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At 36

15 Mar

I turned 36 this week. I’m now closer to 40 than 30 and closer to 50 than 20.

I feel like I’m healthy at 36 – certainly more than I was half a life ago at 18. At 18, I was close to 30 pounds heavier than I am now. My diet consisted of a lot of snack foods and fast food (that’s what the typical American high school or college student eats).

At 36, I’m more than a year and a half following the Paleo diet, to the point I don’t really think about it anymore. I’m able to subsist on longer fasts when I need to because my blood sugar is really stable through the whole day.

But it’s not without mental and physical challenges.

My last physical showed increased total and LDL-C blood cholesterol. It has lead me to make additional dietary adjustments – a little more awareness of fat intake, and increasing my carbohydrate intake away from what was frequently very low carb dieting (although I’m still in what would be low carb compared to my old diet).

My biggest plan for the next 4 years until I turn 40 is to be aware and to continue making small changes for performance and longevity.

And…We’re Off!

13 Aug

Our “Summer” was a blur.  Quick on the heels of Academy tryouts, we left for several summer trips.  When the last week of July hit, we had traveled 6000+ miles on three separate trips.

Aidan had team camp the week of July 30th.  He met his Academy teammates for the first time – and experienced three hours a day of soccer every morning for the week.

I think initially it was a shock to his system.  While some of our summer trips had significant outdoor periods, the majority of it was not in the heat that you typically have in Atlanta in late July and early August.  He also has never had a practice longer than 60 minutes in Rec – so the duration also was a challenge.

Last week added two 90 minute practices, followed by a 60 minute practice Friday night – which means in the span of two weeks he has nearly equaled his practice time from the 2011-2012 Recreation season.  He’s already shown improvements in his game play in terms of working with teammates.

Saturday was the opening tournament for the season – the SSA Summer Classic.  He had two matches Saturday and a third on Sunday morning.
Aidan started the first match in goal, despite his own feelings about the position.  His coach asked for volunteers and he stepped up.  He wasn’t happy about his own performance, but was glad to get to play rather than start the game on the bench.  He managed to score his first goal in the second half, en route to a 9-5 win for his team.  He also had a good cross (that failed to find a teammate) so it was a good match for him.

The second match found our squad playing Palmetto United – who had defeated their first opponent 19-3.  We quickly found out why – the team had a great set of players who maximized their use of ball skills to hold off defenders combined with some sharp passing and team play.  Our boys didn’t manage a goal and lost 8-0.

Game 3 found us again on top by a margin of 7-3.  Aidan had a couple of shots and several good looks on offense, and playing tougher defense (especially in our offensive half).  However, as we had lost to Palmetto already – we had no chance of advancing to the finals.

Aidan seems happy with his team.  He seems to enjoy his teammates so far and is getting along well with the kids.  This week it’s back to practice until the regular season opens on September 9th.

 

The Optimism of A Eight Year Old

14 May

“Dad, they can still win.”

Aidan said those words to me as we watched the Manchester City – Queens Park Rangers match this morning.  It was about eighty-eight minutes into the match and City was trailing 2-1.  League rivals Manchester United were at the same point winning 1-0.

A City loss and United win would mean United would win the Premier League again.

I had my doubts.  City had failed to capitalize for the entire second half against a short-handed Queens Park Rangers.

As the clocked ticked past ninety minutes into stoppage time, it started to happen.

First Edin Džeko scored on a corner to place City even in the match – but still trailing Manchester United in the league.

We screamed in amazement.

Just moments later, Sergio Aguero finds his way through the defense on a ball from Mario Balotelli to score the winning goal.

Again, we screamed and cheered.

Our reaction wasn’t unique – check out Sky Sports reaction to the turn of events.

This is why we watch sports.  There is no fictional story, movie or show that can compare to a team moving from certain defeat to league champion while at the same time defeating their arch rivals for the title.

Approaching the Finale

10 May

Saturday marks the final matches of our U6 and U8 team schedules.

Last Saturday showed some big improvements in our team versus prior performances. The team is continuing to play calmly and many of the players have progressed in their skills.

Most of all, everyone has acquired a new level of confidence.

One more player scored his first goal of the season. Another player who was on my teams going back to U7 last spring had his best game and came within a post’s width of scoring his first goal.

It’s shaping up to be a good season in retrospect.

We have one training session and 48 minutes of game before my coaching career comes to an end with the U8 team.

I’d really like to sit down Saturday and let the game happen. I want to give the players more freedom than usual Saturday to play the game.

I’m excited and sad for the end of the season and coaching. It’s time to move to the other sideline and enjoy watching my kids play.

April Football from Europe is the Next Great Sports Event

23 Apr

The last few weeks of football from Europe have been a fantastic run-up to finale.

I started casually following the English Premier League, UEFA Champions’ League and Spain’s La Liga two years ago. This season it has been a weekly habit with multiple matches per week.

With these seasons all coinciding from late summer and rising to finales in May, April has been a fantastic month of matches four or five days a week.

I elected last year to start supporting the underdog club of Manchester, Manchester City, in the English Premier League. City led the league for much of the season before giving the lead away to their rivals Manchester United. Now the race has pulled within a one win/one loss margin that could be evened when the two teams meet April 30.

It’s a date circled for our household.

Last weekend had a fantastic set of matches, starting with a 2-1 classic between Spanish rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid and continuing Sunday with a 4-4 battle between Manchester United and Everton.

Finally, the finals for the best club in Europe will be set this week following the second leg of two matches with four of Europe’s biggest clubs.

There’s a lot of DVR content out there!

These season finales are likely to continue to help build viewership of the European game in the United States with almost every match finishing in a highly competitive style.

Have you been watching?

Optimism

9 Apr

My son Evan, all of five years old tonight asked me how Barcelona FC found Lionel Messi.  I explained to him in a short way about scouts and the youth academy system in Europe.

He thinks for a minute.

He then says to me, “Dad, I think I need to go to Manchester City instead.  I don’t know many Spanish words.”

It is fabulous how the mind of a five year old dreams, isn’t it?

What’s a Good Size 4 Ball?

31 Mar

One of the aspects I like about soccer is that is a very gear-limited game.

A ball and a space to play is all that is needed to play. As you advance, a pair of shoes becomes more important – but it’s still about the player and not the gear.

At our club and in our state association, U8 age group and below use a Size 3 ball. In U10 and U12, the Size 4 is used.

As Aidan will move to the Four with certainty for the fall season, and Evan will move to the Four if or when he starts our club’s Pre-Academy program, I’m in the market for two quality Size 4 balls.

In just a few years of play, we have had several balls pass through our house already. There’s a lot of variety of play in balls under $20. Some have slick covers that don’t have a good touch. some have a lot of neoprene or other padding under the top cover of the ball. Some have virtually none. Most noticeable when playing, some perform like a beach ball while some are feel more like a rock.

With both of the kids dedicating more time to playing, I want to stay on the right foot with a ball that plays as “true” as possible.

The options I’m considering:

Select Numero 10 ($24.99): I’ve seen a few Select balls around at our practices and pickup games I’ve attended. You can’t find them at the Big Box Sporting Goods Stores and you don’t see them on the professional pitch (except in Denmark and some parts of Latin America). But the balls I’ve used have a nice solid feel to them and the right weight.  Of course, they have a number of different balls all under the “Numero 10” banner – at different price points.  Are they materially different?

Select Royale ($39.99): This is Select’s first “Step up” ball from the Number 10.  Looks like it has a lot of the same characteristics of the Number 10.

Nike Premier Ball ($39.99): This is Nike’s upgrade ball versus the $16-20 ball you see in Sports Speciality retailers. I’ve seen the size 5 version of this class of ball with some high school teams.

Nike Club Team Ball ($29.99): One step down from the Premier.  Looks like it has normal panel shapes instead of the rounded ones on the Premier.

Adidas FIFA 2012 NFHS Club Ball: I don’t know anything about this ball, but it seems to be based on their

What are your favorite balls for practice and match use in size 4? What characteristics do you look for when buying a ball?