It’s been a while since soccer updates, Dad reminded me.
So! Two weeks ago, we only had 7 people committed to showing up at the game, since the senior All-Star team was traveling to a tournament, leaving us with no subs in 90+ degree weather. So, I asked the Captain, and Georgia joined our team! Yay! That game, we showed tremendous improvement, we played in their half much more, and I saw implementation of skills we went over in practice. I saw directional-play-making. I saw some overlapping runs. I heard players talking. I also saw hesitation to win the ball and disorganized, erratic runs during throw-ins. I also might have deserved a yellow card for taking out one of their players, but recognized that I needed to fall, too, as I stepped on her ankle well after the ball had left, and ended up just skinning my hand a little. Plus, the ref wasn’t calling anything. Bad throw-in? Play on! Handball? Play on!
But we did score, and that was one of our goals (no pun intended.)
So, at Tuesday’s practice, I planned to work on basic, individual passing skills. But, from some miscommunication, only 3 of us showed up, so we worked on more advanced passing combinations, mostly passing to a player under pressure, and that player passing off the ball, a la target forward. Or a 1-2-3 passing combo (up-back-through, with the guarded player peeling off and away from her defender to take the through ball.)
Thursday, since we had more players coming, I planned a throw-in practice. We went from how to take it, and practiced just throwing, then where to throw it to your teammate (head or feet), then worked in a 3-person drill of 1 thrower, 1 receiver, 1 defender, and worked on stepping up to win the ball. Finally, I brought it all together into a more set play- one person checks and runs down the line, one drops back and makes a wide curving run to the thrower, and one provides a drop throw opportunity. And then we played with defenders (after going over how to defend on a throw-in) and a soft goal (pass it to our keeper at the end of the field to win, since she had given blood and was just shagging balls.) Since we had time left, I made up a drill simulating the chaos in the middle of the field: 3 offenders, 3 defenders in a narrow lane, short & wide goal for the offenders, 2 small corner goals for defense. That drill, I thought, was pretty brilliant. Chaos! Short, accurate passes! Defense had to look up when clearing in order to score! Offense needed to keep shots low!
After practice, one of the players asked for a summary so she could review the play and thoughts and so the team would (hopefully) be on the same page on throw-ins, so I typed it up Saturday and sent that out.
And that drill totally paid off in the game on Sunday. I mean, the throw-in drill definitely helped. I saw the predicable runs getting made, we actually won most of the throw-ins we took, I heard the team calling numbers to sort out the runs (I was really happy about all of this.) I also suggested a different formation: instead of 2-2-2, like we’d been playing, go to 2-1-2-1, so the midfield didn’t get killed making all the runs. And in the first quarter of the game… nobody scored. The defensive mid was working brilliantly, the outside mids weren’t dead, and we made so. many. scoring opportunities. Heck, I had so many scoring opportunities. Shots off the posts, shots barely caught, shots right at the keeper. We kept her busy.
At mid-half, we switched up the lineup to take advantage of our many subs and it showed (we had water breaks in the middle of each half because the temp was over 100F.). They scored 2 or 3 goals on us, but I could see the opportunities for improvement in players, it wasn’t the formation. And we still took many shots on goal. So, that was a win.
We started the second half like we started the game and scored! I had the ball out wide, passed it into Liz in the center and, just like we’d practiced on Thursday, she put it in the net under pressure. Yes! And shortly thereafter, I found myself in the same situation- ball near the corner of the 18, pass it to my teammate at the D, a touch or two to get around a defender and the ball was in the back of the net again. I asked for a sub after that one, because I felt pretty done. They scored again, twice, while I was out, but after the second one, we took it right down the center and into their net (low and outside) at the kickoff. Back in the game, both teams rode out the last quarter. We were all really hot and really exhausted.
But really, 3 goals? I felt like we’d won that game, even if the score didn’t reflect it. And the team keeps showing steady improvement from that first disorganized game. We’re all playing better soccer!
I do have to give a shout-out to TCB, who came to watch the game and provided shade (via umbrella) for the team at breaks. Whoo!