In all my free time, I have been reading about how to make a blog successful or how to make your business successful with a blog. All the advice is crap – just crap. They say to expand readership with interesting content or engage your readers so that they share your content with others. Well – my biggest question is how do you get readership in the first place? I have readers but these just don’t turn into followers.
Then I think to myself, “Why should I care? My blog is for me and me only – my readers are just lucky enough to see a glimpse of what my brain is doing at that moment.” But still, I feel some sort of responsibility to keep writing blogs. No. Not to you, my readers, but to me. My blog has already taught me volumes about myself. I have written some interesting blogs. My inspiration has come from all different sources – some great, some good, some bad, and some hurtful. In short, my life has been changed by my blog.
So – the title of today’s blog is “Let’s Write a Blog Today - Soccer”. Time to get started.
Yesterday I found 9 gartersnakes during my lunch break. I walked the 1.7 miles to one of my known hibernacula for snakes in the Denver area and the snakes were out. I felt alive. I felt amazing. I was in a gutter that flows into the South Platte River spotting snakes in the rock walls that hold the banks up. I kept on finding snakes. I would think that I had spotted them all and then I would spot another. The snakes were a real challenge to spot – they would just barely be peeking out of the rocks.
Holy shit did I have fun! This is clearly my passion but what else can I write about today? Oh yeah – the title of my blog says soccer.
After work, I had soccer practice. Not my soccer practice but youngest son’s soccer practice (I am the coach). Soccer is another passion of mine that comes and goes. It seems to be coming more often these days as my boys love to play the game.
The majority of my team this spring is a holdover from last fall but I do have four new players. These players were in for the shock of their lifetime (I will get to this in a bit). I have been coaching soccer for 9 years now. I started coaching when my oldest turned 3 years old. I am not sure why we signed him up for soccer at age 3 but it is a total waste. Three year olds are just not ready for a team sport. Shit – boys aren’t ready for a team sport until they are 9 or 10. I learned this very quickly coaching and I now tailor every practice to the strengths of the boys and not my will for them to play soccer as a team. Studies have shown that if you teach children how to play and not expect them to play your way at an early age they will have more fun at practice and games. I still watch coaches try to hold a practice with 12 six year olds and one soccer ball. Most of the kids are touching each other or picking flowers – two things I cannot stand! Not at my practices, each kid has a ball and we play fun games to teach them ball control and increase fitness without them knowing. The “team” and “passing” aspect of soccer will come with time. I can’t teach this to someone who is not ready to learn it.
Well – in order to make sure every boy at practice has a soccer ball, I got to go shopping for new balls. This spring, I finally decided that I was done with adding cheap balls to my collection. Hell – I am a soccer snob so why shouldn’t my team play with nice balls. I went with the Adidas F50 size 3 balls this season. A decent ball but nothing like the balls I will be buying for my boys when they are older. Also, if the store had had Puma balls, I would have bought them. I don’t like Adidas even if they do make a decent soccer ball (their soccer boots suck).
Back to shocking my new players as part of their introduction to my soccer team. I don’t put up with any shit and this is tough for the new ones to learn. I guess some coaches let the boys talk over them. All the boys want to socialize instead of play soccer sometimes. Not at my practice but keep in mind rule #5 below. The old boys fell right into line and worked hard for me yesterday. The new boys – well not so much but by the end of practice, they were looking good already. Actually, they were looking amazing.
Let me start with my team rules:
1. No one talks when the coach is talking. The boys get this one pretty easily because they do this at school every day. I correct them a few times but I typically don’t have a problem here.
2. We are a team. We respect each other. This means we respect everyone’s personal space. Little boys are famous for touching each other: pushing; shoving; grabbing; you name it, they do it. Respect also means that you never kick a teammate’s soccer ball away (unless we are playing a game where we are supposed to) – if you do, Coach Cameron gets to kick your ball away (I can kick a ball a very long way). Team also means that when we see each other away from practice or off the field somewhere, we high-five each other and say hi. We make sure our teammates are okay. We help them if they need help. We do things that we do for our families. Team means family.
3. NEVER HANG ON THE GOAL CROSSBAR. This is my big safety rule. Other coaches don’t enforce this rule (or even have this rule) and my boys point it out all the time, “Look Coach Cameron that kid is hanging from the crossbar”. If any of my boys do this, they sit out of practice for 10 minutes and second offenses mean they are done for the day. I have seen goals fall. I have been hanging on a goal when it fell. It is not pretty. Every year, kids are killed by goals. Since 1979, 36 children have been killed by soccer goals and another 56 children received serious injuries. While this may not seem like a lot, I will not have one of my kids add to these statistics.
4. NO HANDBALLS. This is a tough one for new players. I really don’t know why except that they seem to be in the habit of setting up the ball with their hands and not their feet. The old players know what happens when they handle a ball with their hands – Coach Cameron gets to punt, kick, or throw their ball wherever he wants to and they have to SPRINT to get it. If they carry it back in their hands instead of dribbling it back, Coach Cameron kicks it even farther away. Let’s just say – I can kick/punt/throw a ball a very long way. Just like pushing or touching each other, little boys love to touch the ball with their hands. I don’t know what it is. BUT – after they have to chase a ball that I have kicked/punted/thrown they learn this rule pretty fast. Why this rule? It may seem a little cruel but in the long run it only makes them better soccer players. I really don’t care if they handball at this age – who really does anyway? They are young and just learning soccer so a lot of times their first instinct is to grab the ball. What I want them to do is get used to having the ball at their feet and to use their feet when moving their ball around even if it is just a few inches. This accelerates their growth as a soccer player because they develop a soft touch on the soccer ball. It is really fun to watch them grow.
5. HAVE FUN! Nothing is this world is worth doing unless you enjoy it. My boys have a LOT of fun. I make sure of it. Hell – I am the coach and I have so much fun at practice it puts me on a runner’s high every time. We play games, we learn soccer, and we have fun. All winter long, my team kept asking and asking me when soccer started again – this is proof they love to come play soccer with me – they are having fun.
So, back to my new players. I have four new players this season. All of them have been previously coached which can make it hard for them to adapt to my fast paced, energetic and fun style. When a new player joins my team, they try to tell me about what they did on their old teams. I let this go in one ear and out the other while teaching them our new drills, exercises, and games. One of the biggest changes for them is when I bark out numbers that correspond with something they should be doing with the ball. I really get some strange looks. However, this just happens to be one of the best drills to do with the boys and they love it. Here are the numbers we have learned so far, what the boys do with the ball, and how it benefits them as a soccer player:
1. Put your head on the ball. The boys dive down to push-up position and put their heads on the ball. This works to strengthen their whole body plus it teaches them to keep their eyes on the ball (this will help after they are 10 and can learn to head the ball safely).
2. Put your butt on the ball. Serious leg work out here – the boys squat up and down strengthening their kicking and sprinting muscles.
3. Scissors. The boys swing their foot around the ball and then the other foot. This is just a fun move that I can challenge them to do in a game. As they get older, this skill will help them feign touching the ball and then doing something else with it.
4. Pull Back. The boys stop the ball with the bottom of their feet and then roll it backwards while spinning their bodies around. This teaches them how to change direction without losing control of the ball. It is helpful when in a crowd of defenders that you need to get away from.
5. Toe Taps. The boys bounce on their toes alternating touching/tapping the ball with the bottom of their feet. This drill teaches them how to keep the ball close while helping develop fast twitch muscles in their lower leg. These muscles will ultimately help them with sprinting and changing direction.
6. Back and Forth – The boys kick the ball back and forth between their feet. They use the inside of their foot and ultimately develop good touch on the ball. This drill helps with passing and trapping the ball while keeping it under control.
We will learn more exercises with numbers and even combine numbers to raise the complexity (soccer is a thinking game after all) but these are the basics we are starting with.
My approach to soccer must be different than the other coaches. The new kids just never seem ready for the pace of my practices. We are constantly moving. Every kid has a ball (this season they can even borrow one of my new quality soccer balls). Every kid is having fun. We jump with the ball. We squat on the ball. We dribble. We run (with the ball!). We shoot. We juggle. We PLAY! That is the key – we “play” soccer. There is absolutely no flower picking allowed!
Ultimately (roughly 2-3 practices) the new boys figure out my system for practices and begin to have more fun than they thought they could at soccer. I challenge them to do better every practice and praise all good play. I love seeing them develop as teammates as well as soccer players. This brings me happiness and has become a real passion for me.
Is this my blog today? I guess so.