Saturday, July 7, 2012

U13 boys - The healing power of Ice-Cream

It’s time to sit down and stay seated.  My U13 boys no longer need to see me getting frustrated during matches.

After a good session Thursday morning, we had another season game Thursday night.  It was the same thing … very good ideas, some good passing combinations and much better restarts by the boys ... but absolutely no willingness to present themselves physically to keep or win the ball.

But my personal feeling is I have been getting visibly frustrated and it’s going to hurt the boys.

We ended up losing the game 3-2.  We were up 1-0, then came back to tie 2-2 and conceded a goal with 10 minutes left.  The wins and losses don't preoccupy me at this age, but effort and competing do.  You work on technique and situations as you should at this age, but they have to show me a little more on top of that.

We did have some positive notes that game.  I think we found our 3 mids who are willing to cover the ground required.

I have to repackage my approach and game time presentation.  Next game, I will sit in a lawnchair and guide them in shape only.  We can discuss the nitty-gritty at half time and the next session.

The last thing I want is a player to be afraid to play because they think they are disappointing me.  That is the furthest thing from my mind.  Little do they know I like the challenge of taking the blame.

Ironically, with the u17 boys and other teams I’ve coached, games are usually a relaxing time where I like to watch the efforts of our training pay off and make observations.

After the game, we went to Joe’s Gelateria for ice-cream and some laughs.  A good Ice-Cream cone erases any score and brings everybody back to Earth.  Soccer Lesson 1a.  We have a team BBQ coming up at a nearby summer resort and 2 tournaments.  I hope to squeeze at lease one more social event in during those 2 tournament dates.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

U13 - Game Day session

This morning we had a session in advance of our home game tonight.  These are my favourite times to have a session as it gives each player a chance for low pressure and positive touches leading up to the match.

Day time sessions were common with my older teams during the summer break and I thought they were very productive.  With this group I have not had a chance to do them.  This morning it was Coach John from our second team and me.

This was done on short notice.  For one reason or another we have not been able to convene in over a week.  So I called  a session from 9:30-11:00 this morning.  We ended up with 11 of our 14 players and 5 players from our second team (who also have a game tonight).

We started with a group ball warm-up that covers a wide spectrum of movements, ball touches and techniques.  Everybody is busy and it's very organized, in my opinion.  I got this warm-up watching the South Korean U20 team train when they were in Toronto for the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup.

I set up 2 rows of cones 10yds apart.  Each player has a partner and a ball.   Partners at at one cone each, 10yds apart.
  • Start off by tossing ball back and forth, over the head, checking in and out "look athletic"
  • Toss ball back and forth around mid section
  • Roll ball back and forth.  Switching hands.  No feet.
  • Player with ball dribbles to other cone while partner runs past him to other cone.  when player reaches the cone, they turn, pass to partner and repeat the sequence.
  • Player dribbling with ball again, but partner does a take-over and dribbles back to cone, turns and dribbles out again towards partner who takes it back.  player who is dribbling and leaves the ball for partner runs to other cone and turns around
  • Players pass back and forth 2 touch, checking out and in every time
  • Players pass back and forth one touch
  • Tossing ball , player brings down ball, and dribbles to other cone while partner runs past him to his cone.  Player with the ball reaches the end, picks up the ball and tosses it to partner.
  • With the players switching cones, one player can be juggling while the other walks.  When the player with the ball reaches the end, while still juggling, they turn and lob the ball to their partner who starts juggling.
  • With the players facing each other, the walk to switch cones while juggling the ball with each other while they walk and cross.  Could be one touch, 2 touch, etc.
We then went to some challenges for the kids to have in their pocket for when they are with a friend goofing off with a ball.  Some involved juggling and moving from one point to another.  Another was one player is on the 18yd line with a ball and the partner is on the 6yd line.  The challenge is for the player to chip the ball off the cross bar and his partner on the 6yd line to head it in. 

We then did some running sequences involving players with and without the ball, a lot of chasing, fast feet going backwards, etc.

When we got into our game, we played 8v8v on a mini field with NO KEEPERS, 2 touch!  My goal for the game was to enforce the importance of defending, 1v1 and in groups.  We stressed the importance of moving back when defending as a team.  This is a terrible part of our game.  It helps in your numbers around the ball, takes away opponents options and puts you in a better position to keep possession if you win the ball back.

Coaching points:
  • When your team is not in possession, nobody should be walking.
  • Pressure on the ball has to be immediate, to remove the threat of a long pass towards or shot to an empty net
  • Stay alert ... do not be mesmerized by the ball and lose sight of what's happening around you.
I thought the session went well.  We kept it organized and flowing.  The attitude in the group was great as they are all anticipating their games tonight.  For me, I got what I wanted: the boys having positive time with the ball on their foot and a chance to show off if they could during our warm-up and challenges.

There was a bit of overbearing coaching happening during the early parts of the game but they were improving as we were going along.  I was happy with the work rate for a game day session.  It was very hot out so we didn't run them into the ground or get too intense.  There were plaenty of water breaks and time to be social.  I would like to think the players enjoyed it.

We'll see how tonight's game goes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nothing to do with soccer ... ... what a great thing

A former Olympic boxer named Mike Strange from Niagara Falls has taken it upon himself to finish Terry Fox's run.  One of his inspirations for the run is young Matteo Mancini who is battling cancer himself.

I spent some time in Matteo's school as a supply teacher this year, and the community is really praying and supporting his battle.  You can tell by the outpouring of love at school that he is a well liked young man.

My sister-in-law, Alyson DiDonato, is a tech teacher at the school and she assembled this video with students as a message of support for Mike and Matteo:

You can follow Mike's run and/or make a donation at

He started at Terry Fox's famous start point in Thunder Bay, ON and is days away from taking a swim in the Pacific Ocean in British Columbia.