Thursday, May 31, 2007

Shopping for brooms

In my first “proper” team (my second season of playing football, but I’d hardly count the Victorian Churches League as being even remotely competitive) I played in central defence along with another girl, Jess, who I knew from little aths. We would have been 15, and the eldest players in the team who was competing in the U/17s league.

I think Mark was the coach’s name – I’ve got an awful memory when it comes to names, but I would recognise him in an instant. Mark would always play Jess and I at the back, except on the odd occasion when I ventured even deeper and under the crossbar. Being the eldest players, we were easily the most mature, and consequently responsible – we worked well together at the back. Years of getting to know each other at little aths probably helped and we had no problem in directing each other when playing. We weren’t exactly best buddies, but we recognised that there was a job to be done on the park.

While Mark never asked us to play in front of each other, in the end this was how Jess and I played. Mark would organise the rest of the team, perhaps giving each player instructions – but he essentially left Jess and I to our own devices.

Prior to kick-off Jess and I would sort out who would play in front of the other, with the other effectively playing as a sweeper. Although true sweepers are rarely seen in the modern professional game (much to do with offside tactics), it works well where the defence is generally inexperienced. With Jess, whoever was playing deeper would generally organise the defence, keeping tabs on the less experienced players who played left and right back, and ensuring that if one of us was about to make an important tackle that the other was there as a back-up.

In the case of the U/16s that I am now coaching, I am faced with a similar problem – I really only have a handful of experienced players in a team that has a high proportion of first-timers. For the first two matches I’ve been using the girl (#6) who apparently played in central defence/sweeper last season in the same position. She can more or less read the game, and has the maturity to accept responsibility for her errors – before I point out that certain events occurred due to an error of hers (unlike my goalkeeper who will only accept that she made an error when I explain the entire chain of events that occurred from her, say, calling the ball when she was too far away). Back to #6 – she’s alright as a player, but seems to have some issues connecting to the ball. She’s not available this Sunday, so I have a chance to experiment.

I’ve been using one of last year’s wingers (#11) as my right back. I randomly put her in there in the friendly against the U/15s from our club as we were short on players and girl who was playing right back at the moment hurt herself. #11 was on the wing, so I pushed her down and spread the midfield out. She impressed me a bit in defence, and she’s more or less lived there since.

She’s told me she enjoys defending – it’s novel for her having always played in the midfield- and although she tends to get a little lost in the play when she’s on the ball I’ve decided to play her as sweeper. She doesn’t seem to be able to judge how far she can go with the ball until it’s too far from where she should be, and doesn’t organise any cover for herself, I had a bit of a chat to her about her tendency to carry the ball too far on Sunday after I took her off the park, and on Tuesday I told her she would be playing sweeper. Hopefully with a bit of discipline she’ll hold the defence well. I’m not sure about her ability to read the game, or if she can control the defence like #6 kind-of-can, but I won’t know until I give her a try.

Edit 01/06/07: I suppose this post is a more elaborate answer to Watt's earlier comment/question.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Our second match

It's been a while between matches, and you can blame the FFV for giving us two byes in a row for the first three rounds of the season.

After our disappointing performance in Round 1, I was hoping that the girls would lift their game for Round 4. One girl (#14) had been telling me that they’re not a bad team, they just play slightly worse than the opposition regardless of how good the opposition was.

She may be right. Round 1 team was awful. We were worse. Round 4 team had more skilled players, I wouldn’t really call them a team though. Their coach was constantly yelling at them, giving them instructions. In the end, can his girls play football? They may have the individual skills that my girls lack, but my girls are more of a team, and I know that with some discipline we can be a difficult side to beat.

I take more pride in knowing we caused the other team problems than scoring more goals than them. I was really happy with the girls on Sunday - much better performance than our last outing, players were more careful with the ball, looked for the pass occasionally, tried to support their team-mates and consequently played to each other a lot more.

Apparently for the past three years, the girls have always played in the same positions. While a couple are suited to their roles (#14’s natural game is to play as an attacking midfielder, and tends to play the ball with her back to goal, and #6 has the responsibility to play sweeper), I’ve messed about with the rest. #14 tells me I’m the first to do this, and that they like having the opportunity to play elsewhere.

Ideally, I’d like them to play anywhere I put them, but for the moment I aim to create some stability in the team – so many are playing in similar positions to training.

One of the most striking things about my team is the difference in playing ability and difference in attitude. About half of the team has played for a number of seasons, and have general skills such as passing and controlling the ball – albeit inconsistently. Some have only played a short while and it shows.

Attitude is something you can’t teach – players either have the right attitude or they don’t. There are 4 new girls in the team – I believe 3 are complete beginners. 2 of these I want to keep for ever and ever – simply because when we have a drink break in training, they’re the first ones back in our training area. And instead of standing and chatting, they’ll start to kick the ball about. It shows they want to play. If I ask the team to do something, most will complain about how they’re not left-footed, or that they can’t do headers. But these two will give it a go, and when they can’t, they absorb the correction like a sponge. Perhaps they’re easier to teach because I don’t have to break bad habits.

The other thing that shows is their attitude. On Sunday, one player in particular stood out for me - not because she completed the most passes, won every ball, scored a goal or saved our defence. She may be slow (in pace) and mis-kick the ball a bit, but I know that any ball (or player and ball) that comes near her will not be given up easily. While she may eventually be beaten, and while she lacks the pace to chase down the player who beat her, she was my star player for the simple reason that she put the most effort on the park.

I’m looking forward to this Sunday. Round 4 showed massive improvement, and we had a great training session this evening - in my humble non-biased opinion as coach ;). Hopefully they’ll apply what we covered in training in the match – that’s my priority anyway. Make sure what I try to teach stays in their heads. It’s funny, how the more I cover, the more that still needs to be explained! Never-ending, really… :)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Shake and Stir

It’s been a while since I sat down and wrote a post with some substance. Most of my assessment has been completed, so I can spend a little more time thinking about football.

Later in the year I’ll be heading overseas to visit family. This means that my team will not have their coach for 4 matches (and 3 training sessions). Consequently, a cover needed to be found for that period. While I was meeting the U/15 and U/18 coaches of the girls at the same club, I mentioned that I would be away, and depending on fixtures I asked if there was the possibility of looking after the girls at some points There was also a particular parent who put her hand up to help me out, being my first time and all, should I require it. I informed her that I may be needing a cover for when I’m away.

Now, I’ll be frank and admit that I’ve effectively been sitting on my arse with regards to this issue. But I had more pressing matters to deal with (assessment tasks), which I think is a decent recent for not actively finding a replacement up to this point.

Before I delve into the actual situation that’s seriously begun to bother me now that I’ve thought about it, perhaps I need to explain a little about my playing background, and the set-up of the Junior club (JunC) that I am currently affiliated with.

One my earliest posts gives a good account of a particular senior club (SenC) I played at on and off for 3 years. During my off years, my brother was still at the club, so I’ve known the club and its people for some time. Needless to say, it’s a SenC that I’m not particularly happy with. I started there in the junior team they used to have, and my experience with that team wasn’t pleasant.

The JunC that I’ve started coaching at currently uses the same facilities as the SenC. My team trains on one of the nights that the SenC has training. So when the president (Pres) of the SenC spotted me, he came over to have a chat. Fair enough, I thought, he’s just saying hello. Then he came over the next week, suggesting that my U/16s join the SenC to make up the numbers in their lowest team (i.e. team that played in the lowest Division that the club had a team registered in). Naturally I declined. Especially since there’s an U/18 team he can poach from – difference is that Pres doesn’t know who their coach is. Again the next week he came by again. I’ve moved my training sessions all about the place to wherever I can find a spot – making it harder for Pres to figure out where I am.

At training, my team manager (TM) asked if I had sorted out a replacement yet. I admitted that I hadn’t, but that I’d mentioned it to the coaches above and a particular parent. TM said that the other coaches couldn’t (fair enough I said, especially since the fixtures had now changed and we no longer had byes during the period I was away). TM then said that Pres of SenC had put his hand up to help out. I was a bit stunned to be honest, and then said I didn’t want him associated with my team. TM said there was no-one else. I said that I had a parent who I mentioned my situation to, but hadn’t had a chance to seriously talk to them about it. Somehow, somewhere, TM & I finished out conversation with the conclusion that our options were limited. At the end of training, I confirmed everything with the parent I had in mind, and sent TM an email when I got home.


I had a word to Parent this evening after training, and she's more than happy to take the girls while I'm away.


TM’s response:


I spoke with Pres before training finished and said we were happy to accept his offer to take training and game day.




Let’s say that I wasn’t very happy at this point, but was far more concerned with particular piece of assessment.

Assessment’s now more or less over (well, there’s exams...), so I’ve had a little time to think about this. I’m really annoyed that this was essentially organised behind my back.

First - Why on earth did the Pres put his hand up? I can only think that the JunC approached the Pres, or mentioned that I was going away. Regardless, the JunC coaching situation should not have been something that the SenC gets itself involved in, particularly considering how often Pres had approached me and my team to join the SenC!

Secondly – why was I not given the time (or option) to really discuss the cover with the parent I had in mind? I have heard (from the U/15 coach) that Parent has been a handful and annoyance to the club in the past, but I am yet to have an issue with her. She seems to be the kind of person who would shoot me while I was watching her. I do mean that in a positive way – she has absolutely no problem telling me what she thinks to my face.

In contrast to TM, who was meant to organise friendlies for me, but didn’t. Perhaps because she knew her daughter wouldn’t be involved with one, and that the other fell on Mother’s Day? The least she could do is tell me why. Then I would’ve made it my responsibility from day 1. Instead of day 20 – which made it harder to get the friendly organised. Yes, I failed in the end, but only because the other team pulled out two days (three, perhaps) before kick-off. Now instead of telling me that she was going to accept Pres’ “offer” after our chat, she’s left me thinking that I can talk to Parent about it. I now know that she didn’t.

Tomorrow we have our second match of the season at home. I intend to find out:
1. Why Pres had a chance to get involved with my team,
2. Why TM did not give me chance to talk to Parent, and
3. Why TM made the executive decision on the coaching future of the team.

Interestingly enough, Pres has not yet approached me about conducting some kind of introductory session (something I had planned with Parent, also because of the massive difference in ability that I have between players in the team). My reaction to such a request from the Pres is not likely to be viewed favourably by SenC, but they should expect that from me anyway. I am not sure how the JunC will take it.

I am new to the JunC, so I am not sure what their history holds. I am not sure if TM did not give me chance to talk to Parent because they’ve had an issue in the past, or if Parent and JunC committee have had an issue in the past. As TM is a member of the committee, perhaps she acted in the interests of the committee. Either way, I need to know, and I intend to find out ASAP. Ideally I want to find out by talking to people in person. I’ll resort to the phone if I can’t track them down tomorrow before/after our match. And I refuse to use email to initially attack the issue – I’ll be happy to correspond electronically once it’s been raised, but until then I’ll be old-fashioned and, in my opinion, proper – no hiding behind a computer screen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So, who's Mark Viduka?

Sorry, still completely nuts at uni. Tonight's training session, however, had a couple of magic moments I simply can't resist blogging about!

I accidentally put my shorts on backwards this evening. A player noticed and thought it was hilarious. Honestly, I couldn't give a s#!t. Anyway, I started to mention Paolo Di Canio - I was going to go on to talk about how he did that once by accident, realised before the match started, decided to keep them that way, had an awesome match, scored a couple, etc....
"Paolo Di Canio...," I repeated. More blank faces. Hmm... perhaps they were too young? I gave them the benefit of the doubt and dropped it.

Later in the session, we were playing a mini-game. I was half-playing with the coloureds as they were one short. I collected a loose ball at one stage, didn't have any options, shielded the ball, needed some space as I stuck my arse out. I could hear whack between me and the player (Steph), followed by laughter from that Steph's mum. Anyway, passed off the ball successfully.

Claire calls out that what I did wasn't allowed. I yelled back that it was - and that was how Viduka makes his living.
"Errrr... Mark Viduka," I respond.
"Oh gee, he's only the current captain of our national team, the Socceroos," I responded is a sarcastic tone.
Blank faces. Again.
Sam quips up, "Oh him. He annoys me." Well, at least one of them MAY have heard of Viduka, or rather, MAY have heard of the Socceroos...

I think we have a football culture problem...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Our first match

We had our first match on Sunday, in short we lost 2-1, played poorly, but then the other team played poorly too - so I thought we could have done better. Short post, terribly busy at uni at the moment as the semester draws to a close and exams approach.