Posted tagged ‘coaching soccer’

Talking Soccer With American Football Dads

September 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       September 9, 2017

                      

Even though I’ve coached middle school football for thirteen years my family is a soccer family. I’m a soccer dad. All three of our kids played soccer through high school- our son was a part of one undefeated state championship team and a member of the state runner-up team the year before that. Our two son-in-laws play soccer. Their wives (our daughters) still play on indoor teams and an occasional outdoor team. Our two oldest grandchildren play soccer. I took up the game later on and played in an “older than dirt” league for men. I coached two of my kids’ teams when they were younger.

So, as you can tell, we’re a soccer family!

With the growing concerns about concussions in football I’m seeing more kids start with soccer and stay with soccer. In our nine year old grandson’s soccer program the boys aren’t allowed to do headers yet. That doesn’t become legal for another year.

What amuses me are the number of football dads who now frequent soccer fields but don’t quite understand the game yet. They bring football terminology and football philosophy to another sport that is more about finesse than brutal power, more about speed and touch than holding a block and running over someone.

And a lot of the dads are having a hard time making that transition from what was to what is! My high school in Ironton, Ohio was, and is, a football town. Kids start playing just after they’re conceived. Our high school teams became dominant in the 70’s and 80’s. Ironton High School still does not have a soccer team. You have to enroll your child as a student at Ironton St. Joseph if you want him to kick a round ball.

But Ironton is the exception, the one who has been slow coming to the dance! They have been resistant to the transition from what was to what is. To change would mean learning a whole new sports language.

Football dads still bring the mindset that any kick or punt needs to be launched into space, the longer the better! You’ll hear a football dad yelling “Kick it! Kick it!”, and then shouting in celebration when the soccer ball is booted down the field…even though it’s kicked to someone from the other team. With football dads distance is over-valued.

Ironton usually used a tight offensive formation. Power football over the guards. Soccer is about spacing and anticipation, weird concepts for an Ohio culture that grew up with the Woody Hayes’ philosophy of “three yards and a cloud of dust”!

At our six year old granddaughter’s soccer game this morning I heard a couple of dads talking about game situations. One had been a soccer dad for about a year and the other was making his rookie dad debut at a soccer field. Several times I heard the soccer dad begin a statement with the words “That means…”, and then explain the unfamiliar concepts to this new parent in a foreign land.

To be fair, Americans football is still more ingrained in our culture than soccer. No one gets together at Buffalo Wild Wings for Fantasy Soccer Draft Night, but BWW sells a lot of wings to people who gather there for Fantasy Football Draft Night. In fact, they even have a draft kit for each fantasy league commissioner. Yesterday at the middle school where I coach it was “Favorite Team Day”. Students could wear the hat or jersey of their favorite team. I think I saw about…two soccer jerseys, both of teams in the English Premier League, and about a gazillion professional football jerseys!

Football is ingrained in us and, therefore, I expect to hear more statements at the soccer fields in the coming week like “That was out of the end zone!” and “Why aren’t they huddling?”

You’ve just got to be patient sometimes and bring some football dads along slowly.

Coaching Players 57 Years Younger Than Me!”

September 2, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      September 1, 2014

                       

I entered a new phase of my coaching career this past Saturday. I had the first soccer practice with a new team of three year olds!

Three year olds! A three year old has been alive five percent of my life!

Why three year olds? My granddaughter is on the team…her first team experience ever…so Granddad and Grammy are the coaches.

The practice did not involve soccer ball juggling or players getting to open space, as we say. There was no instruction on defending or setting off-sides traps. No…the practice included asking each player what their favorite lunch food items were.

“Macaroni and cheese!”

“Pepperoni pizza!”

“Peanut butter and jelly!”

Notice I put exclamation marks after each favorite lunch. That’s because each was said with enthusiasm…especially my granddaughter’s pepperoni pizza.

We transitioned to stretching.

“Okay! See if you can touch your toes without bending your knees (I can’t!).”  One three year old boy fell over and concluded that stretching was not his strong point. He looked with a pained facial expression at his mom and dad. A couple of the girls thought stretching was fun.

“Okay! Let’s take our soccer balls and put them between our feet.” Two kids with limited coordination fell down just taking steps. Two others put the soccer ball between their feet and sat on them. It’s about at this time that I decided it would be good to get a water break. We had been hard at it for almost five minutes.

I crossed off the slide tackling drill we were going to do!

“Okay! Let’s learn how to dribble. Everybody look down at your soccer ball and say “Hi!”

They all thought that was cool…talking to soccer balls was now on the same level of excitement as favorite lunch choices.

“Now, let’s use the inside of our foot and kick the ball all the way to the white line.”

Ever seen one of those crawling baby races where the babies are released and they head in a dozen different directions? Our first attempt at dribbling a soccer ball was like that. It brought back memories of my old electric football game when I was growing up that no one ever figured out. How was a tackle ever made in electric football? It wasn’t!

Water break!

“Okay! Say hello to your soccer ball again, and let’s go take shots on the goal!”

One thing I learned about three year olds is that they are scared that they will hurt their precious soccer ball. One of the girls had Barbie or some pink character on hers, and now I’m telling them to kick it hard!

Dainty and gentle would be better descriptions of our foot to ball contact at the first practice.

Water break!

A couple of the boys were reaching the end of their attention span. They spotted the swings and slide in the back of the park. I lost them!

In all, I think we had a good thirty-five minutes of practice. Take away the favorite lunch conversation, water breaks, and getting to know their soccer ball on a casual conservation basis…okay, maybe twenty minutes, but it was a hard twenty!

And I was exhausted!