ones on Dutch methods because I don't know the difference between Holland and The Netherlands.  Sure, "total vootball" may be the way to go in the long term, but all those double vowel names (Ruud van Nistelrooy, Pierre van Hooijdonk, and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek) are hard to pronounce.  Second, I eliminated the books with a three-digit number in the title (101 Great Youth Soccer Drills, 300 Soccer Drills, The 101st Airborne at Normandy - I thought that one was about French heading drills).  By the time all the kids get to practice, we barely have time to run two of the four drills I planned and I can barely keep those four in my head.  What am I going to do with 97 more?  Finally, because Borders was about to close, I picked the cheapest one.

Six of the kids from last season are returning.  This is a relief, because it took me all of last season to learn their names.  Now I only have to learn four new names.  The returning kids are an enthusiastic bunch and know the rules and the positions.  Whether or not they stay in position is another thing.

U8 kids play 6 v 6, including the goalkeeper.  So I have to figure out whether to go with a 2-2-1, a 2-1-2, a 1-2-2 (for when we're behind), or a 3-1-1 (for keeping a lead), 1-3-1, or 1-1-3..  But it's U8 soccer.  Whatever formation they start with will end up as a 5-0-0, 0-5-0, or 0-0-5.  And then I have to hope that whoever plays goalkeeper doesn't get bored and start playing Spiderman with the net.  This is the leading cause of "goals against" in U8 soccer.  I'll have to appoint a parent as goalkeeping coach, whose sole duty will be to shout "You're doing a good job. Stay on your line. Way to go!"  Praise-correction-praise. (from the coaching book).

My proudest moment last season was when our son ran into the goalpost.  It wasn't the fact that he ran into the post, but why he did it.  He was on defense and the goalkeeper, channeling his inner Fabian Barthez, had gone off to the far extremes of the penalty area.  Our son, without instruction, sprinted across the end line to cover the goal, while keeping his eyes fixed on the ball and... thunk... ran into the post.  His chest absorbed most of the collision and he popped right back up (note to self: get a first aid kit with ice-packs).  Yeah, he ran into the post, but he was doing the right thing without being told.

Oh, the league gave all coaches a handout and a 10 minute talk on concussions.  Symptoms include inability to focus on a task, unresponsiveness to simple questions, and disorientation.  In other words, typical eight year old boy behavior.

So here I go, planning practices, running drills, and trying to organize eight year old boys.  This might be the longest eight-game season ever.  But, at the end, you'll be able to read all about it in my forthcoming book Water Breaks and Post-Game Snacks: The 101 Essentials of Yoouuth Soccer. Hey Joe Doc, can I get a cover endorsement from you?


  1. Endorsement on the way!

    Interesting how those concussion symptoms also seem typical of your average Senator.

  2. don't forget Vennegoor of Hesselink! love the way his name looks on a jersey:

  3. I'm coaching my son's U-8 team too. Perhaps we can get up a grudge match, er, friendly.

    Personally, I found "distracted by a butterfly" to be the most interesting cause of goals against.

  4. Great Post 270. Thanks for the laughs. I'm gonna need that book someday soon. Keep us posted on the release and subsequent signing at Borders.

  5. Dudes. I'll host the post game BBQ up the street at my place if y'all play said friendly at Arlington Hall! Troy knows I'm serious...

  6. I distinctly remember a u8 teammate who would go on the field, stand at the top of our box, and never move from that spot for the entire game. He would just stand there, occasionally turning his head to see what was going on elsewhere, until he was subbed off. He did not seem unhappy to be playing soccer, ran around at practices, and always requested to play defense.

    Here's where I should be telling you that, if the kids all simply run around at all while playing, you've succeeded as a coach. Oddly enough, however, this kid inevitably blocked at least one shot or pass per game. He was probably no worse than our 3rd best defender as a result.

  7. It can't be worse that trying to coach tennis, ummmm golf to a kid. If you get mad at the kids, blame it on the chemo.
    As long as kids run around for 15 minutes, they're getting their exercise, and parents are happy (does not work for golf).

  8. @Chest: so THAT's how Gooch got his start...

  9. @Pasco: That's what need, 10 kids waving golf clubs - more ice packs.

  10. Finally, a soccer post. All that cancer stuff was getting old.

    Did you see any books on 101 Ways to Prepare Orange Slices? or Subduing Parents Who Think Their Kid is Maradonna?

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  13. @Bill: If the parents think their kids are the next Maradona, I'll show them current pictures (after the dog bite). If they use some other star's name, I'll quote from Jose's Adidas commercial."Don't try be the new Kaka or the new Messi because you cannot be the 'New.' You must be yourself." I have to work on my Portuguese accent.

    Not sure why your comment isn't posting (I did get 3 e-mail notifications). You must be doing something wrong.

  14. Mi amigo Madrileño (the one I would pass to when we were on different teams) escribió: Kaka? If some of the parents think his/her kid is the new Kaka, you could fire him right away on that account. In case they have any doubt, give them my e-mail address, or my brother's for that matter.

    I-270 escribe: Good players go to Madrid to be mediocre. Mediocre players leave DC United to be good.

  15. I-270 sounds like you have your hands full. Is N getting into Soccer too, or just V? I heard they were going on a trip with their grandparents to visit uncle J back here in the land of 10,000 lakes. Hope things are well for you and G.