Tag Archives: Character

Fall 2010 Captains

I’ve named Mallory Charlton and Grace Guthrie as Captains of the U16 squad and Haley Anne Cork and Gracie Razo as Captains for the U14 squad for this season.

Traditionally Captains are picked less for star status and more so for leadership qualities. This can include team spirit and a willingness to do what ever is best for the team.

I had originally looked at Lindsay Wojcik to lead us. Without question, Lindsay was the most improved player across Shockers Nation over the past two years (four seasons). However, when Lindsay moved on it created an opportunity for other players to step up as emerging leaders.

In this case, Grace has shouldered the responsibility of learning the Keeper position  under “trial-by-fire”, and contributing vitally as a utility player. Mallory has more talent than she realizes, and is an easy threat with fiendish guile and smart passing at the top of the box. A willingness, on both their parts, to lead by example has boundless value to a team that is often in transition and needs a “can do” attitude more than anything else to be successful.

Of course Haley Anne is my daughter. But, that aside, she has proven a formidable defender for her teams since she was nine years old playing up at U12. She is relentless and can score as well. Haley Anne won’t miss a practice – even when she was spider bit (that was tough), and even goes out of her way to support the U16 squad at away matches. She leads by example on and off the pitch. Gracie Razo is one of those quiet leaders that is also a spiritual guide on our vaunted defense (that only allowed seven goals against last season) shuts down strykers, and lets her actions speak volumes over words.

Coach Brian

Mars Twitchell

Shockers Nation:

Mars Twitchell is out for the season with what appears to be an injured ACL. An MRI is pending. So, stay tuned.

Mars went down Saturday fighting the ball towards the net against the GFC Badgers.

I called Mars this evening to check in with her. The first thing she said to me was: “I’ve been thinking twenty ways I could have prevented this from happening”. She took a breath and added: “Like maybe a pull-back”.

That’s Mars. Always fighting and ready.

For the record, Mars is the all-time leading “shooter” for Shockers Nation with 72 goals.

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


another Mary’s Call to action

Mary Guthrie is the Mother of two of my Shockers (Claire and Grace).

She is also a reader of this Blog, and apparently found a form of stimulation in one of my recent posts: from whence our Inspiration, and, a co-worker.

Divine afflatus /1 certainly abounds. Mary’s own story is rather moving – and, pretty great – especially when you see how terrific her daughters are turning out.

This story is not mine, other than for the telling, as it yet, continues to unfold. But, I will participate, as are many of our fellow Shockers. And, so, as you read this, I’ll hope you will feel free to contact Mary, and add a bag.

In any event, here’s the how all of this started…

“Dear Shocker families,

Karen, my co-worker, has a daughter who is a first year fifth grade teacher at a school south of Atlanta. Karen often shares her daughter’s sweet and funny stories about her rookie year teaching experiences. Yesterday, she told me a disturbing story I will share with you.

Many of the children at Tessa’s (Karen’s daughter) school are living at or below the poverty level. A little girl in Tessa’s class told her she had hoped for, but didn’t get, a matched pair of shoes for Christmas. Tessa looked at the girl’s feet and sure enough, she was wearing mismatched shoes. One of them was held together with duct tape! Later in the day, Tessa took a moment to look around the room. While none of the other children were wearing mismatched duct-taped shoes, many were wearing clothes and shoes that were too small and very worn.

As Karen was telling this story, I thought of my daughters’ drawers and closets overflowing with an abundance of clothes and shoes. Last night, they gathered the clothes and shoes (including size 7 never-worn sneakers for the little girl with the mismatched shoes) they have outgrown or don’t wear to give to the children in Tessa’s class. (The girls didn’t grumble when I sent them to their rooms to purge their closets. They even cheerfully folded the clothes and put them in the bag nicely! Wow! Knowing where the clothes and shoes were going seemed to inspire them.)

If your children have outgrown any of their clothes or shoes, the children at Tessa’s school could really use them. Grace, Claire, and I would be happy to pick them up and bring them to Karen who will deliver them to Tessa.

Thank you, Mary Guthrie”

You can reach Mary via email at: Mary Guthrie mkguthrie@comcast.net.

NOTE: I’ll not add her cellular telephone number because we don’t wanting you to text her (especially as she might be driving). To make the best sense of that plea, read: texting and driving to death.

Meanwhile, here’s am update to round-out this tale:

“Hi Brian,

Have you been traveling around Alpharetta picking up donations instead of teaching the Chinese to golf?

My daughter Hanna has a volleyballl tournament in Chattanooga Saturday. I will be back Sunday. Let me know if you have donations for the little Jackson Elementary (Butts Co., GA) students. I can collect on Sunday.

Thanks, Mary”

FYI- The first bags of donations have already been delivered. Tessa (the teacher) is busy distributing to happy kids! LOTS of Shockers are getting bags together, too.”

Go shockers. Who wants the ball?

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Coach Brian

1/ A strong creative impulse, especially as a result of divine inspiration.

2009 Fall Kohls Cup

Shockers Nation:

I’ll consider this past weekends Kohls Cup tournament naught less than a worthy success. The U16 Shockers pulled through, demonstrating a lot of character, while up against some very mature and tough teams. We had our own destiny in our collective hands each and every match.  And, we were an odd ball bounce away, in two matches, from realizing an appearance in the finals. I think we have a very good idea of what to work on this week during practice.

My favorite memory will be Mallory actually out-sprinting a defender for the ball, pulling ahead and blasting a decisive shot past the Keeper in the second match on Saturday. That can only be equaled by the Shockers pulling it together in the final minutes of the third match and scoring for the equalizer. I believe it was an assist from Michelle to Shelby, but that was a team goal, and tears well up in my eyes each time I think about it (that’s with pride, by the way).

We had AC and Rachel guest playing up from the U14 Shockers. They were vital contributors, and a testament to how well our style-of-play allows for “snap-in” substitutions.

Below I’ll share with you all a note from Mary Guthrie that clearly underscore the spirit from the tournament…

“Brian,

As we cheered on the sidelines Sunday morning, a parent from the other team came over to talk to a few of us. “Those girls are scary.” he said. At that moment, Grayce and Rachel were running down the sidelines in front of us. Grayce having taken a precision pass from Megan and expertly passing off to Rachel- befuddling our opponents with skill and relentless determination.

I looked down the row of Shocker parents and family members (each player represented, I believe) all standing and cheering, and we were all so proud of the team. It was incredible to watch. And then  Michelle fed a perfect ball to Shelby, and she drilled in the tying goal. The stands went crazy.

I agree, I consider the tournament a success.

I cannot wait to see them play again.

Thank you Brian.

Mary”

As many of you know Christy and Mars were invited to play for the U14 Peachtree Booster Breakers. And, Caroline responded to a last-minute call from a desperate Fusion Lightning team that were facing a tournament appearance with no subs. Fusion Coach Mark Kempter was very clear that Caroline played a big role in keeping them in all three matches with dignity.

I believe Christy led the Booster Breakers in scoring (in fact, she might have lead the tournament). In a tough, bruising finals (that had two Booster Breakers carried off the pitch) against Henry County Jaguars, it was Mars’ goal that put Booster Breakers into over time play, and then penalty kicks. And, then, with the score at 3 all, it was Christy that won the match with a (toe-driven) side-winder past the Henry County Keeper. By all accounts, Coach Chris, supporting the Booster Breakers coach on the side-lines, had a firm hand in influencing the Booster Breaker style-of-play.

Thusly, Shockers were well represented at that tournament.

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 by Example

Shockers Nation:

No practice tonight. I realize this is obvious. But, I’ll not take a chance of having an eager Shocker standing in the rain forlornly awaiting her coach.

Some thoughts…

We’re having another terrific season.

With a total of nine matches played between the U14 and U16 Shockers, we have a combined and undefeated record of 8-1-0. Along the way we’ve scored an astonishing fifty seven goals (57) with only eleven scored (11) against us. Sunday, the U14 Shockers broke their single game scoring record with a defeat of NSA Beat 13 to 0. Fatherly bias aside, we pushed Haley Anne up top Sunday, and she scored twice with brilliant crosses from Mars (and, I think an assist from Hannah E.). This past weekend both squads recorded shutouts, and we still pulled our starting keepers out of the nets. This means we are equally formidable on both sides of the pitch.

But, maybe the best part is we’re all aware of the incredible teamwork being demonstrated on the pitch by both squads. The communication is fantastic – as is the unselfish passing and backup. This past weekend our Defenders were pushing up at the MIDLINE and dominating our opponents. All the players, on both squads, have adopted our style of play, and are thriving under it.

That is “Shocker Ball”.

This finds at the season midpoint. We have quite a few matches ahead of us – and, some tournaments in planning. The objective going forward will be to keep our play fresh and fun. We need to keep pushing ourselves, and continue learning.

Going forward, fitness will remain a key fixture of our training. But, we’ll be adding an emphasis on tactical elements of the game to include: Corner Kicks (and, defending against them), Goal Kicks (to create opportunities), Throw-in’s, and using the sidelines for both attacking and defending.

We have a few bruises, some sore ankles, a broken clavicle, and at least one fever that I know of to nurse. Let’s stay hydrated. Use ice and heat on everything. Do it for an our every night on ANYTHING that is sore (it’s worth the effort, trust me – and, I know you all do).

Thanks for having had the foresight to give life (and, certainly the good fortune) to your daughters. And, thank you for trusting me with them.

Let’s keep pressing, shall we? And, we’ll do it with leadership by example.

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”

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

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 #10: Finishing Well

It always feels good to win.

However, last night match against Fusion Storm may have been one of our most balanced efforts to date.

The difference in our play from this past weekend was simply that of night-and-day.

Our defense lived up to its vaunted reputation, but this time was actually led by our Keeper Hannah Derezinski, who earned her clean sheet (shut out) with no less than four big saves. She took a lot of heat with Storm who took advantage of some breakdowns in the middle. However, she came out of the goal twice, and added two booming punts for good measure – one of which we converted into a brilliant fast break that resulted in right-side Stryker Sarah Bowers taking a dramatic shot on goal. All four of our defenders contributed evenly, and appeared to be communicating well. AC Anderson took yet another fast break up the left sideline with great conviction. She now has “clearance to go” if she sees an opportunity. It’s only a matter of time before she finishes with a goal. Haley Anne Cork played one of her best heads-up matches diffusing several Storm attacks – often appearing, seemingly, out of nowhere to knock a ball out of play and confounding opponents. Claire Guthrie has become as reliable as the setting sun. She stands her ground against on-coming Strykers, and will likely strip them of the ball; and, has developed a knack for transitioning the ball nicely back upfield to set up her Strykers. Jessica Curtis evidences great athleticism by relentlessly pounding the ball back up the pipe and frustrating hapless adversaries. NOTE: Last night we tried something different and asked (well… ordered) Jessica to stay on the defensive end of the midline. We recognize that Jessica chomps at the bit to leverage her speed and endurance all over the field. However, her primary roll was to stop any fast break at the midline (we control the midfield), and give her teammates time to form up. And, that worked quite well.

We found ourselves fielding only just enough players with one sub. However, this gave our indomitable Hannah Erger an opportunity to play her first complete match of the season. And, she stepped up, fighting for every ball on the right-side, and contributing to the offensive game with some well-timed and crucial short passes. KC Lowenthal has a knack for footwork that creates opportunities for her Captain Mars Twitchell. KC is unselfish when it comes to clean passes that have more often than not allowed our offense to lead the entire league in scoring. For the rest of my days, when I look back and ponder “silly little kittens” or “mighty tigers”, I will always have KC foremost in my mind. She turns it “on” for every match (whether she stayed up until 4am the night before or not). Grace Guthrie is currently an enigma. She will chug back-and-forth like an ever-ready rabbit dutifully chasing the ball. Then, once you yell at her (better yet – make eye contact) and tell her she needs to stop chasing the ball, and go after the ball (there is, apparently, a difference), she becomes a spark. Sure enough, in the last 20 minutes she showed up and transitioned the ball three times that had coach Chris and me producing sighs of heart-felt relief.

Christy Tovar offered up a blistering shot from thirty meters out in the first half that almost collapsed the goal rigging. Unfortunately, an inexperienced ref called her offsides and negated the goal. Nonetheless, our Strykers put even pressure on Storms defense all evening. We likely had as many as ten solid shots on goal. Mars had one of her best crossing days yet. And, her corner kicks give us more and more options. Once again, it was Mars, our faithful Captain that found a way to score and broke the Storm early in the second half. Sarah Bowers now adds a new dimension to our attack with speed that almost equals that of AC Anderson, and a good sense of where to position herself (she needs to remember to shoot around the goalie – as opposed to passing to the goalie). The result is three very strong scoring candidates up top with a formidable bench of ball-handlers in reserve for looming tournaments.

The only thing that bothers me about last nights (at least in terms of Shocker ball) match is Emily Dwane. I neglected her minutes. However, that will be rectified come tournament time. She is working hard and improving every week. And, her team spirit is nothing less than clearly evident.

Shockers 1 vs. Storm 0.

We have realized a milestone by accomplishing a winning season with a very respectable regular season record of 7 -3. Storm will end the season at the top of our league. However, our Shockers demonstrated why we lead the league in scoring, and, represented themselves as the better team both in determination, as well as character.

So, we head to District Cup this weekend in good form, and with momentum.

Look for another post “Indeed, we are Shockers”, from me soon positing our Shockers recent growth as citizens (and certainly, Mighty Tigers) and a team.

Coach Brian

Underdogs

So…

If Facebook exchanges, texting and parent telephone calls are an indication, our Shockers have realized their own pain, and are quickly rallying themselves.

Can this signal and set the stage for their best days of the season – and, perhaps their finest hours as citizens?

We have a winning season behind us. No one can take that from a team that learned how to be winners and are learning how to grow through adversity. The looming District Cup represents nothing less than a splendid opportunity to make themselves proud and take on the entire state of Georgia as underdogs.

The New Yorker is always sort of hit and miss, for me, and the less said about some of their content the better, but every once in a while an article comes along that reminds me why I bother to read the thing in the first place.

Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece on the phenomenon of underdogs beating superior foes is an engrossing and varied look at a subject that should be dear to anyone’s heart. His analysis is astute and inspiring, but also a tad provocative: underdogs frequently win, he says, and would win more, too, if only they knew how likely their victory actually was:

“David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.”

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

[…]

Drawing on subjects as various as T.E. Lawrence and a pre-teen girls’ basketball team, he offers up several illustrations of the general principle of efforttrumping ability so long as that effort is being expended furiously and immediately. The example of the full-court press is frequently returned to, and he makes a number of good points about the importance of turning the tables on one’s more powerful opponent at once and forever rather than waiting for him to make the first move and establish the ground rules of the conflict. This naturally bears upon questions of insurgency (which he touches upon), but even if he were only writing about the girls and their ruthless program of basketball supremacy it would be worth reading.

I am not familiar with Mr. Gladwell’s work elsewhere (though he seems quite popular, judging by what I’ve seen in the stores), but this, at least, is certainly worth your time. We should exercise caution in taking these ideas as a solid ethical metric, for to do so would be to flirt with consequentialism, but there is much here that is of value for those engrossed in the dynamics of human competition.

Coach Brian

Match #7: A Return to Form

After Saturday’s match against Fusion Storm it was greatly evident that our Shockers were keen on returning to form and ready to play NSA Revolution.

The majority of the team was at the pitch early and eager to warm up. I reminded them that we still control our destiny and need to keep points to be seeded well for the looming District Cup Tournament.

The first fifteen minutes of the match were slow as the Shockers worked their way into a rhythm. We were keeping the ball on our opponents side of the pitch. We had asked them to focus on not bunching up and communicating more.

They did just that.

They also charged the goal.

And, fought for the ball at the midline.

And, I might add – were relentless.

Mallory Charlton began the scoring with a deft move past two Defenders and a sweet shot from the right side that caught the goalie out of position. Minutes later Christy Tovar added another pair of goals (one off a beautiful corner kick from Mars Twitchell).

The Shockers then put on a veritable clinic, passing the ball along neat lines and being stubborn at Defense. Hannah Erger had her finest match of the season subbing in at right-side Midfield, standing her ground against larger and older players. She may have had an assist, we were not sure. But, in a scrummage, the ball was bouncing crazily in front of the Revolution goal, and Hannah was in the thick of it. she has now ably demonstrated she can hold her own at either Midfield side and advance the ball. She clearly inspired her teammates.

Then Grace Guthrie, who has been a terrific Defensive Midfielder all season, advanced the ball up the pipe with a pass from her sister Claire Guthrie. Grace had passed the ball right to Mallory, who pushed the ball back left. It spun in front of Grace at the top of the box, and with one purposeful stride, and a solid boot, popped high and just under the cross bar for a ‘purty-as-you-please’ goal – and, I believe her first goal ever (I am confident Mary will otherwise correct me). It should be noted that Claire is getting quite good at moving the ball deftly around opposing players and creating space for solid and timely passing.

NOTE: What happened around Grace and Hannah is precisely why we stress charging and massing up to the goal.

Michelle Higgins reminded me why I want her on my team by racing for the ball, and making some tight crossing passes subbing in the right Stryker position.

I do need to add, that all things considered, I may have been most impressed by the gritty play of KC Lowenthal. Her footwork was dazzling as she denied opponents the ball and moved the ball upfield with determination and sacrifice as she passed the ball brilliantly to open teammates. She had several solid shots on goal and can always be counted upon to be a crucial contributor. This is why she is our Midfield Captain.

Keeper Hannah Derezinski earned another clean sheet with a couple of confident saves. She was protected by a stubborn defense led by AC Anderson who demonstrated the speed that recently gave her a County 200 meter championship and record. Haley Anne Cork was also in good form stumping all Revolution Strykers a good 30 meters in front of her goalie, and shelling the Revolution with booming kicks that set up a number of fast breaks. Jessica Curtis has become a “mad woman”, racing all over the pitch beating EVERYONE to the ball (some times her own teammates included). We ordered her to stay South of the midline. The result was a very frustrated Revolution team that could not muster but a few breaks. Emily Dwane has a knack for finding herself alone and facing hard-charging opponents with the ball. We don’t know if it’s luck, or stubborness (she is becoming like a daughter to me – I suspect I know it’s both) yet… But, when she goes after their feet, she buys her team time to rally. Keep watching that one.

Christy Tovar blasted our fifth goal of the match over the head of the frustrated keeper for  her third of the match, and a “hat-trick”. This brought her even with Mars Twitch for the season. They now share the lead in goals scored for the entire league. In fact, each has scored more than any other one team combined.

This was classic Shocker ball. We controlled the midline; charged the goal; and protected our goalie.

Shockers 5 vs. NSA Revolution 0.

There is a “Storm brewing” as we seethe for a rematch, and prepare for the final leg of our regular season campaign with key matches against Fusion Fury and NSA Magic next weekend.

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)

Double Header

This past blustery Saturday our mighty Shockers played a double-header against NSA Magic and Revolution.

That is a lot to ask of any team. However, they conducted themselves brilliantly both in terms of character, as well as play, at naught but the highest of levels.

The first match against NSA Magic saw the Shockers a bit unnerved by our missing goalie that has mistakenly gone to the wrong fields and the prospect of only one substitute player. Nonetheless, we found ourselves executing determined “Shocker Ball” playing ninety percent of the match around the Magic goal with numerous fast breaks. We had no less then fifteen shots on goal – but, with no strikes (concentration and “finishing” must now be a focus in training). Magic had only two shots on goal. Our Defense, even missing a key leader, were nothing less than ferocious, and our Midfield, all but impenetrable. Unfortunately this included the wind partnered with the strong boot of Magics Keeper; and, the tragic result (depending of course, what side you were on) was a high bouncing ball that slipped over our on Keeper’s fingers.

Shockers 0 and Magic 1.

NOTE: We should never call that a “freak” goal. It’s simply part of “the Beautiful Game” – and, in this game the unpredictable is always the greated possibility.

But, I submit to you, we played some of our best soccer to date.

That, of course, set the stage for our second match versus NSA Revolution.

I believe that match may have, indeed, been our finest performance to date. The Shockers understood they had to rally. So, they responded by keeping, again, the ball on the Revolution side most of the match (this is, of course, a crucial part of “Shocker Ball”). We saw another ten shots on goal with no less than six strikes. However, the key was incredible communication and passing up the middle, that began with strong Defensive transitions and played right up the pipe.

Shockers 6 and Revolution 1.

I also want to point out that every single player contributed and are showing enormous improvement in both skills, as well as, confidence. It was a team if “Mighty Tigers” (and, not “silly kittens”) all that made Coach Chris and I very proud.

Coach Brian

Match #1: Shocker Ball

What is it about “Shocker Ball”?

It feels as though it’s as simple as wanting the ball – and, then force of will.

We saw that vital difference in halfs this afternoon.

The Fusion Lightning were clearly the more aggressive team, and had our Shockers on their heels.

The key correction we made was “hot-swapping” two Midfielders that are naturally aggressive with confident ball-handling skills in traffic.

Also, Captain Mars Twitchell fighting through three Defenders to punch the ball decisively past a rattled Goalie for our second score.

The result was a third quarter where we kept the ball on our opponents goal with no less than six shots at (not necessarily on) goal.

We will take a 2-1 victory  to begin our regular season; and, some clear ideas where we need to focus skills training.

In any event, I got to yell:

“THAT IS SHOCKER BALL LADIES”

…a bunch in the second half.

Coach’s NOTES:

KC Lowenthal shows particular grit and determination on the Left-side Midfield.  She often finds herself having to fight the ball through as many as three determined opponents. She is successful more often than not. This allows a successful transition up the left side that helps Mars center the ball.

Hannah Erger has a knack for fighting balls through crowds as well. She never backs down, and I feel this is a key element to “managing momentum”.

When Christy Tovar is “on” its rare for any opponent to get the ball past our mid-line.

We are accustomed to seeing AC Anderson and Haley Anne Cork come out of no where to shut down an opposing fast-break. However, today we saw Lindsay Wojcik hold the right side at Defense while sustaining some nasty scrapes.

It’s only a matter of time before Mallory Charlton “see’s herslf” as a big-time influence on the Right-side Forward position. She had two great opportunities on the goal. I can see her being a consistent two-goals-per-game Stryker.

Jessica Curtis is not only a huge influence as a Defender; but, she could score from anywhere.  She does not realize it yet. I suspect the same can be said for Erin Nable.

If you ask Grace Guthrie to go after every ball, she will do it with single-minded will and focus. She can be a dominate force once we teach her how not to bunch up and crowd Erin (for example), and move to open-ground for a quick give-and-go pass.

Coach Brian

Transitions

Last night during scrimmage our Shockers proved their performance in the final match at the Lanier tournament was no fluke.

They came ready for practice and were clearly determined to comport themselves with valor in drills and on the pitch.

Focus combined with grit always tells.

We had several mutely awed parents in attendance that were witnesses.

We put them on the field without a goalie in the net. I asked them, simply enough, to protect the goal.

My only real advice?

“Keep the ball at the other end of the field.”

They did that very thing.

The few times our opponents managed a fast break they broke on “the wall” now formed by a legendary defense.

Our girls added new meaning to “wanting the ball”.  Not one Shocker, I tell you, failed to fight with all their might for every single ball.

These girls are fighters; winners; possessed of great character; and the object of tremendous pride on the part of their coach (whom it should be noted has no voice this morning).

By the way…  Alex Rodriguez at Totally Soccer thinks we will have the rest of our gear by Friday. So, be on standby to meet off Post Road for a quick distribution.

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

Notes for Thursday Practice

Our skills sharpen each practice – as does confidence and team unity.

Erin joined us last night, and she fit right in – mostly because the girls have big hearts and Erin put forth a solid effort.

Our Defense needs to FOCUS.

Our Forwards are being encouraged to SHOOT.  But, also to fearlessly dribble the ball through opposition.

It’s okay to bring the ball back and consider a smarter attack.

After some sustained chatty moments during team council, I admonished the girls that if there is talking or silliness while a coach is speaking, the next practice is ALL SPRINTS.  I think that got their attention (KC went all bug-eyed).  We shall see Thursday.

This is a reminder that we need to come to practice Thursday in full kit (white jerseys mind you) for a team photo.

NOTE:  We had, not a few, light moments Tuesday with me explaining what is meant by “kit”, “kit bag”, and “boots”. Some did know what a “pitch” is.

Kit = Uniform and other related apparel.

Kit Bag = Team bag.

Boots = Field Cleats or Turf Shoes – but, shoes in general.

Pitch = Soccer Field.

Soon, I may throw them all for a loop and begin referring to “THe Beautiful Game” as “Football”.

Thanks for being part of this.  We are only just beginning.  But, what we take away from each and every day should last a life-time.

Coach Brian

on Being mighty champions

I want to teach and inspire the young padawan to be mighty champions whether they win or lose.

Coach Brian

A Team Comes Together

This story – call it a journey if you will; and, certainly an adventure, begins at the Atlanta Soccer Academy (“ASA”).

In the Fall season of 2008 two dynamic groups of young female soccer players were preparing to cross paths and converge.

Haley Anne Cork, Hannah Erger and Christy Tovar were Captains of the ASA U12 Shockers. This team finished the Fall season with a remarkable 12 – 0 record that included 7 shutouts (clean sheets).

The ASA U14 Blast were a team of certain potential, comprised of young fighters possessed of great heart – but few wins. 

The Fall season drew to a close and heralded the ASA Rec Rock tournament.

Shockers 2008 Spring Extreme Cup ChampionsRecognizing the potential in the Blast (players), Brian Cork approached Blast coach Pat Ward suggesting that Haley Anne Cork and Christy Tovar might be ready to move up to U14 early – and, possibly spark the Blast for the looming tournament. This would also be a reasonable proving ground to determine if Haley Anne and Christy could move up in age-group early and reunite with AC Anderson with whom they had won the 2008 Spring ASA Extreme Cup.

The Blast finished the tournament with a record of 0 – 3- 0. Brian Cork had looked into the eyes of all the players and come to the conclusion that playing “not to lose” was not good enough for these latent champions!

Quickly families were drawn together over a common goal where focus had to be on a team centered on citizenship, fair-play, skills development – and, a work ethic driving towards the realization of the players fullest potential – as individuals and a team.

After a great deal of evaluation it was decided that a new team would be formed under the Forsyth Fusion banner. 

Today, we are the Fusion Shockers

“We Control the Midfield Line; We Charge the Goal; and, We Protect our Goalie”.  “We Want The Ball”.

Our motto:

“Control, Charge, Protect”. 

The Spring 2009 campaign officially begins the week of February 23rd. However, we have a “trial-by-fire” tournament looming February 21st and 22nd.

Our mission and goal for this tournament is to be READY and to come together as a TEAM.

We shall remember these days… Our character will be tested; our skills sharpened; and, our name legion.

brian  patrick cork, coach