Futsal, Coaching, and My Favorite Team

Being a soccer coach has been a real pleasure in my life. It wasn’t planned or expected, I just kind of fell into it as my kids grew up and found the game. I found my first favorite team a few years back coaching my son’s U11 team. A rag tag bunch of kids who were not good enough to make the C1 team and ended up playing in back to back State Tournaments (runner up at U11). A bunch of kids who just loved the game and worked hard all season. It was pretty cool to see several of those boys make it on the High School Varsity squad, become starters and make it to a few State Tournaments with Memorial a few years later. Coaching youth players is like that…can you just give them a few good years and prepare them for the next level….can you inspire them to work hard and develop their skills….and can you balance that out with them having some fun and a great experience along the way.

So that takes me to my latest favorite team, a group of really incredible players I had the good fortune to coach for 4-5 years from U10 and up until they headed off to high school. They are about to try out for their first high school team and I had a recent chance to go watch the core of that team play in a Futsal League game. Coaches are not to supposed to have favorite teams or favorite players, but there just are some groups that stick with you. This was one of those groups. It was the first time I had coached a group of girls and what an experience it turned out to be. Having 3 boys of my own, it was my first time trying to figure out teenage girls. I loved it. I think I got lucky. A group of talented, hard working and respectful players. A bunch of born leaders in the group as well. I can count on one hand the number of bad practices I had in 5 years. Plus there were a ton of great memories; winning seasons, winning tournaments, a bunch of smiling faces and watching the players develop into top notch soccer players. A few of my favorites include watching them as 8th graders playing in the high school league and holding their own, winning a few games, and putting a pretty good scare into the Memorial Freshman and Sophomore teams. Over the past summer, watching them beat a team comprised of current high school players was pretty rewarding. It was the moment I could take a pause, take a deep breath and feel like we did it together….we got them ready for high school.

Now a new challenge awaits these girls and I am really confident they have what it takes. I mentioned to them at the Futsal game I was expecting them to challenge for some Varsity spots in the spring. Not sure they were thinking that, but it was important to put that thought in their minds. Once they accept it as a possibility, and it really is, then they can just relax and play their game and see what happens. My only regret is that I don’t get to coach them anymore. But I do get to keep watching them, cheer them on, maybe offer some advice or a pep talk if they need it, and just appreciate the time I had with them. At the recent Futsal game, I decided to take a little video for the Blog. A trip down memory lane for me. Pretty cool and really proud of them as I watched. Just to see where their games have advanced and how well they played together. While walking off the field I was approached by a father from the opposing team, a St. Croix team of Freshman I think, maybe a few 8th graders that the girls had just dominated. He was asking how old the girls were, I think their parents assumed they were all older, Sophomore or Juniors. When I told him they were all Freshman but had been playing together for 4-5 years, he was a bit surprised, but also, very complementary of their play. “Those girls are pretty good” he said….and I agree, they are pretty good.

Here is some of the video I took. Sorry to Teagan…she scored twice but too fast for me to catch the goals. My bad! Sorry to MJ as well, she really dominated the first half, but I did not get to the video rolling until the second half…was too caught up just watching them play; the teamwork, the passing, the unselfish play, the movement and field awareness. It looked really good. Maybe more than good, it was impressive stuff!

An example of the ball moving really quickly to secure a shot, winning the ball back quickly and then looking for the dangerous thru ball. Didn’t work out, but the movement and thought process is perfect. The combination play between Teagan, Shelby and Grace is really good. All 1 and 2 touch soccer. The ball moves really fast!

This would have been quite the highlight if Shelby scores. More excellent combination play and a great seeking long ball from Greta. What a turn and cutback from Shelby and then….just a few inches lower and that is bar down and the best goal of the game.

Goal Keepers don’t get much love so thought I would share this video. Greta almost scores off the corner but then St. Croix has a nice spell of passing to get an open shot near the box. Addison correctly anticipates the shot and has a nice kick save on what probably should have been a goal.

Dropped this one in as another great example of their play. Greta wins a ball back using really good tackling technique, the ball falls to MJ who immediately plays hard and direct pass to Greta who has advanced down the field. A really nice pass played to feet. Greta traps, turns and shoots before the GK really is aware of what is happening. The touch and control of the ball is really high quality!

So that’s my stroll down memory lane. Not everyone from the team is playing in Futsal, but many of the girls that started as U10 players stuck together. I wish Molly Brickner had been there. Big expectations for her as well. A great player, a real anchor on the back line and one of the team leaders who made my job coaching much easier. A coach on the field who just gets in. Throw in all the other great players who were part of those years and you see why it’s one of my favorites. Just so happens this group of 7 started it all many years ago.

I am working on a new favorite team, coaching U13 Girls with a bunch of gritty, hard working, talented players who just love the game. Sound familiar. Give us another few years and maybe I’ll have a team that might challenge for my all time favorite, but it will be hard to beat that first group of girls. Sorry Austin….I know, I know, you should be my favorite team. Can I have more than 1 favorite team?

Thanks for letting me share.

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ECU Juggle Challenge: Round 2

A few months back we posted a fun idea….ECU Juggle Challenge.  We had MJ pitted against Coach in a one v one battle to the death.  As fate would have it, MJ took down Coach and planted herself as the one to beat.

Thought I would drop in another entry for the crown.  Check out this video of Greta at our recent practice.  She had not warmed up much and I told her I was going to get her on video, grabbed my phone and this is the first take.

Man…pretty impressive.  Lots of touches with both left and right foot, threw in a thigh touch at one point…and made a few really clutch saves!  I got her at 79.  I bet you already know, but guess how many MJ had in the original challenge, yep, you guessed it…79.  So you know we are going to need a showdown to figure out the ultimate Juggle Champ!  Can’t wait!  Way to go Greta!

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ECU Juggle Challenge

Okay, you have had your fill of Premier League updates and are looking for something a bit different to keep your attention this winter.  Spring is coming.  High School girls soccer is coming.  But….to try something a little bit different I decided to have a little challenge at a recent training session with the U15 Girls team from ECU.

We work on juggling and foot skills every session.  Seems simple, but actually takes a lot of practice and patience to get good at it.  And controlling the ball with your feet is the core of soccer.  Every now and then we like to test the team and check their development.  So…what better way than a coach vs. player challenge.  We kicked it off last week and I had no idea what would happen.  I told them I was going to take a video of the challenge.  Will they get nervous and not be able to keep it up.  Will it last only 10-15 seconds.  No idea.  But I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see a battle taking place.  The competitive fire kicked in and it was fun to watch.  Check it out.

Molly took on Cooper and it turned out to be quite a battle.  I am not sure Molly’s best ever, but this must be one of her best ever.  Pretty impressive under the pressure of being videotaped.  I counted 79 or 80.  I don’t think Cooper thought he needed to go that long…lost his focus. 🙂  Anyway…the challenge is out there.  Can you beat 80?  Greta…can you take down MJ.  Next training is Wednesday so we will see if anyone wants to challenge MJ.  If you have a video of you want to submit…send it to scottlyonssoccer@gmail.com.

Premier League update later today, but a quick teaser, Manchester United went down today.  Big upset. Huge win for Newcastle that pushed them a few points clear of the relegation zone.

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Futsal: The Ultimate in Player Development

So, if we are to develop top quality soccer players in Eau Claire, we need to focus on player development.  We do not have numbers on our side, we just don’t.  Eau Claire has approx. 65,000 and when we add in the surrounding communities we get to maybe 100,000.  The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro market has approx. 3.8M people.  When it comes to resources, available player pool, etc. we can’t compete with that, so, we focus on player development.

Futsal

So what is Futsal and how can we use the game to develop our players. 

Futsal, (literally “mini-football”), is a form of soccer played on a hard court or smooth surface (field turf) that is smaller than a normal soccer pitch and mainly played indoors. Futsal is played between two teams of five players each, one of whom is the goalkeeper. Unlimited substitutions are permitted. Unlike some other forms of indoor football, the game is played on a surface controlled by lines; walls or boards are not used. Futsal is also played with a smaller, harder ball.  The surface, ball, and rules create an emphasis on improvisation, creativity, and technique as well as ball control and passing in small spaces.

I heard about Futsal years ago when I was coaching and started bringing players to the Stillwater Dome over the winter of 2010.  We had a quality group of 8th graders who were looking to prepare themselves for the high school game.  They were also looking for another level of skill and competition to push their development forward. It worked.  The game is fast, fun and forces you to improve your foot skills.

Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center. We do have some options here in Eau Claire and Eau Claire United and the Sports Center have done a nice job developing winter leagues for local players to build their game.  The field turf and hard court are fast surfaces that force players to adapt, play quick and develop good feet.  The chance to play over the winter is huge for development, so we have a great resource with the indoor sports center.  So what is the difference in playing Futsal and playing in the indoor leagues at the Sports Center.  Basically it is the field size, ball and structure of the sports center fields with walls.  Walls make a difference.  Not the good kind.  Players tend to get lazy when there are walls.  Players tend to use the walls to pass off to beat a defender.  Your pass does not need to be as accurate when there are walls, the ball always stays in play, there are no penalties for a poor pass or sloppy touch.  The ball used is also a big difference.  Futsal uses a smaller, harder, heavier ball.  The concept is the ball stays on the ground and does not bounce as much.  It promotes passing and quick play.  The standard ball tends to bounce around and players are forced to get the ball back on the ground in order to play quick.  5v5 is also a great concept.  4 players on the field mean a ton of touches for every player.  The only other difference is the competition.  The Futsal games in the Cities provide an opportunity to test yourself against the best players in that area, clubs like Woodbury, St. Croix and others all have teams participate.  No walls replicates the full game much better and really forces the players to focus on touch and passing to feet.  Both Futsal and Indoor Sports Center provide great winter options.  Definitely play at a minimum in the local indoor leagues to build your game. If you are able and can find 6-7 interested players, I would definitely encourage your team to check out Futsal.

U15 Girls.  A group of players from the U15G team has joined the Stillwater Dome Futsal league the past two years.  I have the pleasure of coaching the girls for ECU and recently had an opportunity to watch them play one of their Futsal games. They have a group of 8 players and generally have 6-7 at each game.  I love their concept for rotation as well.  The team plays a 1-3 formation.  One defender with 3 midfielders across the front.  About every two minutes or so, they rotate.  The player coming into the game goes into the defensive spot.  The defender goes to right mid, right mid goes to center mid, center mid goes to left mid, and the left mid comes out of the game.  Phew…did you follow that….that was interesting to write and maybe hard to follow.  The concept is simple…force the players to play every position to build their game. It is noticeable when a player gets “out of position”.  Defenders are uncomfortable playing up top on offense.  Forwards are uncomfortable playing back on defense as the lone defender.  But in this case, being uncomfortable is a good thing.  It forces growth and development. Games are 25 minute halves so lots of touches, passes and game play. I also love there is no coaching.  The girls coach themselves.  The parent “coaches” are just there to make sure they rotate properly.  Great to see the girls learning the game and pushing each other.  The game is the best teacher.  In all the videos you will see below, not one coach yelling to make a pass.  It is all about the girls working it out and understanding the flow of the game. Love it!

I had the chance to take some video of the game and wanted to share some of the highlights.  One thing to point out is that as these players move into high school, the game gets faster.  Learning to play quick is good.  Learning to play 1 and 2 touch soccer is critical for success at the next level.  As well, ball movement is critical.  The ball moves faster than players, so if you can move the ball quickly, it is hard to defend and usually leads to a successful outcome.

Let’s take a look.  Sorry about the video quality….it is dark in the dome!  And a bit chilly!  On to some highlights.

I dropped this goal in because it shows off something I love in soccer.  You can really get rewarded for hustle and hard work.  As this play develops, MJ could have dropped back and not chased down the ball.  That would be the easy thing to do.  The hard thing was to press and close down the defender, not once….but twice.  The little pressure she puts on the other player forces the turnover and leads to a goal by Greta.  Nice trap, touch and shot by Greta. But ultimately, the play is made by MJ.

Ball movement.  This is the lesson to really learn as you develop as a soccer player.  One v One is fun and required, but for team success, learn to play fast, 1-2 touch soccer and get everyone involved.  I went back and looked at all these plays a few times and in every case, all 4 players on the field touched the ball.  The ball is moving and switching sides and that is hard to defend and almost always leads to a shot.

Here is a great example with a shot at the end by Nevaeh. Only one player touches it twice, Addison, and that was a nice turn and layoff by her.  Good soccer!

Here is another good example. The ball is settled by the defender, nice trap Addy, and then played forward.  After that, it is all one touch soccer.  The ball is moving constantly and leads to a great shot by Molly.  Great work ladies!  Again, also notice, every player on the field touches the ball.  Really good stuff.

So I dropped this one in for another great example of ball movement. We coach that if the ball can’t go forward, then just drop it and start over.  MJ makes a nice wide pass to Molly who does a great job of dropping a pass to the defender Greta, who swings it opposite to Shelby for a powerful shot on goal.  Nice save or that was going in! As well, if you listen closely, you will hear a player shouting, “Shoot”.  Pretty sure that is Molly.  She is the “coach” on the field.  Love it when I hear her calling out plays, positions, encouragement, etc.  You don’t want to disappoint her either, she is a bulldog out there.

Here is the last example.  This turned out to be a really good game and was tied late in the second half.  ECU kept pressing and playing good soccer and then came up with the game winner.  It really is just a culmination of all the things we have been discussing. Every player touches the ball.  There are 5 passes before the shot.  The ball starts on the far left and the shot is taken from the far right.  They actually score two on this one, Greta’s shot crosses but was not called a goal, Addy, follows it up and jams it in for the game winner.  Great work by the whole team.

So there you have it.  A fun night of soccer and some excellent play as well.  Turns out the team we played was all high school girls and mostly sophomores with a few juniors.  We thought they looked bigger than our girls (mostly 8th graders).  In Futsal, skill and quality of play are important.  Maybe on a full size field, 11 v 11, the older girls win, but on a smaller field, with Futsal rules, ECU was the better side with better skill and team play.  Fun night and great to see all the girls developing their games.

So what do you do after playing hard and having some fun on the soccer pitch.  Of course, only one option….ICE CREAM at Culver’s.  What a group.  What wonderful players. Awesome kids and great families.  A joy to coach.  I can’t wait till they get to play High School soccer.  It’s going to be fun!

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Eau Claire United: ECU U14 Girls

Club Soccer in Eau Claire

I have shared some thoughts on the Club Soccer scene in Eau Claire in an earlier post.  With two clubs in the Chippewa Valley, Eau Claire United and Chippewa Strikers, we have an opportunity to develop great soccer players.  Club Soccer is the natural transition from recreational soccer (AYSO and Park & Rec leagues) and a great bridge to High School soccer.  There is much debate at the National level if Club Soccer should be year round and replace High School soccer for the top players if the US is to develop into a world power in soccer.  Club Soccer dominates the rest of the world with the worlds best teams having their own Academies to develop talent.  Strange, I know, no other country has a focus on high school sports like we do in the US.  It will be interesting how Club Soccer continues to develop over the years.

Having coached and had kids participate in Eau Claire United for the past 13 years, I am a big fan.  Why club Soccer:

Top Level Coaching. ECU requires licensed coaches thru the US Soccer Federation.  All coaches hold at minimum an E License and many of our club coaches hold a National D License.  The D license requires 36-40 hours of training as well as already holding an E License (24 hours of training).  The focus is on Principles of Play, Laws of the Game, Training Principles, and Player Development.  Currently, ECU has coaches in our club who also are Head Coaches or Assistant Coaches at Memorial, Regis, Altoona and North.  As well, we have coaches with experience coaching at the college Level at UWEC.  For players who are looking to develop, ECU offers the best coaching in the area.

Player Development.  ECU focuses on Player Development. Throughout the Summer and Winter, ECU offers training programs designed to improve player skills. As well, ECU sponsors Winter Leagues to continue the player development process.  A consistent focus is placed on allowing players to build their skill set and improve their confidence playing the game.

U14 Girls Season Wrap

I had an opportunity to spend some time watching one of the ECU teams this past fall, the U14 Girls team, and wanted to share with everyone their season story.  This team is a great example of the power of ECU and the focus on coaching and training. As the coach of the U15 Girls I have always had a small connection to this team.  We have shared players over the years as teams have changed and also had guest players from the group in previous years.  There has always been a great core of talent for this team.  They have solid fundamentals, they have excellent soccer skills and they are a focused group who love soccer.  The only thing missing from this group was sustained success.  They had flashes of success but never seemed to get rewarded for their effort and talent over the course of the season. Early in the season, we conducted a scrimmage against this team and you could sense that day that this year things felt different.  The energy they were playing with, the confidence in their tackles, the crispness of their passing, the communication and shape all felt improved.

Fall League Results.  No surprise when I checked out their season and found they had finished in the top spot in their League for the Fall.  I don’t have all their results over the years, but I am not sure if they have ever finished first in MYSA East Girls League.  Always competitive, but not sure about finishing first. Well done!  Here are the league results for Fall 2017.
Eau Claire United     5-0-1
Woodbury                3-3-0
Hastings                   2-3-1
Hudson                    1-5-0
Tournament Results.  As well as league, the team found some success in their Tournament play this fall.
Woodbury Fall Classic.  Tournament Champions. 2-0-1 on Pool Play and a big win the the Finals.
ECU 2 Red Cedar 0
ECU 5  Tonka United 3
ECU 1  Force Soccer 1
Finals: ECU 2  TC Storm 0
Way to Go ladies!  Back Row. Coach Eze–Tessa Ross–Leah Nelson–Ava Berg–Ava Paulmier–Charley Zacho–Reese Bredl–Kylee Calchera–Lydia Potter–Ella Herman–Nora Berg–Coach Gorres. Middle Row. Abbey Liddell–Sarah Lester–Claire Shinners–Halle Steinmetz. Front Row…right in the center of attention…..of course….Mara Effinger! What a great shot.  Congratulations!
Reddan  Ice Age Classic.  I had the chance to watch portions of all three of their games and the team was very competitive.  The competition was excellent and the girls stepped up to the challenge.  Soccer can be a funny game.  You do not always get rewarded for your play.  They suffered a tough loss in Game 1 against a very good team – FC Wisconsin.  A questionable offsides goal put them in a hole but they fought back with two goals and were pressing for the tying goal late but just could not find the net. Game 2 against Capital East Soccer they were the better side, had more possession and shots on goal, but just could not find the winning goal and had a tie. Game 3 found them playing the eventual Tournament Champion…Genesco Soccer.  They played them really tough, had some chances, but in a rain shortened game, came up on the short end of the score.  I was really impressed with their fight and determination.  There was not much separation in the quality of the teams, just one of those games.  I had a chance to capture some video and a few photos I wanted to share from the Reddan Tournament.
So, I don’t know all the players…but a nice aggressive dribble into the box by Claire Shinners and I think a nicely taken goal by Lydia Potter, maybe Tesa Ross? Great action.  Very unselfish of Claire, the right pass at the right time leads to a goal.

Here is another nice example of ball movement and passing and unselfish play (Kylee Calchera).  The ball eventually finds Reese Bredl who calmly takes a touch to the right and buries it upper 90 into the back of the net.  Nice goal!

Had to put one in for a player I coached a few years, Mara Effinger.  She makes a nice touch to clear some space and just doesn’t get enough power on the shot.  I am thinking the shoulder and knock down impacted her shot a little 🙂  Keep shooting kid.

I wanted to drop this one in to just show the fight and tenacity of the girls.  It starts with a really energetic and aggressive step by Lydia who fights and wins a ball, heads for the corner of the 18 and almost finds a great goal.  But then, when the play could have just ended….it didn’t.  The girls continue to press, win balls, make passes, put passes into the box, press again, win balls again and finally a cross in the box.  I love it! Keep fighting girls.

I was also really impressed with the coaching and the connection that the coaches have developed with the players.  A big part of soccer is confidence.  Trusting your coaches and taking what you learn on the practice field and applying it to the game.  Sometimes it is just simple things you notice.  Like in the quick video below.  The focus on the pregame huddle is on TEAM.  Sometimes with girls teams you can get some pretty exotic pregame cheers.  I kind of like the simplicity of…1.2.3 TEAM.

So this is kind of interesting.  Do you ever notice how a couple over time starts to look like each other and act like each other.  I suppose that also works for coaches. Eze and Tom have spent a few years together coaching soccer.  So not sure if this was planned or not.  Do you think they set out their clothes the night before and planned it out?  I mean really, who does that!  Regardless, there they are in all their glory.  Same pants, same shirt, same arms folded…left over right, watch on the left wrist….same look on their face as the watch the second half.  Just sayin….kinda freaky!
I included the shot below so I could share a story on the two coaches.  Just before this picture….bummed I didn’t get a shot of it…the halftime talk had just ended.  The two coaches were walking back to the sidelines.  Tom on the left with his left arm wrapped around a player’s shoulder, letting her know it was no big deal she let in a goal before half.  Eze on the right side, walking with his right arm around a player’s shoulder, giving her some support for her first half play and encouraging her to keep working hard. The picture below is just at the end of that walk.  You can tell the two coaches are committed to the girls.  Not just developing skills but building confidence.  It was a nice moment.  Moments that parents don’t often see from their side of the field.
I also wanted to share the information below.  I have a quick little questionnaire I like to ask coaches when doing a piece on their team.  A little insight into them.
Why do you love coaching?
Eze -Because of the end result. Watching the players get better and improve their skills.
Tom– I enjoy coaching soccer to not only build skills but to hopefully make a positive influence on youth lives and help them build skills and confidence that they can carry on throughout their lives.
What are your favorite memories coaching?
Eze– So many of them I love them all. Eze has been a successful player rising to the 2nd Division in Mexico, has coached for many years, started a training Academy and coaches High School in Altoona.  He is probably right, too many to consider.
Tom– There have been many “favorite” memories but two stand out.  The first goes back a few years when I had the opportunity to watch my daughters play in the US Club Soccer National Finals.  They made the championship game and finished runner-up.  It was an amazing experience. Second, is the memories made with an awesome group of young ladies that Eze and I had the opportunity to coach this past fall. Despite the lack of sustained success as a team in the past, they came together as a team playing for a “couple old, odd guys” and won not only their first league championship but their first tournament championship as well.  Their growth in self-confidence and belief in their teammates was an amazing thing to see and be a part of.
Nike or Adidas-What brand to you prefer?
Eze– Classic Eze answer…whichever brand will sponsor me or my teams.
Tom-Tom took the easy way out. He is a Nike and Adidas guy.  Nike footwear is tops, but Adidas pants are unbeatable.   With Tom you may also see quite a bit of Under Armour as well.  No brand loyalty.  Not sure what to think of that!

I also want to share Eze’s philosophy on soccer.  “Futbol is a sport that discriminates against no one. Futbol is a game that doesn’t require choreography and can be played anyplace, anytime, or anywhere by anybody.  All that is required is passion, a ball, some space and a big heart to enjoy the beautiful game of Futbol.”

Sounds like a great Fall season for the U14 Girls.  Great players, great parents, awesome coaches and a wonderful experience.  Sounds like ECU Club soccer at its best!
 So…just had to drop in one more photo.  My U15 Girls team just happened to be at the same Reddan Tournament.  We played 4 really quality teams and managed to win all 4 games and the Tournament Championship.  Plus we provided the fans some excitement as we won the title on PK Shootout.  I am pretty sure the heartbeats and nerves were peaked during the shootout…not the players….the parents!!  Some really high quality soccer by a great group of girls.  Congrats to them as well.

 

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Club Soccer in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls

Club Soccer in Eau Claire

So, I have been focusing my posts on high school soccer so far as I attempt to chronicle Cooper’s last year of high school soccer. It has been a fun ride so far for Memorial and I hope they can keep it going.  Of particular fun for me is the number of boys that came up thru the Club program in the area…and the number I had the good fortune to coach…either a little…or in some cases, a lot.  Memorials roster has a large number of seniors and almost all have come up thru Eau Claire United with a few also moving to St. Croix Academy over the years. I think 7-8 of the current starters on Varsity all played together back as U10 and U11 players.  Great that we have a local club to help develop these kids and get them off on the right path. Many of Cooper’s best friends are also his soccer teammates from all these years.  Very cool!

So, what is Club soccer and how has it progressed in Eau Claire.  We have a few ways for kids to get exposed to soccer in Eau Claire, the two main are Parks & Rec sponsored by the city of Eau Claire and also AYSO, the worlds largest youth recreational league.  If you have driven by Soccer Park on a Saturday in the Spring or Fall, then you know all about AYSO.  Parks & Rec keeps Soccer Park busy all summer with recreational games.  The rec leagues are similar.  Good Sportsmanship, Fair Play, Equal Playing Time, Have Fun and enjoy the game.  They are awesome programs and serve our community well.  In 1995 a local group of parents got together because they wanted something more for their kids playing soccer.  A more competitive experience to develop their skills and to push their game to a higher level. Competitive leagues were started in Minneapolis in the early 70’s and earlier in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee and Madison areas.

Eau Claire United (ECU) was founded with the following Mission Statement. “The Eau Claire United Soccer Club is committed to teaching fundamental soccer skills, instilling confidence and building a love for the game of soccer, while developing players to their highest competitive level.”  Over the years ECU has had 300-400 players in their club, hovering around 300 for the past few years. Teams from U9-U18 are formed and play teams in Western Wisconsin and the eastern part of the Minneapolis area.  Kids looking to advance their game and who want to make soccer a primary sport, generally gravitate over to ECU around 10-11 years old. Club soccer offers players excellent training, a great experience in leagues and tournaments, and offers a path to high school soccer for the serious player.  As well in our area is another Club…Chippewa Strikers.  They offer a similar experience to ECU focused on players in Chippewa Falls and surrounding communities on the north side of town.  A bit smaller than ECU but providing  a similar opportunity for the serious soccer player

Why Club Soccer.  As a participant in club soccer for 15 years, it really is about the opportunity to advance the skills of serious players while providing a great experience for the kids to develop work ethic, teamwork, friendships and a love for the game. Eau Claire United has taken a serious approach to their training and coaching.  They require all coaches to be licensed, generally an E License, and also have made a push to get more coaches licensed at the D level.  This is a serious training program and ensures the coaches are prepared to build excellent soccer players.  No grabbing mom or dad on the first day of practice to coach….No Will Ferrell coaching tactics from “Kicking and Screaming”.

Oh man… you must watch this movie if you are a soccer fan…so funny.  Get the ball to the Italians!!  I have seen a few coaches like that, played against a few and that is NOT the philosophy at Eau Claire United.  I plan to write more on club soccer but will leave you with this thought.  We have a ton of players in the two rec leagues in Eau Claire. How can we get them exposed to ECU and Chippewa Strikers for those serious players who want to develop.  Most parents of young kids 6-8 years old, know nothing about ECU.  Must be a way to fix that.  As well, feels like there could be some opportunity to get our two Club programs more integrated.  Both Clubs tend to have success from U9 thru U12, but when they hit U13, and team rosters go from 14 to 18 both clubs tend to struggle to field top-level teams that can compete against the best teams in Minneapolis.  To the point where many of the best players from our area are leaving our clubs to go play in St. Croix in order to experience the highest level of competition.

Eau Claire United U15Girls

I also wanted to share a bit about the current team I coach, U15 Girls at ECU.  I have been fortunate to coach for ECU the past 10 years and have had a great group of young ladies the past 4 years.  What an awesome group of players, and families.  They work so hard in practice, play so hard in games, show wonderful character and sportsmanship and by the way, are pretty good as well.  Over the years we have had some good success, winning our share of tournaments and finishing high in league.  The past year was more difficult as we played at the highest competitive level in our league (C1) and did not get many positive results…but did win two tournaments!.  We really developed as a team, but this age group is where ECU struggles a bit more due to our size.

We played a tournament recently and I wanted to share a few images and videos .  A tough weekend as far as results, but we played really hard and I was proud of the effort and quality of play.

An early morning game and trying to get the girls ready.  8:00 games are tough! Especially on Day 2.  Ellie, Grace, Kendrah, Shelby, Greta, Nevaeh, Teagan, MJ, Emily, Marissa, Josie, Molly and……..Addison…where are you?

What is better than getting new shoes!  Look at those smiles.  I am an Adidas man myself, so I must give a shout out to Grace for her fine selection of boots.  Molly and Greta…Nike…really!  And those colors, oh my.  Grace had the smarts to pick an awesome color, Kentucky Blue!!  More playing time for Grace coming soon.

Here is the money shot!  Regardless of the score of the games, and whether we won or lost…this is my lasting memory from the weekend.  How fortunate to have a chance to coach wonderful young ladies, so respectful, such hard workers, so talented.  Can’t wait to see them in high school, giving it their all.  Thanks for your hard work ladies!  Parents..you should all be very proud of your girls!

And now a few highlights.  One request for the players…can you score when we are on our half of the field so I can get more video please. Missed a great PK from Greta.

A nice corner that turns into a cross.

Good build up play and attempt form the left.  Keep shooting!

Well, if that had gone in…it would have been the goal of the tournament.

I learned it is hard to get video when you are coaching.  Need to figure that one out.  We have another tournament in October and are training hard to get ready.  I have a feeling our results will improve.  We got our tough luck tournament out of the way, right ladies!

 

 

 

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Soccer In Eau Claire

Why Blog about Soccer?

I love soccer.  I am not sure how it happened, but it did.  Maybe because my kids started to play and I started to coach.  Then they wanted a new challenge so we moved from AYSO to Eau Claire United club soccer.  Then one day while channel surfing, it happened…my son (#2) and I were watching a soccer game from the English Premier League.  Chelsea vs. Liverpool.  Starting left back for Chelsea was Ashley Cole.  He was left footed, wore the number 3, played left back and was really good.

My son was left footed, wore number 3, played left back and I hoped one day would be really good.  I was hooked (along with my son) and we became huge Chelsea fans and started our lifelong ritual of watching the Premier League every Saturday.  I have two sons who play and I have been coaching for over 15 years in various capacities but now coach at ECU (Eau Claire United).  I hope to share my passion with you….the soccer fans in the Eau Claire area and the greater West Wisconsin region.

The plan is to include info on the recreation leagues, Club soccer, High School soccer, College soccer and maybe some professional soccer updates as well. It will be too tempting not to discuss Chelsea!  I have son #3 playing at Eau Claire Memorial so for now, that might get some extra attention.  I have had 8 years of kids playing for Memorial and have a love for Old Abe soccer.

I hope you will check us out occasionally and will find the posts fun and informative.  Not trying to be too serious, just want to share some of my thoughts with the hope of building more crazy soccer fans as well as helping people discover soccer opportunities in the area.  It’s a great game and I hope you have a chance to experience it with your kids and will discover the same passion as me for the perfect pass, the incredible dribbling, the unbelievable shots and skill of the modern game.  I am just  a dad who loves the game so thanks for letting me share it with you.

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