Author Archives: Brian Patrick Cork

Brian resides in Alpharetta, Georgia “Horse Country” with his wife of twenty years, Joanne, and their daughters Haley Anne and Emma Jo. Brian is widely recognized as a Thought Leader and Entrepreneur that guides others through better decision-making. Brian coaches both his daughters in soccer and is the founder of the acclaimed “Real Men Don’t Text and Drive” movement and authors the controversial blog, Unsinkable brian cork.

New and DIFFERENT is good

For the Fall 2011 season our U10 Shockers will play under the Newtown system out of Johns Creek.

What is both unusual, and rather exciting (I think) is that Newtown defies Georgia Soccer philosophies and has U10 playing 11v11 – as opposed to the standard 6v6 “more touches” format.

We have fifteen players. Several find themselves playing soccer for the first time. And, many are not yet sure what to make of their enthusiastic coach (but our legacy cheer: “WE ARE SHOCKERS” gets them moving in the right direction every time). And, to be certain, our early practices offer great promise.

Emma Jo and BFF Mary Elizabeth are quite pleased with their alarmingly pink kits, a Shockers first, to be sure.

Our first match is Saturday September 17th, with a team picture certainly to follow.

Coach Brian

Some Times it is all about Haley Anne

I’m putting this moment on paper because Haley Anne had an awesome weekend. Yesterday, in particular was both great and tough. And, one moment is pivotal (literally), and forever emblazoned in my minds-eye.

Even though she is only fourteen Haley Anne has has a great history of U16 play. She is often called-up to support her older “sisters”. In fact, Shockers have always been called-up and exceeded expectations. Christy Tovar is another great example.

In any event, Haley Anne was playing against the U16 UFA Rockets Sunday. Their intrepid and storied coach, Allison Miner, always bring a first-class team to the pitch. Yesterday, as a Defender, Haley Anne had three assists on goals. She was ON FIRE. Show OWNED the middle. She seemed HUGE.

There was a melee in the middle (the Rockets are very skilled at ball-play in tight quarters; almost like a knife-fight). The ball came off a Rocket players head and took an odd bounce towards our box. Haley Anne did the most unlikely and athletic pirouette I can imagine, her body strangely contorted. She caught the ball square with her odd boot and sent it hurtling up-pitch. It landed in the OTHER box. Our right-side Stryker Esmerelda one-touched it and blasted it behind the hapless Keeper for our 9th goal. There was a gasp from the crowd because the play was so unexpected and fantastic. But, I knew instantly Haley Anne was hurt. She was hands on hips, unable to move, and fighting back tears.

We quickly pulled her off the pitch. It was clearly bad enough that her little sissy Emma Jo (U10 Shockers Nation, see two posts ) rushed right over and sat herself right next to Haley Anne in mute support.

Joanne is taking her to a clinic this morning. Fingers crossed. She’s tough and determined.

She’s had such a tough year. First the spider bite at the Kennesaw Cup in the Fall. But, she fought through all that pain and sideline and helped lead her U14 Shockers to both a Kohls Cup and a UFA Cup. Then she lost half of the Spring season because of the issues with cysts. She was just coming back into form – and, perhaps her best yet.

Please don’t feel sorry for us. I’ll submit the Cork’s have had a “Chinese interesting” year. But, we are fully aware of how blessed we are. That certainly includes being surrounded by families like you. Cork’s have a knack for being where the action is. Never count us out.

A lot of people read this and my other blogs. I’m hoping you will lift Haley Anne up and will any injury away. The heaviness of her heart (and mine) aside, she has the first round of State Cup tournament play next weekend. She does not desrve to be denied that.

Coach Brian

That’s Shocker Ball!

There were a lot of Shockers – both in name, as well as spirit on the pitch that day. All of them hearty and ferocious.

That, is Shocker Ball!

Thank you Haley Anne.

Coach Brian (Daddy)

We Wanted The Ball

Behold our Mighty and Ferocious U10 Shockers Nation!

I feel so good after the match this past weekend (I told Jason Dell, Dennis Covington and Joanne that I felt like we had just won World Cup). Most of the families have athletic histories with siblings. So, you understand what it means when a team like ours “turns the corner”. And, for me that is a key reason why I love to coach.

JBS U10 Shockers Nation 7 vs. JBS U10 Cyclones 0

 The kids actually reward me when they pull it together.

The first time we played the JBS U10 Cyclones we they beat us decisively at 3-0 despite our athleticism and dominating their side of the pitch. I am keenly aware that team has been together for several years and average a full year older than our squad. So, our performance this past Saturday was astounding and gratifying. The improvement both in simple play, but field vision and positioning was impressive. Every single one of our players has improved since the beginning of the season. Not only are we reinforcing solid citizenship and being good sports, but our ability to play as individuals and as a team is ahead of the U10 soccer-play curve.

Key improvements realized themselves in our one and two touch control and passing. Also, “crashing the goal” after a shot. And, of course taking those critical shots on goal. Once a player gets a taste of that you will notice a dramatic change in their style-of-play – and joy. One of the really cool elements of our rising play was the fact that we had four different scorers. And, two of the players could have had “hat-tricks” (three goals) if I had not put them in the goal.

By the way… Even though it slows our collective scoring process, and possibly frustrates goal-minded players, I will continue to rotate Keepers (goalies). Who would have guessed that Mary Elizabeth would have the instincts to fall on a ball to protect it from an opposing Forward (but, I won’t strand her in the net)?

Coach Brian

U10 Shockers show great form in opener

U10 Shockers Nation:

We played very aggressive football pushing our Defenders up high. I’m confident we played ninety percent of both matches on our opponents side of the pitch. By the way, that is both historically and traditionally referred to as: “Shocker ball”, and a term you will hear more and more often from me.

When you have an opposing coach grousing an entire match about the refs you know your team is under his skin. By the way… The ref was fine, and our Shockers were awesome in terms of effort and sportsmanship (it means a lot to me when a ref tells me my players are excellent sports).

We had several good attempts around the goal – especially the second match on Sunday. We’ll be learning how to “finish” this coming week in practice. I’m confident Jason and Joanne agree with me we did a solid job of swarming opponents with the ball. But, we’ll also need to work on transition skills (taking the ball away from opponents). I was particularly pleased with the way we kept pressure on the opposing team during the entire match. As the season progresses we will sort-out where our players are strongest, and I’m certain you will see the begin to take shape in terms of passing and tactics.

To put things into perspective, that Cyclones squad has been together for a number of years under the same coach. They Cyclone players average a full year older than our Shockers. A terrific way to measure ourselves in terms of both player development and coaching will be our progress against that more mature squad as the season progresses.

NOTE: At U10 I’m an advocate of letting every player try their boots at all of the positions. Some of them will show natural affinity for ball control, fast-breaks, passing, defense, etc. (My own U14 Haley Anne is a natural Defender, and she has always thrived there). But, half the fun at this age is learning all aspects of the “beautiful game”. Let’s be clear… I like to win (legacy Shockers parents understand what that means). But, it’s more important for them to build confidence, then skills, and have fun. As it turns out, winning tends to follow that view of the game. The one exception is Keeper (goalie). We’ll need to eventually find (maybe recruit) one or two players that have the nerve, presence of mind, and strength to “man the cage”. The little ones often can’t even defend themselves under fire.

I believe we have the core of a team that could play together for several years. Building on tradition and feeling part of something that is wholesome and grounded in integrity and teamwork does wonderful things for young girls.

As the season progresses I will highlight particular play and effort (I know parents keep these summaries). But, for today, I think it’s fair to say that WE ARE SHOCKERS. And, we proved that we WANTED THE BALL. You’ll recognize those as elements of our team cheer.

Coach Brian

the give-and-go

Last night at my U10 Shockers soccer practice I had a small turn-out. Tuesdays are “extra” practice for the little ones.

This gave me an option to work very closely with the team and I decided to try and work on some fairly advanced “give-and-go” drills.

“Think simple about giving the ball to a teammate and then running up pitch and calling for them to pass it back. Give-and-Go, Give-and-Go.”

To both my astonishment and delight, and that of one of the more experienced mothers, we pulled it off. The girls knew thay’d done well, and we all felt great about practice.

So, seeing my keeper roll the ball to an outlet player that deftly passed the ball to my little Emma Jo who then set up the “go-pass” was inspiring and deeply satisfying – both as a coach and a Dad.

I can’t wait for the match this Saturday.

Coach Brian

great promise but even better delivery

The U16 JBS Shockers Nation put everyone on notice this past weekend at the 2011 Spring Lanier Cup. The finals was a gritty barn-burner. Our newly formed squad exceeded even my own expectations dropping the final to perennial state champions LSA Jaguars 1-0.

Details with some pictures are pending. And, we have our schedule for the regular season.

Was that passive aggressive mumbling we heard from the far sidelines? I’m delighted that’s not my problem any longer.

We are upon you.

Coach Brian

2011 Spring Season Rosters are Posted

2011 Spring U10 JBS Shockers Nation Roster

and,

2100 Spring U16 JBS Shockers Nation Roster

please lift up Haley Anne in your Prayers

http://www.unsinkablebriancork.com/2011/02/22/ill-leave-you-with-one-last-prayer-request/

coach brian

Friends and Teammates

 

  • Brittany Collins of U14 JBS Breakers and and Haley Anne Cork from U14 JBS Shockers Nation during the all JBS Final of the Fall 2010 Kennesaw Cup.
  • Brittany and Haley Anne have now teamed up to make a run for the perfect season this Spring.
  • U10 Shockers Nation debut in RILS

    Stay tuned. But, the mighty and ferocious JBS U10 Shockers are upon you.

    Yes, they certainly are.

    We’re mounting siege on the state of Georgia.

    Coach Brian

    the Princess and the Me

    I have three Princesses in my nuclear family with the girl of my dreams at my side and two daughters that I’m determined will realize their own.

    I coach a good number of princesses in soccer. But, that is different. And, the stuff of other stories. You can always read about those adventures, here.

    Haley Anne is preparing for her first big eighth grade dance tomorrow night. This one is clearly different from other less considered events. She has an indoor soccer match that morning with a team that will likely vie for the state championship in the Spring. After the match she has to rush home (and, we’ll be pressed for time) so she can shower and then spend ninety minutes being surrounded by a hand-picked team, alongside her BFF’s (I know they don’t say that any longer) being pampered with the application of makeup, getting their hair coifed (seriously), and having their collective nails manicured.

    There are moments when I think that attention to detail might be over the top. You might use the term: “spoiled”. But, it’s also something I can do that allows her to get really excited about things that are actually harmless, but really fun. I understand the planning is half the joy. And, just being thrilled by something is very important in life. My own Mom was a debutante out of old Sacramento. She would have absolutely understood the tradition of the preparation. The prospect of getting roughed-up that morning in a soccer match before the preparations begins has Haley Anne turning her nose up at me. But, she’ll pull it all together. And, I know she’s doing that for me.

    It wasn’t so long ago that I was blogging about taking Haley Anne out to buy a pretty dress so we could go to a Father Daughter dance. Or, maybe just have a special evening where I tried to make things magical under simple circumstances like a dinner at a posh restaurant where she could experience what being treated like a lady means.

    She’s growing up. And, we both need to be ready. She’ll be leaving me behind all to soon. So, maybe me allowing her to get gussied-up is just a way for me to stay involved.

    And, as you know Emma Jo and I have the My Princess Daddy and Daughter Dance that evening as well.

    Wednesday night she was playing music on her Mom’s Macbook. I asked her to dance. But, instead she grabbed a soccer ball and insisted on practicing her stops and kicks. She was blissfully unaware that I was holding back some tears and remembering her big sissy was about the same age when she started being a Shocker and thought it was fine when I sang along to the radio while we were in the car.

    So, come Saturday I’ll be in two worlds. One foot pivoting my Emma Jo through a Waltz at the Buckhead Intercontinental making damn sure she feels like the very center of the universe. She has a lovely white and black ensemble ready to go. Her silver tipped shoes will match a specially picked handercheif that will be stuffed gallantly in the breast pocket of my coat. The other foot will be tapping to the beat of my heart as Haley Anne, my “formidable defender” takes her own first steps towards a coming of age, but just outside of my protective reach.

    I look at them, and I can’t believe what absolutely wonderous creatures Haley Anne and Emma Jo are (and, their own Mother, Joanne). They are so pretty. And, smart. And, perfect. And, silly. And, always four years old in my eyes, stomping in water puddles.

    So… Saturday is going to be all about being a Princess at the Cork household.

    Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

    Brian Patrick Cork

     

    coaching and daddying

    Haley Anne wandered into my home office a short while ago. She’s been down with flu.

    She has been invited to play indoor soccer for JBS. She wanted to let me know she would do it even though it might interfere with getting ready for her first big eighth grade dance.

    She leaned against a wall and looked at me.

    I think she is so pretty, and I’m always so proud of her.

    “Wow Dad… Its just really hitting me. I’ve been a Shocker since I was nine years old. I can’t believe it’s over”.

    My stomach hurts. But, my heart knows she’ll be fine and do great under a new banner.

    Coach Brian

    I can’t bare saying goodbye, so, I’ll bid you all, collectively, adieu.

    Shockers Nation:

    I’ve been quiet. And, that’s obviously unusual for me.

    I’ve simply been thinking. Considering options.

    In any event, I’ll offer a short overview of the Fall season for both the U16 and U14 Shockers, and move on.

    U16 Shockers:

    Our U16 Shockers had a successful Fall campaign by any measure with rare defeats at the hands of a standing State Champion and a State Runner-Up. Along the way we amassed a winning regular season record of: 5W-2L-3D, scoring 31 goals and with 14 goals allowed in a bracket that was hands-down, the toughest in the State of Georgia. We also played in three tournaments, including the finals at the Kennesaw Cup in the pre-season with half the squad newly added and facing a State Champion in the finals, fighting through the Kohl’s Cup with no losses (three well played draws), and narrowly missing the finals of the UFA Cup by a single goal, but two significant wins. Tournament play is the best measure, and our Shockers had a tournament record of: 4W-3L-3D. In doing so, we scored 29 goals (thats huge) with only 16 against (only 3 against us at UFA).

    We all have our highlights. And, what made me most proud of this particular squad was our unique ability to reorganize ourselves yet again, overcome ridiculous outside influences, bond, and compete at the highest level of youth soccer. We never had one match where a coach did not walk up to me without the highest commendation for our spirit, teamwork, and obviously keen desire to play the beautiful game with integrity. I also had the unique opportunity to see a number of girls hone their skills AND maturity to a new level, and make the critical difference through a very long season.

    U14 Shockers

    Our U14 Shockers had all the odds stacked against them going into the Fall season. We barely had enough players to comprise a roster that would be acceptable to GA Soccer. Still a young team with half the players being new fought through a pre-season tournament and narrowly missed bringing home a Cup against a perennial State powerhouse in our sister team Breakers. Somehow each match of the regular season saw us pull just enough players to compete each weekend. But, we did not simply compete – we absolutely dominated. There were complaints that we were in an easy bracket. But, I assure you we simply played like the elite team the Shockers have been year-over-year since 2005. We finished the regular season with a record of: 7W-2L-0D that included 73 goals scored (new season scoring record), 8 shut-outs, with only 7 goals allowed. We further demonstrated that was no fluke by winning two of the most coveted Cups in Georgia – the prestigious Kohl’s Cup (a view of what the State Championships promise in the Spring) and of course the UFA Cup where the U14 squad matched the U16 squads dramatic Cup win from the prior Fall. Over the course of our tournament play our record was: 9W-4L-3D. Through that we scored and astounding 32 goals with only 13 against. I’ll have to add that Gracie Razo and Haley Anne Cork added to Shockers Nation honors by also guest-playing for sister team Breakers for the NASDA Cup win. That means they played in four post season tournaments (including the ill-fated RYSA Cup clearly impacted by what will always be known through Shockers nation lore as “the great divide”). I know that many tournaments are obnoxious. But, it’s also pretty cool.

    JBS has issued regular season trophies and we need to get those distributed. Some of you already have yours. We are coordinating the best method to get the rest to you.  

    I’ll pause, here, and point out that although this level of success is typical for Shockers Nation, it’s considered highly unusual.

    in youth soccer.

    Moving forward

    I’ve sat here in front of my Mac trying to sort out what to say next. Too many options are ripping through my head, and this is, of course, why I’ve waited this long to send off this missive (NOTE: if Kaitlin Siech was standing next to me, she would eagerly ask, “what does missive mean coach Brian”? I would explain with some additional example, her teammates would animate for several excited moments, and then we would be back to the hearty business of being ferocious Shockers).

    Unexpectedly, soccer has suddenly changed for me and Haley Anne. And, likely forever. Shockers Nation, poised for our greatest combined Spring season ever, will never be the same with the “great divide”. We’ve been ripped apart by unforeseen and certainly unexpected forces. And, I have to believe, if not simply hope, there are other positive forces at work that will leave us with an explanation and good results for another day. But, I’m humbled by the great run we’ve had together, and my own small role in it. It’s never, not once, been lost on me that Shocker parents had to put up with a lot from me over many seasons. Three clubs and a lot of tournaments later, the best I can come up with, here, is thank you, and sincerely so, for trusting me with your daughters.

    …It’s no secret that I don’t like the way Chris Tovar has handled things. However, I also want to make it very clear that I do think he has the makings of a good coach. Now he needs to become a leader. Time will tell. He has my support, if that matters. My only, possibly controversial, request going forward is that the team now established at UFA not refer to themselves as “Shockers Nation”. I admit it’s personal. I coined the phrase Shockers Nation because it was apropos to our journey and unique desire to stay together against almost unsurmountable odds. That clearly changes with the move to UFA. So, that would be all I ask of you. It’s about respect, a unique style-of-play, philosophy, and history. Corollary to that I expect everyone of the players to hold dear to principles around being “pleased and being satisfied” (and, so much more). By all means, go forth and be Shockers. I know you’ll make me proud, Shockers all!

    I’ve had a few recent email exchanges with Marion. That exchange really more than anything else prompted me to get this post (with an email to follow later today) off once and for all. So, the season is finally memorialized. We all have our highlights. We had a great final season, and we did it together. Players new to our system, and seasoned veterans alike. And, we’ll always have that.

    I can’t bare saying goodbye, so, I’ll only bid you all, collectively, adieu.

    Coach Brian – January 24, 2011 0600 Hours

    a Dream Team is born

    Stay tuned. More to follow.

    There most certainly is!

    Everything (everything) I tell you, happens for good reason. Some better than others.

    Coach Brian

    long live the shockers says my broken heart

    this post was been updated on january 21, 2011 to include a music file.

    “ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END” – There is an end to everything, to good things as well. The proverb dates back to about 1374 (Chaucer). First attested in the United States around 1680. The word ‘good’ was added much later. ‘Everything has an end’ and ‘Everything comes to an end’ are variants of the proverb.

    As one of our parents so aptly pointed out… Perhaps they, my hearty and ferocious Shockers, have become accustomed to the unique experience and take it for granted (this includes parents). Now, they must drink from another cup, and make that their comparison.

    Let’s listen to: No Ceiling by Eddie Vedder.

    Coach Brian

    U14 JBS Shockers are 2010 UFA Cup Champions

    The 2010 U14 JBS Shockers continued a season of dominance by winning the 2010 United Futbol Academy Tournament.

    The Shockers scored a tournament high thirteen (13) goals with only one (1) against through the finals where they met the vaunted SDY Lady Jaguars and pulled-off magnificent and courageous 2-1 come-from-behind victory to secure the gold Cup.

    Coach Brian

    U14 Shockers Are 2010 Kohls Cup Champions

    JBS U14 Shockers Nation are 2010 Kohl’s Cup Champions

    We had a slow start Saturday morning losing to the Hinesville Gators (that apparently were undefeated through the regular season and the tournament with no goals against), but surged in the last fifteen minutes to set the pace for the rest of the tournament. We saw some dramatic action, and we proved that we can play and beat anybody with fantastic play from each and every player. In the finals we got that first match back against the Gators for the tournament Cup.

    Thank you, and Shockers all.

    NOTE: In last year’s Kohl’s Cup U14 Shockers Christy and Mars guest played for (now) sister team JBS Breakers who beat that same Hinesville Gators team in the finals. It was also that very same Gators squad that hurt (then) U14 Breakers Colette with an injured ACL. So, a JBS U14 team has won consecutive Kohl’s Cups and fought through the Gators to earn that distinction, while exacting a form of satisfaction (we should not use words like revenge or vengeance – oops, I just did!) for Colette along the way.

    Our new Club

    The rumors abound. And, as providence should have it – that which has us joining the mighty Andrew Collins and his legendary Breakers, is true.

    We are, thusly, proud to call ourselves JBS Shockers Nation.

    We’ll be flying new colors as well. Gray to be clear about it, with our traditional yellow tye-dye socks.

    We’ll be training at the beautiful Chukkar Farm Polo Fields in Milton.

    And, we are accepting challenges for “friendlies” to prepare for the up-and-coming Fall season.

    Coach Brian

    Finding the will to win

    Our hearty and ferocious Shockers found themselves in unfamiliar territory this past Saturday at the RYSA 3v3 tournament.

    However, as it turns out that format matches both the way we train and our style of play. We fight for the ball and score on smart passing.

    The U14 Shockers learned quickly and adjusted with improved play the entire tournament, and earning their way to the finals where they only lost in sudden death against a veteran squad aptly named the “five fab”. In any event, we’ve qualified for the National Championships in Orlando, Florida.

    Congratulations to Haley Anne, Christy, Rachel, Suzane and new Shocker – Kimmy Gibson for a job well done.

    Coach Brian

    some things should never change

    Shockers Nation:

    This communique is about both change – and, that which never shall.

    In the next few weeks and months you’ll begin to see the email distribution list expand as new players and families come on-line. We are in the process of adding new players to the very successful U14 Shockers roster as several of our players move up to the U16 squad. I am also including Andrew and Penelope Collins. They are a big part of the vision for the Club we are joining – JBS. We can expect a great deal of collaboration with their mighty Breakers with both the U14 and U16 squads going into the Fall season.

    Meanwhile… We’re saying so long to two of our own… Loren Philbrook and Melissa Cuellar. They’ll be moving on to U18 group play. Hopefully in time we’ll extend our reach to that age group. Until then, they are always welcome amongst us. They can certainly help coach, manage and train as vital members of a long-line of champions.

    I was reminded recently that a core group of our players have been with me since they were nine years old. And, most of our players tend to stick with us. I believe this is because of the common goals of our families that like the focus on citizenship, student athletes and the simple fact that our daughters are being taught they are capable of anything they set their minds to. As parents we both lead the way, and find ourselves inspired by the result.

    I am also going to lift-up Chris Tovar and Patty Wojcik. Chris and I have built one successful Shockers team after another. That success is based on good sportsmanship, a pedigree of championships and Cup victories and a decidedly unique style-of-play that is based on teamwork. That means all players improve skills, confidence and fitness year-over-year, and grow together. Patty (Lindsay’s Mom) joined us a Team Manager in the Spring of 2009, and quickly established herself as both a force-of-nature and steady influence in terms of the proverbial “Mother Hen”. If his school schedule allows it, we’re hoping young master Anthony Kennedy can intern with us as an assistant coach. I get a lot of thanks form parents and “well dones” from the soccer community. But, the simple fact that we have a fantastic team of committed parents and athletes is the best element of our formula for success.

    I’ve asked several parents with unique skills and experience to help us with several committees. A critical one is the building (or acquisition) of goals and nets for training and matches at the “Chukkar”. If you can help, or have ideas, please let us know ASAP. Start thinking about carpools. And, be on the lookout for notices around Summer Training Camps, Scrimmages and a possible Tournament.

    Looking forward, we have several U10 teams (including a state champion) requesting to come on-line with Shockers Nation. We will also be trying something new… My own Emma Jo wants to play soccer again. She wants to be a Shocker, just like her “sissy”, Haley Anne. So, we are inviting twenty to twenty five U9 players to develop an intra-club skills development and match playing system. The focus will be less on competition, and more on fun, skills development, interaction within the sport. The older Shockers can help coach and referee the younger players. I feel this will broaden everyone’s feel for the “beautiful game”. A mentor of mine told me, and many times, that “the best teachers are more often students who reflect represent”. So, I hope to realize that within our own Shockers Nation. Please spread the word amongst our Shocker families and friends.

    Coach Brian

    Back to State Cup

    Our hearty and ferocious U14 Shockers are heading back to State Cup in Columbus.

    We had a great District round with a record of: 2W-0L-1D.

    Keeper Paige Mitchell extended our season-long unbeaten streak with her fifth, sixth and seventh shut-outs of the season.

    Here is the District Cup summary:

    Saturday Shockers 4 vs. Jackson Bulldogs 0

    Saturday Shockers 0 vs. SDY Lady Jaguars 0

    Sunday Shockers 4 vs. GSA Strikers 0

    Sunday Shockers vs. SDY Lady Jaguars for a Shoot-Off for the finals. Fifteen (that’s what I said) shooters later – Jaguars advantage 8 to 7.

    We’re heading to Columbus, and everyone is going to know it.

    Coach Brian

    little things with big impact

    The great stories from the Athens Finale tournament are numerous. And, they will be chronicled, as best I am able here, over time – and, elsewhere.

    I’ve coached Michelle Higgins since she was eleven. She was on my first Shocker team and created a lot of learning opportunities for me as a coach.

    I think Michelle gave me three of her best matches this weekend.

    It was the little things. She seemed to hustle more than usual, and was engaged around the ball. She also took two hard ball shots to the head and stuck with it. When I was on the pitch in the last match looking after Lindsay (“I’m okay… GAME ON”), I had an opportunity to take a quick look at Michelle (I wanted to see her eyes after the last shot she took). She had tears, but she gave me a brave nod.

    All I could do was give her a kiss on the top of her head, and feel more pride than I could ever convey.

    Thanks Michelle.

    Coach Brian

    Tuesday’s Practice

    Shockers Nation:

    Last nights practice was one of those times that makes being a coach extra fun and interesting.

    It was like a family reunion. The girls had not been together en masse for almost two weeks. And, they were clearly delighted to be together. There was a great deal of laughter, and catching up. The comraderie is easy and comfortable. Generally, there was also a lot of excitement over the trip to Athens, and a sense of purpose.

    We won’t be having practice tonight, and obviously because of the cold rain. The hoped for practice tomorrow are diminishing by the hour. Anticipating this, I had urged the girls to give me their best last night. I was admittedly concerned that the U14 squad may have lost a step being out of action for about ten days. And, the U16 squad was coming off their dramatic ASA Cup victory – and, it can be difficult to reorient after an event like that. So, we had only two hours to get thirty-three players mission ready with the new elements getting up-to-speed with our style-of-play. We actually went almost twenty five minutes over schedule. But, they could have gone on for another two hours in good cheer. I deeply appreciate the patience of the faithful Shockers parents who stood bravely in the chilled air (with smiles for the most part I should add).

    I realize that, year-over-year, this has become a hallmark of being a Shocker – and, this includes the families. The girls genuinely care for, and about, one another. Grace Gutherie can refer to her new soccer ball as “like Battlestar Gallactica”, and the girls completely understand in a bemused and loving manner. When KC needs to decipher and verbally reprocess one of my observations, the team stands by patiently and often nodding approval. And, of course there are endless questions and opinions, in the post practice huddle, around what represents “dairy” (which is to be consumed in limited portions between now and Sunday). Shockers Nation is something they want, and enjoy being part of. It’s healthy, and they all understand that they are improving as athletes, both in terms of individual performance, and as a team, as well.

    We had five of the six new players that will be joining us in Athens (across both squads), three of who will be joining us full-time in the Spring. I started out the practice with a warning that I yell a lot, but usually with a smile on my face. This elicited a lot of enthusiasm. And, in typical Shockers fashion, the new girls dialed right in. We could tell everyone was comfortable within the first twenty minutes (even though most teams are not accustomed to the running and drill work we start each practice with). The “Aggression Drill” can be intimidating. But, I can tell you that is where the girls sort out what they are made of, and where they improve quickest. They have no choice because everyone is watching – and, being supportive.

    Last night was also quite unique in that we had four Dads with players on the Athens squads who all happen to be coaches in our league. I’ll stand firm in the belief that they (we) had as much fun as the girls. And, we clearly agree there’s not been a finer group (in terms of athleticism, spirit and citizenship) in conceivable memory.

    As we wrapped up with the announcement we hope to have a team dinner and meeting Friday night the girls were fully charged. As we drew together, the new girls shoulder-to-shoulder with their new teammates, our cheers of: “Who Are we?” (Shockers!!!) “What Do We Want?” (The Ball!!!) And, “One-Two-Three, WE ARE SHOCKERS” echoed joyfully and fiercely across Central Park.

    Athens isn’t going to be easy. The competition will be fierce. The weather will change a few times over the weekend. But, we are trained, fit and ready. And, truly so.

    Please coordinate with Patty to make sure we know how each player is getting to Athens (does anyone need a ride?), where they will or want to stay. Bunking overnight Friday is probably a very good idea (and, cellular telephones will be handed over to Patty). Make sure we have your cellular number.

    I’ll thank each family, again for trusting me with your daughters. And, it’s really me that’s the most inspired.

    Coach Brian

    2009 ASA Cup Summary: Proving our fortitude and demonstrating our nerve

    Much of this story, of course, began last Fall.

    Christy, Haley Anne, and Hannah E. were coming off an undefeated U12 season at ASA. Christy and Haley Anne were invited to play-up for the struggling U14 Blast in the ASA Cup. This gave Christy and Haley Anne an opportunity to rejoin Shockers alum AC with whom they had won the U12 Extreme Cup the prior Spring. Coach Chris and I Observed that patch-work team play together (three draws), and got to know some of the parents. And, we saw great promise.

    Drama (and, that is certainly an understatement) was afoot as Chris and I decided to break from ASA, and pull the core of our U12 team up early into U14. We merged with that Blast squad, regrouped with Mars and Hannah D., and built a team around a focused goal of going to the Spring State Cup.

    That U14 team exceeded all expectations, and the story is chronicled on this team blogsite at.

    I feel the stage was set, in epic fashion, as we returned to ASA this past weekend for the ASA Cup.

    With a pair of key defenders injured (Claire and Loren) and others expected to be on holiday, we knew our U16 Shockers were going to be low on reserves. I had not really thought about it (and, truthfully so) until we arrived at The Polo Grounds (with my heart, admittedly, in my throat), but Christy and Haley Anne (with their hearty and ferocious U14 teammate Rachel) were once again joining an older squad to lend support. The vital difference this year was a more than reasonable expectation that we could win a Cup (and, coach Brian might realize a promise he made to the Claire and Grace the prior year).

    Match One Saturday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

    In the very first match Saturday, under perfect condition to include cobalt blue skies, we faced ASA Xplosion. This is a hand-picked team of select players, many of whom have played together for over four years, dropped into the Rec divisions with the specific mission to win a State Cup in the coming Spring. The team is trained more often than not by Jeff Salas, one of the ASA directors who has a daughter on the squad. They were undefeated through the Fall season. We are told they averaged six goals per match against all opponents, and often won by shut-out, with only four goals scored against them in the regular season.

    That was precisely the test I wanted, as we are really only now peaking, coming into our own, and preparing for Athens.

    The Xplosion defense lived up to their training. Our vaunted Shockers attack had much fewer shots on goal than usual. But, we pressed hard, passed well, with very good communication, and saw the ball often on their end of the pitch. At roughly the 20th minute in the first half, Christy found herself facing a rebounded ball, spinning off a cross from Shelby, and placed it neatly into the back of the Xplosion net. I can look back on that match now and understand that we should have then changed our lineup to keep Xplosion on their heels. However, our intensity never let up. Both sides fought hard and passed well. We’ll offer no excuses. But, our defense that day was just getting accustomed to the lineup and the addition of Haley Anne. We had some miscommunication, and the very experienced Xplosion were able to convert on two goals. The final score was 2 to 1 in favor of Xplosion, but our Shockers were clearly under their skin.

    And, we had a terrific opportunity on our hands (if not our boots).

    I took the position that we had a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate only great character, come off this tough loss, and fight our way into the finals to face the Xplosion for a rematch.

    Match Two Saturday U16 Shockers vs. AFU Cheetahs

    That thinking and objective took us to our second match of the day and against league rivals AFU Cheetahs. And, of course, there would be a brilliant twist!

    We had already beaten Cheetahs 3 to 2 earlier in the season; and, ironically, in the driving rain. Our 2nd regular season match had been rained out and needed to be rescheduled. We needed the points to overtake Cheetahs sister team Angels for the league championship. I had suggested to the Cheetah coach that we use the tournament match to decide the league tally. So, our second match of the tournament had both a Cup and a League championship on the line (I did not mention this to our Shockers even though several parents knew).

    Cheetahs had just beaten the ASA Rockets 1 to 0 earlier in the day, and were well positioned to advance. All they had to do was get past us for the finals. To put matters into perspective, Cheetahs had played in the finals at Kohls Cup the prior weekend.

    I’ll submit to you, and right now, that every Shocker on the pitch brought both their heart and their best boots to that match. The Cheetahs midfield and defense are stubborn and skilled. The ball failed to bounce in any one teams favor. Both sides broke the others fast breaks and used the sidelines like professionals found at the World Cup level. Lauren came up with several key saves (including a heart-stopping melee right in front of our net). Our defense were pulling themselves together under the leadership of Megan while Lindsay was playing as though possessed. Haley Anne was getting used to the speed-of-play at the U16 level and offered up several timely transition kicks. Although I think it might have been Grace that frustrated the Cheetahs Forwards the most, I’ll pick Kelsie’s Stopper play as the most dominating. As we transitioned the ball, Michelle demonstrated some very savvy passing. However, it was the gritty play of U14 reserve Rachel and always reliable KC that kept the ball moving in the right direction. Those two combined with the exceptional fighting and dribbling skills of Grayce and Shelby literally carried the day. In the first half Shelby found a brilliant cross from the right and laid the ball cleanly past the Cheetah Keeper. And, it was KC’s opportunistic BIG SHOT and score (because she FINALLY played up to the box) from thirty meters out that kept the momentum in our favor. It should be noted that the last five minutes of that match were likely the longest of my coaching (or playing). That score was 2 to 1 in favor of Shockers giving us the advantage over Cheetahs in the standings and one match away from the finals. It also put us five points over AFU Angels for the league championship – meaning that both our Shockers teams ended the regular season as respective league champions with a combined record of 17-1-2 (more about that later in a separate post).

    Afterwards, walking off the pitch with Grace Guthrie, I had the opportunity to look her in the eye, and remind her that she always seems to step up and bring her best play when we need her most.

    Match Three Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Rockets

    Sunday morning broke both cold and wet. And, our Shockers appeared to hardly notice. They showed up at ASA’s Polo Grounds all grins, and knowing what they had to do with the tournament “satisfied” as opposed to “pleased”.

    The Rockets coach approached me shortly before kick-off with a chuckle. He ruefully advised me that we had clearly rattled their sister team Xplosion. The players had been texting and Facebooking beseeching Rockets to take “those Shockers” out of the final. “We knew you guys were good but wow. No one is happy here”.

    The Rockets had already fallen to Xplosion 5 to 0 and Cheetahs 1 to 0. So, they had an opportunity to play the spoliers and support a Club sister team. And, many of those Rockets are good fighters. However, with Xplosion and Cheetah players haplessly watching more of our match from their sidelines than their own our Shockers may have played one of the most balanced and aggressive efforts I’ve ever seem them muster. We certainly played our typical “Shocker Ball” keeping the play on the Rockets side of the pitch over 85% of the match. Our passing was text book, the confidence supreme. Our scoring onslaught started in the first minute with Grayce’s sliding out of the back, but not before cutting the angle and hammering a jaw-dropping shot across the box into the far corner of the Rocket net. The Rocket coach summed it up nicely with “wow”. And, we could hear Salas behind us (coaching the Xplosion) adding a: “you have to watch her”! Shelby’s selfless passing was relentless. By the end of the match, we had scored eight goals (although the refs had it tallied officially at nine). Grayce had a hat-trick, and over the course of the match saw Michelle, Shelby, KC and Christy add to the scoring tally. The final official score was 9 to 1 and the U16 Shockers were in the finals and ready to face Xplosion for the Cup.

    This promised to be a barn-burner. Yes it did!

    Tournament Finals Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

    I was, admittedly, in high spirits as I approached the Polo Grounds fields just after 2:10. Then I got the news… To keep this part of the story short, the “tournament director” had made the arbitrary decision to end all finals with penalty kicks as opposed to a complete match. Oddly, even though Patty and I were registered in the system, neither of us received the text messages announcing this decision.

    In any event, one of my first thoughts was actually recalling that Grayce’s Dad, Regan, had reminded me two weeks earlier that Grayce was a very talented Goal Keeper. I made up my mind even before I called Coach Chris and Patty with the news. I knew that Xplosion and their coaches had watched our usual (and very successful) Keeper Lauren in action, and knew their penalty kick trained shooters had good odds. But, they had no idea about Grayce. And, I wanted Lauren focused as one of my shooters. I knew she would come through for us if we had her placed in the lineup properly. I started making calls to Shocker parents and making fast decisions. I knew who my shooters were. But, I also understood, in my heart and gut, who would get the job done under heart-pounding, adrenaline-drenched pressure. I walked up to Grayce with the news. In typical fashion, her first concern was for her teammate Lauren. I explained the strategy of surprise, and our need to for Lauren to focus on shooting, and Grayce decided that it would be fun! Coach Bill herded the team over to a far goal and started getting them warmed up. Within minutes Grayce was limbered up and all grins while inspiring mounting confidence from her VERY nervous, but determined, teammates.

    As I pulled the team together I explained the shoot-out rules, sequence, and what to expect. I told them I felt they had earned this opportunity, and it was a day they would long remember – and, likely used as a comparison for many significant events in their lives. It was less about skill, and more so luck. Often a crap-shoot. Breathe, don’t make eye contact with the Keeper. No big run ups. Shoot for a corner. As Chris watched them intently near the net looking for a an opportunity for a quick correction, I took a moment to look at them as they chattered nervously amongst themselves. I’m not sure why, but I was surprised to see confidence, in me, in their eyes. This was not about me, mind you. But, they were listening to what I was saying. And, they understood – especially the part about not making eye contact with the Keeper. And, so I knew. We had a Cup waiting for us. We only needed to finish well.

    Our players, parents, families and supporters, Shockers Nation all, were standing closely together when the ref called for coaches and captains. Upon the invitation form the head ref, we called numbers and it was decided that we would take the first shot. Little did the opposing goalie realize but this is what I wanted. I knew clear-eyed Shelby would stride purposefully up to that ball, toe it, step back – and, nail it home.

    And, she did that very thing.

    Our lead shooters were Shelby, Christy, Lauren, Kelsie and Grayce. Megan, Michelle and KC would follow. I stood slightly away from the group watching how the other Keeper positioned herself and how the Xplosion shooters approached the ball in terms of confidence and form. I tied my decision about which shooter to use and in which sequence, shooter-by-shooter, to what I saw happening as the drama played itself out. I felt I knew who might miss but also who would then compensate. We hit six out of eight and that is very good. It might be Megan’s shot I’ll remember the most vividly. Shoulders squared, I imagined that grim smile played across her face. Grayce also came up with two big saves. And, that is HUGE. The entire time she was in the net she had a smile on hr face. I kept looking at her thinking she was having the time of her life. I was also thinking about her Dad, all the Dad’s (and, of course Mom’s), in fact, and what a terrific organization we have. I felt grounded to the pitch as the ref turned to me, pointed, and sounded his whistle.

    You can also read the summary online at: CummingHome.com.

    That’s a tough way to win a tournament. But, we earned the right to prove our fortitude, and demonstrate our nerve.

    I held back wanting to savor the moment and watch the team rush Grayce, memorizing each and every (albeit dazed) smile in those faces.

    I found Haley Anne first. And, then each of my Shockers. It was our day. It was a cold one to be sure. But, it was also brilliant, none the less.

    A note from Mary Guthrie:

    “…Sunday’s game was equally thrilling. It seemed like it went on forever. Finally, I asked the line judge how much time was left. He chuckled and said, “A long time. 15 minutes.” He then asked if we would be in the finals. I told him we hoped to be and explained we lost the first game on Saturday to the green team. “Wow. I can’t believe anyone could beat your team.”  A few minutes later he continued, “I mean, this ASA team really isn’t that bad. They can play soccer. But, your team is just blowing them away.”  A few minutes later, he said again, “This team is really good, every one of them. They are all really good.”   I saw him again after the penalty kick championship. He congratulated me. (When I recounted the line judge story at home, Grace and Claire found this very funny. (“You didn’t even play, mom. Why did he congratulate you?”) As the Shockers were having their picture taken in the net, he turned to the official he was standing with and described the morning game. “You wouldn’t believe how good this team is…”.

    []

    We’ve come so far. But, I feel like we are only, and really, just coming into our own. We have Athens in two weeks. And, if we can keep these teams together. And, I pray we do, we go to the State Cup in the Spring. And, I wonder if that’s it for me.

    For any player that still wants a tournament t-shirt, we have the distributor on standby for the order. Please let me and Patty know ASAP.

    I hope to see as many Shockers at practice as possible Wednesday. We have a lot of work to do as we march, Shockers Nation all, on Athens.

    Coach Brian