Thursday, January 23, 2014

How To Perform Under Olympic Pressure

This is a from an email that Soccer Psychology Tips sent to me. They have a number of good articles.  I recommend checking out the site after you read what is below.

If you have been watching any of the Pre-Olympic interviews, mental game talk is everywhere. Olympians discuss pressure, confidence, focus, and positive self-talk as they prepare for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

You might even notice a bigger emphasis on the mental aspect of being an Olympian compared to the physical side.

The Olympics bring pressure to athletes, no doubt. Athletes who have trained for years compete for their country and personal pride, but only the mentally tough survive.

Why Expectations Create Pressure?

Pressure can come from many different areas in soccer. Soccer players need to first recognize when they are putting pressure on themselves. Think about what you demand or expect of yourself during your performance. Many athletes have strict expectations such as winning every game or not making any mistakes.

Letting go of expectations may be easier said than done. Expectations have usually developed over years and years and cannot be eliminated completely.

Strict expectations are common sources of pressure for athletes. Athletes who feel pressured should let go of outcome expectations and direct their focus on the present moment.

The goal is to replace your expectations with manageable goals. A soccer player might focus on making runs and taking players on instead of how many goals they want to score.

Focusing on the outcome or the result of the competition creates nervousness and anxiety. Many athletes experience pregame jitters before competition which can be either helpful or harmful to their performance, depending how they react to these nerves.

Sometimes soccer players are so anxious (or excited) they can't sleep the night before completion. They experience a rapid heart rate, heavy breathing and sweaty palms prior to game time.

Managing these nerves is imperative for athletes to be able to compete under pressure and at the highest level.

3 Tips To Help You Perform Under Pressure

1. Focus on what you can control. Athletes can get so wrapped up in things beyond their control. A soccer player may worry about not playing well in the rain. Instead, focus on what you can control such as your pre-competition routine and your game plan for the upcoming competition.

2. Throw out expectations. Expectations can cause athletes to feel pressured. They think too much about how they should be doing. Soccer players often expect to have perfect passes and worry about giving the ball up. It is more helpful to focus on combining with your teammates and making offensive runs.

3. Use pregame jitters to your advantage. Many athletes think that their rapid heart rate, heavy breathing, and sweaty palms are a sign of nervousness or that something is wrong. But, you can change the way you think about your pregame jitters. Those physical signs actually are signs that your body is ready for the competition.

Olympians spend just as much time training their mind as they do their body. Mental toughness does not come easily.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's not complicated: Play with 11 players!

cc licensed ( BY NC )  flickr photo shared by Mike
One of the most important things you can do on the soccer field is remain "switched on" while you are on the field, playing with all 11 players at the same time, not 4 players who are switched on and 7 players switched off.

Playing with all 11 is a concept that Bill Belichick, one of the best American football coaches, tries to instill in his players.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons he has been so successful, winning numerous championships.

Too often, if we are not in the immediate vicinity of the ball, we tend to relax, stop thinking, stand still and turn off. We start moving and thinking only when the ball is close.

Instead, we need to prepare for what is about to happen and move appropriately.

For example, if you are an outside midfielder away from the ball because the mid on the other side of the field has the ball, you should anticipate what will happen next.  If the opposite side mid with the ball receives pressure, turns their hips inside and plays the ball to the back on that side, you should immediately drop back down the line, anticipating that the back is going to pass to the center back and the ball is going to switch fields to you.

Another example: you are an outside forward and the forward on the opposite side gets the ball.  You should anticipate an early cross and be in a position to receive it.  If a ball isn't crossed early, get in the box and anticipate a later cross.

Thinking ahead is the key to success in this game. Always be switched on, moving constantly and anticipating. We must play with 11 in order to achieve the level of success that we want to achieve.

Switch on!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Level of Intensity

Most of the clubs we played against gave it their all in the first half.  When they found out they couldn’t dominate us, they lost their poise and character.  It’s not that we play harder in the second half.  We play the same all the way through the game.
--Ray Nitschke, former Green Bay Packer and Hall of Fame Linebacker

Sportswriters will occasionally write that a winning soccer team has the “killer instinct” or are “great closers.”  As proof of that, they’ll write about how the team turns their intensity up a couple of notches during the last minutes of a game to secure the win.

Nothing could be more misleading.

The truth is that soccer players win because they learn to attach the same level of intensity and effort to every minute of every game.  They learn to downplay the importance of critical moments and treat the game like the pickup game they played in the backyard as a little kid.  It’s the loser who tries to ratchet their intensity up and play the last half as if it was the most important half of their lives.

In my talks with different players, I’ve found that if you measured intensity of effort and desire on a scale of one to ten, most of them get their best results when their intensity is around a six.  If their effort drops too low, they tend to get sloppy.  They might not focus on their target or think too much about what is going on in the game.  But if their level of intensity and effort gets too high, they get tight and too negative.  About a six is just right.

Players tell me frequently how well they play when they’re doing some kind of noncompetitive event, such as, playing in the backyard, practicing, going to a tournament just for fun.  In this format, they play without worrying about the score.  If they make a mistake or two, they shrug it off.  Not surprisingly, they play very well, often better then when they are in a “real” competition.  They’d be better off if they could bring the attitude they bring to fun, noncompetitive soccer.

It is not always easy to get there because our culture trains people in some less-than-helpful concepts.  One is that if you are not succeeding, you have to “try harder.”  This may be useful in a sport like cross-country running.  It may be helpful to a student who needs to put more time into studying.  But it gives the impression that the right sort of effort is one that leaves you red-faced and panting, on the brink of collapse.

No one plays well if they are red-faced and panting.  You have to play with detached indifference.  You shouldn’t try harder you should try your best, try smarter.

For example, Mike Mussina is a pro baseball player who moved to the New York Yankees a few years ago.  At his first spring training with the Yankees, reporters asked him if he was ready to pitch for the Yankees, implying that pitching for the Yankees, in New York was much more difficult than pitching anyplace else.  They said, “Mike, Yankee Stadium is going to be different. They’ll be much more pressure that what you are used to.”  Mike told them that when he was a little kid and started pitching, his Dad painted a strike zone on the back of their barn.  Every day as a little kid, he’d throw at that strike zone, pretending that he was pitching in the big leagues.  Now, when he pitches professionally, he pretends that he is pitching to the strike zone on the barn.  Mike said, “It doesn’t really matter what stadium I’m in or what jersey I’m wearing, I just pitch like I’m in the backyard, throwing at the barn.  That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Mike refuses to allow some outside force to affect the way he was going to play.  He knew the level of intensity at which he played his best.  He was going to consistently pitch at that level regardless of where he was or who he was playing or even what people said.

Soccer players have to be the same way.  They have to find their most effective level of intensity, effort and focus and stay at it, whether they are playing in the backyard with their sister or shooting a penalty kick to win the World Cup.

Thoughts to Play By:

* Most soccer players their best when their intensity and effort level is about a six on a scale of 1-10.
* Try your best, try smarter, don’t try harder.
* Find your most effective level of intensity and stick to it consistently.  Your intensity and effort level should not be affected by any outside forces or by anything that happens in the game.

adapted to soccer from Bob Rotella.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cool Like Eli

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by Football Schedule
Early critics of NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning complained that Eli has been just too passive. He wasn't emotional and looked as if he didn't care a whole lot when he was playing.

Now, after 2 super bowl championships, the very thing that was viewed as weak, is now seen as his strength.  He is now the player who doesn't get rattled.  He is now seen as a quarterback who performs his best under pressure.  He treats the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl the same way he views the 5th or 6th game of the regular season. The quarterback who was seen as not having the fire to be able to compete in the NFL, performs brilliantly in the playoffs, putting his team in position to win, time after time.

"I think it comes from the fact I can only do so much,'' Manning said. "And I want to give our team every chance to win, and I want to give myself every chance to compete and to win. I control half the game, and even then I can't control one of our guys fumbling. So I have always had the attitude that if I do everything in my power to prepare, and then I have confidence that we've got a good plan and I know it's good enough to win, then I just go play and whatever happens happens.

"If we lose, will I be mad or upset? Yes. For a few days. But I think after some time, a few days, I'm not going to let it ruin my life..."

As humans, we tend to perform our best when there is no pressure, when the outcome doesn't matter.  When we are not thinking about how important the event is.  On the other hand, we tend to tighten up when the game is on the line or when the game means a lot or when we are playing our big rival.  I have seen it happen too often--my team playing well until it is time for the championship and then they play their worst.

Any athlete can learn from Eli's attitude.  Do your best no matter the game.  Treat each game the same.  Don't over emphasize any game but treat them all as a wonderful opportunity to go out and do your best.  Love the challenge.  Have a great attitude no matter what happens or what the event is.  Eli Manning made mistakes in the games leading up to the Super Bowl in both of his championship seasons.  He was hit hard numerous times.  He was sacked.  But, no matter what happened, he got back up and did his job.

Our goal in soccer is to approach games the same way, the Eli way.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Love the Challenge

All of us have probably had this experience--we play some sort of game against an opponent who is not very good.  Maybe you play basketball with your sibling who is 5 years younger than you.  Perhaps you have played a soccer game against a team that had no idea what it was doing.  Perhaps you played a board game against an someone who was just not very good at that particular game.  

At first, it is kinda fun dominating the opponent.  No matter what you do, you win by a large margin.  What could be better, right?

On the other hand, is that truly what people want--to have every game an "easy" game? After awhile, it gets boring, doesn't it?  Another dunk on my 3 foot tall younger brother?  Another goal scored against the team that should be playing in different league? Ho hum.  

What we really need is to be challenged.  And we need to love that challenge.

How much would a basketball championship mean if you won every game by 75 points?  Wouldn't a state championship mean more if it was close, but you pulled away in the final minutes because of superior mental strength, fitness, skill and smarts?

We should love each challenge and embrace it.  We need to look forward to being tested.  We need to embrace growth through strong competition. 

With that kind of attitude, you can't help but be successful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest Post: Adversity and Bouncing Back

OFC 97/97 E1 vs Waza FC East 98 Black
Photo by Mike Thiem
I thought I would share something that a fellow coach wrote recently.  He is the assistant coach of the Omaha Football Club 97/98 Elite 1 girls soccer team.  The team has struggled recently with their form in the Midwest Regional League, falling from a second place finish in the spring league to now being last in the league.  His words are inspirational and need to be shared with all of us who sometimes experience adversity.

Neil Hope's words begin ...

Everything ends. Wins become more and more difficult goals hard to come by, success comes and it goes. Trophies and status that take so much effort to acquire can be given up half as easily. Entire games of domination washed away in what seems like the blinking of an eye. So why bother? Why work so hard for something that isn't guaranteed to last? The chance – and seeming inevitability – of failure is too large, surely? For some people, simply trying is too big a gamble. Willing to have massive failure on your hands rather than hoping for very little, because in the end neither are good enough.

The few bold enough to take those risks are the ones that rise above. Those that do can under the right circumstances build something that lasts, however long. Triumph exists in the mind. A place where time stands still, and a single memory can last forever. Moments of brilliance and living in that moment practice after practice game after game

Those that are truly ambitious never get comfortable. Comfort implies a level of acceptance that the quest for perfection will never allow. Believing in your own ability to achieve something is one thing, it’s another to do so with a massive weight on your shoulders. What kind of a person lives in a state of mind something in which she worked hard for this past 12 months. Now on the dawn of a new challenge who is ready to be accountable for their own play character and performance when pulling on that OFC uniform. The application and attitude to turn things around. This player who chooses to place the burden of getting this team back to where they want to be. she relishes the prospect of it. She is YOU!!!!!

Enjoy your time off, and I hope reading this inspires everyone to refresh the mind and the body, coming back FOREVER STRONG.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Elkhorn Tourney Coming Up! Lessons Learned from New Zealand

Today I watched the US Women's National Team play against New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Soccer Tournament.  New Zealand's record was poor compared to the US.  NZ won just one game in their group, the US won 3.  The US had beaten NZ the last 8 times the two teams had met.  On paper, it looked like a blow out, USA style.

However, New Zealand attacked with power and creativity and defended well. NZ gave up a goal in the first half but the finishing of US team was out of sync, missing a number of chances that would have put the game away. The Zealanders were creating very good chances.  The US the lead was not a comfortable one. The game turned into a real nail-biter for the fans.

It wasn't until Syndey Leroux pounded the ball between the keeper's legs in the 87th minute that USA fans could breathe a sigh of relief. It just goes to show that soccer players can't take anything for granted and have to bring their best every time they step onto the field.  On paper, New Zealand looked easy.  It reality, the US should feel fortunate to come away with a victory.  Any tournament can have games like that.

One of the reasons we are participating in the Elkhorn Soccer Festival is to be able to play local teams and let them know that we mean business. Our goal is to establish ourselves as a dominant force in our age group. We have not played a local team in a real competition since October of 2011.  We need to play everyone and play our very best.  I want them to fear us.

Every game presents its own unique challenge.  I never want my players to think that a team or a tournament is going to be "easy."  If we go into a game or tourney thinking that, it is very difficult to play our best.  Players usually under perform if they think things will be easy.

We can beat anyone if we have fun, strive to play our best, score goals and prevent the other team from scoring.  On the other hand, we can get beat by anyone if we are too uptight, don't play well, don't score and they do.  Our players should pretend every game is a championship game and every opponent is a great challenge.  Having that mentality, we will be successful!

Also seen in the USA-NZ game: after the US scored their first goal, a number of players attempted to do cartwheels.  Afterward they said that they wanted to honor the Olympic gymnasts.  From my point of view, I love the fact that women players at that level are having fun and doing silly harmless celebrations after goals.

Here is the schedule for the Elkhorn Tourney.  We will wear all black the first day and all white the second day.  However, everyone needs to bring every piece of their uniform every time we play.  I will have them change if we conflict.

Saturday August 11
12GR13 8:00 AM THZ 5 OFC 00/01 Elite 1 Solar vs ELK Fury
12GR12 2:15 PM EHS 3 OFC 00/01 Elite 2 s vOFC 00/01 Elite 1 Solar
Sunday August 12
12GR16 8:00 AM THZ 7 OFC 00/01 Elite 1 Solar vs ELK Rush
12GRC  6:00 PM THZ 7  Championship

I am looking forward to the tournament!

Monday, July 16, 2012

OFC 00/01 Parent Info

This post will contain all the info that I will go over at a parent meeting. Everything you need to know in one convenient place. Like shopping at Walmart (sort of.)  I would also ask that you have each player read through this page.  Please make a comment below and that is how I will know if every family has read through these important points.


I have 1 goal, "Get to the Next Level" or "Reach Higher." That means, first, to develop every player so they reach whatever the next level may be for them. Second, to field a regionally competitive team and once we get to that level, maintain it and reach higher. (Is that one goal or like 7 goals? Ha.)

Playing with Character

Players should read the Playing with Character web page and understand that they need to agree with all the points.  Each player is expected to show up, work hard, play smart and give their all.

Parents with Character

Parents also need to read the Parenting with Character web page. We really haven't had any big problems with parent behavior on the sidelines and I am sure that will continue. I am a teacher and I know that "pre-teaching" is still a good idea, that is, laying down the expectations, even if your group is really good (which you are.)  We also ask you to read the Transparency Document that I will attach to a separate email.

On the sidelines, the parent's job is to encourage the team, staying positive. I would discourage you from criticizing or giving instructions to your daughter or to her teammates during the games. What you may be instructing them to do may not be what I am instructing them to do. We don't want to confuse them. They develop better with a head coach and assistant's consistent message, not 30 other "coaches" yelling different things at them. Why? Kids generally play better when you encourage them and tend to play worse when you criticize. Also, please ignore the behavior of our opponents or of our opponent's parents. I know that is sometimes difficult to do. Please don't yell at the ref's, even if the other team is doing it. Please refrain from complaining. Complaining does not accomplish much and it is way too contagious. Cheer wildly for our successes and be dignified when the outcome isn't to our liking. Like I said, you are a great group and I know we will continue to have a classy bunch of parents.

Include, not exclude

Another fantastic thing about this team and the families in the team is how inclusive everyone is. I can't really identify cliques on the team and that is a rare thing for a girl's team. Let us keep that up, especially going out of our way to include our new players and families. I have coached some girls teams that have been very cliquey, players going so far as to not pass the ball to someone not in their clique during practices and games  (hard to believe, but I have seen it.)  It is something that we have to proactively guard against happening. I will definitely make it a point of emphasis as I coach them. I need your support. We are not mean girls. No cliques on Solar. We are one.


I have requested practice early on Mondays and Thursdays and on Saturday morning.  Practice will begin July 30th.  I will let you know the times and locations for sure when I know.  Players should wear their gray practice jerseys until further notice.

League Play

We have applied to the NSL U12 league.  It is important to dominate our own age group this year, preparing for our first state cup in u13.  We hope to go back to the KC league in the spring (11v11) and also do 4 NSL games.

Fall Tournaments

The tourneys we are going to look to be a good balance.
Aug 10-12, Elkhorn Soccer Festival -U12 8v8
Sept 01-02, Omaha FC-U12 8v8
Sep 22-23, Just for Girls, Des Moines-U12 8v8
Oct 12-14, Midwest All Girls, Overland Pk-U12 11v11
Oct 26-28, Halloween Havoc, CB-Play U13 11v11

Parent Help

Tiffany Farrell has agreed to be the team manager again and Robin Seran has agreed to be our hotel manager.  Other help--will the parents who do the nets before and after games still do that? What also would be great is a parent or 2 to be in charge of stats for all the games.  If anyone has an ipad, there is an easy app to use.  There may be some smart phone apps too.  Basically, we need one or two parents who will be at every game, writing down our opponent's name, what the score of the game is, who scored on our team and who had any assists and how many shots we had.  There can be other stats too, like how many saves our keeper had, etc.  Anyone willing to take this on?

Playing Time

Playing time is not guaranteed.  That being said, however, I believe that it is difficult to develop if a player isn't playing in games.  I attempt to get everyone in as much as possible and be as equal as possible.   If, however, we are in a closely contested important game, I will go with the players who are playing well at that time.  If there is a choice between playing midfielders, forwards or defenders more, I usually choose to play defenders more.


I don't necessarily start the same players every game. I think it is important to start a balanced team to begin games.  If your daughter starts one game and then does not start the next game, it doesn't necessarily mean that she did something wrong, it is just someone else's turn to begin. If I do start players consecutively, it is usually defenders.  If I sit players for a specific reason, I usually tell them.


Tiffany will let you know the paperwork needed from you.  Player passes need pictures.  We need a copy of your birth certificate and medical release forms and all that kind of stuff.


Please do everything you can to attend our Elite summer camp, all practices, tournaments and games.  I do understand that there will be conflicts.  I may have conflicts too (hopefully not.)  All I ask is that you let me know beforehand when your daughter will have to miss.


I have set up a Solar Twitter account. Even if you don't have a Twitter account, all you have to do is send a text message to Twitter and it Twitter will text you whenever I post an update. Like this...

Text the following:
follow OFCSolar

To the number:

I will use Twitter to let you know of any late practice changes or game changes, et cetera.  I may occasionally post inspiration sayings.  The reason I want to use Twitter is that it is public and transparent. Instead of me texting parents privately or even players as they acquire cell phones, this keeps communication  between players, coach and parents in the open.  I have used it for my high school team and it works pretty well.


All practices, tournaments and events should be posted on the OmahaFC 00/01 Google calendar.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back After a Hiatus

Been awhile since I have posted. I plan to use this space now for update on my 2 favorite teams that I am coaching: the OFC 00/01 Elite 1 girls (Go Solar!) and the girls varsity soccer team at Gross Catholic (Go Cougars!) The first thing is my virtual parent meeting post coming soon for OFC 00/01. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gross Catholic 9-7.

The Gross Catholic Girls Soccer team finished the season with 9 wins and 7 losses. A decent season where we just happened to score 58 goals. I think that total is a GC Girls Soccer record. My records don't go back to pre-historic times (before I was the head coach) but no team that I have coached has scored so many, until now. A job well done.

Our final 2 games were opposites. The first game we couldn't stop scoring and the second game, we couldn't score at all. St. Peter Claver was put away early 10-0 but in the District semi-final, Platteview were the ones who put us away and sent us home for good. Platteview scored early and we had no answer, eventually falling 0-3. Julie O had the best chance halfway through the first half, getting on the end of a cross but the Platteview keeper was able to get a foot and then a hand on it to keep us off of the score sheet.

We really had a great group this year and did well. Overall, it was good.

Next on my soccer agenda is to begin coaching the under 11 Elite 1 girls soccer team for Omaha Football Club (OFC.) That too is a good group of girls and I am looking forward to coaching them. Tryouts for the U11s begin on June 18, 10:45am at Discovery Fields. Awesome.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Set Back But Not Fallen

I was watching the second "Transformers" move, "Revenge of the Fallen" on HBO this weekend. It was pretty good, lots of action. The heroes of the movie face many trials and setbacks, but win in the end.

Our heroes (the Cougars) started the week with victory but had a couple setbacks since.

On Monday, Roncalli gave us some difficulties, not Megatron-level trouble, but trouble all the same. We started well, scoring early, but made a mistake in the back and we unprepared for a long Roncalli shot that went over the head of our keeper. We bounced back with a penalty kick (made by Shannon) and another goal to make it 3-1. Made a mistake on a free kick and Roncalli got one back. We responded well and got another goal to make it 4-2. Prime victory.

Tuesday, we went in confident, but a few things just sort of blew up on us like a house full of mini Decepticons. First, there was a mix up with referees, we didn't have any. The game ended up starting an hour and fifteen minutes late after we finally found some available refs. The ninety minute warm up seemed to effect us, as we started slow. About 20 minutes in we couldn't clear a ball out of our box after numerous tries and Duchesne got a goal. We responded well and had more possession, but the chances we created were lacking until about 10 minutes left. Sienna showed all heart and effort, created a chance and stuck it in the net. Tied 1-1. We did all we could for the rest of the game and into overtime. No goals, shootout. Let me just say that we had one person score a goal in the shootout and that is not optimum (or Optimus.)

The next RCC game would then be the third consolation place game versus also orange Beatrice. We scored 5 against them last time we played. But, we knew they were dangerous because they scored 3 against us. At the beginning of Thursday's game we made a series of mistakes in row, right down the center of the field and Beatrice scored. After Beatrice scored, we did not feel panic. We were confident we could bounce back and win the game. We were very patient and controlled. We created chance after chance, but that killer pass to break open the game, or that jetfire of a shot to make the net bulge, that allspark of a goal did not occur. A disappointing loss 0-1 even though we dominated possession and shot count.

We faced 3 teams and were set back by 2. We expect to win in the end this week.

Coming up next is Districts. The first round is at 8 pm against St. Peter Claver, Monday, May 2 at Ralston. Our goal is to get goals.

As Sam Witwicky once said, "No sacrifice, no victory." We will sacrifice all this week, transforming our setbacks into success.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Central, Schuyler and RCC

Since we last chatted, twittered, facebooked, or blogged, the Gross Catholic Girls Soccer Team (Go Cougars) has beaten Central 1-0 and Schuyler 7-1. Right now we stand at 7-4 and are riding a 6 game winning streak.

At Central on the 16th, the game was played mostly in the midfield. Our breakthrough goal came from Z at about 31 minutes. A through ball was played, Z got there before the keeper, shot it by her and CrASh!*, they collided. Z popped right up but the keeper had to be replaced for awhile.

The rest of the game was back and forth in with neither side finding much opportunity to shoot. Central did smack a ball pretty hard from the top of the box with about 5 minutes to go. Bri was able to pare it over the crossbar much to our relief. Great save!

Traveling to Schuyler this past Monday, we scored 2 goals early and then sat back and let Schuyler dominate us for the rest of the half, much to the coaches dismay. The second half we had more ambition and determination. We were able to put the ball in the back of the net which took the wind out of the Warriors. One defensive let down on our part saw Schuyler pull back a goal.

We were supposed to play Mercy on the 19th but it was rained out. Our next game is against Roncalli at 4:30 at home on April 25th in the first round of the RCC Tourney. We are looking forward to playing Roncalli again and correcting the mistakes we made against them earlier in the season.

Have a great Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Explosion of Goals!

Since my last post we have only scored 28 goals over 4 games. An explosion of finishing. What happened?

The competition did not play well during this 4 game stretch against South Sioux, Ralston, St. Peter Claver, and Bryan. Some of the programs are struggling at this time. St. Peter Claver is closing at the end of the year. Be that as it may, I have coached teams playing against sputtering opponents and still have had close games or a game with a few goals. I have even lost to poor teams when we make one mistake and they score and we have trouble finishing. So, just because a team is having some difficulties does not mean you will be successful against them. You have to perform, finish and run through the ball. We were able to do so.

The most competitive game of the lot was against Ralston in the pouring rain. At the start of the game, we played tentatively, and allowed Ralston to dominate possession. We scored against the run of play about 15 minutes in. Our first shot of the game was a goal. Then, as Ralston was worried about that goal, we scored again about a minute later. As the game went on, we had more and more possession and were able to finish our chances, beating them 5-0. We have never beaten Ralston by that many goals so it was a game to remember.

The most difficult challenge when playing teams that aren't at your level (either above or below) is to stay focused and confident. We need to guard against over-confidence or under-confidence. Just because a team has beaten you in the past, doesn't make it so the next time you play. Also, beating a team by a large margin yesterday does not mean you will do so again. You need to strive to perform at your peak no matter the circumstances. As Chris Berman says, "That's why they play the game."

Our next game is at Central, Saturday April 16 at 1:00 PM. Come out and watch the Cougars claw the Eagles.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Roncalli Squeeks by the Cougars.

The Cougars came out very strong in the first minutes of the game, creating a number of good chances. Abby was able to run through and poke one in but was ruled offsides by the assistant referee. Even though we were against the wind, we had a lot of possession in the Roncalli end of the field.

Roncalli's goal came toward the end of the first half. It looked like one of their players was out of bounds on the far side of the field and a number of our players stopped, allowing 3 Roncalli players free in the box. Anyway, the player that looked as if she was out of bounds crossed the ball to one of the open people and she tapped it in.

We could have responded better finishing the half a bit down mentally. At halftime, we encouraged the team to run through balls and we started the second half on fire, creating many opportunities, but not finishing them. We had a bit of a wind at our backs and that ended up helping us keep possession of the ball for long periods.

The final tally of shots, Gross Catholic 27, Roncalli 7. A dominating performance in all areas except the one that they put in the paper, the score.

We are very close to breaking through to awesomeness. Working hard, working smart, and finishing are the 3 things that will get us to the next level. Count on us getting there.

Next game is today at home versus South Sioux City.

Victory Over Beatrice!

Another game breakdown from an email from Coach Kim. Remember, I was out of town dealing with my step-moms funeral services. This is for the March 31st game vs Beatrice.

Okey dokey here goes. First of all we changed the warm up a bit. We started with a brief game of handball and then did 6v6 plus 6. You know blue and black keeping it away from yellow who is in the middle. Then we did run throughs and dog fight and score possession (we ran out of time for scramble in the box). Okay game time came and I asked them very nicely to please, please, please, please, please play hard and make a personal commitmet to not let the other team score. Well we did that very well in the beginning. Actually I think in the first 5 minutes of the game Beatrice was yelling at each other saying that we were winning all the balls :)

Our first goal came at 28 mins in. Amy sent a thru ball to Abby and she just ran through the ball and stayed with it until it went in. We were all so proud! The next goal was at 34. Sam dropped it to Renee who had a pretty nice shot around the 18. Goal three was at 36 mins by Sam...sprinted hard to the ball and took it to goal and shot it at the near post and it went in.

Problems in the first half...after we had a corner, they went all the way down the field and almost scored and on one of the kick offs we stabbed like 3 times and they got to the 18.

Second half we started out pretty good. The game was getting more physical. At 59 minutes 00 from Beatrice got physical with one of our defenders right at the top of the box, and the ref put his whistle to his mouth and then decided not to blow it. Anyway she then dribbled into the box and shot it past Bri. Then just a couple of minutes later one of their players crossed/shot it and 00 flicked it in the goal. It was a nice goal. At 66 minutes, Abby scored again on another complete hustle play. It was played forward and she got a toe on it as the keeper was coming out. Although she kind of hurt her knee a bit. At 68 minutes, Z had a nice shot that beat the keeper. Then at 70 they had a girl that we felt was clearly offsides who went on a breakaway and was able to beat Bri.

All in all it was pretty good. I know that they scored 3, but we scored thats good!

Skyhawks Fly over Cougars

Okay here is the breakdown mostly taken from an email from Coach Kim. Overall we played pretty hard at the game on March 28.

Lost to Skutt 0-6. Goal One: Came from our left side dribbled across the 18 on the ground about 12 yards out and then an open Skutt girl knocked it in. Goal Two: They did a short corner on the other one went out to pressure. The short corner went to Bartels and she dribbled it in and took a line drive shot on goal. Goal Three: Girl brings it down and crosses from the right hand side of the field, and finds an open Skutt girl just chillin in the box. Goal Four: Bartels fakes out a defender and gets a cross off and finds an open girl at the top of the six.

During the first half we had some opportunities on goal and a couple of corners, but no shots. Skutt's defense had a few problems with us but we were unable to capitalize. Their sweeper is good at tracking people down. Kim thought we would come away with some breakaways....but it never hapened.

Second half we worked a bit harder defensively the first goal was a shot from pretty far out right over Bri's head the second was from the side-ish and it was a hard shot....I think Bri attempted to tip it over....but that didn't work.

Offensively we had a bit more attack, we got it down there more and had one shot on goal. We were too quiet on the field....and off.

It was a disappointing scoreline, but all the defensive breakdowns are fixable.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Central Postponed. Snow Why?

OK. The Central game was postponed because it snowed. Who needs snow during the spring sports season? It snow laughing matter. But after we thawed about it, we drifted toward accepting that practice instead of the game would do us some good.

We had an avalanche of energy when we practiced Saturday morning at the Omaha Sports Complex. If we play the next game the way we practiced on Saturday, extremely good things will happen.

That is the big question, really. Can we take the way we practice to the game? It is up to each and every player to find a way to do that. I believe we can.

The next game is a nice challenge for us. If it doesn't snow, we play Skutt at 4:30 at Papio Soccer Park, Monday, March 28. Skutt has had a bit of success the past few years. We look to put pressure on them and take advantage of our opportunities. I look forward to the results.

Unfortunately, I cannot be at the games this week, if we have them. My step mom passed away in Arkansas after battling cancer. Our whole family is traveling there this week to support my Dad and attend the services. Your prayers for our family and for the Cougar soccer players would be appreciated. Coach Kim and Coach Maggie and Coach John will be in charge in my absence.

A shout out to the former Kristin Monzingo who I hear was recently reading this blog. Thanks for all you have done for us in the graphics department. (I think perhaps you have been so good to us recently , designing graphics for all of our uniforms and t-shirts because you feel so guilty about coaching for Skutt against the Cougars when you were a youth.)(ha...kidding:-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1-3, 1-3 Echo, Echo.

OK Cougars, not a great start to the season if you are basing greatness on our win/loss record. We lost to Duchesne, 1-3. We lost to Bellevue West, 1-3. (Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo...?)

The games were similar in score only. Our performance in the BW game was far superior to our first game. In terms of effort, hard work and intensity, we played great in that second game. The score difference comes down to two things: not taking advantage of some fantastic scoring opportunities and making silly mistakes defensively.

So far our goals have been scored by Zenovia and Julie. Both goals scored because they pounced on a mistake by the opponent. Well done girls!

One thing I really want to improve upon is our team's defensive mentality. I want to be a team that is difficult to score upon. I want a team that our opponents have to sweat blood and bullets, work extremely hard and be very, very skillful in order to on us. We were not there this past week. We will get there.

We play at Central this Saturday, March 26th at 1:00 pm. I anticipate it to be very cold because I don't think we have ever played Central when the weather has been warm. Be there and bring a blanket.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Open vs Duchesne

The Cougars open the season tomorrow with Duchesne at home (Papillion Soccer Complex) at 4:30. We look forward to the challenge. The team has been training well. Can't wait!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Waking Up and Changing

Oh, my blog has been asleep for awhile, but now we are waking up. (Yawn, yawn, wakey, wakey.) Since my last post, I decided to leave the College of Saint Mary and move on to other things. Move on to what? Bigger and better things? Hope so.

The first bigger and better thing is the Gross Catholic Girls Soccer Team. We begin our season today and I am ready and excited about the season. We have a great group of seniors returning as well as some talented younger players. Tryouts begin at 3:20 today.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Injury Bug Bites the Flames

Bellevue 2, CSM 1 is the scoreline for Wednesday's conference opener. 2 players were seriously hurt in the first half and we gave up 2 goals too many.

Within the first 5 minutes, one of our players was involved in a collision with a Bellevue player and at first, didn't think much of it. Then blood started soaking through her sock and we took her off the field. When our trainer examined her, we discovered a very serious laceration and so we took her to the ER immediately. Her wound required 27 stitches and our hope is that she will heal quickly.

With 2 minutes to go in the first half, another player went down with a knee injury. She looked like she just tweaked it a bit during play. However, when Jeff the trainer checked her at halftime, she was unable to go back in. It looks serious, but we don't know for sure, MRI results are pending.

We had 3 other players who finished the game with nagging injuries, 2 quads and a knee. The knee is getting checked out on Monday.

One of the things that we have been emphasizing with the team is that we need 90 minute players. That is, we need players who can play the whole game without needing to come off the field. One of the other things we have been emphasizing is being able to handle pressure and adversity. That was certainly put to the test on Wednesday playing with injuries and against a good Bellevue team.

Bellevue scored their 2 goals in the first half. The first, a ball was sent down the middle and we didn't have the ambition to stop the Bellevue forward from dribbling into the box for a shot. We still weren't quite there when the ball hit the post and rebounded to another Bellevue player who slotted it in the net. The second Bellevue goal was from a cross. We left someone unchallenged in the box and she was able to flick the ball in off the crossbar.

The Flames immediately responded with a dangerous long throw by Abby Schlater. Abby whipped the ball in the box and a Bellevue player accidentally headed the ball into her own goal.

Even though we dominated possession at times, we were unable to finish. We had some close tries, balls just going wide or hitting off of the crossbar but were unable to tie up the game in the second half.

A valiant effort by the Flames who had lost 2 starters for the duration. I was proud of the way we bounced right back after the second goal and especially looked very dangerous with Schlater's flip throws.

The Central Christian game this Saturday has been changed to he 26th at 3 pm. The next time the Flames play is in Hastings on the 13th. We will see you there!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2 Abbys, One Sweet Goal

Five o'clock on a beautiful cool fall afternoon, the sun shining bright after a morning of rain. CSM and Kansas Wesleyan walk on the field at Tranquility park. Little did they know that an epic battle between 2 storied programs was about to commence. (I sound like NFL Films.)

Honestly, in the first half, we struggled. We seemed to be content with just sagging back and playing defense with little success in attack. At halftime the coaches just told them basically to play simple and play hard. We needed to string good passes together and find our confidence. We had trained hard. The players know what to do. It was time to go and do it.

Right after halftime, a visiting recruit, Abby Zach came over to our sideline to hang out for awhile. Abby is from Gering , Nebraska and plays her high school ball at Scottsbluff High School. She verbally committed to CSM a few weeks ago and was in town visiting her sister. Abby is a midfielder and also plays for the Kearney regional club team that has all the good players on the team from greater Nebraska. Abby was able to sign her letter of intent on the sidelines during the game and in doing so will play for us next year after she graduates from high school. We already have an Abby on the team (Abby Schlater) so next year we will be blessed with 2 Abbys (or Abby squared.) Congrats Abby and welcome to the Flames Family.

Anyway, it just so happened that right after Abby (Zach, not Schlater) came to the sidelines, the team started doing better on the field. We were really hustling and getting to the ball quickly. We started creating chance after chance. One series of chances included hitting the crossbar twice in 10 seconds. I asked Abby if this happens to her--that people start playing better due to her presence and she of course admitted that yes, that happens all the time. Ha. Boy, I can't wait for next year. Abby had to run---they were driving to Lincoln and we said goodbye. Abby, you missed such an exciting end of the game. But, no worries, I am sure you will be part of many exiting moments next year!

Back to the game...we started creating a lot of chances until---we scored. With about 10 minutes to go in the game, Allyssa Valquier, playing the right wing ran through a ball played poorly by the KWU defense and found herself free and clear. The KWU keeper sprinted at her and Allyssa calmly chipped the ball over the keeper's head. GOALLLLLLLLLL! I do believe that is Allyssa's first career college goal and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Our celebration and good feeling took a hit 5 minutes later when KWU equalized when we failed to keep track of their center mid and she hit a loose ball at the top of the box that Jackie Swanger was unable to save.

By the way, Jackie had an awesome game in the net.

We finished the second half again playing a lot of defense. The first OT period found us raring to go. The team totally pumped themselves up in between periods and they went out like gangbusters. Again, pure hustle created a chance. The third minute of overtime, Ashley Turco was able to run through a loose ball and like Allyssa, found herself 1v1 with the keeper. Did she put it away? Heck ya! Sudden death for KWU and a sweet goal for us. Game over, CSM wins 2-1.

I told the team afterward that I thought they grew up right before my eyes. We struggled in the first half but weathered the storm and finished strong in the end.

I was so excited at the winning goal that I ran onto the field (and I hardly ever do that--I try to maintain a calm composure through both struggles and success--ya--that didn't happen today.) After everyone had dog piled Turco, I ran up and gave her a big hug. A classic, epic battle that ended very nicely for us.

Next game is Wednesday against Bellevue.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

CSM vs Graceland: A Rocky-esque Effort

I told the team at halftime of the game today that they were kinda like Rocky. They took some hits but kept moving forward. I told them they just needed to do more of the same and do the simple things and they will have success.

We did take a "knock-down" and conceded a goal about halfway through the second period. But, we picked ourselves back up and kept on. The defense was a wall after that and held nationally ranked Graceland (#11) the rest of the way, falling just 0-1.

I was very proud of the effort. Graceland is an excellent attacking team and to hold them to one goal is a great result. We had a few good chances, especially on throw-ins, but were unable to poke it in the net.

The next game is at Tranquility next Saturday against Kansas Wesleyan. Hope to see you there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Few Games Later...

My intention is to post something at least after every soccer game. Well, the intention did not get translated to action this past week. Quick recap, we are doing a number of things well, but not quite enough. Also, we have been coming in second instead of first lately.

Our first game in California was played in over 100 degree heat on a turf field (which always raises the temp even further.) We started slow and National Ranked The Master's College put in 5 on us. The next day against Hope International we fared better, giving up an early goal but coming back to tie with about 10 minutes to go. Unfortunately, the game didn't end there, we ran out of gas and effort and gave up 2 goals in the last minute to lose 1-3. We also lost Raeleigh Withey during the game to a nasty shin bruise that we thought was broken. It turns out Rae didn't break her shin, but she still will be out for a couple weeks.

The rest of the trip to Cali was nice, we were able to go to the beach (it was cloudy and 65 degrees) and we did go to Hollywood but were not "discovered" by any movie execs.

On Friday we traveled to Rockhurst, a DII team in Kansas City. We were holding our own pretty well, first half a scoreless tie. But then floodgates were opened and again, we gave up 5.

Sunday, we went up to Morningside where we played much better and I thought we should've won. Morningside scored against the run of play after we thought a girl was offside. The video was inconclusive.

Right now, we are focusing on getting tougher, both mentally and physically. Sunday we played an excellent 89 minutes, creating chances and keeping possession. A series of mistakes and mental breakdowns led to giving up a goal and we were unable to bounce back with a goal or two of our own. We definitely had chances, but could not get the darn ball in the net.

We have an extremely difficult schedule, playing 2 nationally ranked teams in the first 3 weeks of the season along with a DII team. We are being tested by fire (naturally) and we will come through this test better and faster. I asked the team after the Rockhurst game, "Are we dead?" The answer was, "No!" Then I said if this isn't killing us, then it is only making us stronger.

I told the players that we have had a lot of moments of brilliance (and we have.) We just need to shift the brilliance to the finishing department and clean up the few breakdowns that the opponents are taking advantage of. Even though it has been a slow start, I am confident that we will be right in the mix of things when the conference games begin.

Next game is against #7 in the nation, Graceland. A great opportunity to excel. See you there, Saturday, September 18, 1 pm, @CSM.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Everything is Kung Fu and Ketchup

We are now in sunny California. Got in last night without many problems at all (except I am traveling with a bunch of crazy, goofy soccer players.)

The flight was long but we did get a movie (The Karate Kid.) Jackie Chan (playing the "Mr. Miyagi" part) said, "Everything is Kung-FU" and I belive him. So, if that is true, soccer is Kung-Fu. Today we need to gather our Chi and fight our way through any adversity. Yep, everything is Kung-Fu.

On the flight if we wanted dinner we had to pay $8.00. Needless to say, no one got dinner. We did get free peanuts! Wo. I think there was a whole 12 peanuts in my package (Heaven.) For some strange reason, we were very hungry when we got in to LA. I asked the guy at the rental place for a good place to go to eat and he recommended In and Out Burger.

So--we went and it was good, but I don't eat fast food like that very often and my stomach let me know. I found out that Ramsey really likes ketchup, so I took a shot of Rambo's Lake O'Ketchup for all to see. That's a lot.

Today we go to Santa Clarita where it is over 105 degrees to play nationally ranked The Master's College. Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Asleep, Now Awake! CSM & MLC Tie.

I know, I know. I have been asleep at the wheel and haven't posted here for quite awhile. What have I been doing you ask? Traveling the world in search of soccer players? A little of that. Spending time with my 2 wonderful daughters and great wife. Oh yeah. Watching re-runs of the World Cup? Definitely. Anyway, I am awake now and so is the team.

Today we opened the season with a solid Midland Lutheran team that came out on fire. Now, we are supposed to be the ones that come out at the whistle on fire because we are the Flames! Get it, fire...Flames. It took us a few minutes to find our feet, but when we did, we enjoyed a lot of possession.

First half was tied 0-0. Second half we made a mistake in the back and Midland's #13 was able to get a breakaway and scored. We bounced back well and scored about five minutes later on a phenomenal 40 yard free kick from our Colorado Kid, RaeLeigh Withey. I swear the ball was screaming as it went into the net, Rae hit it so hard. Score tied 1-1.

We traded chances in overtime but neither side really challenged the keepers. Game over, 1-1 tie.

We put on a pretty good performance for the first game. I am proud of the way the Flames hung in there.

Next week, we head to California.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

North Platte Soccer Player Signs with CSM

Whitney Brown put pen to paper and signed her life away to CSM on Monday, May 10. The local news was there to videotape the moment. As you'll be able to see in the video, Whitney had all her "fans" there for the event.

Whitney plays a central midfield role for NP. She has the ability to see the whole field and knows where her teammates are at all times. (OK, she knows where they are when she is playing soccer-she doesn't know where her teammates are at all times when they aren't playing soccer--that would be be a little spooky.) (That's a joke, by the way--just trying to keep things light here.)

Whitney's sister Hillary is also on the CSM soccer team. Their Dad assures me that they get along well and will enjoy being teammates for the Flames. Whitney thinks she is going to room with another North Platte alum who will be attending CSM to play volleyball.

Welcome to the Flames family Whitney. We are excited to have you aboard!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CSM Signs Iowa Soccer Player

Jessica Jerkovich signed with the Flames today at her high school, Abraham Lincoln in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Jessica's signing was attended by a principal, her parents and her high school soccer coach (Andy Ruff.) Abraham Lincoln High is under construction right now. The whole school is torn up. When the construction is done, the school will look awesome.

It looks like Jessica will be entering CSM's nationally known paralegal program. Did you know that only real lawyers teach in that program? That's what they tell me.

Jessica is a strong, tough and smart soccer player. She really knocks herself out when she is on the field (see the pic to the left where she landed on her head after her legs were taken out by a keeper.) Her toughness will surely be an asset to the Flames. She was already asking about when we start our summer conditioning and is looking forward to our trip to California over Labor Day weekend (as I am.)

Welcome to the CSM family, Jessica.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter Training Begins

Dogs of War Unleashed

For the past couple weeks, the Flames players have been dragging themselves out of bed and attending our 6 AM Xplosive Edge sessions. Coaches Neil, Kim and I have been training with them. Now, I do not like to get up that early (that is pretty normal, I think.) But once I am up and about, I like getting the workout over early in the day. It leaves the rest of the day free to do the things that need to get done.

The players have been working hard for the most part. Our trainers so far have been Jamie and Pete. Jamie has decided to emphasize the running portion of X-Edge training. There has been some difficult sprinting sessions pulling weighted sleds and pushing the contraption called the "Road Warrior." As the character "Humungus" once said in the Road Warrior movie, "Again you have made me unleash my dogs of war."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CSM Fall to Mobile 1-4
We began with a goal but made too many mistakes. At times we played well but had too many lulls and Mobile capitalized.