What I Hope Soccer Parents Understand

champs

By Tim Nash

I’ve coached girls youth soccer for a long time. And one of the reasons I still enjoy it is that every year I learn a lot.

Most years, I discover new ways to reach players, or figure out the pros and cons of certain styles of play. I learn different ways to teach technique and how to adapt to new twists in the game.

This year, I coached two teams — 04s (players born in 2004) and 03s (born in 2003). For those of you who don’t like math, the 04s were 12 or about to turn 13; the 03 were 13 or 14. Once again, I learned a lot, but the main takeaway from this year has to do with parents.

The other night, I was at a function that included my girls as well as some 10-, 11- and 12-year-old players and their families. While the girls played in the pool, I watched the parents from the younger teams interact with each other, the ones just getting started. They were having a great time reminiscing about the year. They talked about certain games, tournaments, hotels, team dinners, what a fantastic team they had, other teams they played. They spent nine months together and formed friendships that will go on for years. Continue reading

Is Academy Soccer on the Right Track?

 

By Paul Oliu

Something has gone awry with the Academy system.  Whatever the original intent as

Paul Oliu 2016

Paul Oliu is a former ex-writer, coach and dad. His articles appear from time to time on the 56th Minute

designed by US Soccer, I find the reality a bit troubling.  We were told that Academies are there to develop players.  We were told it is intended to elevate the quality of play.  We were told playing with an Academy IS the way to be the best soccer player.  Sadly, the difference between intention and reality could not be starker.  For the Academy system has become just another Ponzi scheme in the lexicon of US Soccer organizations.  I realize I may be in the minority here, but we should not be surprised by it in the least.

 

What has struck me the most over the past few years is the sad quality of coaching that is currently on the sidelines.  Having logged hours watching practices, I will say that our development of players are in the hands of coaches and trainers who lack experience, guidance, expertise, or all three.  The lack of quality is by and large accepted or ignored, and little organizational guidance is provided.  The lack of a coherent and structured curriculum creates a year’s worth of training into a hodgepodge of exercises without purpose.  The end result is players that individually may be very technical, but have the tactical awareness of a rock. Continue reading

Why Players Should be Lobsters

lobster

By Tim Nash

So, I heard this story the other day and decided to tell it to the two teams of 13-and 14-year-old girls I coach.

My players, most of them anyway, like story time. They have learned to expect something completely unexpected, and it often leads to an interesting conversation. Others, those on the other end of the “Things I Find Interesting Scale,” just listen and kind of give me that open-mouth stare while thinking, “What the hell is he talking about.”

Anyway, this story was an attempt to explain to my players one of the challenges girls that age face — getting out of their comfort zone and testing themselves in difficult environments. That is, after all, where the most progress can be made. But every time some of my girls go out on the field, they will place themselves in their comfort zone, that area of the field they are used to, the spot that offers no surprises.

I move them around, pull them aside and talk to them about trying new and different things, but they are sucked back to that familiar place. Everyone wants to do what they are good at, and that’s how they spend their time. It seems that the players who make the most progress are the ones who get mad at themselves for not being able to meet a new challenge. They will keep at it until they master it, like the player who got so mad at her inability to juggle, she worked at it until her personal best went from 12 to 438. Continue reading

We Never Got Enough of Kelly Smith

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By Tim Nash

Way back in 1998, I had been writing about women’s college soccer for nine years and had seen many of the greatest players in the world.

The 1998 was the year the University of Florida won the national championship with senior Danielle Fotopoulos, a freshman named Abby Wambach and another future national team player in Heather Mitts. Angela Hucles was staring at the University of Virginia. Santa Clara featured Danielle Slaton, Aly Wagner and Mandy Clemens. There was a sophomore at Notre Dame named Anne Makinen, a tremendous midfielder from Finland, and a senior named Shannon Boxx. The University of North Carolina featured Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Lorrie Fair and Staci Wilson, all U.S. national team players.

When I called Notre Dame coach Chris Petrucelli to ask him who, in his opinion, should be named the national player of the year, he mentioned none of them.

“The best player in the country is at Seton Hall,” he said.

Wait, what? Seton Hall? The Pirates finished the ’98 season 11-6-1.

“Kelly Smith,” Petrucelli said, “is phenomenal.” Continue reading

UNC’s Tradition of Excellence

By Tim Nash

ansonIt has to be some kind of soccer factory, doesn’t it? The University of North Carolina women’s soccer program must be a place that attracts the top young players in the country, puts them on an assembly line and re-shapes them into the type of player that adds to the bottom line — wins and trophies.

There’s no other explanation, is there? The factory must be dripping with stress, littered with stories of failure and flame-outs. Somewhere within that soccer mill, there must be a dark room where all the pieces not good enough are tossed aside and forgotten.

How else could one school win so much and lose so little? Come on, 800 wins? In just 38 years? That’s an average of 21 wins a year for four decades. The players can’t be having any fun. It must be like a boot camp. And we are expected to believe that all those games were won by one coach? Forget it.

That last part is true. The rest are myths. On October 10 in a come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest, Anson Dorrance won his 800th game as head coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

“And it was in 900 games,” says Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, a former Tar Heel now the head coach of the University of Central Florida. “That makes it more impressive. It’s unbelievable.”

Nine-hundred games exactly. Dorrance’s career record after the Oct. 10 win was 800-65-35.

Think that’s unbelievable? Here’s a sampling of the program’s success: In the 90s, the Tar Heels had a record of 238-7-3. They once went 101 games without losing. In a stretch between 1990 and 1992, UNC won 92 straight games. His 1987 team outscored its 24 opponents 98-2, and one of the goals they allowed was an own-goal. Carolina has won 21 NCAA championships and there have only been 31 of them. In 1992, the Tar Heels went 25-0, scored 132 goals and allowed 11, never scoring more than nine in any game. Over the history of the program, the team has scored 2,869 more goals than it has allowed.

It starts and ends with Dorrance, a highly intelligent, ultra-competitive, self-diagnosed introvert who happened to become a soccer coach and found more than enough to keep himself challenged and engaged by working with a revolving group of college-aged athletes. He has found ways to get his players to perform at their best for both themselves and the team at the same time.

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Ashlyn Harris’s Higher Purpose

By Tim Nash

harris“I live in constant pain and take powerful pain killers and muscle relaxers just to be able to get out of bed in the morning, and I’ve considered suicide more than once because of my condition. I can say the games in the NWSL have given me a reason to live. Thank you for being a wonderful human being, role model and great athlete to watch and follow. Your will to win is a breath of fresh air to me and lets me live each day.”

Ashlyn Harris gets a lot of letters like that. She also has strangers — kids, teenagers, middle aged women — come up to her after Orlando Pride or Women’s national team games and say things like, “You’ve given me purpose again. You’ve saved my life.”

Life-changing is an over-used, watered-down phrase we use to describe new jobs, books or movies, and the newest innovations in technology. But here’s a 31-year-old soccer player having an enormous impact on the most personal aspect of lives of people suffering with depression or addiction, people she has never met.

They’ve found something to identify with in this shark-loving surfer who once hit a bully across the face with a dead catfish. There’s something about her that draws people in, makes the feel safe. Maybe it’s the compassionate, understanding ear, or simply her willingness to listen that makes people feel better about their situation. More likely, it’s that in Harris, they see someone who has been where they are, someone who has struggled with depression, witnessed addiction, had thoughts of harming herself.

Whatever the reasons, she’s changing lives. That’s what Ashlyn Harris has chosen to do with her life. That’s where her passion lies, and in doing so she has done herself as much good as she has others.

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