It looked so good in my head.
In my U8 team’s first scrimmage, they showed some aptitude for spreading the ball around, avoiding the “mob chasing a ball” mentality of U6s and U7s. I really thought we could build on it and make it a habit with a modified scrimmage that would encourage passing and using the width of the field.
So I put cones down to divide the field into thirds — lengthwise, like lane markers in a pool. We would play a 4-on-4 scrimmage in which, on each team, two players could be in the middle third and one could be in each outside lane.
The protests were immediate:
What are we trying to do? (Play soccer. Really.)
What can I do here on the wing? (Receive passes, then pass back.)
I don’t WANNA be on the wing! (We’re rotating – you’ll get your turn in the middle shortly.)
I don’t wanna wear a yellow penny! (OK, that’s an issue.)
I’d rather be doing math homework! (Oh, because you’re so good at following directions?)
(No, I didn’t actually say that.)
After about two minutes, I gave up on it and decided to use the lane markers for a simple passing drill. Form three lines, one in the middle and one along each line of cones. Each player has to touch the ball before scoring.
So while I struggled to get players into lines, the first group — the wise guys of this team — all ran to the middle of the field and literally touched the ball. Then one guy dribbled down and shot.
I finally got a group that would at least give it a try. A couple of players passed the ball back and forth, and it wound up on the feet of one player who stopped, slightly puzzled. “OK! Good job so far! Now pass it back to the middle.”
So he picked up the ball and started to cock his arm back like Tom Brady.
“No, no … with your feet.”
I gave them a water break, all the while lamenting that I hadn’t been committing this practice to video so I could email it to Claudio Reyna with a whole lot of profanity. (That would’ve been unfair — I can’t expect a youth soccer curriculum to account for kids who don’t know the word “pass” in a soccer context.)
I had already decided to yank the “angle of support” drill off the agenda for the evening. In the time it would’ve taken me to explain that one, two kids would’ve kicked half the team’s balls across the field, two more would’ve started a biology experiment with a couple of crickets they wound on the field, and the others wouldn’t be able to hear me.
First game is Saturday. Then I’ll have two days to figure out how to hold their attention and perhaps even teach a little soccer at the next practice.