Monday, July 26, 2010

Swarm Ball vs. The Beautiful Game

In my brief tenure as youth soccer coach, I no doubt had the opportunity to observe the great players of the future. Second only to the many hours of quality time was the pleasure of watching their game grow with them. On the youngest team I ever coached was a player whose inseam was slightly less than the ball diameter. Hardly the time to teach the "Stanley Matthews".

Yet they all loved the game. At first all they knew was a phenomenon known as "Swarm Ball". Where the ball went, so went the team. The only real game changer was the "Breakaway", which at that age was more like hitting fly balls to yourself. As they got a little older, the often-practiced passes would appear. Whether by accident or fear, there were results. And in those players who paid attention, you could see the filament begin to glow.

And suddenly it would burn brightly. A few members would learn that to win, you needed to "create space". A novel concept when you think about it. Move without the ball, and away from the ball. Draw your opponent out. Dilute the defense. Exploit the space created by your teammates. And perhaps most importantly, trust your teammates to play their positions.

Life imitates soccer. Create your own space. But in doing so, you don't need to be alone in your space. You define it. And you need teammates.

And don't get me started about "The Tornado". Seen on the field of valor only twice that I recall. You saw it coming, kind of. You got anxious thinking "here it comes". And then it happened. A jockstrap left on the field a meter or so behind the broken player, and a breakaway leading to an in-tournament goal. The peasants rejoiced. And so did the "coach".

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