The Strange World of 6th Grade Girls Soccer

This is an article I wrote back in 2009, during my first every foray into coaching School Soccer. 

On Monday we played Hunt Middle School. 6th grade school soccer in Tacoma is strictly “no cut-everyone plays”. I was planning for 28 eligible players, but a bunch of kids apparently forgot that there was a game since they are normally on Tuesdays & Thursdays. It may have helped that I had “forgotten” to tell them on Friday.  So only 21 made the trip. Darn 🙂 Most of the ones I need are actually on the bus, so I’m good with it. On the ride I scrap my elaborate Three-people-for every-position substitution plan for a simpler 2 for 1 schematic. (ed note: The 3-for-1 plan did eventually go into action later in the season, and I actually made “corrals” out of cones to keep my two extra team’s worth of players organized on the sidelines)

Hunt only has nine players. Five of them have soccer shoes. If they have fewer than 11, we have to play with an equal number, per league rules. I start doing the math for a new substitution plan. Luckily, two more Hunt players return from the bathroom in time for kickoff.

Our varsity coach, has had problems with kids trash talking his teams on some of his away visits. I had the opposite issue. There is a group of rough looking boys sitting on some bleachers nearby. They are yelling at the Hunt players.
“You suck, Hunt!”
“Meeker is gonna stuff you!”
“You don’t have a prayer, Hunt, you’re goin’ DOWN!”

I ask my girls if they know any of those kids.  They don’t

“Hey guys! What school do you go to? Hunt? Oh. Carry on…”

I used to play on this field back when I was in college. On Saturday mornings all the best players in Tacoma used to turn up here. If you made a bad pass it was a long time before you saw a ball again, unless you won it yourself. Those days are over. The field is in a horrible state; bare in some spots, ragged and overgrown in others. At least it’s a beautiful day. The last time I was here the field looked and played like a rice paddy and the game was held in monsoon conditions.

We take the kickoff, make three passes, and score. 1-0 after about 8 seconds. The first time a Hunt player touches the ball is to pick it out of the net. It’s like Germany-Holland 74 without the penalty kick.  The second time a Hunt player touches the ball is to propel the kick off directly to one of our players. We march down the field and score again. 2-0 after about 190 seconds. Now if this was a club soccer game I would be delighted, but this is Middle School Soccer, where the District AD will give a school’s AD an earful if a coach runs up the score too high. I need to put on the brakes because at the current pace we’re on course for a 40-0 result.

I had a carefully crafted substitution plan to make sure I always had strong players down the spine of the team. I scrap this plan and sub out all ten field players at one time. It doesn’t matter, and the second platoon makes it 4-0 before they all come off again. Hunt has crossed midfield exactly once.

When the score gets to 6-0, I tell the first wave of girls that we are going to limit scoring to eight goals, and that before we can score another goal, we have to string TEN consecutive passes together. Yes, if you lose the ball, you have to start counting over. I’ll count and let you know when you can go to goal, you guys worry about the passes. But before I can pull off the crew that’s on the field and tell them the new rules, the 7th goal goes in.

So in the second half the girls are really working to string ten passes together. Seven seems to be the stumbling block, then they manage ten passes twice but in their excitement they find themselves offside on both occasions. I haven’t told the parents, but they have figured it out. I can here them whispering on the sidelines. “Six…seeeeven… yes, yes,…AAgh!”

Late in the game, I get the opportunity to say something that I have never said in 14 years of coaching.

As a player runs onto the field, I actually hear these words come out of my mouth: “Hey wait! You can’t take your cell phone onto the field with you!”

Middle School Soccer. Like nothing else



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