Isaiah 9:6King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Christmas is so much more than just a season. For millions of people people round the globe Christmas is second only to Easter in its importance to the tenets we strive to live our lives by. It is important to keep and nurture Christmas in our hearts every day of our lives that its light will shine through us onto and into others. 
When to much emphasis and focus is placed on Christmas Day or the week leading up to Christmas it  can become a stressful time indeed. People try to be something they are not for most of the year. Everyone is a little nicer, a bit more tolerant and exert extra effort to be nice and get along with family, friend and foe alike.  Invariably, the stress gets to people and tensions can bubble over into open conflict. Thee can exist a feeling of gratefulness that Christmas only comes once a year.

But that's the point I make - Christmas does not come but once a year. Christmas is a state of mind, a way of life. Every day is Christmas day just as every morning is Easter morning.  God is constant and so too should we be constant in our remembrance of His gift of a Son to us. 
I've considered this long and hard. In fact, it is an on-going process with me. There are people in this world whom I simply do not like. Can I still love them? That is really the challenge God puts to us and the lesson Jesus teaches.
Jesus was born in a manger, a stable.  Why, would the King of Kings be brought into this world in such lowly surroundings?  Why should he not have been born in a palace?  The answer is self-evident when we consider accessibility.  Not everyone would have been permitted access to Jesus had he been born in a palace or perhaps even in his family's house. Would the unclean shepherds been welcomed in a palace?  I think not. But would anyone be turned away from a manger, a stable?
And this is how Jesus lived his life. Lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves and more were all welcomed into Jesus' presence. The Son of God associated with anyone and everyone. All of mankind are welcome in God's presence. All that is asked in return is that you believe in God.
As our family Christmas winds down I am reminded of this. I find my mother-in-law to be one of the most difficult people in my life. My father-in-law a close second for different reasons. I do not like them and I have struggled with this over the years. I believe I would be fine if I never saw or spoke with either of these people ever again. They bring stress to my life. I struggle to be myself around them because of the standards they would hold me to. Yet I see them break their own standards time and again. They are not accepting of difference.  While they hold themselves up to be good Christian people, I find them to be hypocritical in practicing the Word. Yes, I am as judgmental as I accuse them of being.

As much as I struggle to like the in-laws, I find that I do love them. I wish them no ill will. I pray for their wellness and safe being. I would just rather not associate with them due to the stress associated with being in their presence.

Yes, I have work to do with my own relationship with God. It is an on-going process that needs constant attention, nurturing and guidance.

I cherish the blessing the in-laws are in my life. I have and continue to learn so much about God and myself through their presence in my life. It's not always a negative they bring to light that I learn from for these are good people with positives to learn from as well. The dysfunctional nature of our relationship is a sturdy educational platform I am fortunate to have at my disposal. That doesn't mean I wish to perpetuate the nature of our current relationship forever. No, I do harbor hope of a better relationship with my in-laws but am keenly aware I can only control certain aspects.  There must be a willingness from all parties. It is not compromise that would bring us closer together but an understanding of God purposefully manifesting himself differently in each of us. I am not here to conform to their expectations, but to God's expectations for me. I have as much to teach them about God and his Love as they believe they have to teach me.

You see, that's a message of the Savior's birth in the manger we overlook. Our KING was born in a manger. Shepherds and Wise Men both and together came to honor Him. All were and are welcomed in God's presence. No one man or woman better than any other in God's eyes. We are not here to compete for God's favor, but to relish in the pure delight and Peace of God's favor that He has made available to us all.

Have a Merry Christmas each and every day of your life everyone!


Space in Soccer

One of the aspects about my current position that I am beginning to really enjoy is teaching the game of soccer on a basic level.  When coaching high school I had come to rely on a majority of student athletes being relatively experienced in the game through years of travel and club soccer. Most of my current team's experienced has been in recreational soccer.  I am finding myself explaining and teaching on a simpler level than I am accustomed to doing at the high school level.  And I am really enjoying this as I embrace the process.


One of the most used words in coaching soccer is SPACE.   It is used in a generic sense with a variety of accepted meanings dependent on context. Coaches and players alike are generally able to identify which definition to apply based on the situation being discussed. Of course, when the concept of space is first being introduced players are taught to "spread out" in order to find open space.  Spacing becomes important and how to utilize spacing becomes a focus of basic tactics. As our tactical understanding evolves we teach how to consciously create and deny space.  Throughout this process our use of the word space morphs.  This is what I want to focus on today.

Space is such a generally accepted and overused term that many soccer glossary's donot even list the word among its contents. There either exists an assumption everyone knows what space is or no one knows how to properly define what space is.

For me, it seems reasonable to look at space from an individual perspective.  Personal space might be considered as that which the body or its parts can reach without moving from its starting position. In my estimation that is a very narrow definition of personal space.  I prefer to elaborate upon it just a bit.  How much space does a player require to effectively maneuver in and play the ball? The answer to this question more realistically defines personal space for soccer players, in my opinion.

To descriptively define this space I think of it in terms of an individual's technical and tactical radius. This is a term that is, I believe, being adapted by US soccer.  Of course, each individual will have an unique technical tactical radius.  The more technically proficient and physically balanced a player is, the less space he will require to play confidently on the ball.  A colleague refers to this as spatial management which is great nonmenclature to be sure although it would probably not resonate with youth players all that well. At the heart of this matter is two relationships every high school player should have an understanding of 1) space and time  and 2) space and pace. In other words, a players awareness of space in relation to technical ability and tactical decision making.

What of other kinds of space?

Open space is easily recognizable. Neither players nor the ball are in open space. Ideally, from an attacking perspective, the ball carrier and a teammate will recognize open space with the ball carrier playing the ball into it and a teammate meeting the ball in the available space.

This leads us to idea that space, like the game itself, can be a living breathing entity that is constantly being created, destroyed and morphed to one teams advantage or the other.  When a player makes a purposeful run to open space for a teammate, the space created is live.

When an area of the field is congested or clutter we think of that space as being dead. Think bumble bee ball in you little play or some styles of channel play that see an overload of players in a single channel.  We could also visualize a pressing defense that seeks to get as many people around the ball and into passing lanes. All these are examples of what I refer to as dormant space. The space is not
dead, but is of little use at the moment.  Yet, it can and will be reawakenedthrough ball movement / player movement and game situations.

In other places on this blog we have written about negative space.  This is the space behind the backs and in front of the goalkeeper.  Attackers love to preserve this space until they can take advantage of it at pace.  Defenders seek to deny negative space to attackers by constricting it in relation to the threat level opponents present.

The overriding theme in this article is recognition that space is alive. Within the boundaries of the pitch space expands and contracts around the ball and players. Spatial awareness aids in the efficiency of ball and player movements with timing being a critical element. These things must be taught and developed in order to play at the highest possible level.


Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!

In the 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge Clint Eastwood demands his Marine recon platoon Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! when encountering obstacles.  This has been adopted as an unofficial motto of the United States Marine Corps and fits nicely with their Semper Flexibilis or Semper Gumby motto that implore the Corps to be flexible in addressing obstacles.  




I have watched Heartbreak Ridge many times.  It's not so much the battle scenes that I find captivating as it is the development of the characters and the process portrayed of a rag tag bunch of wannabes transforming into a kick ass recon platoon.  And it is these things I believe apply in life and in soccer. 

I have taken charge of a down on its luck high school soccer program. Regular followers of this blog know this is exactly the type of challenge I love. I would go so far as to say I have developed a formula for turning around such programs. Only this time, that tried and true formula has not worked. Thus, I am left to consider other approaches. I am attempting to Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! in a new and different manner. Flexibility was a key throughout our first season. To be honest, I was too accommodating in an effort to keep enough members in the program to finish our schedule. And as we all know, compromising standards is not an answer to anything.

As I look forward to next season I am both looking back to core values we got away from last season and to adapting our approach. There was a lot of improvising last season as I sought to navigate the season. It was born of panic and took place haphazardly. This coming season I am looking to focused improvisation to be a forceful building tool. 

I don't know how much is left to be invented in soccer, especially in terms of team tactics, but I intend to go back to the future with some of the concepts and ideas we employ to boost tactics to our advantage. There was a time when the 4-4-2 zonal system I employed was cutting edge and a decided advantage.  I understand now that I thought it always would be and I was wrong for thinking that way. The game changed while I was comfortable in what we were doing.  I must now Improvise! and Adapt! in order to Overcome! and regain an advantage. I am stepping outside my coaching comfort zone to get back into and hopefully once more ahead of the game.

Stay tuned for updates.