I'm strong, because I've been weak.
I'm fearless, because I've been afraid.
I'm wise, because I've been foolish.
I will win, because I have failed.


You do not become successful

by seeking success.
 Success is a bridge you cross

on the path to


Soccer is a game that's played with the brain.
Johan Cruyff


Every time you step onto the pitch is a tryout.

This is a point I drive home to our young athletes every opportunity I have.  You never know who is watching you. It might be a future employer.  It might be your future spouse. It might be a rival coach seeking a guest player.  Such has been the case this spring. Being undefeated in our league makes our roster a prime target for league coaches seeking guest players.

The simple truth is when a coach seeks a guest player they almost always ask for a specific player either by name or number. Such has been the case this spring.  Each coach who has contacted me did so with a "list" of specific players he was intersted in having join his team as a league or tournament guest player.  Sometimes the request is based on need and other times it is based on the coaches perception of "best player available."  Perception is the key word here - the impression the athlete made on the coach.  The athlete might have had a career day on the pitch the one day the coach observed him play, but that is the lasting impression of the athlete the coach has.

When a need arises for me to go outside of our club for a guest player I do the very same thing.  I maintain a list of players we have played against in league, at college showcases, at ODP that I would ask to guest play if a need arose. Within the league I know the goalkeeper, defender, wing mid, center mid and forward I would ask to play for us if the need arises. I also have contacts for a couple of ODP individuals we might ask.  These players are the ones that made favorable impressions on me with their play and their deportment in limited exposure.

By extension, every waking moment of every day of your life is a tryout.  You just never know who is watching you.  Opportunities are gained... and lost... based on your deportment and demonstrated abilities.


The greatest mistake

is to continue practicing a mistake.

 Break the chain of negativity immediately.



Soccer team allegedly uses witchcraft to help win match.

You just cannot make this stuff up.

Animal bones, hair, feathers and river pebbles are secreted around sports fields. The goal posts have been sprinkled with urine. The soccer players, some of whom have smeared ancient herbal potions on themselves, take the field.

It's a typical soccer match in Zimbabwe, and the presence of such charms shows that, among many teams in Africa, it is as important to have the magical properties of witchcraft on your side as it is to have fit and talented players.

Now, the CAPS United team in Zimbabwe is calling foul after their rivals, a team called How Mine, allegedly used "juju," or witchcraft, during a key match this month. CAPS United said its officials checked out the dressing room of its opponents 15 minutes after the match started and found suspicious objects, including lighted candles and bottles of liquid arrayed in an 11-man team formation.

How Mine wound up winning the Nov. 10 match, and insisted the candles and filled bottles were used for Christian prayers. The win sent the team to the Premier League finals to contend for a $200,000 cup title on Nov. 30.

How Mine coach Philani "Beefy" Ncube, a self-avowed devout Christian worshipper, has denied he uses magical powers invoked by spirit mediums to influence matches and scare opponents, citing his membership in a church whose pastors use candles and bottles of water as Christian offerings.
Zimbabwean soccer administrators are investigating complaints that CAPS United officials broke into the How Mine dressing room after kick-off, and claimed to have found objects used in juju. Police will also investigate the break-in allegations that were likened to a burglary. Colonial era "suppression of witchcraft" laws have not been repealed or enforced since independence in 1980, except in murder charges involving killings for human organs used in tribal rituals.

The use of witchcraft is reportedly common in soccer across sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is part of a belief system in Africa but it is a taboo to speak out about it," a leading Zimbabwe soccer administrator said. "Juju is rampant, it's part of the game."

The official insisted on anonymity because of the taboo nature of the subject.

George Kandiero, head of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association who is a practicing herbalist and spirit medium, said losing teams "are always coming to us to find a good remedy, a good muti," the local word for traditional medicine. "Teams, big and small, want to enhance their performance or confuse their opponents."

Some players in Zimbabwe visit healers known as n'angas, take herbal inhalations of steam and scented smoke ahead of a match. Some sleep overnight in a house where ancestral spirits are believed to descend as a guiding omen.

Among juju charms are body parts of hyenas, snakes, crocodiles and owls. Gourds containing scales of snake skin, misshapen tubers of cactus, knots of river reeds, dead lizards, dry blood or sheep's offal have been hidden in sports arenas. Female witches are hired to sniff out and neutralize spells cast by others.

The most effective antidote to a rival's juju is believed by many to be baboon urine, either on the soccer field, near the gates to the ground, at the players' tunnel or behind the goal. Coarse salt can also be scattered to ward off perceived evil spirits and spells and a player's feet and hands can also be rubbed with animal or human urine or herbal potions, the administrator said, leading to a reluctance between opposing players to shake hands before a match.


Tryouts begin tomorrow

Final tryouts for 2014 Spring teams begin tomorrow.  Our U17 Men's team had a very successful season this spring and I am anxious to see how this will impact tryouts for next years team. Will most of the team want to return? I do not actively recruit players to tryout for our teams so I just have no idea. 

What I am going to touch upon today is what I will be looking for at tryouts.

1) Decision making skills.   Soccer is a game played with the brain as much, if not more so than with physical ability.  There is a misconception that "big, fast, strong" athletes equates to the ability to play fast soccer. This just isn't so.  The ability to play fast is based in the player's ability to make good decisions in a timely manner.  The faster one thinks the game the faster one is capable of playing the game.

2) Is the player coachable?  I don't want know it alls who are stuck in their ways.  I want open minded young men eager to learn. I am looking for Great Enthusiastic Attitude.

3) Intelligent workers.  Yes, back to the brain, again.  The overwhelming majority of players will give good to great effort.  What I am looking for is intelligent effort.  Ball watchers tend to waste effort whereas game watchers tend to maximize the effort they give. Intelligent workers play simply. 

4) Leadership.  I believe the game requires 11 captains present on the field all working together to achieve a common goal.  The result - win / lose / draw - will be a common result so I want a team that will work with one another as equals with shared accountability and responsibility.  Once again, Attitude.

5) Passion for the game.  Love the game.  Respect the game. Honor the game and all its participants.


Play is the highest form of research.

"Play is the highest form of research."
- Albert Einstein
There is a message here for coaches.  A coach must possess knowledge of evaluation methods as well as an ability to apply them in a practical manner.  Perhaps the most fundamental key to coaching is evaluating individual and collective play. With proper evaluation of player and team performance a coach can use his library of knowledge about the game to formulate individual and team seasonal plans to improve performance. The king consideration in all of this is the players learning experiences presented as problem solving opportunities within their play. Play is the research that leads to better performance. 
Coaches, don't fear failure so much
that you refuse to try new things.
The saddest summary of a season 
contains two regrets:
could have and should have.

Good team or Great Team?

Good teams become great ones
when the members trust each other enough
 to surrender the Me for the We.


A PROCESS must be 
a PRIZE can be WON!

We need a new goalkeeper! Analyzing Goals 2

Goalkeepers are the last line of defense. The lasting impression many will have when their team is scored upon is of he failed attempt to prevent the score by the goalkeeper. Some wil be supportive of the goalkeepers efforts ad others will make comments like "He should've made that save!" or "We need a new goalkeeper!"

Today's Analysis of a Goal comes from the same match as the first did. This is significant as I believe through analyzing goals a team can learn where their weaknesses lie and make necessary adjustments to strengthen their play.

The background: The defending team in this case plays a 1-4-3-3 formation with a well defined attacking system.  It's defensive system is flawed both it construct and, of course, in execution. They employ a zonal back 4 with a holding mid and two atacking mids manning the midfield triangle. Three forwards with the wing forwards responsible for weak side width on defense.

GK = Goalkeeper
RB = Right Back
RCB = Right Center Back
LCB = Left Center Back
LB = Left Back
HM = Holding Midfielder
AM = Attacking Midfielder
RW = Right Wing Forward
CF = Center Forward
LW = Left Wing Forward

Goal # 2

This goal can also be traced to a successful long pass. Turnovers can often lead to goqal scoring opportunities.  The moment of transition is so critical many coaches emphasize it as being one of 3 phases of the game along with the attacking and defending phases of play.

In this instance a pass from an AM to a CF is not played cleanly. The opposing defender wins the ball away and immediately plays a long pass that defeats and eliminates 6 players - the entire forward and midfield lines.

Film shows the LB in the left central channel challenging opposing forward who has received the ball at a distance of 30 yards from goal. It is unclear why the LB had moved centrally to engage the forward as the LCB appears position well to do so.

The LB initially does a good job of delaying the attack and forcing the opponent to play laterally.

The defending team has typically asked the outside backs to force the ball wide when they engaged opposing ball carriers.

Other zonal teams will ask the outside backs to force the ball carrier inside towards their center back and into what is known as the Pyrite Wedge (Corner, corner, post). Pyrite is also known as fools gold and that is what the wedge is to a ball carrier. He will think he is in on goal but if the outside back and inside back are working together the ball carrier will have little chance at a quality strike and even if he does the goalkeeper only has to defend 4 yards of goal on shots from the Pyrite Wedge.

In this case,  because LB was out of position advanced in the central channel in front of the LCB he was completely dependent on the LCB to direct which way to force the play.  The HM makes a strong recovery run to the inside and helps the LB to force play laterally away from the face of the goal, but the double team is not aggressive enough to dispossess the attacker.

The LCB has remained almost directly behind the LB while the play is unfolding.  Zonal defending is all about supporting the pressure defender. The indecisiveness of the LCB forces his play to be an under lap.  In this case, an under lap is essentially the movement the LCB should have executed when he first noticed the LB in his channel and certainly should have made once the HM came back to double team from the inside.

An under lap is a staple of zonal defending that basically sees an inside defender intentionally switch positions with an outside defender.  This is usually done on the flank as a counter measure to  an opponents attempt at an overlap.  In this case the under lap should have been made to both provide cover to the outside and to balance the defensive shape in the defending third of the field.

The double team by the LB and HM force the attacker to move laterally outside towards the left channel where the LCB should have been lying in wait.  As it was, there was no cover / support to the outside.

We must note at this juncture that neither the LW nor either AM has recovered to provide support to the outside of the pressure defender. Film does not dictate where they are, only that no one is in the left outside channel where action is being forced to. The RW is also not represented as film does not indicate where he was.

Let's reset the play at this point.

In the diagram below we see how the defense was actually deployed. Note that there is not proper shape and the spacing of the backs leaves the face of the goal unprotected. 

With the goal to our backs the attacking ball carrier is being forced from right to left along the top of the 18 across the left center channel and towards the left outside channel.  The LB is engaged and the HM is now following the play.  The LCB remains almost directly behind the LB at a distance of 10 yards.  The RCB is out of position outside of the far post along the top of the 18 but is reasonably positioned in relation to the opponents CM who is beginning a backside run to far post. He is unfortunately watching the ball and will soon lose sight of the backside runners as he turns and runs at his own goal.  The RB is the only back in his correct channel but is also not positioned back to goal where he could have seen and picked up runners if he were positioned in the ball / you / man individual defensive triangle.  The RW who is responsible for weak side defensive width is not visible on film.

At this point in time we have 5 defenders present in addition to the goalkeeper. All six players are out of position.  Let's accept the fact the LB, despite being out of position has the attack contained.  The LCB should be outside at a depth of 5 yards and width of 6 yards in position to cover / support the LB.   The RCB is advanced on the 18 outside of the far post at a distance of 10 yards from the LB. Besides being advanced this split is far too wide in relation to the position of the ball on the field.

Now let us take a look at how the defense should have been deployed. I have included the wings covering width and all three midfielders.  Please note the backs are spaced at 6 yards and can cover the width of the 18.  They are also in support of the pressure being applied to the ball.  In this instance that would be the LB (with the LCB having moved outside) and the HM who has maintained the double team he initiated when the ball was centrally located.

Referring back to the first diagram the attacker got a step advantage to the outside and shot / crossed the ball along the ground towards the back post.  Note their are no backs present in front of the face of the goal to defend the shot / cross.  The RCB gets caught running at his own goal and is beaten to the near post by two attackers who have cut in behind him as he faced the ball. Both attackers also cut in front of the RB.
Now note the difference in the second diagram where the LCB is pressuring the ball. The LB has support to the outside.  The RCB is in front of the face of the goal and in support of the LCB. The RB has the back post covered.  Additionally the wing forwards are shown covering width with an AM having dropped in centrally to cover for the HM who has maintained the double team initiated when the ball was centrally located.  With this coverage, and the backs playing back to goal, it would have been nearly impossible for the shot / cross to have cleanly made it across the face of the goal.
At this point the goalkeeper chooses an indirect path to the ball as he elects to pursue it diagonally backwards instead of moving to intercept it at the earliest point possible.  The result is the shot / cross getting through to the backside runners for an easy tap in goal.

As with the first goal analyzed it should be clear that it was a total team break down that allowed this goal to be scored.  Everyone will remember the RCB being beaten at the back post and the GK not getting to the ball in time, but this goal originated much further out on the pitch with every single member of the defending team having had an opportunity to interrupt the advance of the ball or prevent the cross / shot and ultimately the goal.


Be Right Back.... tomorrow, November 11, 2013

I have taken some much needed (and well earned) vacation time the last few days.  Needed time away to decompress and refresh / renew physically, mentally and emotionally after the fall high school season.  Spent time in Michigan watching my beloved Wolverines raise their NCAA Final Four basketball banner and defeat U Mass-Lowell Friday night.  Lot's of shopping at M-Den, Moe's Kilwins, Premier Outlet Mall, Bronner's and Cabella's.  Great food at Tony's, Cottage Inn Pizza and ... the Frankenmuth Drury Inn?   Seriously. Best "FREE" hotel food I have ever had.  Evening buffet was spectacular and breakfast buffet was top of the charts.  The UM vs Nebraska game was an great battle even if the wrong team won.  Another shout out to Drury Inn for a REAL hot tub!  That son of a gun was "hot"!  Swimming was good as well.  Enjoyed the family time with my wonderful wife and our youngest son.  Feel so refreshed and ready to go again!   Articles will start back up tomorrow with Analyzing Goals 2.  

The World Famous One Pound Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich at Tony's
Yes sir, I ate the whole thing!
Seriously don't want to eat bacon again.... at least for a day or two!


Man City's U17 Team...... Garbage time

A Whole New Meaning to
Garbage Time!

We need a new goalkeeper! Analyzing Goals.

Goalkeepers are the last line of defense. The lasting impression many will have when their team is scored upon is of the goalkeeper's failed attempt to prevent the score. Some will be supportive of the goalkeepers efforts and others will make comments like "He should've made that save!" or "We need a new goalkeeper!"

In the article I Learned Attacking Soccer from a Goalkeeper Coach I relate of learning the importance of analyzing goals from current Anderson College coach John Murphy. If we wish to prevent future goals we must learn from the goals we have allowed, and even those our team has scored. While it's easy to blame the goalkeeper as the last line of defense I have fond that less than 10% of high school goals scored can be solely attributed to goalkeeper error.

In reviewing video of a recent high school match it occurred to me the goals one team allowed were ideal to illustrate that goals often originate from far out on the pitch. There usually exists a chain of events that lead up to that heart dropping moment when the ball gets by the goalkeeper. The idea here is not to transfer blame from the goalkeeper to a field player, but to demonstrate that there is a shared responsibility.

We will need to set the background in order to develop as complete an understanding as possible. The defending team in this case plays a 1-4-3-3 formation with a well defined attacking system. It's defensive system is flawed both it construct and, of course, in execution. They employ a zonal back 4 with a holding mid and two attacking mids manning the midfield triangle. Three forwards with the wing forwards responsible for weak side width on defense.

GK = Goalkeeper
RB = Right Back
RCB = Right Center Back
LCB = Left Center Back
LB = Left Back
HM = Holding Midfielder
AM = Attacking Midfielder
RW = Right Wing Forward
CF = Center Forward
LW = Left Wing Forward

Goal #1

This goal is scored off a break away but actually originates from action off an opposition goal kick.

The opposing GK played a goal kick into a gusting wind of 15-20 mph. A wind of this strength indicates that a short goal kick is likely to occur. It is quite possible the ball might be blown back towards the GK if played high enough that the wind catches it. Therefore the defending teams forwards must not only guard against a short goal kick but also be prepared to play the anticipation area on a longer kick that will be played by their midfield or back line teammates.

In this case, the teams HM won a flighted ball with a leaping header playing the ball strongly back up the field. This is where the goal originates. There are only 3 opposing players in the anticipation area. Neither the AM's, or any of the three forwards are present to play their teammates header

Naturally an opponent won the ball and immediately made a long ground service through the defense. The best pass in soccer is one that successfully defeats as many opponents as possible. In this instance the pass defeated seven players -both AM's, the HM and the entire back line.

Film shows no pressure on the passer and both the LCB and RCB advanced 7-10 yards out of position. The pass went through the center channels to an opposing forward bending off a flat run behind the LCB and RCB.

It is important to note at this time that the RCB was not only advanced but also in the right outside channel. The LCB was even further advanced and in the right center channel. The teams LB was in the left center channel. This is an extremely odd deployment given the ball has been located located centrally in the teams atacking third. Only the teams RB appears to have been positioned properly and his role was being duplicated by the RCB.

It is also important to note that with no pressure on the ball carrier / passer the cue for the backs is to "retreat" in order to deny negative space between the backs and their GK. While two of the tactical cues for pressing were technically present - 50/50 ball and an opponent restart - it was within the purview of the midfielders to press, not the backs.

Because the RCB was out of position both vertically and horizontally his pursuit angle to the play actually cut off the pursuit of the RB effectively eliminating the RB from the play. And because the LB was positioned in the left central channel his pursuit angle was much sharper than it should have been effectively eliminating himself from the play. As the opposing forward had a 10 yard head start on the RCB and LCB and was noticeably faster than either of them this was essentially a 1 v GK situation beginning 45 yards out from goal.

With the ball 45 yards from goal and on the attackers foot, the GK's role of sweeper / keeper was effectively eliminated. His only choice was to give ground and establish himself inside the penalty area. The attackers next touch pushed the ball 20 yards forward for him to run onto. This is the touch that the GK needed to cue on. The ball would next be touched at a distance of 25 yards from goal. The attackers first touch essentially resulted in a 50 / 50 ball to be contested between the goalkeeper and the attacker.

Unfortunately the GK had retreated all the way to inside the goal area. From this position he could not challenge for the 50 / 50 ball created by the attackers first touch. When the ball is off the attackers foot, the GK must take ground and close down the distance between himself and the attacker at a pace that matches the attacker pace. The GK had retreated himself out of position to do this.

One more small touch by the attacker put the ball inside the penalty area and the next touch found side netting at the back post from a distance of 16 yards. The goalkeeper remained 3 yards off the line and dove laterally in an attempt to make the save. Even with an properly executed diagonally forward collapse dive he may not have been able to make the save from that near his own goal line.

From this analysis it should be clear the goal allowed was because of total team breakdown.

1) The forwards did not play the anticipation zone nor did any of them pressure the opponent who would make the through pass.

2) The AM's did not play the anticipation area or support in behind the HM. They also did not pressure the opponent who would make the through pass.

3) The center backs were far too aggressive in their advanced position and completely missed the cue for early retreat. Instead of denying or shrinking the negative space between them and their GK, they actually aided the opponents by creating more space behind them for the opponents to play into and utilize against them.

4) The LB was out of position in the central channel and effectively eliminated himself from the play due to having too sharpe of a pursuit angle to run down the break away.

5) The RB. although positioned properly might have had the best chance to prevent the break away had he not read the cue for early treat correctly and had been improperly positioned inside behind the advanced RCB.

6) The GK completely misread the cues and failed to challenge the 50/50 ball created by the attacker breaking through. In missing this play he also eliminated any chance to "come out and close down the angles"  as the attacker shot early from near the top of the penalty area. Lastly he dove laterally and again missed the opportunity to cut the angles on the shot.

Quite literally, all 11 players on the defending side played a role in this goal being scored against their team. A complete and total team breakdown on a play that originated 114 yards from their own goal.

Leadership is an action before it's a title.