Posted tagged ‘football players’

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 Twelve Year Old Football Rookies

August 31, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 31, 2016

                          

Yesterday was the first game for the Timberview Middle School Timberwolves 7th Grade football team. Thirty-one excited twelve year olds boarded the yellow school bus for the slow forty minute ride to one of the southern schools in our league. Most of them even had their uniforms on correctly!

With their blue game pants and blue jerseys on this is still the greenest group of kids I’ve ever coached! Most of them are more familiar with Madden 2016 than what a Spread Formation looks like. There are some powerful thumbs in this group, but have them drop and do push-ups and you quickly realize that the power begins and ends in the big digits.

This “green” blue team is a great group of kids, and I love coaching with Coach Steve Achor, but we knew we weren’t ready for our first game. Lightning had forced us inside so much in our first week that we had only been able to have three days of player to player contact. Understand that those three days included the coaching discoveries of who even wanted to tackle and who wanted to just hang out by the water cooler as we were tackling. Middle school football always has kids who just aren’t totally convinced they want to be there. It sounded good to them upfront, with the uniforms being sharp and all, but once the contact started and a few of those hot August afternoons in full football pads arrive, the scent of uncertainty becomes as profound as the odor in the boy’s locker room.

A few years ago I had a player who was in his first year of playing football. He was never entirely convinced that it was a good thing to do. One day in practice he was playing cornerback and was so close to the sideline he looked like a pony trying to make a break for the open range. I said to him, “Teddy (Not his real name)! Come on in some closer to the play! There’s no one over there!” He looked at me, and with his high-pitched voice said, “No! I’m okay out here!”

And so we traveled with excitement and uncertainty. More than half of our squad had never played football before. Several of them are not tall enough to ride roller coasters at the amusement parks yet. Several others would be too timid to ride a roller coaster yet. Last Friday we had a controlled intra-squad scrimmage…after the lightning storm had passed and we were allowed to go outside! It gave some of our players a warped idea of how good they were, as the first-team running backs kept running for touchdowns against the second unit defense. Could it be this easy? Players answer: Yes! Coaches’ answer: No! No! No!

The plan was to keep the play calling simple. Amazingly no turnovers happened the whole game. On the other hand, every play had something that needed correcting. The good thing about first games is they show you so many things that need to be worked on in practice.

The final score was 28-8, and the home team’s last TD came in the last minute of the game. My back-up quarterback had to play the last quarter. Let me emphasize…my back-up quarterback who I had just discovered in an informal conversation the day before to have played some quarterback and had not practiced that position yet…yes, that back-up quarterback…had to play the last quarter. We scored our touchdown at the beginning of that quarter on a seventy yard sweep run. I sent the play in for the two-point conversion, and quickly noticed everyone standing around in confusion. I yelled “Let’s go! Let’s go!”, and I heard one player say “Coach, we’re missing Brandon!” Brandon is the back-up quarterback. He had been watching Peyton Manning too much, and Peyton Manning was never in for the PAT. Welcome to middle school football!

But you know something! I love coaching these kids! Coach Achor and I have the unique privilege and opportunity to teach them about the game and life, to help them experience what it means to be a team with ups and downs, trials and successes. Bottom line: I am truly blessed!

Judging By the Content of Their Character

August 29, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       AUGUST 29, 2013

 

 

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. When I hear that speech I get goosebumps. Perhaps it is the preaching style of an African-American pastor, or the echoes of the thousands listening to him who are urging him on, but it is compelling whatever the reason.

Towards the end of that speech King makes this statement as a part of his vision.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

     This week four freshmen football players from William Paterson University in New Jersey- three black and one white- made the news for their honesty. They entered into a convenience store to purchase a few items like batteries and what not. The lights were on, the door was unlocked, but there was not a store employee to be found. The four young men found the items they were looking for and put their money on the counter. They even figured out how much the tax would be on the items they were buying and included that in the purchase. The scene was caught on the security cameras.

The four football players were guests on NBC’s Today Show, and were applauded for their honesty.

It seems that it also brings back that sentence from Martin Luther King’s speech, that four “children” would be judged by their character and not by the color of there skin. To have the four from two races that fifty years ago were separated by a multitude of prejudices be together, and make decisions based on strong character is a testimony that is often absent.

In the midst of a self-centered culture it is refreshing to see the rise of character, the relationships of people based on life, and not race. Perhaps we have climbed a mountain in the journey to see each person as a person!