"Wait Until Next Year!"
by Alan Maher
My season is over for my high school soccer team. The players think
that I am a good coach; we lost fourteen games in a row. So what! The
team is composed of young players who are small in size and short on
experience. I assure you that nobody wants to play us next year. When we won the ball we held on to it and never gave it back short of a shot on goal. Other teams hate that. They like to whack the ball and have it whacked back. Never mind the ball possession stuff. That is a problem. For them. Every day we trained our team, up to and including the last game. We got better and better. We were great from the top of the box to the other to of the box. We attacked poorly; we defended poorly. We could not attack in the last eighteen yards or defend in the last eighteen yards. From the top of one box to the other top of the box we were the best. Wait until next year. We have only thirty-six yards to go and we will be very dangerous. The other teams know this. They are gritting their teeth. We are grinning. Last week we had a dinner for the players; they all showed up. Even the seniors who had a bad season and were leaving us for college. They all came because they like the way that we had them play and knew that better times are to come. Players are aware of what is happening. The want to play well and they want to be part of a good program, even a losing one. The seniors want to come back and strut about and show how they were part of the process of getting better. Participation.It is important to have a program even if it does not work for a year or two. Players understand that. They want to be part of a structure. They want to grow with the game not just be pieces in a puzzle that they do not understand. They will work hard to be part of a system. As long as they understand where they are in the system. At the end of dinner all the players shook my hand and wished me well; I wished them well for next year. They all think that I am their grandfather. White hair and wrinkles. And slow of foot. But I must add that I am more flexible than 90 percent of them! That bothers them. How come I can stretch so well? It is not my program but the lack of their program. The young players like me. Why? They know that I have a program. I may carry most of it in my head, but I have it, and they know it. They want to be part of it. They want to belong. To a program. Even a bad one. But a program. Do you have a program? Do the players know that you have a program? Do they understand what is all about? Will they follow you into battle, even if they lose? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Light anywhere? I do not coach to have players adore me or go to dinner with me, or shake my hand. I train for the next level. Which may be next season or college. Or the end of the current season. But get better. Soccer should be a learning experience. Like school. Come to think of it, I was part of a school program for 34 years. I looked for the same goals. Have a program and make all get better. Lead or push; get it done. The leaves are turning color and the cold wind of winter is blowing on my face. I must make plans for the next season. Many plans. I plan to stress shielding the ball, finding the third player, and ...and after seeing my grandson...have some fun! Fun is participation. Let me do that again. Participation. Or playing soccer. For the fun of it. Wow! A new concept! Play the game. The game. Play the game. Have fun. Play the game. Wow! What else is there? Is there life after soccer? Life after soccer? Really?
Alan Maher was keynote speaker at the National Soccer
Coaches Convention (NSCAA) in Cincinnati.
You can correspond with Alan Maher by writing to:
340 Euclid Ave.
Massapequa Park, NY 11762
Ask him about his manual (with many 'new' games) called,
"Attacking Soccer with the Neutral Player"
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