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.

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