Sunday, October 5, 2008

Go Bucks! And How I Almost got Mobbed at a Soccer Game

I am having more fun coaching Ashley's 6-7 year old soccer team than I ever imagined. The kids are great, the parents are great and we are improving nearly every week.

As it stands, we're 1-2-2 (1 win, 2 losses, 2 ties)

We started off losing the first game 3-0 and could have lost 9-0. My kids had a deer in the headlight look and I knew we had a lot of work to do. Since then our only loss was 4-3 in a game where the opposing goalie stopped SIX shots in the 2nd half.

The crowning achievement so far was beating the team that beat us the first game in our rematch 5-3. We're all having a great time. I give out free kiddie ice cream coupons at every practice following a game -- as long as the kids hustle, work together and don't daydream and pay attention to the game -- they get a $1 ice cream coupon for our local ice cream shop. Bribe kids with free ice cream and they'll charge into hell! Everyone doesn't earn the ice cream and if they don't, I explain why and so far everyone that has been shut out has understood.

Yesterday's game started great as we jumped out 2-0 and was dominating possession -- it looked like we'd steamroll our way to a winning record. But me, being the fair minded fellow I am, always rotate my kids so I don't have our star players playing midfield every quarter (yes we play quarters). So I make a lineup out every Friday night and have my rotations set for the game. There will be plenty of time as these kids get older to learn about "the best players playing." But 6-7 isn't that time -- IMO. Everyone plays on my team.

A lot of coaches don't do this and keep their top kids on the field at all times but I think a reason the parents like me is that I treat everyone the same. The only position I don't make them play is goalie. Some kids just hate the idea. So we usually have a lull when my "2nd team" is on the field and that was the case yesterday. We were up 2-0 at half, and they scored 2 to tie it in the 3rd, we went back up 3-2 in the 4th and they scored late to lock it in at 3-3. All in all, a really fun game. These kids try so damn hard it's a joy to watch.

OK -- back to me nearly being mobbed.

When we kickoff, we don't just slowly roll the ball to a left or right midfielder -- we kick it deep. We try to kick the ball off the kickoff into the space in front of the defense but behind the front line. I have some fast kids and we can play a version of a hockey dump and chase off the kickoff -- and it works.

So I have my ace player in the midfield, kicking off. I talk a lot during the games, giving instructions, encouraging, and getting their attention if they start to lose focus (at 6-7...distractions are many).

So I'm barking instructions to Adam, my little Pele, telling him to "Kick it into a space!" Adam nods and booms the ball way too hard and it flies out of bounds -- for a goal kick. He crushed it -- which wasn't quite the plan.

Anyway, everyone -- my wife, my team parents and the opposing team's parents ALL thought I said, "Kick it into his face!"

Everyone was taken aback by this but I was still coaching the game, oblivious to the confusion that was going on behind me. I hear Mary say, "Bill!..Bill what did you say!?"

I turn around, puzzled, and ask what she means -- she tells me and I reply, "No no into a SPACE." All of my team parents laugh and that was THE talk of the rest of the game. They know I'd never say to kick a kid in his face so they were relieved and laughing about it.

The other team? Not so much.

So the game ends and we all shake hands and my assistant coach tells me that the entire parent sideline is pissed. They are certain that I had given an order to kick the ball square into the other midfielder's face and by Adam NAILING the kickoff the way he looked sorta bad.

So I decide to walk into the Lion's Den of angry soccer moms and a few angry soccer dads and grandparents to explain myself.

When I walked over there it was clear that they were not pleased. I could really tell that they wanted an explanation -- otherwise it could get ugly. I explained what happened and there were a few laughs, and few smiles and a few that I don't think believed me.

I think next time I'll tell Adam to just kick it off to the other team and get back and play defense.

A safer plan.


Oh, yes, Ohio State.

How awesome was that?

The Wells/Pryor combo has the potential to be frighteningly good. This OSU team, I think, would have the potential to get back into the national title hunt IF they had a more dominating defensive line. They don't.

OSU lost those games against SEC teams and against USC not because of the myth of SEC and USC speed being far superior to anything in the Big10. OSU is fast too. Really fast. OSU lost those games in the trenches. Wisconsin ran right down OSU's throat last night which is something that will continue to be a problem for the Bucks this year.

BUT -- that Pryor kid is very, very, very special. He's so special -- if Michigan had landed him they'd be ranked right now.

I firmly believe that.