Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Back on the field

Soccer has started up again at the higher levels. Last night Ender's team scrimmaged the first team on the main field while we veterans held a normal practice on the practice field. We ended early enough for me to catch the last quarter of the game; Ender played the second half and did pretty well. He only let in two goals, one of which should have been called for offsides, and while he was a bit shaky with the offseason rust, he did better than the starting goalie, who let in three, one of which was a disaster. Needs some work on his goal kicks and distributions, but the punting was good.

I'm rusty myself. Six shots, and all but one wide by inches. Everything is going a little to the right, so I need to adjust for that. The ball control is better than I'd expected, and while all my offseason running and stretching has helped - I can actually walk today, contra SB's expectations - there is no substitute for the actual sprint-and-stop of gameplay.

It's clear that Ender isn't going to take over for the starter this season, he's a good guy who is three years older and has earned his place. At this point, Ender is better off playing spot duty and second halves when the game is under control than dealing with all the pressure from still-immature players who blame the goalie for permitting scores after complete defensive breakdowns.

The first team won 5-1, and they did so without breaking a sweat. It was clearly humiliating to the cocky younger guys, who are of American high school varsity age and all seemed to be three inches taller than they were when the fall season started. Ender did not take it at all well when I mildly observed that when we veterans played the first team last fall, we beat them by three goals.

It's rather amusing. The juniors tend to instinctively treat the veterans as if we're old and past it until they notice that the first team players, who are all in their 20s, tend to regard us as older comrades. The kids don't know that most of of the first-teamers have played with us from time to time because when we're short; we're allowed to field up to two younger players when we have less than 14 men.

The one thing the young guys never seem to figure out is that if you're still playing soccer 25 years after you started playing at the first team level, you were probably pretty damn good at it back in the day. Our entire team is probably as talented as the average of the best four junior players, we're just older, fatter, balder, and slower than they are. Technically, I'm one of the worst players on my team and there isn't a defender on the juniors team that could shut me down. Combine that with the fact that we're more experienced, more muscular, and some of our players have been playing together for 30 years, and they don't have a chance. But they never put two and two together until they go up against the old men on the field.

It was the same at my old club, which competed at a higher level. When the club held a tournament of champions for its 75th Anniversary, and invited back all the teams that had ever won promotion for a 7-on-7 tournament, the team that won was not either of the two most recently promoted first teams, but my veteran's team that had won two successive promotions the previous two years. For me, though, the most memorable thing was seeing a first team from 40 years before, and the frail, white-haired, white-bearded goalie who at 65 was still better than Ender or the starting junior's goalie. I wasn't surprised to hear that after playing for our first team, he'd gone on to play a few years for a championship team at the professional level.

It's all part of the process, the circle of soccer. The juniors are growing up, some of them at different rates than others. The exposure to the first team at the end of last year was important, because it made it clear to them that all their idiotic pecking order games are over. At the first team level, nobody gives a damn about much except how well you play and what you have to contribute to the team. The kid who attacked and exchanged bloody noses with Ender in the first practice last fall is now polite and respectful, and as Ender noted, almost salutes when I address him. He and Ender aren't friends, but they play well together, the kid is a solid defender who takes his job of protecting his goalie seriously. Conflict isn't always a bad thing.

There are still some problem children. The tall and arrogant sweeper took the ball last night despite Ender calling for it as he came out, then told Ender that he didn't give a fuck when Ender chewed him out for it. Their coach, who is a first team player and the first good coach most of these kids have had in their entire careers, shrugged and told Ender to simply go for the ball and take the sweeper out the next time he doesn't listen. He's one of those big, athletic kids who needs to be taken down a few times before he's able to pay attention; I'm going to suggest to our captain that we scrimmage the juniors for just that purpose. The kid has three inches on me, but I've got 30 pounds of muscle on him; I figure that after I blow by him a few times, score a couple of goals, and put him down on the ground once or twice, he'll be in more of a mood to listen.



Blogger MATT March 04, 2015 6:27 AM  

Sweep the leg.

Blogger Vox March 04, 2015 6:32 AM  

It's stupid for a defender to pull that sort of crap, because the keeper will come in low to pick up the ball and hit the defender's legs with his shoulder. And there isn't a coach in the world who will criticize the keeper; before the game, the coach was telling Ender to talk more to his defenders and do more to direct traffic.

Blogger MATT March 04, 2015 6:53 AM  


Anonymous NFL4Life March 04, 2015 6:58 AM  

Soccer is for queers.

Blogger Nate March 04, 2015 7:05 AM  

Vox... how long has this multi-tiered organizational soccer culture existed in Europe? I mean were fathers playing with their sons in the same clubs 100 years ago?

Anonymous Mike M. March 04, 2015 7:50 AM  

Vox, you just take your cane and whack the young whippersnapper over the head with it. It's YOUR lawn. :-)

Cunning, cooperation, and experience will crush raw youth every time.

Blogger MATT March 04, 2015 7:52 AM  

Are you the only Americans on the team?

Blogger Vox March 04, 2015 8:01 AM  

Are you the only Americans on the team?

To the extent you can call us Americans, yes. But we're not the only stranieri. He's got a number of Portuguese and a Turk or two on his team, while my best friend on the team is Dutch. About half of teams in the league are 100 percent local, while there is another team that only starts one native.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet March 04, 2015 8:35 AM  

What tips can one use for raising a son well if one's own father was a Gamma? I sometimes feel lost at sea, and it scares the shit out of me. I'd like my own son to raise up higher than I was able and to be a better man that I am.

Anonymous dB March 04, 2015 8:36 AM  

"Six shots, and all but one wide by inches."

I am a little disappointed Vox. You are over there and not using metric. Tsk tsk.

OpenID cailcorishev March 04, 2015 8:51 AM  

My high school had an annual Alumni Day, which included a soccer game between the current school team and whatever alumni showed up and threw a team together. The kids always expected to have an advantage, because they'd been practicing and playing together, while the alumni were older and had been focused on drinking beer at college. Then the alumni would kick the crap out of them. We didn't understand how much tougher and stronger guys get through their 20s and 30s, as long as they don't go completely soft.

Anonymous VD March 04, 2015 9:25 AM  

Yeah, about nine years after I graduated, I played against my younger brothers' team that was supposedly the best in the state. They had two 30-goal scorers. I scored twice and we beat them 3-1. After the game, I told them that they weren't going to win state if they didn't take every game more seriously. Sure enough, they were upset before even getting to the sectional championship.

My team finished third in state... and we beat the alumni that year too.

Blogger Josh March 04, 2015 9:32 AM  

I am a little disappointed Vox. You are over there and not using metric. Tsk tsk.

Freedom units uber alles

Anonymous Aquila Aquilonis March 04, 2015 9:54 AM  

Freedom units uber alles

Vox's propaganda aside, his real reason for moving to Europe was to restore Imperial measurements to the continent.

Blogger bob k. mando March 04, 2015 10:08 AM  

dB March 04, 2015 8:36 AM
I am a little disappointed Vox. You are over there and not using metric. Tsk tsk.

the UK still uses mph. just watch Top Gear on BBC. it took me a while to notice what they were doing, because Murican. i think it was one of their retro episodes when they quoted a temp in Celsius and then a speed in mph that highlighted it for me.

i think you've got bigger issues than whether or not Vox is still using SAE units on a majority American blog.

Anonymous Ryan ATL March 04, 2015 10:37 AM  

Vox, as a lifelong soccer player I enjoy your soccer posts.

Has Ender watched Schumacher vs Battiston 1982 World Cup yet?

Anonymous Anubis March 04, 2015 10:55 AM  

Does Ender and the teams read your blog?

Blogger Vox March 04, 2015 11:05 AM  

Does Ender and the teams read your blog?

No. Ender doesn't and no one on his team speaks English. My team has about five guys who speak English, but only two fluent enough to read it.

Anonymous dB March 04, 2015 11:47 AM  

"i think you've got bigger issues than whether or not Vox is still using SAE units on a majority American blog."

my post was sarcasm. because assimilation!

Blogger bob k. mando March 04, 2015 12:33 PM  

i think you made that word up.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza March 04, 2015 12:48 PM  

Awesome, play on!

Yesterday we had a odd warm front of 40 to 48 degrees and windy. I immedicalty ran outside even though it began to rain, cool down and return to snow through the work out. Didn't care, gotta be outside! Toes hurt from ballet/dance, dont care. Gotta get moving.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza March 04, 2015 12:49 PM  

Strength over youth wins.

Blogger Josh March 04, 2015 2:16 PM  

Somewhat related:

At the gym today, saw an older gentleman squatting 315 with pretty good depth. We started talking while I was warming up, he told me he was seventy five and had been lifting over forty years in total.

The man didn't look a day older than fifty five.

Iron is life, y'all.

Anonymous Ryan ATL March 04, 2015 2:32 PM  

Minimal amount of English literacy is usually a good thing on a soccer field

Anonymous ThirdMonkey March 04, 2015 2:42 PM  

My son, who is 9, has been playing soccer for four years. Any recommendations for conditioning? Sprints, LSD, both? He played defender last fall, and has a reputation in our league forma strong foot. Anytime he kicks a penalty, the other players just let him score rather than risk getting hit. Coach has banned him from taking close shots at practice. He reads the field really well for his age, but his footwork needs work. All I know is basketball, football, and roping. I wish I could help him more.

Anonymous Giuseppe March 04, 2015 4:11 PM  

It's the same in most sports, including martial arts, though I think in things like martial arts the competitive stuff gets by you faster than in most other sports, but the actual martial application may last well into old age. And the thing is simply this: Youth and enthusiasm are no substitute for experience and bloodymindedness.

Anonymous Lulabelle March 05, 2015 12:07 AM  

"almost salutes when I address him. ".........Bwahahahhahaha!

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