Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

Responding to an Own Goal: Learn from Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks

April 21, 2010

I’ve been a San Jose Sharks hockey fan ever since the franchise was first established in 1991. For the last several years I have had to endure early-round exits from the Stanley Cup playoffs when the Sharks were often the better team. It looked like the same fate would befall the Sharks this season as well when in Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche, Dan Boyle inadvertently shot the puck into his own net in OT after having outshot Colorado 51 – 16 in three scoreless regulation periods. Have a look for yourself.

Granted replays showed that a Colorado player did actually tip the puck when it was played by Boyle. But still, how were the Sharks, and in particular Boyle, going to respond after such a devastating goal and loss?

Before answering that question, own goals are a fact of life in soccer as well. I have been tracking goal scoring at the professional level for over three months and estimate that about 2% of all goals are own goals.

If you are a soccer player, I can guarantee you that you will score at least one own goal, and if you are a defender, many own goals in your career. If it has not happened yet, it will. When it happens, these are some ways I recommend players should react and not react:

  • Laugh about it. You know your teammates are going to tease you about it after the game anyway. You might as well get it started.
  • Forget about it. An own goal is simply a mistake. In any game, 100s of mistakes are made and rarely does anyone dwell on them during a game. Move on.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. What’s done is done. The milk has already been spilled. Pick yourself up, laugh about it, and then forget about it.
  • Don’t become a player you are not. The tendency after an own goal is to try too hard to make up for the miscue. Don’t! Usually when you try too hard, you will make more mistakes. Just continue to play your game.

Back to the Sharks. It turns out that Boyle and the Sharks responded very well to the own goal. Boyle scored 1:12 into the first period and the Sharks won 2-1 in OT and evened the series 2-2.

My prediction is that the Sharks go on to win the series, win the Western Conference, and win their first Stanley Cup. If they do, they will have Boyle’s own goal to thank.

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Reward the Soccer Assist

October 3, 2009

We Americans are obsessed with statistics. Baseball is all about statistics. Football is heading in the same direction. Can soccer be far behind? Most professional televised games now share with its audience shots on goal, saves, corners, fouls committed, yellow cards, red cards , and time of possession at half time and at the end of the game. I understand the importance of these stats especially if you are the coach. However, as a fan, I think you can sometimes go overboard. In my book, the most important stat is the final score.

Fortunately as the youth level, I have only seen a few coaches who are overly concerned about stats. But some stats are good to track. I have no problems keeping track of who has scored the most goals on a team. While it may single out several players from the rest of the team, it is usually the parents that have the tougher time with this especially if their son or daughter is not among the leaders. On the other hand, players know and readily acknowledge who are the better players.

There is one stat, however, that if it were tracked and emphasized more, could make a team much, much better. It is the assist. Here’s my reasoning.

The better players are already scoring a lot of goals. They know it wins games. Perhaps they are getting compensated each time they score. Quite simply, next to winning and losing, it is the glamour stat. But it could come at a price. These players may hold onto the ball more than necessary resulting in the rest becoming mere spectators. However, if the assist is now the most important or glamour stat, the better players will now focus on the assist. By doing so, these players will hopefully look to get teammates involved in the game since only when someone else scores will they received the primary reward. Just think how much better a team will become. And think how much better and more well-rounded the better players will become.

I like the way professional hockey (the NHL) tracks assists and goals. They acknowledge the goal and both the primary (first) and secondary assists. Each is worth one point. I would make one change. I would award 2 points for the primary assists and 1 point each for the secondary assist and goal.

If you are a coach, try it for a few games and let everyone know if emphasizing the assist has made your team better. As parents, ask your child how many assist points they collected in the game.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Simple Goalkeeper Tricks

September 21, 2009

I’ve already written about how playing the goalie outside the penalty box will dramatically reduce the number scoring opportunities your opponents will have during a game. Fewer opportunities will reduce the number of goals that are scored. These additional tricks will help out as well.

  • On free kicks, a goalie should position herself on the goal line or better yet, one foot inside the goal line. In youth games, goals are often scored on free kicks by kicking the ball over the goalie’s head. By standing on or inside the goal, chances of this occurring are reduced. In addition, it is much easier for a goalkeeper to run forward to meet a ball than running backwards.
  • Shooters have a tendency to kick the ball right in the middle of the goal. Therefore, if the goalie is positioned correctly, chances are that a number of the shots will be easily saved. There are several methods to teach good positions that will be covered in future postings. The simplest method is to have your goalkeeper constantly check her position by looking over her shoulders to make sure she is centered between the two goal posts.
  • The next trick may be difficult to grasp and teach but once it is learned, it will become second nature. First of all, a goalie needs to learn to anticipate a shot on goal. Once the kicker’s head goes down to look at the ball, the shot is not far behind. Then just before the ball is struck, the goalie should take one hop-step forward and hit the ground with both feet at the same time the kicker strikes the ball. Besides achieving forward momentum, the goalie is now in a better body position to move to her right or left to save the kick. Oftentimes, a goalie is caught flat footed when a shot is taken, making it very difficult to move in either direction. In baseball, you often see infielders and outfielders do the same thing. In addition, the hop step will cut down the angle of the goal. Hockey goalies do a great job of being prepared for a shot and cutting down angles.

Offensive Counter

Once again, playing against a good goalie can make for a long and frustrating day. There a several ways to counter these types of goalie tricks.

  • If the goalie is short and the goals are tall, even if the goalie is standing on the line or in the goal, it is still worth shooting the ball high. Be aware that by playing on the line, the goalie has probably created more space between her and the defenders. In this case, a good strategy may be to drop over the wall but in front of the goalkeeper to an on-rushing attacker.
  • If the goalie has excellent positioning and is cutting the down the angles beautifully, the best thing to do is make one extra pass to a wide-open teammate. This extra pass will require a lot of discipline on the kicker’s part but will almost certainly result in a goal.