Feb 072011

Well, this is certainly a busy day of posting :), but I did want to put a few thoughts out there about the tournament.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed; I felt it was a great opportunity for the boys to start the season with a trophy.  I think having even just the two training sessions of the week before the tournament could have been enough to put us into the final.  On the other hand, the good news is that there was improvement on many levels, with the third game being our best game of the tournament.  I felt the new players raised their game in the third game, too, and I believe this bodes well for them as the season begins.  I’m also hopeful that Ken has seen some things to help guide him in what areas to work on for the season.

The areas I really feel we need help with in our game thus far are:

  • Fitness.  Hopefully this will improve as the training begins and the season moves on, but I highly recommend the club’s Speed & Agility training sessions.  At $50 it is a bargain, and it’s not too late to sign up.  I’ve noticed that a lack of fitness has a direct effect on how aggressively a player moves to the ball.  If they lack speed, they worry about being unable to recover if beaten by an opponent so are reluctant to do challenge high up the field.  A player who lacks stamina will look to husband their energy reserves and be unwilling to track up and down as necessary.  These are issues my own son has had to deal with, and I’ve seen an improvement through Speed & Agility classes.
  • Restarts.  Some of the players mentioned a desire to improve on corner kicks, but in general all restarts are areas we can (and need to) improve upon.
  • Ball control.  We struggle to smoothly trap the ball or control the ball under pressure, but the good news is that this can be learned–and it’s really quite easy.  At the end of last season I posted a link to a website that I thought had some great tips for practicing against a wall (here).  Juggling is also really good; it helps the player get a feel for what kind of reaction the ball can be expected to make for any given touch.  In fact, I’m thinking of making juggling the next incentive plan (Amy’s Ice Cream bucks again, unless someone else has a better idea).
  • Sliding, both to tackle and to toe-poke a ball into the goal.  Ken has noticed this and I think we’ll be working on it soon.
  • Going backwards to go forwards.  Too often the boys try too hard to fight through too many opposing players, when a pass backwards would open up more options going forward.

Things I’m pleased about, areas we are making good progress in:

  • Heart.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we never give up, no matter the circumstances, and I love that about this team.
  • Heading and chesting the ball.  Although we still need to work on this (quite a bit), the improvement over last season is tremendous, and the payoff has been tremendous as well.  In game 1, Alex Wintz scored a goal when he headed Noah’s throw-in up and behind him, turned on two defenders and ran past them to pick up his own header and go one-on-one with the goalie.  Later, Alex in the forward position headed the ball up and behind him.  He told me the ball didn’t go where he wanted it to go, but it also didn’t go where the defender wanted it to go.  It did go to where William could pick it up and score the winning goal, however.  In the second game William had a great run down the flank, created when he ran through a bouncing ball that he hit with his chest, causing it to move perfectly into his run.  Beautiful and effective.
  • Defense.  Overall, I thought our defensive performance in the tournament improved drastically by the third game.  We seem to have a better understanding of the offside rule and why it is important, and how to support each other in defense.  It is a very complicated topic, and one that takes many years to master, but I feel we are beginning to see the first signs of understanding.
  • Flank play.  We seem to understand now the idea of playing the ball wide and moving it up the flanks before crossing it in to the middle in front of goal.  Now we need to work on crossing earlier, and how to cross under pressure.
  • Team breakfast.  I think that every time the boys get an opportunity to socialize together and have fun off the field it improves team cohesion on the field.  I was pleased so many of the boys were able to attend, and had a good time together.

Several parents discussed options of  independent training sessions and viewing sessions of soccer games (with an eye towards educating the boys about how the game is played at the highest levels).  This weekend sees PDF play begin and the last game of the season for the indoor version of Chelsea.  After that, if interest remains, I will take a look at what we can put together for more soccer learning.

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