Boys and Girls OHSAA Regional Action for November 1, 2014

In a Division II Boys Regional Final Celina will play #7 Bay Village Bay at Lake High School at 12:00 noon

Good Luck Bulldogs!
In a Division III Boys Regional Final Ft Jennings (12-5-4) will play #7  Mansfield Christian (16-2-2) at 12:00 noon at Findlay High School.
Good Luck Musketeers!
In a Division II Girls Regional Final #8 Bath (19-1-0) will play #5 Bellville Clearfork  (16-2-2)  at Findlay High School at 3:00 pm
Good Luck Wildkittens!
In a Division III Girls Regional Final #4 Ottawa-Glandorf (18-1-1) will play Akron Manchester (16-2-2) at Lexington High School at 3:00 pm
Good Luck Titans!

Soccer Memories - Ian

Our next installment of Soccer Memories features Ian who is in his first year of college after a stellar high school career. 

My favorite memory of soccer was my first college goal. That goals my favorite out of all my years of soccer because I'm a freshman in college and hardly play, but our team had been playing and went down to 9 men vs. 11 and coach had to play everyone to keep rest. We went down a goal in the first half and in the second we came back and tied it. With only two minutes left in the game I slot home the game winning goal. I was excited and all i wanted was to make my parents proud so I had to call them and tell them.

Adjusting to the Speed of the Game

No matter the level of play, what distinguishes the best players from all others is their anticipatory skills. Over the years here at the CBA Soccer Blog we have devoted much time discussing the ideas of the game being played with the brain and the importance of being a game watcher. As a coach I spend a lot of time teaching players visual cues for various facets of play.  This spring our club team will use the mantra of Space and Pace as we pursue a style of play that allows us to play as fast as possible.

Space Equals Time is an age old soccer adage whose meanings are both overt and subtle at once. Obviously the time element concerns having enough space to perform a required skill successfully. Acquiring the space required to perform successfully in is a skill often overlooked.

When talking to my teams about possessing the soccer ball I used to ask them to think of the soccer ball as a golden egg. I wanted them to appreciate how precious possession of the soccer ball is in the game. Ideas behind this included reduction of 50 / 50 balls and expending our energy in maintaining possession of the ball.  Flash forward to the present and I stress the concept of Space to my teams as being of equal importance to possession of the soccer ball.  If the soccer ball represents the crown jewel of the game, then space represents the Tower of London.  The Tower of London is where the Crown Jewels of England are kept safe from those who would steal them.  Space is where teams in possession play in order to keep the ball away from opponents until a shot on goal is generated.

When we wrote of the malaise associated with Ballwatchingitis the idea was to encourage players to see more of the game than the 10 yard square around the location of the ball.  A broadening of a players field of vision is one means of improving in-game anticipatory skills.  With some of the cues we teach the focus is much narrower - the potential shooter's head going down to the ball, the soccer hop and the back swing of his leg are cues to be read indicating the goalkeeper needs to become set in his ready position, for example.

The point of today's writing is to impress upon you the fact adjusting to the speed of the game is a mental process even more so than a physical process.  Players need to gather and assimilate as much game related information as possible in pursuit of increasing the speed at which they are capable of playing the game.  Recognizing, creating and utilizing SPACE is a king consideration in this process and within this idea the identification of various cues that indicate specific play is crucial.

When training goalkeepers my mantra is The feet get the hands to the ball and while this is true, it is the brain that tells the feet the movements required to get the hands to the ball and the eyes that provide the information the brain requires to put the feet and hands in action.

Field players must take a similar approach in using their eyes (and all senses) to provide the brain with information that can be used to anticipate the flow or run of play.  It is the brain that puts the body in motion to make the play.  So it stands to reason training the brain is at least equally important as training they body in preparing to play the game.

Players, ask yourself when was the last time a coach devoted practice time specifically to training the brain?   Coaches, ask yourself if you are finding a proper balance between training the body and training the brain.  If you need help with this concept, contact us and we will be glad to help you out,


Soccer Memories - Keirstyn

We have had several of you contribute to our continuing our series on Soccer Memories.   The amazing thing continues to be every single memory shared being a positive one.  Teammates, great plays, big matches, travel, hotels, meals with teammates and their families. Team bonding.  The fellowship and sharing we do with our soccer families.

If you want in on the fun, send your memories to and I will share them with our readers.

Soccer Memories - Keirstyn

Okay,  my favorite soccer memories would have to be from my sophomore year when we beat Anna for the first time ever then we ended up beating them the same year in the tournament 3-0.
Another thought about comfort zones
There is real value to pushing players to expand their comfort zones
or even to step completely out of their established comfort zone into a new one.
You can be comfortable or courageous,
but you cannot be both.
Courageous soccer players are good soccer players.
Dare to fail in order to succeed.
Be Positive
Be Patient
Be Persistent 


Good Luck to the Celina Bulldogs!

Wednesday November 29. 2014

The Celina Bulldogs take on Napoleon in OHSAA Regional play at 7:00 p.m. at Findlay high school this evening.

Good Luck Bulldogs!
Let's get behind Celina as they represent the Western Buckeye League.  I believe by the end of the season this was the best team in the WBL and they certainly have been playing like they are. If you can make the trip to Findlay, be there to cheer the last remaining WBL team on.  This should be a great match pitting Napoleon's speed up top against the best defense in the WBL.  Defense wins Championships and I have high hopes for Celina this evening!  Go WBL!   Go Celina!

Space and Pace

Space and Pace

Soccer is all about space and pace.
The amount of space available
dictates the pace of the attack.
You can’t make the same mistake twice.
The second time you make it,
 it’s no longer a mistake, it’s a choice.
If you make the same mistake again
It has become a bad habit.


Girls Regional Games - Good Luck to Bath & Ottawa-Glandorf!

Tuesday October 28. 2014.

The Western Buckeye League is well represented in the OHSAA Girls Regional tournaments this week.

State ranked #8 Bath (18-1-0) will be playing Millbury Lake (15-3-2) at Findlay at 7:00 pm  tonight.

Good Luck Wild Kittens!
State ranked #4 and WBL Champion Ottawa-Glandorf (17-1-1) will be playing Archbold (14-3-2) at Ottawa Hills at 7:00 pm tonight.
Good Luck Lady Titans!
We wish both of these the very best of luck as they pursue their dreams and represent the Western Buckeye League on the tournament path.  Please join us in supporting them.

Teach to win. Learn from losing.

When you want to win a game,
you have to teach.
When you lose a game,
you have to learn.


Pessimists and Optimists ... as coaches

I was talking with a young man today about his senior year soccer experiences and in the spirit of our Soccer Memories feature I asked him what his lasting memory of this season would be?

"That I never got a chance."

Now, I felt I had really stuck my foot in my mouth having asked this question of him. Before I had a chance to extricate my proverbial appendage from my oral orifice the young man went on to state his belief his coaches only focused on what he could not do and neglected the things he did do well that could have helped the team. "But it wasn't just me. They treated most of us that way. They were all rah rah in pumping us up, but it was all a show. They were fake optimists but really pessimists."

Out of the mouth of babes...

Long time readers of this blog know I love to channel my inner Jimmy Buffett and look at things from different points of view.  It's a great way to learn, imo.  Here was a golden opportunity dropped right in my lap.

I learned long ago the value of looking at the positives a player can bring to a team.  It's not that weaknesses should be ignored, but more so that positives or strengths should be accentuated. 

I remember another young man who made a varsity basketball team despite having only one real skill - he could shoot and make the outside shot. He was out of shape and too slow a foot to be much use as a defender. He did not handle ball well at all. He wasn't a very good passer either, but he could shoot from the perimeter.  In complete honesty I figured the kid would never get off the bench even in "scrub time" as we called it back in the day. 

Then there we were playing against a team who threw a triangle and two defense at us. The played man on our two best players and a triangle zone around the lane.  Enter the shooter.  Seven straight 3 point shots made from the corners.  Gimmick defense destroyed and ball game won.

While I had never thought of coaches in terms of optimists and pessimists I can acknowledge this perspective or point of view as being very valid.  In speaking with the young man today my thoughts went immediately to his strengths as a soccer player - passion, vision, a decent skill set.  These were indeed overshadowed by what could only be described as an unorthodox athletic style of playing - the guy is all arms and legs that flail in multiple directions at once making his nickname of Gumby somehow appropriate.  He just doesn't look the part on the field... much as the basketball player I referenced earlier did not look the part. 

I firmly believe once a coach decides to keep a player on the team, the coach accepts a responsibility to promote that athlete, to accentuate and incorporate that players strengths into the teams philosophy and system of play. Obviously Gumby felt betrayed by the coaching staff.  He did not understand why he was kept on the team if he would never be given the chance to show what he could do. The coaching staff obviously took a very pessimistic view of a player they decided to keep on the roster. That really is not fair to anyone involved.

I would think any compassionate coach would not want a players lasting impression of his senior year of high school soccer to be "that I never got a chance"  or "I'm just glad it's over"  as another player recently proclaimed to me.  Something is seriously amiss when the lasting impressions of a senior year of high school soccer is so negative, so pessimistic.

To paraphrase Julius from Remember the Titans, "Attitude reflects leadership, coach"

This brings us to a point of this writing.  The player / coach relationship is the cornerstone of successful teams.  In Gumby's situation the coach quite obviously failed to provide optimistic or positive leadership in dealing with Gumby.  The message Gumby received was one of constant negativity. A constantly and consistently pessimistic message from the coach to a player.

Coach, any seed of negativity left unattended will result in decay of the teams chemistry. 

And do not underestimate your players.  They can spot a fake from the length of the pitch. Disingenuous actions and words are received as such. If you play favorites, you will lose those players not counted among your favorites as they will perceive that no matter what they do it will never be enough to raise themselves to "favorite" status.

From this perspective it is easily understood why the best coaches either have a team of favorites or a team with no favorites at all.  The really good coaches treat everyone equally and fairly if not exactly alike. Again from Remember the Titans Coach Boone says, "Now I may be a mean cuss. But I'm the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that ... field"  And that's the way it should be.  If you keep a player on your team it is your responsibility, your duty to that player, to promote him and build him up.  You utilize his strengths to the benefit of the team or you risk being responsible for a cancerous growth that will hold your team back or even ruin a season... not just for the affected player, but for everyone.

Soccer Memories - Michael

· Being part of the staff for the Cleveland Crunch for their 1999 NPSL Championship year.
· Traveling to various out of town tournaments to officiate and meet new people and officials.

· Officiating the US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional U14 final being selected after only going to replace someone who was injured.
· Being the youngest referee to officiate at Prairie State Games Gold Medal Final.
· Meeting Esse Barharmest personally as he was the first MLS Cup final referee.

· Meeting Carlos Valderamma at a tournament.

· The many year end WOSOA pizza parties.

· Working a NCAA Division 1 assistant referee position at Western Michgan University for the first time.

· Working at the SAY national tournament

· Officiating for coaches that were my camp counselors at Indiana University soccer camp at their college jobs.

·  Working 25 years of soccer as an official at such a young age.

·  Working for the Chicago Stingers when they won their USL title in 1998.

The only way
to maximize potential for performance
 is to be calm in the mind.
Striking a more proper balance between physical effort and mental effort is the biggest challenge facing United States Soccer.  We need to develop players who are both poised on the ball and creative problem solvers. This will require a greater an emphasis on training the brain.

Eleven Best or Best Eleven?

Each time I assemble a team questions regrading starting assignments and roles arise.  My standard reply is "We have a roster full of starters".   This is a true statement.  I do not keep you on the roster if I do  not believe you can play. As the head coach I will strive to determine the 11 who play best together.  Not necessarily the 11 best individual players.

That said, I do rank the members of the team 1 - 16 for field players and 1-2 for goalkeepers.  Players will move up and down in the individual rankings throughout the season dependent on their performance in training and ultimately their performances playing in matches.  I will strive to start as many of the top 10 ranked field players as possible.  This is where player versatility becomes important.  If starting is the issue, a back up DM might need to be willing to start as a center back, for example.

This ranking of players is for coaching staff use and is never shared with the players individually or collectively. Parents never see it and I will not discuss a players position in the rankings.  It is a subjective ranking with little in the way of empirical data to support it. 

The only statistic I am mindful of is attendance and promptness - a players commitment to the team.

So, why rank the players?

For me it serves as a reminder for use in late in the game situations.  If we are up a goal and need to hold the lead. If we are even or down a goal.   I might refer to the rankings to make sure I have best personnel available in the game. 

The real value I derive from the rankings stems from the associated notes I make about each player.  From the tryout process through the early preseason I will formulate seasonal plans for each player.  These seasonal plans will focus on accentuating strengths and improving weaknesses.  Players will move up (or down) the rankings based largely on how they address weakness in their games.

I will also use the individual seasonal plans collectively to discern a team seasonal plan. When certain themes repeat themselves amongst a number of players, we will add this to the teams seasonal plan as something we want to address.  By the same token, when a strength manifests itself repeatedly in individual seasonal plans, this is an area we will seek to accentuate in our teams system of play.

The preseason rankings are a starting point.  It is the final rankings that I have the most interest in.  Did the player progress?  Sometimes a player may not move up in the ranks but progress will be obvious through the final notes associated with his rankings when compared to those early season notes. 

And, yes, there are rare occasions when a player remains stagnant and drops down the list.  These players rankings and associated notes are of particular interest to me.  Did I fail this player as a coach and if so, why?  Sometimes, a player self-selects.  That is, he is overwhelmed by the talent that surrounds him.  He will realize his passion for the game doesn't measure up to that of his teammates. He will discover that while his teammates have a ball at their foot away from team activities he would rather be playing video games, working or devoting more time to his studies - he has other activities higher on his priority list than soccer is in relation to where soccer falls on his teammates priority lists.

There are times when we as coaches just do not connect with a player though.  It might be personalities. It might be a coach teaches in a manner that does not fit how the player best learns.  It might be any number of reasons.  If we want that player back for another season, we must do all we can to uncover where the disconnect has occurred.  The alternatives are to be up front with the player and suggest he move on to another team or simply cut him from your team.

This brings us back to the tryout process where the final rankings from the previous season can come into play. Tryouts are about forming the best team possible. It might be a prospective new player would rank higher on your individual player rankings than the last returning player on your list. At that point, a change in the teams roster might occur.

A ranking such as we are discussing here should never be the "be all end all" in determining a teams roster, starting positions or any other spot on a team.  We all know at any given moment a player is capable of "getting hot" or "finding a zone" and we would be foolish to grant this more significance than player who performs consistently over a long period of time.

We have also seen the talented player who is a train wreck of a teammate.  While he might rank high in the individual rankings he is not one of the 11 who play best together. 

Team chemistry is so very vital to team success that it simply cannot be overlooked. I have had players who were clearly among the top five players of our individual rankings who we simply could not start or play on the field at "crunch time" because they had no clue how to fit their talents cohesively into the team. Chances are pretty good that would have been one of the points of emphasis in that players seasonal plan.

In the end, I use the player rankings and associated notes as part of my personal self-evaluation.  I identified strengths and weakness in each players game. Did I place the player into a position and situations on the pitch from where he had reasonable expectations for success?  Did I help the player address his weaknesses as I identified them?  From the final rankings and my self-evaluation springs the beginnings of a new season.


Soccer Memories - Bailey

Bailey Hinegardner Favorite Soccer Memories


·         Playing Hall Soccer with a mini ball in hotels while at soccer tournaments

·         Traveling to the National 3vs3 soccer tourney at Disney’s Wide World of Sports

·         Going to the championship game in Cincinnati’s Queen City tournament by going into double overtime and then winning in PK’s and then 15 minutes later having to play the championship game

·         Being named captain of my high school team my senior year

·         Being the first Wapak team to win against Kalida

·         Scoring a 30 yard free kick against Indian Lake my senior year

·         The many team dinners we had in high school

·         Playing in the rain, sleet, hail, and snow all in one soccer game

·         The many fun times at practice playing games like soccer tennis, handball, World Cup, Power Finesse and many more

·         Attending or even helping with all the soccer camps that I attended

·         Meeting people that I would have never met if I would not have played soccer and having lasting friendships with them

·         Seeing all the different coaching styles that coaches have and learning something different from each one of them

·         Last of all learning the many lessons from soccer that not only help you with soccer but also with life


Traits of a Good Coach

A good coach knows results are not the ultimate measure of success in athletics.

Passion For The Game: Coaches need to love the sport they coach and be able to share their enthusiasm for their sport with the players entrusted to them. Their passion must transcend all aspects of the game - the teaching of technique and tactics, respect for the spirit of the game, opponents, officials and spectators and ensuring a positive environment of encouragement and empowerment.

Love of Players:  A coach needs to love working with the players of the age group he coaches. The relationship between coach and player should energize and motivate both parties. It is a relationship to be celebrated in the context of athletics and in the broader spectrum of life.

Knowledge: A coach must be a student of the game. Continuing education is not an option. The moment you think you know everything there is to know about the game is the point in time you should stop coaching.

The Ability to Teach: This is a companion to knowledge. A coach must have an ability to teach the basics fundamentals and deeper intricacies of the game. In order to do so the coach will need to recognize not all players learn in the same manner and be able to adapt lesson / practice plans to keep everyone on the same page.

Patience: This might be the most important trait a coach needs. On the soccer field the decisions players make can evoke emotions ranging from satisfaction to bewilderment to irritation. And then there are the off-the-field issues that can creep into the equation as well. Being able to maintain an even keel is of vital importance for a coach.

Tolerance: Is the companion of patience. Players bring the entire range of emotions with them to practice and the game. Getting them to be able to focus and concentrate on soccer for the time you have them can be a challenge. The ability to enable players to channel their energies in a focused and positive direction on the task at hand (soccer) is a key characteristic found in good coaches.

Acceptance: The third part of the coaching trinity along with Patience and Tolerance is Acceptance. Each player is an individual and each comes with varied potential, technical and tactical skill levels. Each player has value as an individual and as a member of your team. You must acknowledge and nurture that worth in order to spark passion for the sport and a desire to work on improving within each player.

Respect: Treat players with the respect you wish to be treated with. You may think the title of coach brings you respect, but you would be wrong.  Respect is not given or bestowed upon a coach. As a coach you must earn respect just as you expect players to earn your respect.

Motivation: I include motivation in this listing because we so often hear of its importance in athletics, but if we take care of Patience, Tolerance, Acceptance and Respect you will find little difficulty in motivating players... or people.

Sportsmanship:  I include sportsmanship much as I did motivation for if we are patient, tolerant, accepting and respectful it stands to reason we will also exhibit good sportsmanship.

In summation, coaching is about treating people as you would like to be treated while igniting a passion within them to become the best they can be as a player and teammate in the sport they have chosen to participate in. 

Shadow Play and Pattern Play

Shadow Play and Pattern Play


There is sometimes a general confusion between Shadow Play and Pattern Play among soccer coaches. In this article I will define each, point out differences and explain why both can be crucial elements of practice sessions.
Shadow play is an active visual tool used to explain options within game situations.  It is usually conducted as a slow motion walk though. The way I use it is to have the active player or players walk through a series of options for a commonly encountered in-game problem.  In this sense, Shadow play is a problem solving technique or tool. 

Pattern play is the system of play that your team seeks to employ within its formational lineup. A simple example using a 4-4-2 formation is as the left back wins the ball the left midfielder gets heels to touch line while the nearest center midfielder moves central opening a direct passing lane to a target forward for the back to play to.  From that point there might be a prescribed pattern for the left midfielder to follow OR there might be a series of options, the cues for which must be read. 


I'm a Rambling Man.

I suppose it is due to a wave of nostalgia that swept over me when our youngest son completed his last season of high school soccer?  My thoughts have been wandering back to the days when our sons, hardly more than toddlers, began playing the beautiful game and back again to these last days of our youngest sons high school career.  Those thoughts have not taken a direct path, but have strayed here to there and from child to child.  This article will likely ramble about just as much as I attempt to formulate some of these thoughts into cohesive ideas about this game the world refers to as football or futbol and that we know as soccer.

Having the analytical mind that I do the general premise behind this "typing out loud"  is to consider a better development model for soccer here in the United States. Not only am I considering how my sons learned the game and I along with them, but I am also attempting a bit of reverse engineering in studying foreign exchange students and foreign players in the MLS. It's an ambitious undertaking, for sure. Purely unscientific as well.  I am using my powers of observation, deduction and analysis in an attempt to find a better way.

Calm and poised are adjectives often used to describe how my sons play the game.  Grant came to this in spite of my coaching.  I think Grant would credit Graham Ramsay with helping him learn to think the game differently than many of his peers did and perhaps still do.  Treg benefited from my increased awareness of the similarities between my first love of basketball and my new love of soccer but Ken White had a huge influence on his play as well. Lance is the best of the lot in how he sees and interprets the game and his play reflects this.

Over the years we have had several foreign exchange students play for our club and with the high school team. Some of them have been quite good while others have been average at best. Still, all these young men, every single one of them, stand apart from their American counterparts in their ideas about the game.  I have long believed the foreign exchange students think the game differently than our own players do. Only recently have I began to consider the reason for this being their seeing the game differently than we do.  Therein lies what I will call the subtleties of the game. These subtleties of the game might be difficult for me to articulate to you in no small part because my vision of them is still evolving. Please bear with me as I try my best.

Simon was a JV player at Shawnee. Why he never played varsity is a mystery to me although I suspect it was because he was a cerebral player more so than an energetic whirlwind of physical activity. Simon had great ideas on how to play this game we call soccer. Decision making and quality of first touch are what set him apart from most of those around him.

The decision making aspect was indicative of Simon's vision or game intelligence. He was most definitely a game watcher as opposed to a ball watcher. His play was rarely frenetic. He was a player, who by US standards, might have been considered lazy.  This is one of the subtleties I am writing about - if you are a game watcher you don't have to have a constantly high physical work rate to be effective.

In high school soccer it seems high physical work rate is valued more than high mental work rate. It's a work harder, think less approach to the game. This is the issue at the heart of the overly direct play that dominates high school soccer. With our foreign players mental work rate dictates physical work rate. That is one of the subtleties of the game I am writing about.

Quality of first touch is one of the areas where mental work rate dictating physical work rate manifests itself most and in the clearest fashion. Our exchange students have been very adept with their first touch on the ball.  However, their first touches on the ball have often been of an unconventional nature. One might describe many of these first touches as being executed with improper technique. 

This might be best illustrated by describing how another of our exchange students, Goncalo, executed in a warm up exercise known as breaking lines.  The basic concept of breaking lines is to pass the ball around the outside of a grid using proper sequences of touches. It is all done two-touch utilizing inside of the foot "reception" and the push pass in the following combinations:

Right foot first touch leading into a push pass with the right foot.  Right / Right
Right / Left
Left / Left
Left / Right

I need to backtrack to another idiom characteristic in foreign players. They tend to arrive to training and games in street clothes with their kit on underneath. 'Calo was one of the "worst" of the lot at this. He would even take the field for warm ups dressed in jeans and a polo.  Yes, I allowed this to happen and I will relate why a little further along in my ramblings.

I explained breaking lines in specific terms to the group and set them off on performing it. It wasn't long before my attention was drawn to Calo's touches.  It seemed he would use the inside of his foot when convenient but was quite content to use the outside of his foot or any other part of his body for both receiving and passing the ball. I watched intently for  awhile thinking I would stop the exercise and make a coaching point from one of Calo's touches.  I never did though.

Breaking lines is a warm up activity that I was using to reinforce proper technique with the players. Toes up, heel down, change the path of the ball when receiving. Toes up, heel down, strike with the ankle bone when passing. 

Calo viewed breaking lines for what it was - a warm up exercise. He utilized it as preparation to train or play with a focus on moving the ball around the outside of the grid in as efficient of a manner as he could. If that entailed using other techniques than the inside of the foot first touch or push pass, did it really matter?  This was Calo's thinking.  Effectiveness was preferred to adhering strictly to "proper" technique or technical excellence.  Another subtlety of the game.

As Americans we marvel at the creativeness foreign players often exhibit in their play.  We lament the lack of creativity to be found in American players.  The difference might lie in the difference between how we viewed breaking lines and how Calo viewed breaking lines.

When my sons play, they put on their uniforms at home before heading to the pitch. If it is cold outside they will wear warm ups over their uniforms. About the only article of clothing they put on at the pitch is their cleats or boots.  Foreign players often arrive in street clothes. Sometimes they have their kits on underneath. Sometimes they go to a restroom to change into their kits. As a general rule, they are always late arriving on the pitch to warm up.  I generally like a 30 minute warm up before a match. Our foreign exchange students seem to prefer about 15 minutes and more than once they have warmed up in street clothes.

I think, in part, it is a marvelous way to keep everything in perspective. These exchange students love the game of soccer as much or more than their American counterparts, but are not consumed with soccer. The game has its place in their lives, a big place in their lives, but it is not who they are. Soccer is something that they do, then it's back to their regularly scheduled lives. Perhaps another subtlety in the game?

Most American team sports are coach driven games. That is, a preponderance of the decision making that occurs in-game is scripted by coaches.  Football huddles up for the quarterback to call plays sent in from the sideline by a coach.  In basketball coaches often call out plays and defensive sets from the sidelines.  Even in baseball the "hit and run" or steal of a base is called from the dugout. Sometimes every pitch is called from the dugout. 

Soccer is a player driven sport.  There are limited opportunities for set plays. There are only general patterns of play to be used as a template.  No timeouts. The playing surface is usually 120 yards long by 70 yards wide with players spread over a good portion of it making in-game verbal communication from the sidelines a sketchy proposition at best.  In-game problem solving in soccer lies squarely in the realm of the player.

And here is yet another subtlety of the game.  For most American players soccer is a ball driven game. For our exchange student athletes football is a space driven game. It's as if Americans see one ball to be shared by 22 players while our exchange students see 120 yards x 70 yards of space for 22 players to play with a ball in.  That is probably about as clear as mud to many of you, so let me try again in another way.

Something I noticed with many of the foreign players we have had on our teams is the idea of moving without the ball against the grain of the defense.  American players tend to stand waiting for the ball to be played through the defense to them or they are found moving in the same direction as the defense is while looking to receive a pass.  Instead of running full speed into the attack, many of our foreign players have moved more slowly looking for and watching space develop before moving strategically into that space when it is most advantageous to do so.  They realize there is only one ball for 22 players and the best way to have a teammate share the ball with you is to find open space (time) for you to play with the ball in.  Another subtlety of the game.

And this particular subtlety is one I have based our entire attacking system of play upon.  The general coaching phrases I have taken up are ball movement is predicated on player movement  and the purpose of possession is not to move the ball, but to move the opposition so it is easier to move the ball.  

In my mind, these subtleties of the game are what need to be introduced much earlier in the development of young players. The place to start is with coaches recognizing soccer is a player driven game. And for players to experience and explore the game from a perspective that soccer is game played with the brain. 


Soccer Memories - Sean

Many of my favorite soccer memories come in my sophomore high school season where I feel I made a big jump. My first high school goal was one of my favorites. We were playing Ottoville at Ottoville and in LCCs history we hadn't beaten them before, so it was a big game. The score was zero -  zero and we won a throw in near there 18. The ball was thrown in to one of our players and deflected around a few times and was sent to the top of the box where I was waiting. The ball came and I had enough time to send it top shelf. It was my first high school goal and it gave us the lead in an eventual 3-1 victory.
"We all had faith.
We all believed we were put here for a reason -
to accomplish something special."  
~ Glen Rice ~
Possession Soccer
The intent is not to move the ball,
Rather to move the opposition
So the ball can be moved towards goal
Via the path of least resistance.

What position do you play?

I often think about "Greg" who came to us as a varsity ready athlete as a freshman. It just so happened the varsity had an opening for a wing defender that year. Greg was physically gifted enough to man that spot. Through summer workouts and team camps Greg was worked with to prepare him for the role. He played as our left back during scrimmages and acquitted himself well.  If I recall correctly it was after our first regular season match that Greg came to the coaching staff and proclaimed "I'm a forward. That's all I have ever played and that's where I want to play in high school." Greg spent the next 3 seasons toiling away as a forward on the JV squad. As a senior he played forward for the varsity.I guess he was happy with his decision even as his coaching staff and teammates were not.

One might think "Greg" is an exception, but that really isn't the case.  I see this attitude on a regular basis.  In recent years I have had a goalkeeper who believed she was a center midfielder until it became clear to her that she was the teams 4th or 5th best option as a center midfielder.  I have had a defensive midfielder who insisted he was a forward. I have had a center defender who insisted he was a attacking midfielder. The commonality between all these players and others like them is a "me first" attitude.

Other players are more than happy to fill any role asked of them. Perhaps they have a different type of "me-first" attitude, one that serves the team. These are the kids that sacrifice the position they want in order to play and help their team by doing so.  In exchange they have almost always expanded their game and become better all round players. If one looks at the youth playing expeience of our national team players you will discover almost all have changed positions as they advanced through the ranks. I have to wonder about those who refused to change positions or stubbornly proclaimed they were "a forward" as Greg did all those years ago.

To paraphrase John F Kennedy, "Ask not what your team can do for you, ask what you can do for your team." 

It's such a great quote.  It speaks to sacrificing for the greater good. I think it is an indicator of the quality of "team chemistry" that is present in the individual and by extension the collective team. I believe it speaks to embracing opportunities instead of blaming obstacles. It speaks to an open mindedness instead of a closed mind. 

As a coach, give me the kid that wants to play. Period.  One of my favorite players of all time was a starting defender / center midfielder who when the need arose to train an emergency goalkeeper volunteered without hesitation to fill that role too. "Kevin" worked with the goalkeepers every day in addition to working as a center defender and center midfielder. His goalkeeping abilities improved to a degree that he would have sufficed in a pinch. Thankfully the need never arose, but I love, love, love the attitude and spirit!

My advice to players is this, if a coach asks what position you play, your response should be "I prefer _____, but am more than willing to play wherever you and the team need me to play"  and mean what you say.


Alex Ehora - Scholar Athelete of the Week

Watch the feature on Lima Senior High School and Grand Lake United player at the link below

Alex is fine young man who I have had the distinct pleasure honor and privilege of getting to know through soccer. The video provides a small glimpse of this.

Well deserved honor.

Congratulations Alex! 


The following is adapted from a handout I received from Graham Ramsay years ago.  If you do not know who Graham is, google search his name.  In short, he is an internationally known coach / clinician. Not to mention a good friend.


Ball Watching” is another phrase for losing. The more you “Ball Watch” the more likely you are to lose the game. When you watch the ball, the BALL gets bigger and the GAME becomes smaller.
On the other hand, “Game Watching” is very much about winning and thinking faster than your opponents. The faster we think the game the faster we can play the game.
Improvement begins with

Soccer Memories - Candace

Some of my favorite soccer memories are the following:
* At the end of the last soccer game, after we had just lost, when the Climb by Miley Cyrus came on the radio and the entire team sang along.
* When on the way home after a game we had to stop at a random McDonalds just becausde Libby had to use the bathroom.
* When I broke my nose minutes before I was suppose to walk out with my parents on Senior night.
* When I broke my nose the first time (lol) and I hadn't realized it and kept playing, so after the game I walked up to a coach and asked, "My nose is okay, right?" and he put both of his thumbs to the sides of my nose and just laughed and responded, "No, it's broken."
* Getting announced as Captain.
* At a camp for little kids with multiple other high school teams around, when Amanda and I were messing around and I meant to trip her and we both fell right in the middle of Anthony Wayne's girls team.
* When at film listening to Peyton every time she got the ball, "OKAY EVERYONE STOP LISTEN LOOK AT ME PLAY."
* Getting a yellow card my senior year because of "a look I had in my eye" (Personally I think that's code for, I'm a really bad ref)
*After the last game Billy telling us how proud of us he us, a lot of it because there was a huge rainbow in the background and during the game nobody yelled, "Look guys, a rainbow!"
* Getting called B**** Barbie by another team my junior year, and my team and coaches then proceeding to call me "Barbie" for the rest of my soccer career


A Soccer Player

A Soccer Player.

Between the innocence of childhood and the indifferent dignity that is the mantel of adulthood, we find a passionate creature alive in spirit and filled with vigor that we call a soccer player. Soccer players come in assorted sizes adorned in various colors and identified by number, with all living by the same creed: "To honor the game by playing every second of every minute of every half of every game as if it were the last time the privilege of playing were to be visited upon them.

Soccer players are found everywhere – in the rural farm fields of our country, in suburban backyards and inner city streets and parks. We find them behind a strong pass, in the air playing a header, making runs, checking back, passing short, shooting long and going shoulder to shoulder with an opponent in pursuit of the ball. Teammates rib them, officials call fouls on them, students cheer them, coaches criticize them, ignorant ones jeer them and mothers worry about them.

A Soccer player is courage in cleats, standing unadorned of armor with a band of brothers whose commitment was won and nurtured during the hottest of dog days, whose resilience has been tested in the heat of competition and whose resolve is found in the cold rain, sleet and snow as autumns leaves fall to the ground and winter sets in around them.

A soccer player likes practice sessions without shin guards, hot showers, amazing goals, spectacular saves, whirlpool baths, bicycle kicks and the quiet satisfaction which comes from being part of a team that has performed well in an atmosphere of continuous fast paced motion often described as controlled chaos.

A soccer player is a wonderful human being. You can criticize him, but you cannot discourage him. You can defeat his team, but you cannot make him quit. You can take him out of a game, but you cannot take the game out of him. He is judged not for his race or his religion, not for his social standing or his finances, but by how well he dribbles, passes, shoots and defends while sacrificing individual glory for the success of the team seeking only recognition from his teammates of a job well done. A soccer player is a hard working, dedicated, determined kid with a passion for the game doing the best he can to honor the sport he loves - soccer.

Every year, we must say goodbye to a special group of soccer players – the Senior Class. It is sad to see them leave the program and we will surely miss these young people. We will miss watching them run onto the field to take on an opponent. We will miss the celebrations after goals scored and the sober faces after a goal allowed. We will miss the emotional highs after a hard fought win, the lows after a heartbreaking loss and the admiration we found each time they picked themselves up and got back into the action.

Charged with carrying on the tradition the seniors have built we find the young soccer player working hard in the weight room throughout the winter, shivering as he works on skills in the cold rain of spring and wiping the sweat of dedicated preparation from his brows during the sizzling summer months. As the next season approaches we find him determined not to fail those that have gone before him.

And it is with great joy that we welcome back the graduates each summer. Their presence on the practice fields bridges the gap between old and new as they nurture and instruct those in charge of upholding tradition with the expectation that new and loftier heights will be achieved by this next generation. The young players find comfort in the knowledge that someone has gone before them and recognize that they are expected to go even further still. The small successes won when facing the graduates builds the confidence needed to face the coming competition with determination of mind, strength of soul and fiery spirit.

And so it is that the soccer player is reborn each season better than he was before and with a sense of urgency stemming from the knowledge that the game is fleeting and his time with the band of brothers known as teammates is short. The game is honored, bonds are formed and in the end our lives are a little richer for having traveled the path with those that shared our passion and whom we have grown to respect and love.

The Senior's Final Lap

This is about an American football team, but what a great idea!

This is how to build tradition. 

Showing appreciation for one another and the symbolic passing of the torch to the next class.

I really like it.

It's only 3:22 long so take a look.

Harvard's Senior walk-around


Several years ago I was in a coaching course and heard a clinician talk about recognition of holes to pass through.  Recently, the topic came up again on a soccer coaches forum I frequent. To be honest, I had forgotten about numerically designating the holes available to either run or pass through in the passing game.  I have always taught the principles involved but never used an associated numerical coaching phrase to communicate what it is I wanted to see. Much as American pointy football has holes to designate gaps between offensive lineman, the same ideas can be applied to some extent in soccer.

First of all, it is important to recognize the game situations when terminology concerning passing / running holes can apply.  There are two basic situations and each uses the terminology bit differently so we will look at this from two different perspectives.

The first designations are used in numbers up situations where 2 or more attackers have isolated a defender.  We cover this in Cues for Combination Passing without using "the hole terminology. 

The one hole is utilized when the run and pass are made to the same side of the isolated defender.

The two hole is utilized when the run is to one side of the isolated defender while the pass is made to the opposite side of the isolated defender.

The second situation when designating holes can be useful is in attacking zonal systems of play.  In this case the holes are designated as follows:

One hole: The gap between the  two center backs
Two hole: The gap between the LCB and the LD
Three hole: The gap between the RCB and the RD
Four hole: The gap between the LD and the left touchline
Five hole: The gap between the RD and the right touchline

In my opinion these designations are best utilized when teaching the cues for combination passing or when teaching the patterns specific to beating a zonal back line.  They can also be used in strategic discussions during final pregame talks or at halftime of matches. During the course of play I believe these designations are  used more as sight "reads" than they are as actual verbal communication.

Soccer Memories - Shawn Ezell

Throughout my soccer career I've had so much fun no matter where I was at on the field. I've never been bored with the sport and I don't think I ever can be. 
I remember back when I played indoor soccer and I use to play forward there. I scored 24 goals in 8 games and I was so stoked about it. I never scored goals like that constantly. I scored a back heel goal from pretty far out too that season, stuff like that really excites me.
I remember my freshmen year feeling so intimidated going into high school. The older guys just looked so talented and so much more advanced. Playing with Trey Bowman was one of the best things I can remember. Looking back at it he was a bigger version of Jerod (Houston) but he was fun as hell to watch play. He had some sick foot skills and in a match he could score from anywhere on
the right day. I wanted to be like him freshmen year.
I also remember having a determination that year that I've never seen in myself before. Adam (Ordel) and Jerod both made varsity and I felt left out. I worked my ass off that year and made the tournament squad.
The tournament games are also unforgettable. We've always done well in them. I've also had a love for the feeling of being in the tournament but a depression for when it's all over.
I have so many memories from soccer but the best ones have actually been recent. Playing and succeeding on Grand Lake, and winning games. Transitioning into a outside back for either side is something I love as well. Winning the tournaments and traveling with my team, we have always been like a family.
The memories are all there, not always good, but that's part of the game. You fight and dig in. Nothing is given to you, earn the good memories. I just don't want it all too end.


Soccer Memories - Tim

My youngest son recently played his final game of high school soccer and this triggered a conversation about our favorite soccer memories while driving home from Indiana recently.  Our family has been involved with soccer non-stop for well over 20 years.  A few of my favorite memories.

The first soccer team I ever coached went undefeated.  U6 in the Shawnee Soccer association.

Nick Welker on the walkie talkies as we traveled to Dayton proclaiming we had bogie's on our tails and to take evasive action!  Still brings a smile to my face as does the impromptu lacrosse game he helped organize,  Sadly Nick is a paraplegic now having suffered great injury in an automobile accident.

An eventful Father's Day tournament in Ft. Wayne that saw Sam Hribar giving massages to the dads, hotel security come to our room, Doug Billerman yelling "Get over here!" at a young card happy referee and a burglar.  Crazy!

Dave and Busters, Hooters and a crazy night when the adults imbibed a bit too much in Winton Woods with Treg's team.

Treg's game winning goal in the final minute at Warriors. That was a game that proved to be the catalyst for a great season.

Grant's freshman year at Ottawa-Glandorf when he played drop passes 3 times in a row and on the fourth time the OG defender jumped that move only to see Grant turn the ball back up field and leave him far behind. That's manipulating a defender / defense!

Lance's back to goal move while playing for Ohio Extreme that left a poor defender standing with his hands raised to the heavens laughing at himself. Best move, or at least the funniest result from a move, I have ever seen!

Trips to Erie, Pennsylvania where we stayed in a ski lodge just across the border in neighboring New York and saw and competed against teams from all over the world!  The Creek Classic was another tournament where we saw and competed against international teams.

The revenge game against a team in Treg's league that beat us using a 1-1-9 formation.  We played a 4-5-1 with Treg up top and smashed them!  Treg had a field day running free to goal.  Forced them to drop first one more defender back, then another and another and another until they were in a conventional formation!.

Megan Baumgartner recruiting me to coach LCC while at a track meet at Shawnee. She didn't like any of the other candidates. When she asked me to coach, I knew she had a passion for the game and that I would have a great leader in her. Both were proven true. She pestered then athletic director Pat Murphy daily until he hired me. One of my favorite players of all time. Not because of skill or talent level although those were good. It was because she strove for excellence every day and demanded the same from others. She was the driving force in getting that program to achieve as it could.

Grant refereeing in Crew Stadium for the first time.  MLS Reserve match.  Really cool!  Proud day for us all. 

The privilege of watching Brandon Morse every day for 4 years of high school seasons. Two of the best plays I have ever seen in high school soccer.  Freshman year Brandon is dribbling in along the 18 and bends a ball to Ryan Quatman's head at the six.  Still the best in-game play I have ever seen in high school soccer.  And in practice one day Brandon was going in on goal and in stride turned his hips first in one direction and on the next stride in the other direction before scoring the ball.  My description here does not do this justice.

Coaching against the Croatian Eagles. Never been prouder of a team than I was that day.  What a comeback!  The very definition of resiliency in evidence that day.  The foretelling of which was found in a crazy 6-5 victory in a President's Cup game the previous spring - the game against St. Brendan's Academy that will forever be known as the Psycho Soccer Mom game! This game against the Croatian Eagles propelled us to a great season.

A weekend at Pacesetters when we got our butts kicked but had a great time fixing diner in our hotel rooms, learning the Miller roll and, yes, another visit to our rooms by hotel security!

Shayna Niese asking if more people were going to score goals "this" year during preparations for our first season at LCC.  Yes!  We shared the load and set a record for goals scored!

Summer camp with the Piqua Indians on a Wednesday morning when everything suddenly clicked.  Xavier verbally directing multiple soccer balls at the same time.  Never seen anything like it before or since. 

A simple gesture by the Liberty Center girls team of inviting me to share in the team break at the end of the camp we did with them. It meant a lot girls!  Thank you.

Goncalo Branco taking on the entire ISC Storm team twice to score the game tying and game winning goals and preserve our perfect league season.  Only one other time have I ever seen a player skilled enough and determined enough not to be denied no matter how many defenders tried to stop him. The other?  Brandon Morse against Kenton.

I'm not sure there is a specific meal, but the fellowship we have enjoyed with the club teams at post game dinners. Picnics / tailgating in parks, BD's Mongolian BBQ, Mike and Rosie's, Olive Garden, Bunkers, The Cheesecake Factory, Young's, Der Dutchman, Max & Erma's, Dave & Busters, Five Guys & Fries, Dunaway's Beef & Ale, Biaggi's and of course....Hooters!  Those trips to Hooters with adolescent boys. smh.  Taking pictures with the waitresses.  Priceless!

The U19 Grand Lake United team from this past spring.  Best team I have ever had the privilege to coach. Great soccer players and even better people.  So blessed to have been a part of this group.  I love these young men and their families.  Such FUN because they have such passion for the game and are such hard workers. 

Wow!  I have so many more, but want to give my three sons their opportunity to share with you as well.  The ultimate might be the memories shared by the greatest of soccer mom's, my wife and the mother of our sons, Christi.  I look forward to her thoughts myself!

New Series - Soccer Memories.

We will be beginning a new series of articles titled Soccer Memories.  I got the idea for this while driving home from Indiana last night.  The conversation centered around my son Lance's memories from playing soccer over the years.  This was prompted by Lance having recently played his last game of high school soccer.

Our stroll down memory lane encompassed everything from U6 recreational soccer in the West Central Ohio Soccer Association through club soccer in Miami Valley Youth Soccer Association and Buckeye Premier League, indoor soccer, guest playing for teams from as far away as Pittsburgh, Pa., high school and Olympic Development Program.   Lot's of good times. Seemingly countless new friends made. 

The amazing thing every single memory shared during that hour drive was a positive one.

Sure, we have had some bad experiences along the way. Inept coaches, poor referees, thug players, terrible pitches, playing in inclement weather, death of an assistant coach just to name a few. None of those were mentioned. 

Just the good times.

Teammates, great plays, big matches, travel, hotels, meals with teammates and their families. Swim parties and impromptu lacrosse matches with butterfly nets.  Soccer volleyball, burglars, bogies on our tails and picnics.

So, I have asked several people to share their memories with us.  If you want in on the fun, send your memories to and I will share them with our readers.

I will get the party started in the next day or so,

As always, thanks for reading!



Opportunity follows struggle.
It follows effort.
It follows hard work.
It doesn't come before.

Ball Movement is Predicated on Player Movement.

"Players taught to watch the man with the ball
leaves them totally unprepared for the next move,
which is always dictated

 by a player without the ball."

-- Tommy Docherty
Tommy Docherty, commonly known as "The Doc", is a Scottish former soccer player and manager. Docherty played for several clubs,  and represented Scotland 25 times between 1951 and 1959. He then managed a total of 13 clubs between 1961 and 1988 including Manchester United, as well as managing the Scottish National Team.

Zonal Defense: Covering Width in Defending Third

Not all zonal defense systems are alike. One of the things that differentiates one zone from another can be how the system covers the width of the pitch, especially in the defensive third of the field. The level of play influences this decision as does the experience, tactical understanding and physical abilities of the individual components of the back line.

We will take a look at three different ideas on how to cover width in the defensive third of the field utilizing a flat back four. In doing so, it is important to note a couple of constants that are present regardless of how we seek to cover of width.

1) A back should not move more than 1 channel away from his own channel.
2) Center backs must remain central.
3) If a center back is more than one channel from his own, who is protecting the goalkeeper at the face of the goal?

Climb the mountain to see the world,
Not to be seen by the world.

Soccer Coach Support Groups

I just completed an article titled The Circle of Soccer Life and it occurs to me the necessity of having coaching resources never diminishes until you stop coaching.  I have previously mentioned participating in a couple of coaching email lists with colleagues from all over the world.  The groups are comprised of high school, college and professional coaches. They have been a huge benefit to me. We share ideas, discuss various topics and exchange information. When I need a sounding board or simply to vent about soccer related matters, these are the people I turn to. If I get things right, they pat me on the back and maybe help me understand how I could have done it even better.  If I get it wrong, they set me straight, do so quickly and in a very direct manner!

The culture of a program is a consistently constant topic of discussion within one of these groups. There has been some truly fascinating insight shared over the years.  I have implemented many of the ideas shared with the teams I coach.  Last night one of the members of this list asked a couple questions of another list member that really struck a chord with me. I want to share those questions and some of my own observations with you today.

First, I want to acknowledge I have not formally made members of this email group aware of the CBA Soccer Blog.  I know some members are aware of it. I am not sure all are. No particular reason behind this.  I write as much for myself as I do for our many faithful readers from around the globe. It is both a cathartic and educational experience for me.

The Question:

How much bearing do you think the success of your program has on how your players react to leadership?

Paraphrasing the Follow Up Question:

If the current coaching staff leaves and is replaced by inexperienced coaches, would the leadership lessons the players learned under the tutelage of the former staff continue for any decent amount of time after their departure or is such a culture tied to the success the former staff brought to the program?

My mind immediately went to the local high school program that my son participates in.  A long tenured coach resigned last fall and a new staff consisting of former players of his were hired.  One would think the successful and winning cultures would remain fairly entrenched with former players from the program taking over as the new coaches.  My observations suggest that has not been the case.

The previous coach had accumulated 330 wins when he retired. The program had peaked in the early 2000's, but had been in steady decline over the last handful of seasons.  One could truthfully proclaim the energy had gone from the program. The new staff most definitely returned some of the missing energy, but the slippage in culture has continued.

Under the leadership of the former coach success on the field continued even as energy obviously ebbed from the program. If that coaching staff had remained, I believe this years team may have won 10 games with the aid of continued tradition and mystique. The actual on-field results this season saw a meager 4 victories and the change in leadership has undoubtedly been responsible to some degree.

We are talking about leadership backed by a proven track record versus leadership with no track record.  Trust is a word that comes to mind. Even with growing discontent, the former staff had the trust of enough players. The new staff has made and continues to make significant changes to formation and systems of play instead of maintaining a link through continuity to the previous coaching regime.  By doing so, they also made a clean break with the culture the former staff had built into the program. 

The questions posed to the coaches of the email list last night are essentially about how change might impact a program.  The thing about change is some people are resistant to it while others will openly embrace change. In the end change is accepted or you get left behind in a manner of speaking. The real significance found in these questions and in using our local program as an illustration is the importance of how change is managed.

Thanks once and-again to the invaluable resource of our coaching email lists.  I wouldn't be near the coach I am without them.  And I would never ascend to the coach I will yet become without their continued guidance and support.