Archive | October, 2011

Why Am I Paleo?

28 Oct

Blogger Richard Nikoley asked yesterday, “And Why are You Paleo?

For me, it’s a simple answer: it makes logical sense on many levels.

I’m not necessarily sure I completely buy into the evolutionary argument against grains and legumes.  But for me, the biggest difference is looking at the nutritional density of what I’m eating in the Paleo/Primal lifestyle versus what I ate before it.

I’m now getting a large serving of vegetables at every meal of the day.

My food largely comes from the fresh sections of the grocery store – fresh produce, fresh eggs, fresh meat with some use of frozen vegetables when it make sense and helps keeps the costs down.

My energy has gone up since engaging in the diet, and I’ve largely rid myself of the mid-afternoon sleepiness that I had in the past.

Above all, I feel good.  Isn’t that what food is supposed to do for you?


Match Week 7: U6 and U8 Session Planning

28 Oct

Three weeks to go in the season.  I have two practices left in my coaching season since I’ll be traveling and returning late on Friday night the final week of the season.

At this point, I’m trying to compare where the players are versus what I had hoped for them to be able to do at the close of the fall season.  I hope to close the biggest gaps to some degree before our last games.

This week, we’re also facing down the weather.  I’m expecting a low probability of having practice tonight – the forecast calls for rain starting in the morning and becoming steady throughout the day.  This usually means the fields are closed and practices canceled.

U6 Session

Our team had trouble with defending last week.  Most of all, the kids did not not get in front of the ball regularly and were trying to pursue the ball carrier.  So…back to 1v1!  We’ll play the mass 1v1 game again, and then continue into the lightning round game.

Playing 1v1 has been our top priority all season, and it was my major measurement going into the season.  We’ll revisit it tonight and reiterate the major points – getting in front of the opponent and keeping them in front of you, and closing down their space to move.

U8 Session

The U8 team really has made good strides this season.  Last week I provided very little in-game instruction and they played their best game.

So, I think they have progressed well towards their “Autonomy” goal but we haven’t done well in scoring.  I think we still lack on confidence with the ball, and head-up play.

During the Fast Track session this week, the coach played a game with the team that involved passing by numbers.  The kids were moving around within a grid, passing and receiving the ball.  The ball followed a set order – each player was assigned a number, and the kids moved the ball to the next player no matter where each player was.  They did a better job of staying in open space, and a better job or keeping their eyes up and finding supportive positions.  I’ll give this game a try tonight.

After that, we’ll move on to 2v2 play.  My plan is to do a few walk-throughs with the team on offense to help them get a sense for spacing and options in passing to score, as well as movement off of the ball.


The Fugees Story

26 Oct

I can point to reading Warren St. John’s <a href=”Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference"" “>Outcasts United (affiliate link) as a turning point in my views about youth sports and soccer as well.

I read the book while on vacation with my family, leading up to the start of the Men’s World Cup in 2010.  The book chronicles Luma Mufleh’s efforts to build a soccer program for a group of refugee children in Clarkson, Georgia and the struggles she faced in establishing the program.

One of the aspects of the book that struck me as a parent was how significant soccer could be in the lives of kids.  In so many ways, the opportunity to participate in an organized team was a huge gift to these children who had been playing in the parking lots and open space they could find among their apartments.  Youth sports had the power to be profound turning points in their lives, and it wasn’t all about wins on the field.

I really hope I can find a way to convey this to my own two sons – that getting to play sports is a huge privilege that others wish for!

Luma, an immigrant herself, was featured on CBS Sunday this week as she became a US Citizen.  It’s a great story and worth watching.

The Fugees Family continues to operate in Clarkson – and needs help from the community to further their programs.

Front Yard Soccer

25 Oct

I was really happy that we got back to front yard soccer over the weekend.

Playing 1v1 or 2v1, or just doing skills work in our front yard has been a big part of our sports life over the past year.  Evan and I started last fall playing 1v1 in the front yard.  As I’m still early in my soccer life, as they are, it’s fun for all of us.

With Aidan and Evan being in additional skills training at our club, we have “Homework” each week to work on specific skills that they learned in the sessions.  This week, rather than performing the skills unopposed in static positions, the three of us played 2v1 (Evan and I teamed up against Aidan).  Each time one of them got the ball, they were required to perform a move (Evan had the option of making a pass, as well.)  The result was that they both spent more than an hour playing Sunday in an opposed environment being forced to use the skills and find how to engage them in a game-like setting.

Beyond getting their skills practice, there’s a lot of interesting things that come out of playing with your kids like this.  You see their skills in a different way.

Evan plays very well in a game with a partner.  He has built a good understanding of how to move the ball with a partner, as well as how to take supportive positions to be able to receive a pass.  He moves without the ball to get open, and he quickly learned to send the ball to the undefended side of his teammate. His timing on making passes was also good – he learned the decision point of passing and deciding whether to take on the defender or pass the ball to an open teammate in 2v1.

Aidan, playing solo, improved his defending in the hour that we played.  He’s understanding covering the passing lane between the ball carrier and the open man, as well as timing his challenges and stabs better.

The bulk of this learning came without specific instruction.  It came as a result of playing similar situations on a repeating basis.

Personal Highlights

24 Oct

Over my 20 months of playing soccer, I’ve stayed mostly as a defender and didn’t make many runs into the offensive half of the field.  It’s a deal I’ve made with myself – I can defend reasonably well for an adult league, but my foot skills aren’t to the level of my more experienced teammates.  The upside of playing defense in this league is that everyone wants to play up front, which usually means I get plenty of playing time.

Sunday’s game saw our team shorthanded.  The other 3 teams playing at this time were also various degrees of shorthanded, so we ended up with one 8v8 game instead of two 7v7 matches.  I took up my usual position in the back, but on one of my subsequent substitutions in I ended up as a Midfielder.

I like playing Mid – I know I don’t fully understand all aspects of the position yet, but it’s physically intense since you play most of the field.

So on one our team’s corner kicks – I was in the box for the ball, and scored on a volley! It’s a big thrill, even at 34 in what’s essentially a meaningless game, to score in that fashion.  I’ve scored a few times over my career, but as a defender – my job has been shutting down the other team’s scorers and distributing the ball forward.

I hope this is a sign of more to come, as well as a show of my skills improving as I head toward hopefully a tryout for our company team next year.

Match Week 6: U6 and U8 Match Reports

24 Oct

Fall really had set in before this week’s matches.   When I arrived with Aidan to warm up for our 9 AM start for the U8 match, the grass was frost and the temperature was about 45 degrees.

U8 Match

At match start, we had six of our seven players with the seventh arriving close to half time.

Of all of the matches we’ve played this season, this was the most evenly matched with our opponent.  There was a lot of positives to the way the team played today.

My son, and his two teammates also enrolled in the extra skills training all used some of the moves taught in their sessions.  It was a big positive to see them use the moves in the match and have enough confidence to try.  They were all about 50/50 successful.

Our team got forward with the ball far more in today’s game.  The opponent played one player back, usually around midfield and we had good success getting around him.  Aidan was successful in getting the ball in the net in the first quarter but regularly had shots on goal. Several teammates also had shots on goal.

We also had some successful, thoughtful passing.  Kids taking time, and putting the ball actually where it would seem they planned.

One word about our opponent – they had a lot of in-game coaching from the bench.  Coach was constantly shouting “Center it!” and other instructions to his players.  Usually the players did their own thing.

U6 Match

By 11 AM, the weather had warmed substantially.  It was a beautiful late morning match time.

We added one more scorer this week.  Another of my returning players added goals for our team this week – and he wasn’t a scorer last year.  Now five of our six players have become engaged in the games and playing.  It’s great to see.

The kids were a little bit lethargic this morning when it came to getting back on defense.  When the ball changed directions, if it got past a player, they were likely to give up.  We also resorted to chasing behind players and not getting in front of the opponents.

We’ll resort to 1v1 again this week at practice.


Match Week 6: U6 and U8 Session Report

22 Oct

The weather turned much more fall like in Atlanta this week – and we were down in the low 60’s at 5:30 when the U6 team started and by the time the sun went down it was in the high 40’s.  Definitely a change for these Southern kids, unaccustomed to the cooler weather!

I arrived with Evan well enough before the start of the session that we had time for the two of us to play.  This was probably the best part of coaching last fall – the extra time Evan and I took to play 1v1 and just play around.  He surprises me with his ability to use his body to control bouncing balls and his skill in moving the ball.  The best part of it is he seems to do so much of it without a second thought and instinctually.

U6 Session

We had our full team of six tonight for training.

The central training session was based around passing activities.  The primary activity was a pass through a gate activity that worked pretty well.  Players paired off and passed through a gate until the trainer gave a “Move!” command and then each pair found a new gate.  The kids were fairly engaged and kept the ball under control.

The latter part of the session was a mass game with 4 goals (one in each corner).  The players were split into two groups of about 8 and the ball thrown out in the middle.  No pinnies, no way to distinguish teams.  The players were instructed to spread out and make passes before scoring.  A lot of kids running, not as many touching the ball.

We retired to our field for our session.  I actually had a similar game planned – 4 corner goals and playing 2v2.  I set an added rule – you score via passing to your teammate on the opposite side of the goal.  I split the team into pairs, and got started.

I had one pair of players – my own son and the player who has blossomed this fall – quickly get the game and get it well.  They worked really well together and scored a lot, no matter what pair they played opposite of.

We played the last several minutes in 3v3.  After my son scored several quick goals, I forced his team into a “1 Pass before Shot” rule to encourage him to try something new.  He also used some of his skills from the Fast Track sessions during the 2v2 and 3v3 sessions.  It’s good to see him making use of the skills.

U8 Session

I wrote this morning about my thoughts for the U8 team for the rest of the season.  Tonight’s practice was encouraging.

The group training was similar to the U6 session – passing based, with the gate game being part of the session.  The U8’s were more free form, with the players playing the ball through the gate, and then moving themselves to another gate.  Some of the kids just didn’t comprehend the game.

The other thing that drives me a little bit crazy is the number of kids that pick up their ball randomly during practice.  I’m really trying to break my kids and our teams of this.

When we moved into the team session, I started with 2v2 in a similar fashion to the U6 practice earlier.  They worked together better, but had a lot of trouble finishing.  The defending team got the idea to split up and block the gates until I changed the rules.

After a few minutes, I decided to give 2v2+1 a try.  I designated my older son as a neutral player – always on offense.  This was the first time we had used an “Always Offense” player in practice.  The kids seemed to enjoy it – I didn’t place any restrictions on passes before shooting and they ended making a lot of good passes.  Aidan did a good job of moving himself into open positions (he had worked some on this in Fast Track this week.)  I’m hoping they recall this game tomorrow during the match and look for teammates on the field before launching the ball downfield.

After practice, I asked the boys what they wanted to learn the rest of the season.  I got a variety of answers – Trick Moves, Diagonal passing, Positions.  I’ll work to incorporate some of all of it into our remaining three practices this fall.