Grassroot; Journal of a US Soccer Coach Parts I & II

The Thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Part 1: Arrogant Beginnings

The Downfall: Day 1 10/10/2017: Trinidad & Tobago 2 - USA 1. No-one in this Buffalo Wild Wings cares. This is my sister's first time watching a World Cup Qualifier and she similarly doesn't fully understand the cause for my aguish. Most everyone was watching the Cubs anway. From here I make a promise to do my part to never let this scene happen again. The Apathy. There may come another day when we don't qualify out of CONCACAF, but I will never accept this lack of awareness.

Foot in the Door: Day 42 11/24/2017: After exploring the local soccer scene I contact the DOC (director of coaching) for a prominent local academy. He gets back in less than 30 minutes and assures me he's always willing to work with volunteer coaches. I count myself lucky. I've commited to a routine of 100+ touches 4 days a week. I usually exceed this I have a lot of ground to make up and you gotta start somewhere.

A Course, Of Course! Day 63 12/14/2017: I pay Gulati 25 bucks for the privilege of taking the 2 hour F license course. Every video had coaches wearing the old crest, but the background has the new crest. The quality is somewhere between high school science video and pyramid scheme sales presentation.

Separation in the Preperation: Day 66 12/16/2017: The DOC sends me some literature about his academy's philosophy and their ideals of play. He expects to have me with a younger side as they offer more of a clean slate where I can see the basics at work.

Chomping the Bit: Day 82 01/01/2018: After the holiday break, I finally have a chance to work with a team. DOC is filling in for his u16 boys. (B'02) coach. This team has been with our philosophy the longest. The next day I'll watch him work with a group of u10 girls. They are basically new to our philosophy. I'm extremely anxious to get out and get my hands dirty. YouTube videos only provide so much information and pale in comparison to the level of experience working behind a strong coach provides.

Part 2: "Oh crap these 8 year olds are better than me"

U16 Boys #1: Day 84 01/03/2018: I show up 45 minutes early and walk over to the only 2 kids on the field. They looked hispanic and didn't know what club I was talking about. A few more joined and they took turn skying penalties. They had creativity, but no real skill. You could see they took the touches, but they had no refinement. Then some white boys walked up wearing their jerseys and I was like "Ohhh". I introduced myself as being there to help out DOC and took the advice of a coaching podcast and played a little shooting game with the early kids. Once the full team made their way over, I had them do a big rondo until DOC arrived..

First 30: When DOC shows up we move to a more intense 4v1 rondo. We're down one guy so I join one group. I've never played organized soccer so this is pretty new for me, but these are kids so coach reminds me to take it easy on them after I stone a kid then nutmeg him when we trade places. I'm competitive..! We play musical groups, switching periodically. One group has me worked in the middle. They play it all the way around the outside a few times and get almost twenty reps before I can cut it out.

Second 30: About 1/3rd of the way into practice, the overhead lights shut off! The usual coach forgot to pay the dang fee to keep em on! We move practice to the perimeter to be able to see at all. I have to keep reminding guys to not run onto the concrete. It's quite unforgiving on cleated individuals. This is a 5v3 where the goal is to go from CB to CF. The CM is not allowed to turn and play, he has to work it around the defense. The defenders get a point if they control the ball and dribble it out of bounds. 3 points and they switch. We notice an inability to play the ball out of the back and DOC spreads the center and wing backs a few feet and that opens up space to play up either wing and split the line. He tells me this is the kind of adjustment they can use in-game and that these guys needed to be doing formational work today if they had the lights.

Final 30: The final thing coach wants to work on is breaking away from defenders and reading teammates. This drill resembles 2v1 american football and the kids recognize this seemingly trying to run at the defender like a wide receiver on a route. They keep turning their backs to the passer. I want them to stay open make a little contact in the defenders hip pocket and try to break upfield. They must be tired or timid, but they don't want to be physical with eachother. The passers can't read the indecisive runners and I'm getting pretty impatient. Coach calls them to bring it in and has them thank me for coming out. I return the platitude.

U10 Girls #1: Day 85 01/04/2018: I do laps around the school looking for my way to the field. I'm barely on time. Today we have '08-'09 girls that are new to our philosophy so a much different set of challenges. One girl hurt her wrist playing goalie against some older boys before practice so she is in tears before we've begun.

First 30: To start we're doing some skill dribbling. We only have 7 girls at first whistle, but there are plenty of balls to go around. They have trouble with the feints and beg to move to scissors. The hurt girl is in a really bad mood so I spend some time encouraging her during this warm-up. Next is on to juggling and predictably there are balls everywhere.

Second 30: We then move to 2 passing circles, three more girls arrive during warmups so we make two groups of five and make sure they receive with their opposite foot and play it with the other foot. Looking for two, crisp touches. "Pop, pop- pop, pop-". In lieu of a defender we make it a race to add pressure.

Final 30: We finish up with a little five-a-side w/POTB (play out the back) and thats when the talent shows. We have a girl from Holland that's only played for 4 months and she took her team organized them into a diamond amd commanded the game from the attacker spot. She worked into space, but definitely ballhogged a little. The girl who hurt her wrist was going up and down the sideline well amd lit up when I just smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Both teams insisted on turning into pressure so we made them backpass once before a goal would count. This showed them how we can go backwards to go forwards and give our teammates clean spaces in which to work.

Coach takes me aside afterwards and outlines a path he sees for me for this season and beyond.

Note; if you have any coaching information/resources you'd like to pass on, I'm always open to learn. Podcasts, pages on pages of drills, teaching defense, teaching goalies, anything will help!

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