Tonight the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team plays a World Cup Qualifying soccer match. They play Guatemala. Win or tie and they move on to the next round of World Cup qualifying.
I love soccer. I played when I was a kid. I was a West Side Wildcat.
When I was five years old my father was asked to coach soccer on the West Side of Charleston. He already coached t-ball, little league baseball and basketball; he seemed like a perfect fit.
In preparation for his inaugural season he visited the library and skimmed a book on soccer. From this book he remembered three fundamental skill drills. The 7 years of practices following the team only ran those three drills. I didn’t know there were more than three basic skill drills in soccer until I had a different coach in junior high.
My father coached my soccer team every fall and spring from age 5-6, and 8-12. Due to his work he was unable to coach one year. When I was 7 my mom Kathy became the coach of the West Side Wildcats. I don’t know if she volunteered, or was volunteered, but there was a DeMarco at the helm, and one who knew less than my father about the sport.
When asking him about it once my dad told me he wrote down a “cheat sheet” for her to follow during the practices. Below is a paraphrasing of his recollection:
1) Use the whistle often to get their attention
2) Do some stretching
3) Skill Drill – dribble up and shoot at the goal
4) Skill Drill – Kid One runs towards the goal, Kid Two passes ball to Kid One, Kid One shoots at the goal, then change sides
5) Skill Drill – make two lines and pass the ball back and forth
Head the ball – Remember throw-ins use two hands over the head
6) Make Eric Bergman your practice captain it is the only way to keep an eye on him and keep from yelling at him the whole time
7) Keep an eye on Ian Flaherty and Todd Stutler- they like to play in the dirt more than play soccer
8) Michael Longsinger pretends he’s a truck- Tell him to be a soccer truck
9) DON’T LET THEM USE THEIR HANDS
It was a simple formula. Surprisingly, we won a lot.
Every Saturday morning of my Mom’s tenure she would be on the sidelines, giving constant coaching advice, and praise, from the sidelines during games like:
“Tuck in your shirts! If you look good you play good!”
“Don’t use your hands!”
“Get the ball!” “Pass!” “Run to the ball!” “Good job guys!”
“ Todd! Ian! Get up and stop playing in the dirt, the ball will come your way any minute!”
“ Michael, you’re a soccer truck!”
“That’s great!” “Go Wildcats!” “Go!” “Shoot!”
“Eric!” (It didn’t really matter the specifics of what he was doing)
Each game we were also given Coach Kathy’s sportsmanship guidelines:
“If someone gets knocked down help them up.” “Line up and shake hands with the other team.” “Don’t foul anybody.” “Play fair.”
When my father came back to coaching the following year my mother still yelled her support from the sidelines. She cheered on every kid on the field, even the ones she knew from the other teams. She was a great sport. She never missed a game.
Tonight the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team will play. It is a high-pressure game. It’s a “must win” if we want to qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. I am positive they will execute a game built on a foundation of more than three skill drills. I’m not sure what the coach will tell them in the locker room before the game or at halftime, but I hope he reminds them to tuck in their shirts; we need them to play good.