A view from my side.
And now the high school season officially comes to a close. The fields are empty and the stands are quiet. The boys are focused on exams and, for many, graduation. Some won’t kick a ball in a competitive match ever again. Oh, they will probably play in some pick up games here and there, but most of the graduating seniors are done. For them, this season marks the end of a career that for many started when they were 6 or 7 years old.
Our team finished the year in 2nd place in our Area. Not something we are used to. Our overall record was 18-8-1. Our worst record in 10 years. We lost our opening match for the first time in a long time. We did not earn a trip to the Final Four for the second time in 10 years. While most teams would be happy with the overall record we posted, we were hugely disappointed. At least the team that beat us for our spot in the Final Four went on to become State Champions. At least we can say that much.
Also, our boys were young this season. We started 8 Freshmen and Sophomores on a Varsity team. It takes time for these players to grow and mature and learn an actual system of play. Most of the club coaches in our part of the country are big on drills. They do a lot of “drills and skills.” But they do very little in regard to tactics. They assume, wrongly so in my humble opinion, that the “game is the best teacher.” If that were true, you wouldn’t need coaches.
So we focus on tactics in our sessions and that is one of the primary reasons we are usually able to beat stronger, faster, more athletic teams. We play a tactically sound game. Now, there are plenty of coaches in our area that coach tactics as well, so we are not the only ones. And those are the teams that always rise to the top. But this season, most of our boys had never been tactically coached before. Now they have. That will make them stronger, better, and smarter next year. That will give us a huge head start when we start up again in January. The class behind these boys also looks strong. So, hopefully, we’ll be back on top next year and for the next few years that follow.
But for now, we are done. The boys rest. The fields recover. I found myself out there the other day, around the time practice would normally start. Standing there, I could hear the sounds of a match. The rush of players running down a ball. The shouts of the keeper from across the field. The cheer of the crowd as a goal is scored. And then the whistle blew and it was time to walk away as the season ends.