Category: Teaching

All too short a date


Eno Quarry at sunset
The view at sunset

Today was a good day. My wife and I have been talking about how I can learn from my experiences in the corporate world to better manage my time, other people’s time, and my overarching priorities. My life is richer for working in futsal and soccer in my off-hours, but in order for the endeavor to grow, I need to grow with it. Today we also talked about what I’ve learned from flying airplanes: the importance of meticulous planning and, of course, checklists. How can we bring this kind of regimentation to the complex routines of our futsal and soccer activities?

There’s a lot of work to do on that front, but in the meantime, we had a very successful day. The futsal clinic at Lyon Park this morning got off to a rocky start, when we found the gym locked and confusion on the part of the management about when we were supposed to start. Our coach, Rob, got the kids busy outside while I sorted it out. We had 12 kids, which made for two spirited 3v3 games. I think 3v3 may be the ideal profile for children this age, particularly ones of average skill. The focus of the morning’s drills had been trapping and passing, and to our delight, the children began passing while playing 3v3.

Rob and the kids outside the gym at Lyon Park
Locked out of the gym

Then my wife and I hurtled north to Snow Hill Road Park to launch Durham Atlético’s first outdoor soccer league. It went surprisingly well, and most everyone seemed pleased, even though the high noon temperature was about 90 degrees. The four teams were well matched, and the grass was in good condition. The only concerns are the field’s length–at 98 yards, it’s a good 20 yards longer than what is ideal for 8v8 soccer with out-of-shape adults of ordinary skill–and also the start times. One team thinks we need to start our games later in the day, due to their work schedules. We’ll see.

Adidas Brazuca
Fancy new balls

I threw down $200 for this pair of balls. They normally sell for $150 each, but I got these premium match balls, replicas of the official ball of the 2014 World Cup, in a “mystery ball” promotion that uses to liquidate overstock that they’re apparently not allowed to discount. It was a splurge, but I think it’s well worth it to put decent balls out on the pitch for our first soccer season.

After we came home I took a shower, but only after weighing myself and being thrilled to be down to 175 (and down a couple quarts of water, too). I finished a book called “Move Fast and Break Things,” about which I hope to write soon.

At sunset, I went to the Eno Quarry. I hadn’t been there in a year, when, on a similar late-summer evening, I’d gone with my friend Marc and our friend from college, Steve. That was a lovely end to summer, full of middle-aged bliss and nostalgia. Tonight, there was me in the middle of the pond, sometimes swimming, sometimes hanging on the piece of floating timber. I lay on my back in the water and watched planes fly overhead. The sky was so blue I could see the dust particles on the surface of my eyes.

Shakespeare said it best, that summer’s lease hath all too short a date. But if you plan for it, if you use your time well, and if you try to mark the occasion of changing seasons, the passage of time doesn’t seem so frightening.

Tomorrow I am flying to Southern Pines with my flight instructor. He says I’m nearly ready to solo. I should be undergoing a pre-solo stage check with the club’s chief instructor soon.

It’ll be another exciting day tomorrow, but before I go to bed to make it arrive sooner, my wife and I are going to finish watching the Isabelle Huppert film “White Material.”

I got an F

screen grab digital coaching center
Jurgen and Jill, for now.

I added a certification to my CV today. I’m now the holder of an “F” coaching license from the U.S. Soccer Federation. This means that I completed a two-hour online course that imparted the best practices for coaching soccer to children aged 5-8.

I don’t have children, but in my role with Durham Atlético, a futsal club, I decided it’s important to begin acquiring credentials. We are planning to develop children’s programs in partnership with Parks and Rec of Durham, and we need to know what we’re doing. A couple of our player-volunteers have this certification, as well as the “E,” which is for children aged 9-12, and at least one other person is taking the “F” course, too.

The system of licensing coaches is a novel practice for Americans, but globally, soccer federations believe youth development is too important to be left to its own devices, whether it be an unregulated free market or an army of often untrained parents who yell at kids, play them when they’re injured, and favor their own children. Or, at a later stage of development, shady AAU programs that are little more than talent scouts for agents and shoe companies, or high school gym teachers who wouldn’t know a concussion if it hit them on the head.

Here in Durham, we take inspiration from the nation of Iceland, which charmed the soccer world during last summer’s Euros. The population of Iceland is scarcely bigger than Durham, yet this tiny nation advanced to the quarterfinals, claiming the scalp of England along the way. Here’s the key to the miracle:

Arrigo Sacchi famously suggested elite coaching should be open to people from any walk of life, from elevator operators to stockbrokers. At the end of the last century the Icelandic FA put this into practice. Bolstered by the TV money pouring into every Uefa country, Iceland set up an open, hugely popular training scheme. Currently this nation of 335,000 has around 600 qualified coaches, 400 with Uefa B licences, or one per 825 people. To put this into context, in England this number falls to one per 11,000.

The result is a spread of expertise right down to the lowest level. “Here you need a Uefa B licence to coach from under-10 level up and half of the Uefa B licence to coach under-eights,” Dagur Sveinn Dagbjartsson of the Icelandic FA says. This isn’t simply box-ticking. The Uefa B is one step off the level needed to coach a professional team in England. Yelling dads it ain’t.

That’s from The Guardian. For more on Icelandic football, here’s a piece (originally in Howler, but only coming up in a Guardian reprint) by Durham writer Davis Harper, who’s also a fine futsal player. (No discussion of Durham Atlético and Iceland can fail to mention Tash. –Ed.)

I may write more about the online “F” course at a later date. As it happens, my day job is as an IT instructional designer, so I have a professional interest in the quality of the pedagogy as well as its content.

Instructional design shop talk aside, the course showed some of the fissures and identity problems that afflict American soccer.

On the Twitter: Talking with Andy about soccer business model

I replied to an innocuous “pro tip” from Andy Schwarz (@andyhre). It turned into an interesting discussion about what I contend are two contrasting views, or business models, of professional sports. Schwarz’s analyses generally concern the U.S., and I was suggesting that soccer abroad, particularly in Europe, operates with some assumptions that aren’t included in his models.

This recap is for my reference. Turns out that embedding a bunch of overlapping tweets is tricky, so these are not necessarily in a logical progression. (It might be time to check out this Storify thing.)

If anyone wants more context, tweet at me or leave a note in the comments.


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