Special Blog Post by Daniel Willis
They seem impossibly small, these U-8 and U-10 Boys and Girls at the Haig Bowl Arena vying for a spot on the elite travel league’s, Futbol Niagara team. But as they line up when told to by the coach, one can see the discipline they have from many hours of training on the pitch as tykes.
The first drill is to dribble the ball around the pitch first using only the inside the foot, then only using the outside, which is harder than it sounds. As they attempt the manoeuvre, the love of the game becomes apparent in the determination shown on their small faces.
The love of the game is also shown in the sports wear chosen for tonight’s try-outs. There are kids wearing branded Under Armour wear and Nike Wear, and unbranded jerseys with various soccer motifs emblazoned upon them. And then there are children wearing the full strips made famous by their sport’s idols. Lewendowski, Neymar, Messi are some of the names that fascinate this generation’s imagination. And young master Berj, super-sure of his future wears his own name on his team’s jersey!
After the hopefuls are split into two squads and given a red or white pinny they, at separate ends of the pitch, are paired off for another drill. This time passing will be evaluated.
After the pairs pass, trap and pass back a number of times the difficulty is notched up a little. Trapping the ball after it is lobbed from your partner proves more skilful for some players than others. Especially when you add running on the spot while performing this particular drill.
Even though this is a try out, a little gentle instruction is provided for the children not quite keeping up. That is a great testament to the 8 trainers on the pitch today, working with these 35 kids. That this is about more than “making a team”
At the half-hour mark they are given a water break then it is right back at it.
Line up and dribble ten yards then at the pylon, boot the ball on the net. During the exercise Ivan gives a note to run fast and work hard. “Use your happy feet”, he says, “when you run and kick and when you score, don’t walk to retrieve your ball – Hustle.”
“You can rest when you return to the line up.”
With varying degrees of power, some kids score with low shots on nets while others, more advanced, get under the ball and pick one of the top corners of the open net to score on. And then, with the drills done, we are about to see how they work in a scrimmage situation.
During the scrimmage, there were examples of the “give and go” and some kids had mastered the tactic of letting the ball go past and turning to follow, which can totally befuddle an opponent. Kids that were moving into open spaces were rewarded with quick, short, and surprisingly accurate passes.
Almost immediately, the strikers emerge, as do the playmakers and the daydreamers. So too, do the players that keep the ball too long only to lose it as the defenders pile on.
Watching these kids from the sidelines with their rapt parents was as much fun as watching the pros do their thing.
There’s a beautiful pass from the touchline across the pitch, which is laid off in one touch to finish in the back of the net. Then later, a hair-raising pass in front of their own goal – dangerous at any level of play.
In futsal, the goals come quick and those kids who get in front of the ball as goalkeepers deserve a lot of praise. While not a contact sport, there are ways to get injured and goalkeeping seems to be just asking for trouble.
A collision dropped two of the kids like stones to the floor and audible gasps were heard among the gallery. After a tense moment, both players were on their feet and back in the game. If that same collision occurred between professional players, you can bet that trainers would be bringing out the stretchers to carry the “cry-babies” out!
Going deep into the corner, one player makes a textbook, 90 degree cross beautifully placed into the penalty area where the striker heartbreakingly fans on the ball, missing it completely.
Such is the variance of skill level shown by the players at this age. Some will make the team but not everybody can. It’s an important life lesson: There will always be better and always be worse players than you, but when you get a chance to put on a strip or a jersey or even a pinny, you go out there, leave everything you have on the pitch and have fun while doing it.
That’s all these little players want and that’s all the parents want too.
After their try-outs its time to hit the showers (or bath at this age) and make way for the U-12 and U-14 players to give it their all.
Sept 15, 2016