By John Reddan
past August, we took some teams to the College Search Kickoff in Muscatine, Iowa, including our U18 boys and girls red teams. As usual, it was very hot and humid, and unfortunately the girls were forced into shortened halves due to torrential rain. Despite these issues, I was extremely pleased with our level of play throughout the competition. I watched with great satisfaction as the players moved the ball from one side of the field to the other with short combinations along with longer service. They were patient, not afraid to move the ball around and wait for the right moment to get into the attack. There were great moments of three -person combinations, individual 1 v 1 battles, crossing and finishing, and communication from every person on the field. There were excellent examples of offensive shape and defensive intensity, overlapping, air battles and positional interchange on the fly.
So, what's the point, you ask? Well, it wasn't just what they were doing that struck me, but how comprehensive they were around the field. All the things we have been working on for so many years seemed to come to fruition. Where did it come from? It made me think of all the countless hours coaches and players spent on all the basic skills: passing and receiving, 1 v 1 moves, defensive footwork, and combination plays like the time tested give and go, not to mention attack heading, crossing, and working in triangles all over the field. All these basic tenets of the game need to be stressed and repeated over time in order to get the sort of complete performance that our U18 red teams demonstrated at the College Search Kickoff.
Experience and hard work on the fields at Reddan Soccer Park guide 56ers players from age U11 to adult, national-level competition in the men's National Premier Soccer League and -- new this year -- in the Women's Premier Soccer League.
Coaching Director John Reddan
Time. That's what it takes. We have a tendency to want to see results right away, and in some instances we can. But often it's fleeting and the ever-present reflections from the sidelines can be heard: "Gosh, they played so well in the first half, but in the second . . . " or, "We played great last game, but today we couldn't string three passes together." What's the matter with this group? What's the matter is time. It takes time to develop the skills, the strength, patience, and the understanding to produce a consistent performance on the field. We must measure our success in increments and look for that day when skills and ideas come together on a regular basis, all the while knowing there will be performance dips along the way.
Our youngest teams can produce some of the biggest swings in this regard, as they are capable of learning so much despite the fact that their ability to execute is hampered by their ever-changing bodies and cognitive abilities. As they mature and gain more physical control, they are tested by their ability to stay focused, "keeping their heads in the game" for the duration of the match. With no time-outs and limited substitutions at the older age levels, the responsibility to assess and act on diversity rests largely on the players. That requires loads of experience, or, I'll say it again, time.
The more a player experiences, the greater their potential to improve. Pretty simple. But that improvement is incremental and it comes at different rates for different players. It was a real treat to watch these young athletes showcase their years of hard work and come together in fine fashion last summer even as they wind down their club careers and begin to look ahead to new, post-high school challenges.