Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And now for something completely different!

I was going to make you all do a "How well do you know me quiz", but this isn't MySpace, is it?

Anyway, we had a bit of a friendly today - my U/16s vs. the U/15s. There were 9 of us and 12 of them. Take a guess at who won. Then consider we played most of the second half with 8. Guess the score.

Well, we finished 4-0, not that they were spectacularly bad, we were outnumbered most of the time (but still managed to be competitive) and the main killer was a lack of subs - so the girls finished off knackered. There is a LOT that we need to fix up, and the most annoying thing is that my goalkeeper needs a lot of work, but I can't correct everything she does as I have to look after the whole team. It's quite frustrating.

Funniest moment of the day came when I overheard a couple of the U/15 parents... "I think we're going to do really well this year." I felt like retorting, "Yeah, if all the teams you play against have 8 players." Naturally I didn't, if I was a neutral I would've, but I don't want to be seen as a sore loser, especially since I didn't actually care about the result. How the girls played (or didn't play) was far more important.

There's so much to work on, I don't know where to start! Well, I actually do, because I'm naturally a defensive player - or like to build the game up from the back. But who's right at the back? The goalkeeper. Who I don't have time to fix. It's not just her physical performance that was frustrating to watch (she can't dive properly, take goal-kicks properly, lacks explosiveness and agility) but her decision making was awful! It's not something that can be easily corrected by training over and over and over again! And her talking. Ahhhh!!!!

A few moons ago I played at a club where I could not stand the coach. Loved the goalkeeping coach there, but the team coach drove me insane. One night at training he was trying to get the girls to push up immediately after that ball was cleared from defence. Not once the ball was safely at the feet of our midfield, but cleared from defence. Now, in my opinion, there were a few problems with this:
  1. the girls lacked the discipline to push out together as a unit, not forgetting to leave anyone behind,
  2. by pushing up you're risking not being able to quickly cover a ball if it's popped over, which could happen since...
  3. you don't know what's going to happen to the ball.
So you could have the girls running up the park to push up, and the other team could control the cleared ball and pop it over the defence who at that point are running the opposite way. A bit silly. Who in the end has to fix up the bloody mess in such an event? Me, and the odds would be against me. Anyway, that night he and I argued over it until he used some foul language at me telling me that I wasn't the coach of the team and so I should just shut up. I stopped arguing with him but I was still fuming. A few minutes later I had goalkeeping training, which was a God-send that night.

My goalkeeper does the same in terms of her timing of the "push up" call. It's really like she can't read the game and doesn't know anything else. So the defense is preoccupied with the ball being in their area, and instead of trying to help them out by calling out who's unmarked or ways to remove the ball from defence but keep possession she tells them to push up. I got a bit tired of this and ended up yelling at the defence to stay where they were and to the goalkeeper that there was no point pushing up if the ball was still in the immediate area. I'm finding this sidelines thing annoying, and am worried at the idea of being confined to a technical area.

So my current problem is how do I transfer all my understanding of the game to the girls? There's so much to learn, and it's hard to praise for one thing when they don't do the next bit right, and you end up praising but they don't really understand the next part unless I stop the game and actually go through it. Something that I can't do during actual game time.

Anyway, I need to make a long list of all that didn't work today, and a short list of what did.


Hamish Alcorn said...

I'm feeling your frustration. The team I'm involved in are U12s. I made the mistake of reading the rules the other night and realised that U12s is the point at which coaching from the sidelines is outlawed. And the kids, although ostensibly they're doing well, don't even get positional play yet, with a couple of exceptions.

In our last game they drew 2:2, but were frankly very lucky not to lose 5:2. Every time they got the ball the entire midfield pushed up so much that when they lost it or the goal attempt failed the ball was just kicked over the heads of almost the entire team. I'm going to put someone (ok, Jacob) in charge of the midfield, insisting that he never push up and that he direct other midfielders to push up and pull back strategically, as he sees it.

I should say I've found myself in a wierd position. I'm not the coach, but the manager, largely for parent-political reasons, has got me to take care of the subs, aiming for a balance between fairness (giving all the kids more-or-less equal gametime) and maintaining a coherent structure, with a strong spine as you put it. Very, very challenging, and as I figure it out I realise what a huge part of 'being the coach' this actually is.

Meanwhile, even though we're not supposed to coach from the sideline, parents do, and usually badly. "Go yourself!", "push up!", "big kick!", "Don't kick it backwards!", rarely with much subtelety or wit. Yeah, parents.

At the same time the level of parental involvement is pretty amazing and they themselves have shown a willingness to learn. I write an email to them once a week and am going to start being fairly explicit with what we are trying to do. We're a strong team and only have to get into the top 4 of a comp of 6 to play finals, so we really have a good half season to make mistakes in, experiment with positioning, and try to get them playing smart. I'm trying to convince the parents that if we want to win the comp, we're better off not concentrating on winning in the short term, but just on getting skills and positional play right.

You might ask, so who the hell is this coach? Well, he's a young Japanese guy who is quite brilliant, plans every session, and the kids love. His own ball skills he could busk with. His skills training is second to none. But he's not good at English and is extremely quiet. Meanwhile, he and I drink together and get on very well and he asked me to assist him, with the encouragement from the manager. And with subbing, tactics and positional work seem to be becoming my domain. Wierd yes, but so far I think it works.

We also have no dedicated goalie so basically play one of our strikers in goal each half. They're not keen, so the deal is that this way we give them a full game. I wish we had you to give them some goalie training.

I could go on, but just let it be known that you're not alone. Good luck with the challenges.

Anonymous said...

Very tricky.

Not having a good keeper is very frustrating isn't it!

I only have very limited coaching experience at school level (extremly limited actually) but I have a few times put the most sporty kid in the team as keeper, it might not have been the best decision but it was good for my heart...

Maybe you should tell your keeper that she shouldn't yell "move" up at all? Yelling "move up" could be the job of the sweeper/captain of the defence, while the keeper only gives instructions to the defence on issues such as whou they should be marking.

You could justify it by saying that its the sweepers job to be the last defender and its there job to help the keeper cope with balls kicked over the defence so it her call when the defence moves up...

Of course it means you need a fast sweeper that can read the game well and is a leader, and obviously you may not have such a player.

I don't know if it will work, but its all I can think of.

Cecilia said...

I'm kinda stuck with my 'keeper - she wants to play there, no-one else does but I suspect she's too stubborn to learn.

I'd love to teach her so much, but her attitude makes me wonder if it would be worth the time. To be honest, I suspect not.

The FFV has been a bit slack, league kicks off this Sunday, and our fixture hasn't been online for about a week. So I don't even know if we've got a game this week.

I had a shambolic training session this evening, so meh...

Hamish Alcorn said...

Stick with it Cecilia, and do keep us up to date.

I have a contrary problem. We have no dedicated keeper at all, yet our two gun strikers make excellent keepers, as they are natural and aggressive athletes. So we rarely get them working together up front because they mostly take turns in goals. Neither of them really like it.

For this first part of the season we are mixing things up a bit each week, and this is the weekend we're trying another keeper (a little guy who is happy to do it and went ok in a pre-season friendly), and loading both barrels in the front line. I'll let you know how it goes.

Good luck in your first fixture.

Cecilia said...

Good luck with that Hamish!!!


I'm really quite excited, can you tell? And... the best part... is... drum roll...

we have a match this Sunday!!!