It was a tumultuous week in the women’s Top 10, while the top of the men’s rankings dominated their opposition. Several LIers continued to make an impact, particularly on the men’s side.
The Top 4 of UConn, Maryland, North Carolina, and Akron were a combined 5-0 this week, with Akron winning their third straight over #7 Indiana, 1-0, in a battle of Top Ten teams. In fact, none of those teams gave up a single goal. The same can’t be said of #5 South Florida, who dropped a 1-0 decision to unranked South Carolina. #16 UC Irvine was the only other top 20 team to lose to an unranked opponent, falling to Stanford, 2-0. #24 Tulsa fell to #12 UCLA, and #25 Washington was a 1-0 loser to top-ranked UConn.
Locally, St. John’s climbed three spots to #15 with wins over Princeton (3-0) and William & Mary (2-1). Massapequa’s Daniel Herrera scored in the Princeton victory, and Patchogue-Medford’s Jimmy Mulligan was credited with his first career game-winner in the win over the Tigers. Elsewhere, Stony Brook was a 3-0 loser to #10 Charlotte, and Iona dropped 2-1 decision to USF.
Hofstra was 2-0 on the week with wins over Binghamton and Albany. North Babylon’s Tyler Botte recorded the first two-goal game of his career in the Binghamton victory, and had goal and an assist for a seven-point week. Coram’s Adam Janowski got his first career start in goal and made three saves to record the win. Hofstra is now 4-0-1, their best start since 1985.
Parity is the word that best describes the top of the women’s college rankings. Four teams in the top ten (#3 OK State, #6 Penn State, #8 Marquette, and #10 Missouri) all lost to unranked or lower ranked teams this weekend, and #12 Louisville dropped a game to unranked Kentucky. In addition, #1 UCLA, #8 Marquette, #18 Portland, #19 Georgetown, and #20 Tennessee all settled for ties in what we would term winnable games this week.
Soccer America says that UNC is the team to watch. The Tar Heels (ranked #14 coming into the week) shut down Marquette, 4-0, and did it without several players who were part of the U20 women’s team at the World Cup. They are now 3-1-1 and are steadily climbing the board.
Hofstra split a pair of games this week, topping St. Bonaventure, 2-0, thanks to a goal from Levittown’s Jill Mulholland, but losing to Marist despite a goal from East Meadow’s Lulu Echeverry. Stony Brook fell to Rutgers, 2-0 this week, but Oceanside’s Ashley Castanio was outstanding in goal with a career-high 10 saves. St. John’s capped off their non-conference schedule with a 2-1 overtime win over Columbia, moving their record to 4-3 on the season.
As college soccer teams across the country begin to hit their stride, Maryland continues to be the story on the men’s side, seemingly dominating all comers in just about every phase of the game, but there is plenty more soccer to be played. For the ladies, this weekend’s action didn’t elicit any changes to the Top 10, but there are some new names cracking the Top 25.
The Terps tallied their highest single game goal total in more than two years with a 6-0 drubbing of #22 California. #2 Akron, #6 UNC, and #9 South Florida all recorded 2-1 wins, while #4 Santa Barbara topped Gonzaga, 3-0. #7 New Mexico was also a winner, defeating SMU, 3-1, and #13 Creighton won their own Ameritas Classic with a 3-0 win over Rutgers.
Locally, #18 St. John’s needed PK’s to dispatch Kentucky, 2-1 in the final of the South Carolina Gamecock Classic. Hicksville’s Tim Parker was named to the all-tournament team, and Medford’s Jimmy Mulligan had a critical pass in the Red Storm’s only scoring play in regulation. Sean Sepe, a freshman from West Islip, also had a shot on goal.
For the Hofstra men, Massapequa Park’s Mike Annarumma had the assist on the game-tying goal in the 29th minute of a 1-1 tie against Monmouth. The Hawks had received votes in the latest Top 25 poll, and the Pride now remain undefeated at 2-0-1.
UCLA, Florida State, and Oklahoma State remained undefeated this weekend and hung on to the top three spots in the poll. But San Diego State, Washington, Texas A & M, BYU, and Mississippi all entered the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Among the locals, #18 Rutgers turned in a 2-0 win over Sam Houston State, and Stony Brook entered its first 4-game winning streak with a 2-1 win over Yale. Oceanside’s Ashley Castanio had two saves for the Seawolves in the win. The Wolves and Scarlet Knights will face off later this week. Hofstra dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker to powerhouse Wake Forest, ranked #20 in the most recent polls. Old Brookville’s Rachel Nuzzolese had two shots for the Demon Deacons in the game that was played in Princeton this weekend.
As the men’s 2012 season got underway it was Maryland who struck with the first big win of the campaign. The Terps shutout Louisville, 3-0, and exacted some revenge against the Cardinals, who knocked Maryland out of last season’s NCAA Tournament in the 3rd round. The Terps scored in the 9th and 30th minute, and then added a late goal in the 2nd half to seal the win.
#4 UC Santa Barbara escaped with a season opening win over Loyola Marymount, scoring off a header with just over a minute to play for a 2-1 win. #9 Indiana shut down Cincinnati, 3-0, and Dayton finished the weekend 2-0 with a thrilling 4-3 win over Kentucky. In other games of note, St. Louis topped Drake, 1-0, and Virginia Tech beat Richmond by the same score.
A little closer to home, #13 St. John’s needed a Jelani Wiliams goal on a give-and-go in the final minutes of regulation to come away with a 1-1 tie against defending Patriot League champion Colgate. Redshirt junior Jimmy Mulligan of Patchogue-Medford did a good job of creating chances early on in a 2nd half that saw the Red Storm take an 11-2 advantage in shots and a 7-0 advantage on corners. Hicksville’s Tim Parker also had a great header that was blocked.
Fordham opened their season with a 1-0 win over Adelphi, and Iona fell to UC Riverside by the same score.
For the second straight week, upsets led the headlines in the world of women’s soccer. This weekend, #1 Duke and #2 Stanford both lost. Florida scored five minutes into overtime to top the Blue Devils and overcome a two-goal deficit in the 1st half. This is the third straight time these teams have played to a tie in regulation, and was a nice revenge win for a Gators team that saw the Dukies knocked them out of last year’s NCAA Tournament on penalty kicks.
For the Cardinal, their 1-0 loss to unranked West Virginia at the Penn State Invitational ended a 25-game win streak. The Mountaineers scored in the 83rd minute to pull off the upset.
The beneficiary of all this could be No. 3 UCLA, who improved to 3-0-0 with a 2-0 win over No. 24 Illinois. No. 6 Oklahoma State scored four unanswered goals to top Creighton, 4-1 and move to 4-0 on the season. The Washington Huskies soccer teams are a combined 5-0 as the girls topped Syracuse, 2-1 to move to 3-0, their best start since 2005. Georgetown is also undefeated, topping Hofstra, 2-1. The Pride had beaten Temple on Saturday on goals by East Meadow’s Lulu Echeverry and freshman Jill Mulholland of Levittown.
In other local action, Rutgers outshot Siena 26-1, but needed an own goal by the Saints to pick up a 1-0 win.
Oceanside’s Ashley Castanio shut out St. John’s in Stony Brook’s 3-0 win. It was the first career shutout for Castanio.
Soccer America released their 2012 preseason rankings for men’s college soccer this week and there are few surprises at the top.
UConn, the former collegiate home of LI’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste, now with the Portland Timbers, went 19-3-3 last season before an upset loss in the NCAA quarterfinals. They return in 2012 as the #1 ranked squad with a deep and talented team, particularly on defense, where they are led by goalkeeper Andre Blake who had 15 shutouts a year ago and a record nine straight. Their challenge will be on the offensive end, where they need to improve on last season’s 1.6 gpg scoring average.
Akron, the 2010 national champion, has lost eight players to the MLS Superdraft over the last two years, but they still return nine players who started at least ten games last season. Goalkeeper David Meyes, defender Chad Barson, and midfielder Scott Caldwell were starters on the national championship team from two years ago and will be asked to provide leadership for another team that will rely on youth to provide their scoring spark.
Maryland comes in at #3. Though they lost their top scorer, 10 starters return for a team that won it’s first 12 games a season ago before losing four of five to close out the campaign. #4 UC Santa Barbara has two of last year’s top players, Sam Garza and Luis Silva, playing in the MLS now, but a solid group of transfers has them feeling like they can compete for the NCAA title. 2011 College Cup finalist UNC Charlotte rounds out the top 5, returning eight players from a team that knocked off defending chmps Akron, #3 UConn, and #2 Ceighton in last year’s tournament before falling to the Tar Heels on North Carolina.
Speaking of the Tar Heels, the defending champs rank 6th in the preseason, and traditional powers UCLA and Indiana rank 8th and 9th, respectively. Locally, St. John’s comes in at the #13 spot. Most teams kick off their season this weekend. Look for scores and results in this space next week.
Believe it or not, while those of us here in the Northeast enjoy a few more weeks of summer vacation, the college soccer world has been at work since the end of July. The 2012 season kicked off this weekend, and what a weekend it was! Eight teams in the preseason Top 25 lost on opening day!
While #20 William & Mary lost to #1 Duke, #8 Penn State lost a tight battle to #7 UVA, and #13 Santa Clara succumbed to six goals in 21 minutes by #2 Stanford, #4 UNC, #9 Florida, #11 Memphis, #12 Notre Dame, and #23 West Virginia all lost in upsets to unranked opponents. Another top team, #5 UCLA, was down 3-2 to unranked UConn when their game was cancelled due to lightning.
Locally, Hofstra and assistant coach Tobias Bischof (also program administrator for the LIJSL Select PDP Program) knocked off Ohio State, 2-0. The Pride allowed just one shot on goal, and scored two second half goals, one by East Meadow’s Lulu Echeverry, to secure the victory.
In other local games, Rutgers topped Monmouth, 3-0, and Seton Hall blanked LIU, 2-0. Taylor Mims of Miller Place made a couple strong defensive plays for the Pirates in the victory.
Interview by Mike Woitalla for Soccer America
Kristine Lilly, the world record holder for national team appearances with 352, debuted for the USA at age 16 in 1987 and retired in 2010 at age 39. In Part 2 of our interview with the veteran of five World Cups and three Olympic Games, Lilly offers advice for young players and reflects on her youth sports and national team experience.
SOCCER AMERICA: What advice would you give to young players who are striving to reach the higher levels?
KRISTINE LILLY: Go after it. If you want something, work at it. Surround yourself with people who can help you. Listen to coaches. Have fun with it and go after it.
Do other things as well. Don’t just be consumed with soccer. Any athlete in any sport in my generation did more than one sport.
SA: On the boys side, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has prohibited its players from high school ball. And there are also cases on the girls side where they’re asked to choose between club and high school. Year-round club ball also limits their ability to play other sports. Your view?
KRISTINE LILLY: I think it’s crazy. Telling kids they can’t do something that’s fun and part of their high school is crazy.
I think they’re trying to limit the number of games they’re playing -- and some kids are playing too many games -- and that’s the way they’re going about it.
But I think kids should be be involved in high school and having fun. And being a kid. One day you're not going to be able to play any sports and that stinks. So have fun while you can.
SA: At what point did you focus solely on soccer?
KRISTINE LILLY: Not until I went to college.
SA: What sports did you play in high school?
KRISTINE LILLY: Softball, basketball and soccer.
SA: You think playing the other sports helped your soccer?
KRISTINE LILLY: I think all the sports I played growing up helped my soccer.
SA: When you played other sports did you still play some soccer?
KRISTINE LILLY: I still did some soccer, definitely, but it wasn’t as consuming as it is these days. I played spring soccer. I’d do soccer stuff on my own. I’d play some indoor games.
SA: How did you get introduced to soccer?
KRISTINE LILLY: My brother, Scott, who’s four years older, played. Whatever he did, I wanted to do, whatever sport was in season. We had town teams. I played for my parks & recreation teams.
SA: What do you think of the state of women’s soccer in the USA? The level of play, the progress of the national team. Obviously other countries have taken women’s soccer more seriously so there’s more competition …
KRISTINE LILLY: I think there was always strong competition for the United States. When we won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, it wasn’t easy. There were teams playing that were very successful. Maybe back then, the top 5 teams would compete for a world title, and now the top 10 have a chance of winning the World Cup, and that’s great for the game.
People are investing on the women’s side, and it’s growing, and there’s more interest. It’s been great and you can see that in the last couple World Cups.
SA: You played for every U.S. women’s national team coach -- Anson Dorrance, Tony DiCicco, April Heinrichs, Greg Ryan and Pia Sundhage – (besides Mike Ryan, who coached the first four U.S. games in 1985). Can you speak to playing for these coaches?
KRISTINE LILLY: They were all different. They all had their strengths. They all had their weaknesses. They all had the opportunity to coach the top players in world and did the best they could.
It gave me a great opportunity to play for different people and see some different mindsets, some similar stuff. I grew as a player under each coach.
SA: Do you remember the first time you had a female coach?
KRISTINE LILLY: In softball and basketball in high school. In soccer I don’t think I ever had a female coach until April Heinrichs [2000-04].
SA: Do you see an increase in women’s coaches in soccer?
KRISTINE LILLY: Definitely, but we need some more women involved. I think it’s just a matter of time of more getting their foot in the door and feeling confident enough to compete with all the guys out there.
But you definitely see more female coaches and there’s definitely some great ones out there.
SA: Do you think it’s important for girls have female coaches.
KRISTINE LILLY: I think it’s important for females to coach. I don’t know if it’s necessarily important for girls to have female coaches. What’s important is having a good coach. If you’re a great coach, the gender doesn’t matter.
What’s good for girls is to see that females are coaching to set an example if they want to do that one day. It’s important for girls to see women doing things, whether it’s in the business world or playing soccer.
(Kristine Lilly scored 130 goals in 352 games for the USA in 1987-2010 and was a member of two World Cup and two Olympic championship teams. She played pro club ball in Sweden, the WUSA and WPS. Lilly won four national championships with the University of North Carolina. She's assistant coach of the WPSL Eite's Boston Breakers, runs the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy and is the soccer ambassador for Korrio, an integrated sports automation platform developer.)
RDS at Plainview, New York
It is hard to believe that almost a year has passed since the last Red Bulls RDS training was held at Peter Collins Soccer Park in Plainview, New York. For those of you who are scheduled to train there this July, here are some details from last year that will give you an idea of what it would be like.
Peter Collins Soccer Park is pretty cool for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s all grass fields. Also it’s the only soccer park where you get a chance to see enormous dragonflies hovering like helicopters over the fields. Another reason is that there is a gigantic farm-size shooting sprinkler. If you’re lucky, you can catch the biggest blast of water midway through the training session which cools you down faster than running into an air conditioned room.
Ricky King was the trainer for my group last year. Ricky is special to me because he was my first Red Bulls RDS trainer. He also is very encouraging and really gets out there on the field to demonstrate the activity. He even hangs out with us during break time, making funny jokes and giving us pointers on how to improve on our game.
The training days go by so quickly, but we cover a lot of ground. Even with two days of rain, we took advantage of the wet conditions by learning how to slide tackle. Ricky taught us to hook our foot around the ball in order to gain possession when you get up. We worked on 1 v 1’s, 2 v 1’s and combination plays so we can get around the defender easier. Playing in the rain was awesome!
Most days involved a skills challenge and every day we scrimmaged. As the weather turned sunny, we learned the L turn and U turn combinations with both feet so everyone had the chance to develop skills with each foot. There were 1v1 shooting and transition drills, with goalie participation so we could match our skills against theirs. Then the group went on breakaways. We really learned a lot.
The Red Bulls RDS is more than a soccer training camp. It has given me the confidence that I needed in order to succeed in any challenge that comes my way. This past year I participated in the NYS Eastern Olympic Development Team tryouts for the Boys 2000 Squad, with only a number attached to my shirt. The trainers who evaluated me knew nothing about me, other than my number and my performance at the tryout. I also tried out for a Boys U13 Premiere Club team. I really believe that I made the cuts because of my Red Bulls RDS training. Thanks, guys!
By Randy Vogt for Soccer America
Here are some more of the things I have learned in 35 years of refereeing (Read Part 1):
* In youth soccer, there are telltale signs before the match as to what type of game it will be. If the opposing coaches talk to one another before the game, some players on opposing teams are friends and the teams are lined up in order with shirts tucked in and are quiet when the ref is checking passes, chances are it will be a very pleasant game.
* Games at the U-10, U-16 and senior levels are all officiated differently. What looks like a red card in a pro game might not with younger players. You have to look at the intent. For example, studs way up on a sliding tackle, 99 percent of 11-year-olds would not know that’s a bad foul. A man or woman would. That would be a send-off in those games. At U-12, you simply blow the whistle very hard and explain, “Don’t do it again,” as someone could get hurt.
* What can be quite challenging about officiating youth soccer is the dissent from adults unfamiliar with the game can come from unusual situations. Some people yell if they believe the ref made a mistake -- whether it’s the direction of a throw-in at midfield or a penalty kick decision. Yet referees understand that a PK has a much greater impact on the game than the direction of the throw and question why people are getting so excited about a throw-in.
* It’s understandable that many people have difficulty grasping the subtleties of the offside rule. Yet many involved with soccer do not know that all defensive restarts inside the penalty area (not just goal kicks) must clear the penalty area to be in play, the kickoff still must be played forward, the coin-toss winning team only selects which side to attack (the other team gets the first-half kickoff) and all players on the field including keepers should have their shirts tucked into their shorts.
* The moment that I think that I know it all is the moment that game becomes very challenging.
* Many refs quit within their first two years of officiating with verbal abuse by kids’ parents being the number one reason for quitting. So before you yell at a ref or AR, just think how you might be exacerbating a referee shortage by doing so. And if you are so certain that the officials got the call wrong, why don’t you become a referee?
* Leagues with sportsmanship programs that place a high value on these programs have fewer discipline problems than those leagues without a program.
* Did you have a good time at the last tournament you attended? Chances are the tournament format had a lot to do with it. I’ve refereed hundreds of tournaments and have found that people tend to be happiest with tourneys that use a straight round-robin with a championship game if need be. The worst format is modeled after the World Cup: a couple of games of group play followed by several elimination rounds. It’s in the elimination rounds that things can get hairy with people scurrying to the tournament tent to complain about an officiating decision or that “our team did not give up a goal all tournament and was just eliminated in a shootout.”
* When I briefly lived in Florida over two decades ago, I officiated in both Orlando and Tallahassee, the state capital 250 miles away. All games U-13 on up had more than one official in Florida. I thought that when I return to New York, it will be quite challenging again as I’ll return to refereeing all games by myself plus have many more ethnic rivalries in New York than in Florida. Slowly, the situation in New York during the past two decades became better so that all youth games U-13 on up have three officials. Sadly, at least one New York senior league still has difficulty having all its teams pay for three officials per game. An example of how this plays out: I was an AR for a youth game while a men’s game on the adjacent field had no ARs. That game had as many cards as our game had fouls.
• Twenty-five years ago this summer -- as a young man refereeing the Pele Cup in Brazil -- I had the great pleasure of meeting Lynn Berling-Manuel, Paul Gardner, Dan Woog and Michael Lewis for the first time. What’s most memorable about that journey, a quarter-century later, was the surreal trip as our plane was diverted to some pretty exotic places. But that’s another story for another day …
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. Find out how to order your copy by clicking here.)
This is a continuation of an entry from this weekend. to read Part I see below.
Part II of the Mike Matheny Letter:
The best situation for all of us is for you to plan on handing these kids over to me and the assistant coaches when you drop them off, and plan on them being mine for the 2 or so hours that we have scheduled for a game, or the time that we have scheduled for the practice. I would like for these boys to have some responsibility for having their own water, not needing you to keep running to the concession stand, or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty, or hungry, or too hot, and I would appreciate if you would share this information with other invited guests...like grandparents. If there is an injury, obviously we will get you to help, but besides that, let's pretend that they are at work for a short amount of time and that you have been granted the pleasure of watching. I will have them at games early so we can get stretched and loosened up, and I will have a meeting with just the boys after the game. After the meeting, they are all yours again. As I am writing this, I sound like the little league Nazi, but I believe that this will make things easier for everyone involved.
I truly believe that the family is the most important institution in the lives of these guys. With that being said, l think that the family events are much more important than the sports events. I just ask that you are considerate of the rest of the team and let the team manager, and myself know when you will miss, and to let us know as soon as possible. I know that there will be times when I am going to miss either for family reasons, for other commitments. If your son misses a game or a practice, it is not the end of the world, but there may be some sort of repercussion, just out of respect for the kids that put the effort into making it. The kind of repercussions could possibly be running, altered playing time, or position in the batting order.
Speaking of batting order, I would like to address that right from the top as well seeing that next to playing time this is the second most complained about issue, or actually tied for second with position on the defensive field. Once again, I need you to know that I am trying to develop each boy individually, and I will give them a chance to learn and play any position that they are interested in. I also believe that this team will be competitive and when we get into situations where we are focusing on winning; like a tournament for example; we are going to put the boys in the position that will give the team the best opportunity. I will talk with the boys individually and have them tell me what their favorite position is and what other position they would like to learn about. As this season progresses, there is a chance that your son may be playing a position that they don't necessarily like, but I will need your support about their role on the team. I know that times have changed, but one of the greatest lessons that my father taught me was that my coach was always right...even when he was wrong. The principle is a great life lesson about how things really work. I hope that I will have enough humility to come to your son if I treated him wrong and apologize. Our culture has lost this respect for authority mostly because the kids hear the parents constantly complaining about the teachers and coaches of the child.
I need all of you to know that we are most likely going to lose many games this year. The main reason is that we need to find out how we measure up with the local talent pool. The only way to do this is to play against some of the best teams. I am convinced that if the boys put their work in at home, and give me their best effort, that we will be able to play with just about any team. Time will tell. l also believe that there is enough local talent that we will not have to do a large amount of travel, if any. This may be disappointing for those of you who only play baseball and look forward to the out of town experiences, but I also know that this is a relief for the parents that have traveled throughout the US and Canada for hockey and soccer looking for better competition. In my experiences, we have traveled all over the Midwest and have found just as good competition right in our back yard. If this season goes well, we will entertain the idea of travel in the future.
The boys will be required to show up ready to play every time they come to the field. Shirts tucked in, hats on straight, and pants not drooping down to their knees. There is not an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field. From the first step outside the dugout they will hustle. They will have a fast jog to their position, to the plate, and back to the bench when they make an out. We will run out every hit harder than any team we will play, and will learn how to always back up a play to help our teammates. Every single play, every player will be required to move to a spot. Players that do not hustle and run out balls will not play. The boys will catch on to this quickly. The game of baseball becomes very boring when players are not thinking about the next play and what they possibly could do to help the team. Players on the bench will not be messing around. I will constantly be talking with them about situations and what they would be doing if they were in a specific position, or if they were the batter. There is as much to learn on the bench as there is on the field if the boys want to learn. All of this will take some time for the boys to conform to. They are boys and I am not trying to take away from that, but I do believe that they can bear down and concentrate hard for just a little while during the games and practices.
I know this works because this was how I was taught the game and how our parents acted in the stands. We started our little league team when I was 10 years old in a little suburb of Columbus, Ohio. We had a very disciplined coach that expected the same from us. We committed 8 summers to this man and we were rewarded for our efforts. I went to Michigan, one went to Duke, one to Miami of Florida, two went to North Carolina, one went to Central Florida, one went to Kent State, and most of the others played smaller division one or division two baseball. Four of us went on to play professionally. This was coming from a town where no one had ever been recruited by any colleges. I am not saying that this is what is going to happen to our boys, but what I do want you to see is that this system works. I know that right now you are asking yourself if this is what you want to get yourself into and I understand that for some of you it may not be the right fit. I also think that there is a great opportunity for these boys to grow together and learn some lessons that will go beyond their baseball experience. Let me know as soon as possible whether or not this is a commitment that you and your son want to make.
The other day, a friend of mine who is involved in youth sports sent me an interesting e-mail. It was a letter from a travel baseball coach to the parents of his players prior to the start of the season. It so happens that the coach is Mike Matheny, the new manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and a former long time major leaguer. After retiring from the game as a player, he coached his kids’ team and set in motion his principles and philosophies, which are listed in great detail in his letter.
It is long. But it is well worth the time invested. It’s baseball, but it could be about ANY sport. Matheny has some very definite (some would call old school) ideas about how the players’ experience should play out. His thoughts on the role that everyone plays in the development of young athletes are pointed. Let’s be honest parents, you get thrown under the bus right from the opening paragraph. I happen to agree with a lot of what he says. But do you?
Coaches, are you thinking about all the things that he’s thinking about in this letter? Are you focused on individual development, the mental aspects of the game, and your team’s demeanour on and off the playing field? Do you work to attain the knowledge and experience that would allow the parents of your players to trust you implicitly? Are you able to clearly communicate your plan to players and parents?
As a player, would you want to play for a Mike Matheny? Are you ready to be accountable to your teammates? Can you bring focus and energy to the field? Are you willing to work for and earn your playing time? We all – players, coaches, and parents – play an important role in the development of our young athletes, but it seems, as Matheny says, that we may have lost some of the core values and benefits of athletics that help make youth sports such a positive experience.
Do you agree? Read on and let us know...
Letter from Mike Matheny.....
I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat. I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans. My main goals are as follows:
(1) to teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way,
(2) to be a positive impact on them as young men, and
(3) do all of this with class.
We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires no matter what.
With that being said, I need to let you know where I stand. I have no hidden agenda. I have no ulterior motive other than what I said about my goals. I also need all of you to know that my priorities in life will most likely be a part of how I coach, and the expectations I have for the boys. My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone's throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, and I hope to continue it in any endeavor that I get into. I am just trying to get as many potential issues out in the open from the beginning. I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement. I think if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game; they would say "NOTHING". Once again, this is ALL about the boys. I believe that a little league parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and "Come on, let's go, you can do it", which just adds more pressure to the kids. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already. You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support.
Let the record stand right now that we will not have good umpiring. This is a fact, and the sooner we all understand that, the better off we will be. We will have balls that bounce in the dirt that will be called strikes, and we will have balls over our heads that will be called strikes. Likewise, the opposite will happen with the strike zone while we are pitching. The boys will not be allowed at any time to show any emotion against the umpire. They will not shake their head, or pout, or say anything to the umpire. This is my job, and I will do it well. I once got paid to handle those guys, and I will let them know when they need to hear something. I am really doing all of you parents a favor that you probably don't realize at this point. I have taken out any work at all for you except to get them there on time, and enjoy. The thing that these boys need to hear is that you enjoyed watching them and you hope that they had fun. I know that it is going to be very hard not to coach from the stands and yell encouraging things to your son, but I am confident that this works in a negative way for their development and their enjoyment. Trust me on this. I am not saying that you cannot clap for your kids when they do well. I am saying that if you hand your child over to me to coach them, then let me do that job.
A large part of how your child improves is your responsibility. The difference for kids at this level is the amount of repetition that they get. This goes with pitching, hitting and fielding. As a parent, you can help out tremendously by playing catch, throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls, or finding an instructor who will do this in your place. The more of this your kids can get, the better. This is the one constant that I have found with players that reached the major leagues....someone spent time with them away from the field.
I am completely fine with your son getting lessons from whomever you see fit. The only problem I will have is if your instructor is telling your son not to follow the plan of the team. I will not teach a great deal of mechanics at the beginning, but I will teach mental approach, and expect the boys to comply. If I see something that your son is doing mechanically that is drastically wrong, I will talk with the instructor and clear things up. The same will hold true with pitching coaches. We will have a pitching philosophy and will teach the pitchers and catchers how to call a game, and why we choose the pitches we choose. There is no guessing. We will have a reason for the pitches that we throw. A pitching coach will be helpful for the boys to get their arms in shape and be ready to throw when spring arrives. Every boy on this team will be worked as a pitcher. We will not over use these young arms and will keep close watch on the number of innings that the boys are throwing.
I will be throwing so much info at these boys that they are going to suffer from overload for a while, but eventually they are going to get it. I am a stickler about the thought process of the game. I will be talking non-stop about situational hitting, situational pitching, and defensive preparation. The question that they are going to hear the most is "What were you thinking?" What were you thinking when you threw that pitch? What were you thinking during that at bat? What were you thinking before the pitch was thrown, were you anticipating anything? I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and the mental may be more difficult, but can be taught and can be learned by a 10 and 11 year old. If it sounds like I am going to be demanding of these boys, you are exactly right. I am definitely demanding their attention, and the other thing that I am going to require is effort. Their attitude, their concentration, and their effort are the things that they can control. If they give me these things every time they show up, they will have a great experience.
to read Part II see the LIJSoccer Blog entry above.