Category Archives: Being a Coach

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

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

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

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

the virtuous shockers Mom

The telling of the tale will be fodder, not doubt, for the robust legacy of our Shockers Nation.

So…

I’ll likely send out a more detailed email tomorrow morning summarizing the ferocious match schedule we have this weekend (five matches across both days between the two squads). But, in the mean time, I need to correct a blunder I made just yesterday (although, it might have been Tuesday).

To wit…

Background:

Michelle Chamblee (U14 Shockers Leah’s Mom) offered the following:

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else on Mother’s Day, than by being at my daughter’s soccer games.  It reminds me just how blessed I am to be a mother:)  I hope everyone else feels that way for their Mother’s Day also.  Can’t wait til the fun weekend!! – Michelle”

Then, we had the critically important news from Allison Crawford (U14 Shocker AC’s Mom) letting us know they’ve cancelled plans to visit AC’s Grandmother (who is also having surgery) in Alabama for Mother’s Day. They did this to make sure AC was shoulder-to-shoulder with her teammates this weekend for, what might be, the two most critical matches of the U14 regular season.

I am, and sincerely so, both moved, and deeply impressed by the dedication our Shockers Nation evidences daily.

My blunder, you ask?

During the email exchanges between Allison, Patty, Chris and myself, I actually (with naught but gravitas admit it’s true) tasked Allison and Patty with arranging the meals between the U14 Shockers 3pm and 7pm matches… I suggested pizza. I assure you, my lack of sensitivity brings me to my knees with the fervent hope I’m forgiven.

The Solution:

My only hope for redemption might lay within the understanding hands of my fellow Shockers Dads, of whom I beseech succor. Gentlemen, you must rally to the Shockers Mom’s, the players, and myself, and coordinate our nutritional solutions Sunday. We have the two matches… The first at 3pm, the other at 7pm – both at Georgia FC. We have roughly 2 1/2 hours between the matches. The repast must be “smart food”. I’m sure you understand.

So…. Goodly men, all – whom may I point to as a leader for this august effort?

Coach Brian

Behind the scenes… Yet another exchange between the contrite Coach Brian and certain hearty and ferocious Shockers Moms:

You know… I meant what I wrote; and Chris, in his own way, echoed our (that collective “our” reflecting the ferocious will of Patty, as well) joint philosophy around family, character – and, all the things that comprise: “the stuff of life”.

Soccer offers its drama, opportunities for comaraderie, and reflections of the epic…

But, what about your own heart, and that of young AC? Does your Mother need you there?

As passionate as I am about the “beautiful game”, and our children’s role in the representation of it, the drawing of a quiet breath and the focus on family is understood in relation to it’s importance.

My attempt at flowery language aside – are you sure?

I’ll gladly set aside, and lose any match, for any opportunity to teach a lesson around priorities. I value soccer, but I love your family so much more.

I am grateful to all of you regardless of where providence finds you Saturday.

By the way… A quote from Michelle Chamblee (Leah’s Mom): “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else on Mother’s Day, than by being at my daughter’s soccer games.  It reminds me just how blessed I am to be a mother:)  I hope everyone else feels that way for their Mother’s Day also.  Can’t wait til the fun weekend!! – Michelle”

There’s a perspective, eh. Not a day goes by that I can barely comprehend how blessed I am by our small (albeit hearty and ferocious) Shockers Nation community.

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

being pleased or being satisfied

Wednesday night at practice, with some ill-advised shenanigans afoot, I found myself relating a story to our Shockers about “being pleased or being satisfied”.

I think most of them will remember the moment. If not the words, well, perhaps the catch in my voice – hopefully my heart, certainly.

We have a lot of soccer ahead of us this season. And, our Shockers collectively, have a lot of life to prepare for.

I’ve asked them to start asking themselves that simple extrapolitive question: “If I’m pleased, am I satisfied?”

I’ll always hope the answer is no. But, their tests, realized daily will forge that view of the world. I do hope they think of me in those moments. My Grandad called it: “remembering the face of my father”. Great story and parable for another time.

The point of this being, when they do anything, are they willing to ask the most of themselves, and those around them. My Grandad also used to say: “if you must judge a man do it by those around him”. When Shockers come to practice I want focus and best efforts. I added that winning and losing matches is important and fun. But, I care more about the look on their faces and the feelings in their hearts after the match – regardless of which way the ball bounces. If they can look one to the other, and know they did their best, truly and sincerely, their best, I will be both pleased AND satisfied with them.

By the way… I also challenged them with the question: “What is the difference between philosophy and strategy”. And, I’m quite curious over who comes back with an answer, where the information came from, and what it inspires going forward.

Coach Brian

leadership

Because the message clearly speaks for itself, I’ll add naught to this post but the original email from AC’s (our U14 Captain) Mom:

“Coach Brian,

I will not be at the game tomorrow because I am going to Alabama for a HUGE Event that we have in our hometown each year. I wanted you to know that I gave AC the choice of going with me (b/c she LOVES this event) or staying to play soccer.  She told me last night she felt that staying and meeting her obligation to her team (not in those exact words) was what she should do..  I was disappointed that she didn’t want to go with me, but excited that she feels so strongly about her team!

Allison”

to shocker Parents

Consider ourselves Shocker Nation.

Some say this is not Georgia’s finest team.

Bernards, each and every one, I say!

They, yes, our Shockers, I tell you truly, put forward one or another pathetic rival.  I confound them with my praise!  Yes, let me go further!  Let me say that this is not only the best and worthiest squad (a hardy and ferocious crew, I say) Mother’s have blessed us with, all unworthy though we are, but even the greatest of all!

Oh, there are others, I know, that command respect, and I love them (as should any coach, father and lover of the Beautiful Game), but here and now, rocking in its wake, I cannot but bestow all my affection on this, the final fruit of the life of we humble parents.

Yes, parents most of all!

Have I thanked you, lately, for having your daughters?

Oh, and well done, mothers, and yes of course, fathers.

Coach Brian

character defined

So… Winning is great. Shockers tend to do that.

We call it Shocker Ball.

Before the match I advised this hearty and ferocious U16 crew that certainly Shockers have a legacy and a history of U12 and U14 winning. But this was their team, and a chapter in the history book was for their own making.

The Fusion Fury gave us five penalties. Our Shockers gave up none. Along the way, we put up a decisive nine (9) to three (3) victory that allowed for a rousing start to our 2009 Fall campaign.

Fair and even play with integrity, character and good sportsmanship.

Over all, and simply put, our offense was dominating. We had twenty nine (29) shots on goal. Five players scored. We controlled the Midfield, always a key to our historical success. Our untried Defense was clearly unsettled in the first half. And, this allowed for three fast breaks, and three goals against us. However, there was no bickering. No hands-on-hips. The defense rallied one-to-the-other, and shut the Fury out in the 2nd half.

That was an awesome way to get the season started.

However, at least from a coaching standpoint, certainly that would be mine – and, based upon what I saw in the eyes this afternoon of our Shockers – winning with courage, integrity and character offers naught but the greatest satisfaction.

This squad has some real characters. It was hot, and they got tired from wearing the Fury defense down with one relentless attack after the other. They played with all their hearts this afternoon, and put on an astounding display of grit and determination (not to mention canny passing and solid communication). Along the way, they also showed a touch of class and brought home the win with grand style and a total dissplay of team work and great sportsmanship. As the 2nd half wore on they reminded their coach that we had promised to pull out Keeper forward for some field minutes. And, by the way (with our reserve Keeper confidently in place – something new for Shocker Nation), she did just that, and was brilliant.

NOTE: They also learned going into the 2nd half why we run so much before and into the early part of the season! The Fury were hands-on-knees while we had begun to experiment, with a will and grim intent, different midfield rotations.

Fall 2009 ShockersWe took our team picture in front of the net where we scored six of our nine goals. Our Shockers stood tall and close together. A new team forged with a common goal and a sense of destiny that builds on our Shocker Nation foundation, and offers great promise for the future.

It’s in their eyes now. They can win. There is that. But they can be champions in anything they do. and, they will remember this day… The first day they, together, played Shocker Ball!

And, that day, Shocker Nation, was ours.

Coach Brian

not just words… or deeds

Emma, One of our players, hurt her arm during practice over a week ago.

I think about her each day and look forward to when she can rejoin the team.

I exchanged emails with her mother this afternoon and wrapped that up with something I believe we, as Shocker Nation, understand in terms of what can bind us to the common objective of making our daughters straight and true citizens as well as mighty champions:

“We may often win together. But, we always pull together.”

We draw our inspiration from the fun and simple elements of a game – as well as any challenge.

Coach Brian

our daughters our Shockers

What is it about our daughters?

We look at them in all their varying shapes, sizes and attitudes – and, see princesses.

Mixed with that is the uneasy realization that we have to prepare them for a world that will often hurt them while they work tirelessly (we expect) to help make it a better place.

With that perspective in mind perhaps you come to understand when I ask them, almost daily, whether they be “silly little kittens” or “mighty tigers”.

I understand that opposing teams start matches using this against our Shockers in a derisive manner. But, by matches end, those other teams are typically hands-on-knees and understand that we are bold and fearless – and mighty tigers all.

I often find myself looking at parents and saying things like: “Have I thanked you for having AC?”. Of course that is because they likely did something great on the pitch. But, it’s also often the result of something I saw in them as a growing person. They may not be ready to espound Jeffersonian ideals just yet. But, they exhibit ever more abundant positive qualities like compassion, fairness – and, fearlessness. A balance required to succeed in almost anything worth doing in life. And the drama often played-out on the football pitch is so often a corollary for life. Yet another opportunity to remind ourselves why it is so often referred to as the “Beautiful Game”.

Yesterday, as I made my way through the parking lot at Central Park, I had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with Vicki Bineau (Lauren’s Mom). I hope Lauren won’t take exception to being singled-out (although she better get used to it because I ALWAYS have my heart on my sleeve), but I found myself, as I often do, thanking parents like Vicki for “trusting me” with her daughters.

That seems to always take parents by surprise.

I look into the faces of our young citizens and I see, oh so much, hope and passion, and fear, and uncertainty, and the potential for confidence. The latter is the best part. Seeing that something we are doing one-on-one, and through the team, is building their self-esteem.

Our Shockers will look back on these days, a short spell, to be certain, and hopefully always draw on a memory that is the catalyst for a resevoir of strength and determination to face a challenge. Any challenge.

Perhaps “We are Shockers” will echo in the back of their mind in a moment of truth (in fond memory is certainly good enough). Maybe “I want the ball” will be something they carry with them daily.

When new players sign-on with Shocker Nation, it is, almost always, a similar story… There is timidness, and a dread of the endless running – possibly a resentment towards sprints. There is also uncertainty around why Coach Brian yells – even while I seem to be having fun. However, after a few weeks they feel their bodies strengthen. Skills they did not realize were possible become second nature (like dribbling the ball and looking up and down the field). I look them in the eyes (and, I can tell this is unnerving at first), and say things like: “I know you have it in you; and, I am going to count on you to give it your best”. And, they accomplish all manner of things.

This can include keeping their chins up. Heads held high with a steady gaze.

And fist bumps are meaningful.

Some times it’s only, seemingly, a small thing such as ball control. It can also be making a courageous stand against a determined fast-break. But, regardless of the actual result, they grow, and learn something every time.

We are going into our third week and we have been quietly discussing things like respect, leadership, a legacy of the uncompromising FIGHT and our legendary defenses. Why and how we win as a team. How individuals can form a team that is like an unbreakable chain – providing it’s forged with integrity, hard work and keen desire.

And, they get it. It’s in their eyes. They run their laps without complaints now. They understand the drills and enjoy the AGGRESSION DRILL.

So… It’s different every season – yet, in the same way.

We are Shockers, indeed. Always that. But, we are citizens first. And, they are our daughters. Always that.

Coach Brian

coaching citizens

Hannah is probably aware that she has a family at large in Shocker Nation. In fact, in so many ways, she represents and reflects the core philosophy of why I coach, and what we have accomplished as a team over the past three years.

The truth is Hannah is often silly and goofy. But, we have always been the underdogs. No one player is especially gifted, nor a complete soccer player. However, as a unit, we find ways to win more often than not (and I don’t mean simply winning matches – I mean growing as citizens). Young ladies with confidence that will always find a way to contribute.

That is, forever in my mind and heart, Shocker Ball.

Cork

On May 19, 2009, at 10:49 PM, Holli-Marie Taylor wrote:

“Brian,

I haven’t responded before now because I was waiting for confirmation from Hannah that her dad is going to let her go this weekend and that he is going to take her to practice on Wednesday. I can see from his reply that she is indeed going this weekend – if only for moral support and to be with the team. I have yet to find out about practice.

I am quite satisfied with your explanation behind your thought process concerning Hannah’s safety. Indeed, I applaud it – but it came on unexpectedly and I wasn’t prepared. I hope that you will understand the thought process behind my response. She loves playing soccer – and loves playing Shocker ball. She will be back in the fall. And I hope to get her into a camp this summer, if I can work the logistics/scheduling – I don’t have her much during the summer.

Thanks for being a dedicated coach and a man of integrity.

.holli-marie”

Shocker Nation Notes

Shocker Nation:

Please consider showing the video below to your daughters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6MhAwQ64c0

I know the people at GrassHopper. They tell me that much of the video was inspired by many elements of my own background. I honestly think the future of this nation will be in the hands of entrepreneurs. This is how I want my own Haley Anne to see the world. And, perhaps more importantly, relative to these “Shocker days”, it maintains our theme of establishing goals with the notion we can achieve any thing we are willing to strive for.

Meanwhile…

We have matches Tuesday against Dawsonville and Thursday against John Creek. We are doing this to maintain both an edge and “game fitness”. However, Johns Creek is going to be VERY tough.  We are also going to try to add a dimension to our game that includes kick-backs. We will need this ability at State Cup to open up the field for fast-breaks. Jessica and AC, in particular, will play a vital role in partnering with our Midfielders to make this work.

I suspect this season has taxed our families. However, I’ll not apologize because I would submit to you that these days will set the stage and prove pivotal in our Shockers development as citizens.

Patty and Andy Wojcik have secured rooms for State Cup this weekend in Columbus, Georgia. We need to be VERY methodical and make sure we coordinate getting players over to Columbus, and ready. I believe getting to Columbus is approximately a three hour drive. Lets try to be there Friday night so we can have a meeting and team dinner. If you can’t get there until Saturday morning please let me and Patty know ASAP.

Food for thought…

I focused less on highlights, and more on the experience of the District Cup on our team Blogsite. You can see that summary at: https://shockers.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/2009-district-cup/

The District Cup was a fantastic experience that now makes our Shockers seasoned.

I am sure everyone understands what a remarkable feat it was for those kids to fight their way into that Finals match. It required integrity, luck, grit (we were down in two matches, and had to fight back both times), and not losing (in our second match with Hotshots) – which is a unique element to soccer internationally. We saw some of our best passing. Hannah D also learned the hard way why coming out of the goal FAST is crucial.

I am reasonably certain our Shockers were emotionally spent by the Cup Final.

We saw this two years ago, when another young (and newly formed) Shocker team had to fight their way through rival (and more mature) ASA Crush to make the finals of the Fall Lanier Cup. We finished runner up to Dacula mostly because we were simply drained emotionally. That following Spring we balanced ourselves, and won the prestigious Extreme Cup in the Spring. So, we have a history of forming Cup quality teams and getting to the Finals.

In any event, it can be argued that our shockers played one of their better matches in the Final. But, I feel they played one of their best matches ever Sunday morning. Getting into a finals takes a tremendous toll emotionally as well as physically. So, we need to think through how we rest and feed the team this coming weekend (and, possibly more importantly, in Savannah where I think we can take a Cup).

Bottom-line: We must always prepare to wage an entire campaign, as opposed to a series of skirmishes.

Stick with me Shockers. We have our best days ahead off us.

Please be at Central Park Field #3 for tomorrow’s match against Dawsonville no later than 6:45pm.

Coach Brian

Match #9: Lessons Learned

I can begin this post regarding yesterday’s match against NSA Magic with some highlights…

Our defensive unit was solid. AC Anderson had a brilliant fast break the entire length of the pitch – and, darn near scored. Ironically our Strykers were off-sides and diffused the play. But, that was a ‘shocking’ reminder of AC’s blistering speed, and something we need to capitalize on more often. Haley Anne Cork probably saved three goals with two headers and a desperate dash across the box to block a strong shot from a magic Forward. In the second half, Christy Tovar put on one brilliant display of footwork after another, battling her way up the pipe. Sarah Bowers dug deep and gave it her best playing the awkward left-side Stryker position, almost managing a shot that missed the net by an inch at best. Jessica Curtis was simply everywhere. Even though that might actually be a problem, we could not question her fierce desire and will.

But…

We have the highest scoring offense in the league. We put far more shots on goal during the first half – yet we put no balls in the net.

In fact, the only score in the entire grueling defensive struggle was offered up by our Keeper when she fumbled the ball right into her own goal. A lack of concentration and fundamentals aside, that goal did not lose the match, and a shot at the league title, for us…

We lost our match to Magic yesterday because we left more than blood and sweat on that Pickneyville Filed #4; we punted our Esprit de Corps.

Shockers 0 and NSA Magic 1.

I can take losing any day as long as everyone walks off the pitch with heads high, and feeling we all did our collective best. However, I was decidedly dejected after yesterday because I felt I let our team down. I am not wired to shrug these things off as simple games. I feel every practice and every match is a vital test of character, desire and a lesson waiting to be learned.

It’s not every day a coach must admit he lost a match for his team.

This current Shocker squad shares something special with teams of the past (and, I pray the future). We can and do win as a team – and a team that genuinely cares about one another and believes in one another. We do have some very good athletes. However, it will ALWAYS be heart that puts a team either over the top, or, drops them to the bottom.

Our own goal took the wind right out of us. We soldiered on, but with heads down.

We had a meltdown at half time where a player (actually two players) essentially refused to play a position. This created consternation in the ranks and ignited bickering that carried right over to the pitch. We went into the match Sunday with a clear game plan with contingencies that went out the window. My gut tells me had we stuck with the plan that simply involved “hot-swapping” three key offensive players, we likely would have had more activity up top.

I may have been flustered myself because I expect the girls to trust me, and to do what ever I ask. The typical result is our own kind of magic. I realize this is my ego – possibly misplaced self-esteem.

I must submit to everyone that my heart was broken by what happened both on the pitch and amongst our players.

So, perhaps mine has to be the greatest, if not most important lesson (I just need to understand what it is).

Mind you… If the ball bounces the right way against Storm; and, if Lightning beats Magic next week, the league standing make another dramatic shift.

But, suddenly that matters less. As I work my way through this post, my resolve to return to basics is working in the back of my head. We are going to invoke some significant changes in our line-up for tomorrow nights match against Fusion Storm. I understand this is going to make for a handful of ‘sad little kittens’. This team has two, and possibly three tournaments yet to play this season. We formed ourselves this year with the strategic purpose of being a tournament squad. We have a winning regular season under our collective belts no matter what happens tomorrow night. More importantly, beginning this weekend at District Cup we have a chance to turn ourselves around.

In speaking with Bob Twitchell today it occurred to me that we are now the underdogs going into the District Cup. We will find ourselves with a tough seed and surrounded by other teams that will view us as weaker. This is our best opportunity to dig in and remember that we are Shockers.

In my heart I feel that losing yesterday’s match might end up being a good thing. We probably can’t be that ‘Cinderella’ team that goes from worst to first, and wins that storybook league title. However, we can be that team that makes the critical decision to reunite ourselves around a renewed sense of purpose. A raison d’etre (if I misspelled that, feel free to correct me) if you will.

I ask our shocker parents to pull their player aside and ask the simple question:

“Can they play for their teammates – and not themselves.”

Tuesday (or Thursday depending on weather) night I am going to ask them to look at the player to their right and left and commit themselves to that person – and, to me.

Every practice and every match this month of May must be ever greater evidence that we Want The Ball, and we are a team.

So… The regular season ends tomorrow night – and, our best challenge as a team begins Thursday and Saturday morning when we take it to the State of Georgia where we hope to realize our team goal of reaching State Cup.

Coach Brian

CRCT and Soccer Forge Character

I believe come mid-May we have scholastic CRCT testing afoot.

I have made some inquiries. It would take a herculean, and possibly unreasonable effort to coordinate RILS, other teams, refs and fields at this point to try and effect rescheduling those matches. And, we just flat-out run out of room going into tournament season.

Just to be clear, I value citizenship and scholastics possibly above all else outside of family and best efforts. However, I am confident that if the girls are, generally, doing their home work and prepared, playing matches a day before testing won’t negatively affect them. Also, the anxiety of missing matches, and blowing their season might create more pain for them.

I would always bet this hardy and ferocious crew can win, and score high on tests.

Coach Brian (and, first always Haley Anne’s Dad)

…sad little Kittens

I had some sad little kittens (decidedly not mighty tigers) on my hands this evening after practice and a short scrimmage.

We did pretty good with some drills early on.  But, we had a tough time holding our ground against a sister Fusion squad in a scrimmage.

Afterwards I told them the only way they could EVER disappoint me was if they did not give it their best.

That’s what happened this evening.

Poor communication.  And, we were out of position a lot.

On the other hand – they are probably still sore after the long weekend tournament.  I probably should have let them just relax and “leg it” out this evening.

Note to Mallory’s Mom…  Mallory has a sore ankle.  Lets make sure we are using ice.

I won’t be able to make practice Thursday. I have a business engagement.

So, please let the girls know all they need to do is pay attention with coach Chris, and do their best at practice.  All drills; no scrimmage.  We have almost two weeks before our first match.  We will be fine – and, ready!

Coach Brian

the Difference

Thinking through the tournament this past weekend, it struck me that every player made a difference.

They – each one of them, are unique, and bring something special to our team.

For me, perhaps the most gratifying part of being a coach amongst young citizens is having a small part in realizing something of their great and ultimate potential.

Coach Brian