By Scott Martin
Soccer legend, Pele, coined the phrase “the beautiful game” when he spoke about soccer. I sat at a table next to his during a gathering of coaches and must say that his vibe blared his love for the game as he spoke about his view of its artistic side.
My last post dealt with the mathematics found in soccer. Writing about the art found in the game allows for a great contrast in theory but offers the same depth and width as the two coexist within our sport. I found this to hold true earlier today while substitute teaching in an 8th-grade art class.
The topic of the day was free drawing using charcoal pencils. One of the staff teachers combined cardboard boxes and an assortment of paper bags — mostly grocery sized bags. The nearly 30 boxes of all shapes and sizes and more than 10 bags filled two rectangular tables that were placed side by side. The area measured approximately six feet by four feet and peaked at more than six feet from the floor to the top of the mound. Both the boxes and bags were brown in color with some being stamped with the name of the company such as Amazon or a local grocery store on them. There were four bright lights like photographers use surrounding the tables though not in an organized manner. These provided shadows to the display and the perspective changed according to the artist’s position.
As I walked among the nearly 50 students which was a combination of two classes within the art department, I noticed one of my U14 select players, Gabe. I stood behind and off to his right so he wouldn’t feel that I was watching him as he drew. Gabe seemed in “the zone” as if he was the only student artist in the room. I finally spoke and said, “Gabe, maybe we should have you guys do some drawing during a training session.” He chuckled and began to add shadow to a section of his drawing.
Gabe played left back for me last fall as I volunteered to help the local club progress their select program forward. The team played in two finals in the three tournaments we competed in. Of the 18 kids that made up a team of recreational players that were getting their first taste of select level play, a dozen made the cut for the team I’ve been training for the past two months. Their success (they did win one tournament) created interest within the club’s age group and 18 players now make up our first United team.
“Your sketching confirms your position as a back.” I commented while noticing the use of contrast and depth in his sketch. ” What do you mean? ” Gabe responded. “You show an ability to express the various parts of what you see. Much like observing an attacking opponent. You see the abstract.” Gabe tilted his head and gave out a ” Huh. ” as he nodded.
Playing in college, we plotted the movements of the ball by our players. If we had used different colors such as yellow for successful passes and orange for those that weren’t on target plus red for crosses, blue for slotted balls into the box, and green for shots, the final drawing would look much like a Jackson Pollock drip painting. Hopefully, the final creation would have included much more yellow and green than orange.
I strongly believe soccer is similar to the arranged boxes and bags. There is no set order, only perception according to one’s perspective. Like moving around the table where lines and the sense of depth and shadow changes, our beautiful games changes as the ball and players move. I promote creativity in my players of all ages and levels. Players should be allowed to express their artistic side. As I’ve often told my players over the years, the ball is your brush and the field is your canvas. Go ahead, draw a beautiful picture.
Let’s simplify the game.