Tag Archives: Sports

New and DIFFERENT is good

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Brian

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

Shockers Nation:

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

I’ve simply been thinking. Considering options.

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

U16 Shockers:

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

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

U14 Shockers

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

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

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

in youth soccer.

Moving forward

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Brian – January 24, 2011 0600 Hours

a Dream Team is born

Stay tuned. More to follow.

There most certainly is!

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

Coach Brian

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

Our new Club

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Brian

U14 Shockers are Spring 2010 2A League Champions

Our U14 Shockers are the undisputed League Group 2A Spring champions for the second year in a row. The U14 Shockers were undefeated this regular season with a record of 8 – 0 – 1. We scored 28 goals and had only 7 against us. We had four clean-sheets (shut-outs).

Hit this link for PDF image:  U14 Shockers are 2010 Spring 2A League Champions

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

Fall 2009 U14 League Champions

With a decisive 3 to 1 victory over Fusion Lightning last night at Central Park, our U14 Shockers are the Fall 2009 league Champions.

This match was one of the most measured and balanced displays of prowess that I have seen in this squad. Everyone contributed in a significant way.

Hayla started our scoring right in front of the goal with a big booming assist from Rachel on the right side.

Minutes later, Rachel added a 2nd assist with a smooth pass to Mars right through the box.

In the 2nd half, Mars offered a deft pass to Christy who fought her way through a hard kicking crowd of opposing midfielders and defenders to blast one into the back of the net from 20 meters out.

Our Midfielders Hannah E. Caroline, Sarah, Emma and Rachel fought for every ball, and we OWNED the middle. That is, of course Shocker Ball. I was particularly pleased, and actually proud that we could rotate our midfield and get everyone a lot of minutes. Sarah did a fantastic job of transitioning from Stopper to Stryker, as needed, and has emerged as a solid and reliable utility player that keeps our momentum strong. This means our players are thriving in the “system” and style-of-play. This keeps our legs fresh, and our opponents reeling.

The Shocker defense was naught less than dominate. Haley Anne was everywhere and stuffed 80% of the Lightning play 40 meters off our goal. She also had a terrific fast break right up the middle. Meredith bedeviled the Lightning attack AT THE MIDLINE and frustrated them like a pick pocket. AC was like a ballerina (despite being knocked to the pitch twice), blithely floating past all opponents and then accelerating with blinding speed that left the Lightning drop-jawed and frustrated. Shauna demonstrated her athleticism and growing confidence by standing up to a number of fast-breaks and deftly transitioning the ball to waiting midfielders. Emily came up with a booming kick to Mars that set the stage for Christy’s goal that put the match away for us.

Hannah D. came up with three key saves including a point blank shot with four minutes to go that took all the wind our of the opposing attack.

I feel the highlight, over all, of the match was the passing and general teamwork. This, with our style of intelligent play, was a terrific way to end our regular season, and set the stage for our march on Athens in two weeks for prestigious The Athens Cup Finale, and then the Spring season.

Coach Brian

The Plan: Action 32 – Exactly

It’s all coming together.

Our girls are learning the difference between a strategy and philosophy.

And, what happens when they come together with passion and team work.

Coach Brian

Fusion U14 Shockers Lead League


it really is a beautiful Game

We were certainly tested this past weekend.

U16 Shockers

Our U16 Shockers fell to AFU Angels Saturday 1 to 0. The Angels put the match away with a brilliant shot into the upper left corner of the net. There were no mistakes. It was a gorgeous twenty five meter shot. And, a terrific and well fought match between two very good teams.

However, I’ll add that we dominated their end of the pitch, and had more shots on goal.

Grayce, at that right-side Stryker position, “owned” the right-side, and bombed the Angels goal relentlessly with numerous beautiful crosses. Outside Defenders Megan and Loren frustrated any hope the Angels had for an established attack, stuffing everything that came up the sidelines. Our Keeper Lauren, in the net the entire match, inspired a lot of confidence, as well as leadership, and had some of her best punts of the season.

My primary take away is how proud we must feel going toe-to-toe with those AFU teams that have been together for five years, and won many a Cup together. After Saturday’s match, both the Angels coach and managers grabbed my shoulders and acknowledged they had not played such a tough team in years. We have a history with them now, going back to last years District Cup. And, we’ll see them again in Athens, yes we certainly will!

NOTE: In light of some missed easy goals (as many as ten to fourteen, while Angles had five), we’ll be working on crossing and finishing Monday night as we prepare for two more key regular season matches, and three successive tournaments.

U14 Shockers

The U14 Shockers defeated NSA Beat 6 to 0. And, we did it a man-down with only ten players.

Apparently Meredith Black was also suffering from a bee sting. But, her determination to contribute was, nonetheless, greatly evident. I also think Hannah E. might have had one of her best matches ever. She navigated the ball right up the middle between numerous opponents at least three times (those drills are paying-off!). Hannah D. got to play an entire half out of the net. This has been a “team goal” all season”. She played Stopper with a lot of heart. And Emma was a real champ with her willingness to step into the net for her teammates. Rachel was naught less than awesome as she shelled the Beats box with one cross after another.  Mars had had four goals and then played dominant Defense in the 2nd half. AC scored another goal, bringing the ball all the way up the left side and finishing with a brilliant shot into the back of the net. Haley Anne also had a goal. We had pushed her up top to see how she fights. She was in great position the entire time. It paid off when there was a solid cross from Rachel that spun off of Sarah’s boot as it went by her. Haley collected the ball of the bounce, and shot it decisively right into the back of the net, in one move. Sarah had to canny and well-times assists, and fought hard all night. Emily stepped up (literally) and put an opponent on the ground defending the midline.

NOTE: We were a bit sloppy, despite the result. So, we need to work on holding our dribble, “bombing the box”, and communication Monday.

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

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

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

Fall 2009 Season

Time to start thinking about getting fit ladies.

We are looking for a tournament in August.

Who wants the ball?

Coach Brian

Savannah

Today Shocker Nation descends on Savannah for the Shamrock Celtic Cup.

We appear to have a very good draw for our match schedule.

We need to rally to our Keeper more than ever.

Let’s show everyone we Want The Ball!

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

Indeed, we are Shockers

Surely, given our collective experiences, we recognize that change and growth can come unexpectedly. We believe we are faced with a bad situation. Then suddenly, sequential events create a positive, if not dramatic, result.

We saw that very scenario unfold over the past three weeks with our Shockers.

Beginning with our first match with Storm, we saw Shockers appear to lose vital focus, and they began, to my dismay, to bicker amongst themselves. We subsequently suffered a 2 to 1 loss that appeared to be the result of our own flat and uninspired play – and, an own goal.

Losing is, in many respects, a vital part of the beautiful game. However, integrity and character must separate themselves from errantly bouncing balls.

Shocker ball found itself deflated.

We rallied the following week against NSA Revolution with a decisive 5 to 0 victory.

Oddly, our players became tentative at practice, and confidence appeared to be eroding. Certainly we had two diverse cultures that had only recently converged. Some of the younger players had been with me for several years, and knew little else than a history of winning and a dramatic Cup victory. However, much of this hardy squad had suffered through uninspired leadership and two losing seasons at ASA, and might have begun to feel their current campaign was a fluke.

We then met a surging Fusion Fury that severely tested us even though we pulled away with a 4 to 1 victory, and a Christy Tovar hat-trick.

Yet, there was, again, mounting dissent.

All of this came to a horrific head last weekend when we simply fell apart against an admittedly well-coached and inspired NSA Magic. As I relayed in a prior post: Match #9: Lessons Learned, we suffered poor sportsmanship, a veritable melt-down, and a crisis of confidence that saw us shut-out 1 to 0; and a lost opportunity for the league title.

That was bad. But, what happened next was good. The real story, was the realization of a different kind of magic.

By Monday it was evident our Shockers not only did not like losing, they were deeply offended by how they suddenly saw themselves being reflected. Facebook connections and texting proliferated. Leaders and leadership were manifested in unexpected ways. Sophomoric philosophy was born and realized. Most importantly, only one side was ultimately taken – and, that was one Shocker simply united for the other.

My dramatic prose aside, the girls did not like they way they felt. They were quickly realizing it was more fun to care about and support one another. Unexpected allies reinforced the notion that sticking together and saying good things about people was satisfying. Almost as one, each of them concluded in a fury of electronic exchanges that they cared about one another (articulated only in the manner that adolescent girls can in their modern techspeak). Esprit de Corps is time-honored, and builds it’s own mystical momentum. And, we saw that energize our shockers.

Let me be all the more clear: They, as a group, saw a wrong, came to a consensus, and solved the problem with decisiveness and emerging maturity.

The best possible test of this was realized Tuesday when we met Fusion Storm for the second time. What should have (or, maybe only could have) been the match to decide league champions, the Shockers would be playing for the point of pride.

Having sorted themselves out, they were (as always) the first team on the pitch warming up. We were loose and comraderie filled the air. A small group had pulled our Keeper, Hanna D, aside and were warming her up (both with support and in fact).

I had them form a circle around me. There was no pressure. I asked them to look left then right at the players and teammates around them – and, to consider playing for those citizens and not themselves. They did giggle (they will always have that element of silly little kittens). However, that passed quickly when I reminded them that we had met one of our primary goals of the Spring – a winning season; and no one could take that away from them. The next objective was our secondary, and a stated goal, of making it to State Cup. I also explained that they were now a tournament team, going into District Cup, to take on the entire state of Georgia’s finest soccer teams – as underdogs.

That got their collective attention. There was our truest bonding agent. A renewed cause celebre and our raison d’etre.

I have already recounted the tale of our victory over Storm with Match #10: Finishing Well. As a father and coach, winning in the manner our fearsome Shockers did Tuesday night was damn satisfying.

We had overcome angst and self-doubt. We then met questionable referees, and a Storm coach that, amazingly, felt compelled to stack his team against us with guest players.

Before the kick-off I thumped my chest and bellowed:

Ladies… This fateful day – are we silly little kittens or Mighty Tigers all?

Without hesitation they responded with firm conviction:

MIGHTY TIGERS!

There were “cat calls” from the Storm bench. However, those were quickly silenced after a quick melee at midfield followed by a fast break on the Storm goal.

Perhaps the best part of the match for me was half time. The team came off the pitch united by fury; their eyes blazing. They were incensed by ref calls, and the unfortunate lack of sportsmanship by Storm. However, Chris and I recognized that as Tiger Food.

As the center ref blew her (over used) whistle to end the match, our Shockers found one another and joined their coaches with less celebration, and so much more grim satisfaction. They, each one of them, knew they had played a great match; and, it was best savoured as a team.

That is, and always will be, Shocker Ball.

See everyone tomorrow outside of Stone Mountain (or,will certainly feel you). No matter how that wily ball bounces, it’s always a beautiful game – and all the more because we are, indeed Shocker Nation.

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

Shocker Nation

Shocker Families:

Our 2009 Spring campaign is drawing to a close with our final matches of the regular season this coming weekend.

Saturday we play a surging Fusion Fury, and then Sunday we play, what may be our most pivotal match of the season, against NSA Magic at Pickneyville Field. Count on that being a tough match, and we need all-hands-on-deck, and very much ready to play Shocker Ball.

Next Tuesday around 7:30pm (this time is “negotiable” at the moment), we have a “friendly” match with Dawsonville. During this match we will be trying some new things in preparation for our May tournament schedule.

We still need to reschedule our rained-out match against Storm. But, they do not appear eager to face us again. So, that match is uncertain.

Tournaments

I had a parent that was apparently surprised to learn that we had a tournament over Memorial Day weekend (May 23rd and 24th). Veteran Shocker families know this is a tradition. We actually have three tournament options that weekend, but obviously will only choose one. We will likely go with the Celtic Cup in Savannah because we think it’s the most competitive, and the girls have specifically requested an overnight tournament as a reward for a terrific season.  In any event, all of this has been on the Shockers Blogsite (www.shockers.wordpress.com) since the first week of the season. Our stated objective for this season has been to qualify for State Cup. We made the District Cup, but need to keep winning to earn a good seed. If we can finish well at District Cup, we achieve that primary goal (other than being good citizens and team players) of State Cup.

Nevertheless, no family should feel compelled to sacrifice family or other interests for a soccer tournament. I know we can field a team, and the girls will have a wonderful experience to cap-off a fantastic first season together. But, if the Memorial Day weekend is a burden, please let me know so we can adjust the roster.

If I have not made it clear, I am deeply grateful to you for trusting me with your daughters. I am so very proud of all of them, and pray that this has been a terrific experience for each and everyone of them (and the families).

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