There and Back Again ...
May 8, 2010
|Tolkien was right … no matter the journey, its great to get home…
So, 17 boys …9 days… 4 games … and 2 transatlantic flights later … all good intentions went out the window once the plane hit the tarmac… I intended to get this out Monday, but then life intervened...
The short version is that it was a very successful trip on all fronts… the boys played well and represented Region 1 and their country with distinction, both on and off the field … culturally they spent a concentrated period of time in a foreign culture and embraced the experience (as much as 13 year olds can) … and the boys came together in a way that makes me suspect long term friendships were forged…
The long version goes something like this…
The basic goals we have for this age group never change, only the venue does… and the evaluation of every event goes back these four goals:
Make the soccer better every time we step on a field;
Learn how to travel as a serious young athlete;
Learn how to adapt to new teammates; and,
Learn how to interact with unfamiliar adults.
It’s just that simple, and its just that complex. So, how did we do?
Soccer: It’s always interesting to see how the soccer improves with each game. Our first two games were not as challenging as we would have liked, especially to prepare us for Parma. That said, the soccer improved with each game … the game against Parma (who eventually lost in the Final 0-1)could have gone either way and while Ancona was older, bigger and stronger, we found a way to keep ourselves in the game.
In two of our four games we were able to test ourselves against professional teams youth set ups and gave nothing up … technically the differences are at the margins; physically we always match up; and tactically no one presents a problem we aren’t equal to … if there is a difference, then it is our ability to focus for the entire 60 minutes when the game gets and stays tight.
Travel: traveling well (as an athlete) is a learned skill set. The ability to focus on the objective of the trip, eat every meal, hydrate, and most importantly understand how and when to rest are not skills (I would argue) learned at youth soccer tournaments. What parents need to understand is that while they may be on vacation we are not. The Region has made an opportunity available, and there are expectations for our performance.
We impress upon the players at every event that the player pool continues to get smaller and the difference between the players who are chosen for events and those who are not is very slight. Taking care of themselves can make the difference between having an opportunity, or not.
Teammates: we were very pleased with how the boys came together. There were no obvious cliques and no isolates. Most of these players have been together before (but not all at once) and they built off of that. To set the tone we make meals, team meetings, and travel to and from games and practices “cell phone free zones” … that includes MP3 players … you can't get to know your teammates with headphones on.
Adults: there are no parents on our trips, so the boys need to develop the “skill” of how to interact with adults they don’t know well and voice their concerns. If they are to be serous young athletes, then they can’t depend on parents to advocate for them. I think we made progress here, by the time of our individual exit conversations it was apparent the boys were comfortable with us. In fact, the level of reflection was impressive.
In the early evening, on the patio, next to pool at the Hotel Select we held our last team meeting ... we told the players that this trip was the end of a cycle that stared 11 months ago and that a new cycle would begin at the Regional ODP tournament … and while the cycle would begins again for us ... it begins again for them as well … Lew