Thursday, December 15, 2022

State of the Nation - Hairy Soccer Mom Edition

 Where were we? where are we? what the fuck is going on here? hmm... i don't know... the lounge has been in a state of disarray as half finished posts lie on the floor like so many stale crusts of bread. Sometimes things flow more like molasses than water and these are one of those times, not to say it's writer's block because it most definitely is not, there's too many ideas rolling around the copious amounts of space in my head but there is a dissatisfaction with what is being produced and so it sits on the shelf to be left forever in blog limbo... a hell if ever there was one... or discarded all together... yes i know it's hard to believe but there have been whole posts banished to the ether due to my ambivalence towards them. Quality control? who the fuck knows... So here we are... 

It's been strange days around the lounge... how can some things go so well while others go horribly pear-shaped? This mainly has to do with the boyos and their various athletic endeavors and so we'll go with the good stuff first. It is basketball season again kids and it's Buttermaker's last ride. El Kono and his trusty assistant (coach) the Furious one are back at it for one last season with Disaster's hoop squad. It was an interesting tryout because Disaster actually didn't get to tryout. The boy broke his foot at the end of July, played on a broken foot for a couple weeks before he finally stated that it felt a bit weird and his overprotective and worrying father dragged him to the doctor where we soon found out he had broken the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The injury was in a tough spot and was non-weight bearing so the boy couldn't even walk for over six weeks and made it back five days before his school tryouts and once again made that squad and is having an excellent season. I call Disaster the glue because he does things that a coach, or a smart one anyway, loves. He takes care of the ball, sacrifices for the team, plays excellent defense and in general is smart an unselfish. He can also shoot which helps too. The problem was he wasn't able to attend the travel tryouts and so would have to attend a make-up which of course never materialized. Why? you'll see. 

The brain trust at the Association, as it's called, think they are slick when they are mainly a bunch of pompous asses. Before the season started my record over my last two teams was 29-11 (currently it's 31-11), including a regular season title, a runner-up last year in the league tournament where we played an undefeated team and almost beat them, a runner up in one tournament and a championship in another. I have the best record, far and away, than any other coach they have. This is not some egotistical rant because as i often say my players make me look good. It's just the basic facts. Exactly one team, A or B, made the championship game last year and i'll give you one guess who that was. So as i tried to arrange Disaster's tryout i slyly asked if the coaches have been named yet? Of course the A team coach had but low and behold the B team had not. I knew the fucking fix was in and so while Disaster said he didn't care i pressed the issue a bit and then listened as the Association capo did a song and dance. 

The amount of sunshine these guys blow up my ass is astounding. They fawn all over my ability to teach and coach the game yet why then wouldn't you want your best coach coaching your top team? They have their reasons, mainly political bullshit, but the fact is the A team coach barely knows the game and his kid shouldn't be on either team cuz he's fucking awful and that's the nicest assessment i can give. The one saving grace was this, which damn near brought a tear to my dry and grizzled eyes. Disaster looked at me when i told him they had named the A team coach and said, "i'd rather play for you on the B team than make the A team." (and from a basketball perspective he definitely would have made the A team) I was already penciled in by the Association boys and i knew it but the fact was in my mind it was bullshit. Of the five kids playing guard or small forward there is exactly one who is currently better than him... (and it won't be long until Disaster overtakes him). That said i had parents who were pleading with me to coach, some actually told the Association they were waiting to see who was coaching before committing and it was common knowledge why. They wanted the tripping wastoid as coach. Funny huh? 

If there is one gratifying thing about this coaching gig it's watching kids and your team get better. It's kind of funny the respect i get from these kids cuz they know their crazy ass coach is in it with them. They know i was a pretty damn good player back in the day and that i understand the game. Once i was named head coach i received numerous emails from many parents stating how happy they were i was the coach and a couple who flat out told me their kid wasn't going to play if i wasn't coaching. I've already told my team it's my last go around and that i want to win it all. We have the talent and if we work together, i stress team, we'll be fine. I tell my team all the things i've never done. Oddly i've never won the first game of the season. We did. Then i told them i've never started 2-0 (which no one caught on but Disaster about the whole first game thing.) We're 2-0. I've also never won my first home game which takes place this weekend and i'll tell them that at practice. Someday maybe i'll post all my pre-game and post-game talks. It would be a right laugh to see what i tell these 8th grade kids, dropping in philosophy, literature and a few old school hip hop lyrics. I don't think these kids know just how much i love doing this shit. 

Now the flip side. 

In the spring of his freshman year the I-mac tore his PCL (knee) playing in a game for his academy team. It was a fucking dirty play which caused it and he was coming off a layoff from turf toe and i can remember thinking, why did i let him play today? it was the third game of tournament his team was already out of and it was a meaningless game, having been on the shelf for three weeks i should have held him out because all sorts of injuries were possible and yet he would have been fine if not for some shitbag trying to cleat his knee causing him to avoid it and landing flush on his PCL. Six months of rehab later he starts back with his high school team as a sophomore, a kid talented enough to go straight in to the starting line up of the varsity team. The last day of his first week back they were scrimmaging when he torched the starting center back so badly the kid hauled him down from behind to prevent him from scoring fracturing his arm and spraining his MCL. Another month on the shelf rehabbing and when he finally gets back he's tossed in with the JV team where he abuses every defender on the team while showing he's got more skill than most of the kids in the program. Unfortunately the varsity coach is a moron, a point he more than proved this last season, incapable adjusting his tunnel vision to help his team or his players. The CB was never spoken to about what even his own teammates called a ridiculously filthy play in what effectively ended any chance of the I-mac having a productive season.

About the only good thing to happen between then and now was his last academy season, where one of the most respected coaches around had him move three age groups up, from U16 to U19, to play with his team. The coach wanted to see how he fit and by halftime of his first game the older players were asking to keep him permanently. The boy had a good season playing three years above his age group, scoring a couple goals, adding a couple assists, working hard for his team and earning the praise of his coach. They were one of two teams to make the playoffs and lost 2-0 in the game that would have sent them to nationals. His team had exactly one shot on goal that game... guess who?  Another knee sprain kept him out for a few weeks which of course butted right up against tryouts. Then the most disorganized club around fucked up his tryouts due to a lack of communication. He was supposed to tryout with the 04/05 team and then the 06 team. Coming off the layoff he lacked a bit of fitness and sharpness but still played well. In fact he torched the top 06 team, scoring and tearing them to pieces in a scrimmage (in the two years at this club he's the only player to score, multiple times mind you, against the top squad). This team could care less about any player on the second unit other than the I-mac, they usually surround him with three players, one of whom man marks him all over the field. Respect is what it's called and yet they still can't keep him under wraps. The only person who doesn't seem to notice is the shitbag Jock coach who is disgruntled because he only ever made it to the USL, the second tier of American soccer. 

Since i've experienced it for close to the last decade i can say confidently that the purpose of American youth soccer is to make money. They don't develop players, the cost prices out some if not many, it's a fucking joke really and when i hear the pundits ramble on about how we're getting there i fucking laugh out loud. We'll never get there with the current system. Nuff said. The I-mac was then dumped back on his (now) U17 second team with no explanation. Basically a step back. 

The silver lining was that he was playing well in his summer high school scrimmages and the coach had penciled him in as his starting #9. He was going to be the focal point of the offense. This part is on the I-mac though... i explained to him it was important for him to train hard this summer, to work on his game and his fitness if he really wanted to achieve his goals. The fact is all the club coaches around here are affiliated with high schools and they pay attention to the local media and if he had a good season he could walk into any club and get a spot on the top squad. But he's 16. He spent the summer doing mostly the opposite, partying with his friends and ex-girlfriend and by the time he got to the season he had torched his stomach so bad he was having acid reflux and couldn't run and slid down the depth chart behind far inferior players. 

I'll refer you to the part above about his high school coach being a bonehead. The man is incapable of critical thought and implementing a plan on the fly and so two days before the season opener he changed the whole system. While this baffled most both the I-mac and i knew why. The original system was based on the I-mac doing what he does, he's a monster sized forward/winger with good skill and freaky speed, wins everything in the air cuz the kid has hops and basically occupies multiple defenders. Problem is what does a coach do if he thinks he can't rely on a player? I understood where the coach was coming from, of course once the I-mac got his shit together bonehead could have adjusted but didn't and took a team that should have been competing for a section title, a region title and maybe even a state title, and ran it straight into the ground with shit tactics and man management. As previously stated there are a ton of shit coaches about. 

Since the I-mac didn't really get a tryout this year as stated he was dumped back on to his old team and while this might sound like his old man inflating his kid's ability it is not, i'm a coach who trains a rather critical eye on things when watching. The facts were this, the I-mac had outgrown this team, he played the game far more intelligently, was technically superior, and was getting more frustrated by the day. Add in a new coach who did almost nothing to learn about his team, didn't talk to them much, didn't find out where his players played in school or at the club, and once again the frustration mounted. The first showcase they went to the coach didn't even bother to set the team up, he told the players to do it themselves, resulting in kids who never play certain positions suddenly saying they were playing somewhere else. The I-mac ended up as a center mid, a position he could play but never has, in fact he could play just about anywhere on the pitch really but since no one would work to benefit the team he sacrificed for the good of the team. Two scoreless draws and one win over the worst team in the group and they were all patting themselves on the back, except the I-mac who thought it was a bit shit. Had his teammates let him play up top i can say with confidence they would have walked away with three wins. The boy knows how to find the net. To be fair a few of his teammates argued in his favor but to no avail. As we drove home from Maryland i told him i'd never seen him look so joyless playing soccer. He simply stated that's because he was, not with the game, but with this team. 

Fast forward to the next showcase and the boy was finally put up top. He played really well when he could touch the ball but when you play striker you rely on service from your teammates and these kids just aren't up to it. He'd make a great run into space and all they needed to do was pass the fucking ball but many of these kids, even at this advanced age, don't understand the game or how to play and feel the need to take a minimum of three touches before usually playing backwards. I was watching his frustration mount. Then came the breaking point. He played a nice little pass to his midfielder and then bolted into space, the CM finally played a pass but an awful one and as the I-mac sprinted to chase it down before it went out of bounds he slipped on the turf. Watching from a mezzanine my hurt fucking sank. It looked like he did his knee again and as he pounded the turf i thought i might throw up. I watched  as he went to get up and then went back down. The linesman kept his hand on his shoulder and was talking to him and when the ball went out he got up and headed towards the bench, blood streaming down his leg. 

At this point i could see the tears in his eyes and not knowing what has happening my stomach was doing somersaults. Once on the bench the I-mac almost punched his hand through the plexi-glass dugout (something i told him never to do again though i understood his frustration but he needs to understand and channel that energy elsewhere). Now had that coach maybe got to know his players at all he would have known that the I-mac had suffered a pretty serious knee injury in the past and that the way he went down probably freaked him out (it did). The silver lining? his knee was fine other than a nasty cut, one in which he actually pulled little turf pellets from, but mentally he was broken, done, finished. He was visibly upset when the coach made him sit down and then said, "oh you're mad, you gotta boo-boo." When the I-mac told me this it was probably a good thing we were in the car heading home or i may have had to have a very candid conversation with said coach.... or i would have knocked him the fuck out. Of course this team seems to be the afterthought of the club and twice in the last two years have suddenly replaced the coach at the last minute, all without informing the people paying the fees, meaning the parents. 

What we didn't realize was the amount of jealousy and ill will stemming from him being moved up last year. Some of these kids have a bug up their ass about it, not all, but more than a few. Some parents as well, one in particular who'll we'll get to. There are blatant examples where certain players look up, look right at him, and then pass the other way. As a coach the question i ask when i see this is, did you not see him? or did you just not want to pass to him? there is no good response, especially at this age, which means on my team you'd ride the fucking pine. Let me be clear, not all the players but a more than a few and in a game that relies on cohesion and teamwork this is not the way to play or win. Though winning at this club seems to be an afterthought. 

Now to the asshole. Last season after the I-mac was moved to the U19 squad i was having a conversation with this guy, his U19 coach suggested he get a few games with the U16 squad to remain connected to the team. When i mentioned this to Mr. Dickhead he immediately and nastily spit out, "i wouldn't take him back." I stopped and gave him a quizzical look and said what? He then said it again, i "i wouldn't take him back." At this point i almost laughed and said, damn sir wear that jealousy right on your sleeve don't you? I almost explained to him that it was the coach who wanted him on the U19 team and made him the offer, would his kid turn that offer down? i think not seeing as he once got the opportunity but not the invite to stay on that team. This guy has his PHD in psychology and loves to tell stories of all the things he's done, (not in the documenting the life of a once weed kingpin turned loser suburban dad sort of way just to clarify), he's one of those pompous and arrogant assholes who i've come to recognize over the years and who i most definitely despise. He's seen and done it all. He can learn nothing from you but you should definitely listen to him as he is all knowing... fuck him. 

The thing is i don't give a fuck what you say or think of me but when it comes to my boyos you better check yourself. So it was, that after the I-mac was breaking down and i was waiting for him to get off the field and out of there i was walking from my car to find him... and guess who happens to be coming the other way? at the time i had no idea if the I-mac's knee was okay i just knew he was upset. This fucking clown comes walking by with this shitty smirk on his face and says, hello. I respond but as i'm walking by i'm thinking, what the fuck? was this asshole really reveling in my kid's hurt? Fast forward a few hours later, i'm talking to the I-mac and have said nothing about what happened when he relays to me that the same guy was giving him the fucking stink eye before the game. I stop him and say what? repeat to me what happened? He tells me again the guy was glaring at him and so he basically just stared him down until the guy looked away. I then tell him about the episode after the game and now i'm fucking furious. Another silver lining about leaving this club is that if i happen to run into this fucking clown again it's not going to be pretty. I understand i should let shit go but this fuck-o doesn't even know what he got himself into, you can take the man out of the streets but you can't take the streets outta the man. Funny thing is his kid is the nicest kid you'll meet. He was actually on the bench talking to the I-mac and telling him he was worried about him and asking if he was okay. I chalk this up to his asshole father traveling for his "career" most of the kid's life and being raised by his mother. 

And so there it was... a weekend of highs and lows... the hoop team keeps rolling right along (we won again this weekend to go 3-0) and the I-mac is on the hunt for a new club. He goes to one this week to tryout, a club that suits his abilities a bit more and one that truly does give it's players opportunities to move up. I did my due diligence and spoke to parents from said club and the I-mac plays high school footie with a kid on the team. The boy may have made some mistakes (a little too much fun this summer, though at 16 i understand good decisions aren't always part of the process) but the kid deserves a break at this point, he puts in the work and hopefully he'll find the right fit. Now back to the program. 


looby said...

Blimey I didn't realise the game was so full of arseholes who have that much power. Really sorry about the injuries, but more you and your boyos being passed ver for positions they deserve.

Anyway, a very merry Christmas to you all from across the pond, and here's hoping for a better 2023. All the best.

Kono said...

looby- The whole aspect of youth sports in America is disgusting, it's about money and power and few and far between are the coaches, people, doing it to help the kids... i'm a volunteer coach for Disaster's team and devote a lot of time to it during the season because i love it and the kids are fun, besides the fact i'm probably nothing like their parents and teach wonderful things like "let's annihilate the other team!" or "i want to beat this team so bad next time they see us on the schedule they call in sick." The local boys who run the basketball association are so full of themselves it's a joke, they kiss my ass cuz i know what i'm doing and i break every rule they install if it suits my need and benefits my team, the suburban sect are probably the worst and even though i'm volunteering countless hours i get the occasional parent grumbling about playing time or some such shit but usually never directly to me.. mainly cuz it's common knowledge in these parts i know the game pretty well, two in fact, basketball and football (soccer to the septics :)

as for youth soccer in this country it's a shit shwo, 90% being pay to play which prices out so many kids, to play at these clubs it's a rich kid sport unlike what happens your side of the pond, the club the I-mac just left has a big rep but it's swiftly becoming more business than training/teaching/playing academy.. we did the math and i'm pretty sure the academy props up the pro team financially...

And a happy Chrimb to you and yours my friend... there is some good news for both boyos in the athletic endeavor department... more on that lager (that's what i accidentally typed first, lol!) i mean later...