I’m a Soccer Rat. I always have been and I always will be.
I’ve been a player, a referee, an administrator. I’ve lined fields using string wrapped around a coffee can and carried a backpack full of spray paint using a bike as my means of transportation to move from field to field across the city. I’ve coached at the youth, high school and college levels. I’ve trained all-conference, all-state, and all-American players. Heck, I even coached via telephone and later from a wheelchair while being hospitalized and rehabbing after the loss of both my hands and feet to what the press tabbed “the flesh-eating disease”. And, yes, I successfully returned to coaching for a number of years after my five-month hospital stint.
But I left coaching for one thing that was more important: To raise what turned out to be five adopted kids from Romania and Ethiopia. I became a full-time father — Tata.
A few years ago with my youngest in high school, it was time for me to return to soccer. I took on a group of third-team castoffs — the one’s the other coaches didn’t want — to not only win a state league title but to do so by going undefeated. I returned to the game to find it too structured. Coaching had become more about building soccer robots than soccer players.
Immediately, I alienated myself by bringing only a small backpack and a boombox to my training sessions. In the backpack were discs and pinnies and that was basically it. I used the old-school style of simple concepts. And I followed my long-time credo of “My mission is not to teach you but to put you in a position to learn”.
While the boombox cranked Blues, Rock, Motown, Reggae, and even some Disco, my players began to relax. I gave them ten principles of play to follow and prodded them into turning off their brains and playing from the hearts. As their hair grew, so did their confidence. It wasn’t long before they beat the second-level team in training and were disappointed when the top team in the club refused to scrimmage.
Cutting to the chase, four of those players advanced to the first team and eight to the second team. This was in Washington and I’m now back to my roots in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, trying to advance Select soccer here with yet another group plus assisting at a small parochial high school.
My current crop of select U15s is good and can become very good. And the high schoolers, all 14 of them, keep blowing me away with what they’re picking up. I’m putting all of my soccer rats in positions to learn while they follow the same principles of play. The boombox is fully charged before each training session and I’m interested to learn how far these kids will go. I’ll write about the progress of both groups from time to time in my blog posts so stay tuned.
And now I’ve taken on the charge of editing this website, The Soccer Times. I expect to be linking you with the best soccer news and views from around the world. With the site, I plan to present as much quality content by both professional and amateur authors — folks like you and me — as possible. I hope you take your time to scan the latest news on national and professional teams, stay atop coaching philosophies, youth play, and the latest on equipment and gear. Really exciting to me are the blogs and podcasts offered by our fellow soccer rats.
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One last thing, keep your eyes open for a book titled Play From Your Heart. The proposal and manuscript are ready to roll. Soon, it’ll be time to query agents. But for now, there is soccer and this website.
Let’s simplify the game.