Posts Tagged ‘tournament’

Memorable, Fun, and Age-Appropriate Rituals

December 10, 2009

My son’s U11 team is notorious for its inconsistencies, not just from game-to-game but from half-to-half. Granted they are mostly 10-year-olds and this pattern is by no means unusual. Tired of this inconsistent play and losses against much weaker teams, the team dad, Gene, decided to take an unusual approach to solving this problem. Before each game or after a poorly played half, he would ‘de-curse’ the boys’ shoes.

The ritual goes as follows:

  • The boys collectively stick out their shoes.
  • Gene visits each player and performs an elaborate exorcism by ‘ptooing’ and then commanding the demons or ills that are possessing the boys’ shoes to disappear (see photo below).
  • Just recently, the goalie started asking that his gloves be de-cursed as well.

Since this ritual began, the team has not lost a game and they will be playing in the NorCal State Cup finals at the end of December.

I am sharing this story  for two reasons:

  • I think de-cursing the shoes is a very clever and age-appropriate solution to a problem that many coaches face.
  • It is fun to see the kick, joy, and amusement the boys get out of this ritual.

At this age and this point in the season does it matter if they believe that the ‘de-cursing’ is the cause for their improved player rather than the culmination of all the hard work they put in this year? I don’t think so. Also what I’m almost 100% sure of is that six years from now when the boys are reminiscing about their youth playing days, they will have no idea if they won this year’s NorCal tournament but they will definitely remember the ‘de-cursing’ ritual.

Soccer is not just about playing the game, learning technical fundamentals, socializing, understanding the concept of ‘team’, and good sportsmanship. It is also about creating lasting memories that 10-year-olds find important and enjoy. If you have a similar story, I know the readers of ‘Improving Soccer in the United States’ would love to hear it.

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Suggestions for Tournament-Downtime Activities

December 4, 2009

I’m not a big fan of youth soccer tournaments. I think they are expensive, time-consuming, and when a team participates in too many of them, the players don’t appreciate them as much. But more on this in future posts.

One thing that really irked me in the past was having a huge gap of time between games. What are a team, parents, and players to do when they are far from home, it is 105 degrees, and you have 6 hours to kill? It is great if many of the families are staying at a hotel with a pool but by the time the kids are through swimming, how much energy will they have for the next game? A movie theater is a good alternative but you can see a movie anywhere. A mall is OK but for 10-year-old boys?

However, with some planning and forethought, an extended gap can present a team with unique and fun opportunities. At a recent tournament in Sacramento this past summer, my son and I had such an experience. Along with another father and son, we drove around Mather Air Force base hoping to see some take-offs and landings or get a glimpse of some vintage planes. We did better. We found the main terminal and after asking, we were allowed to eat our lunches in an air-conditioned lunch room that just so happened to have cable TV. While the boys were entertaining themselves, the dads got their fill of Gol TV. Another inquiry resulted in an employee taking the four of us on a 20-minute chauffeured tour of the tarmac where we got to see our vintage airplanes, a DC-9 up close and personal, and much more.

I asked my son the other day if he remembered the tournament. The only thing he remembered was Mather Air Force base. He had no clue how his team did in that tournament.

As a veteran of what seems like hundreds of tournaments, these events are and should be much more than just about the soccer games and the final results. After all, there will only be one winner in each age group. Make the most of these tournaments. Organize events between games that are not physically taxing, preferably non-soccer and non-sports related, memorable, fun, and unique to the area that you are visiting. The club hosting the tournament should be able to provide several suggestions. Interactive museums are always fun. Visiting a local landmark can be exciting. Older players may enjoy a private campus tour of a nearby college or university.

Don’t forget the importance of eating. Make sure the players eat appropriately between games. If it turns out the gap between games is not too long, a team barbeque or picnic featuring board and card games can be a lot of fun and a very memorable experience, especially if the food is good.