I Learned The Most From My Toughest Coach

I Learned The Most From My Toughest Coach

He might have given me some of the hardest days of my life, but in the end, he really was a good coach.

Well, this looks... interesting, I thought to myself as I surveyed the turf. Boys, all around the same age as me, were scattered around the field, like toys in a toddler's messy room. It was my first practice as a select soccer player. I had played soccer for a while before then but had played at the rec level before deciding to take the step up into select soccer that year. As I finished tying up my shoes and warming up, a man emerged from the training rooms.

He stomped up the hill and announced in a deep, thick African accent, "Ok everyone, line up! 10 laps around the field, let's go! Do it quickly!" Little did I know that I would spend the next two years hating that man, who I would call my coach for my next four seasons. Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday I would wake up and immediately feel anxious about the upcoming practice or game. However, my coach taught me many valuable life lessons that have helped me mature and become the person and player I am today.

My coach taught me to persevere through the tough times.

And trust me, there were a lot of those during my time with him. There were days when I would go there, and it would just be one strenuous drill after another, with him yelling at us the entire time. Those days had an immense physical toll on me, too. I would come home without a single iota of energy left in me. All I wanted to do is collapse on my bed and lay there for hours. But I had to get up, push through the pain and continue to work. I learned that to see results, you must fight through the lowest of the lows. Time and time again, I had to persevere, push away thoughts of quitting and keep working to get better. Now, I have gained that mentality of never giving up and fighting until the end, and I can thank my coach for that.

My coach taught me is leadership.

I learned very quickly that being the quiet, calm kid will get me nowhere. Instead, I had to step up and learn how to lead. And trust me, with a group of rowdy soccer players my age, learning was not easy at all. But over time, with the (harsh) guidance of my coach, I learned proper leadership skills and methods that I use almost every day now. I may have complained endlessly about his yelling and strictness, but my first coach gave me one of my most valuable skills, and I am grateful to him for that.

My first soccer coach also taught something else important, but this one is unlike the other two. During practice, he would always be criticizing, yelling and glaring at one player or another. That set all the players on edge. As a result, there were many disagreements and sometimes even fights among players.Through the disagreements, I learned to find the positives in everyone and that I should always stay optimistic. Over the seasons, I used those two skills to get on the good side of all of my teammates and soon, I was on good terms with almost all of the team. I implemented those two skills into my daily life, and the results have been phenomenal.

Four seasons of Coach S. led to lots of frustration, anger and pain in the beginning. It was really hard to endure the mental and physical toll of his intense practices, training and games. However, I learned many life lessons from my time with him that I can use both in my future soccer career and my personal life. So, I guess he was a good coach after all.

Thank you, Coach S.

Cover Image Credit: Abdullah Chandasir

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Miami FINALLY Has An MLS Team, Hopefully It Will Assist In Uniting The City

While some teams and their owners like the Marlins have been very polarizing, David Beckham has an incredible opportunity to unite a futbol crazed community.

Okay, this was a huge week for the soccer (whoops, I mean futbol) community in South Florida, as David Beckham has announced an expansion franchise in Miami of his owning will join the MLS, starting play in 2020. It has been a long road to this day, starting ever since the Miami Fusion folded in 2002. Between then and now, the MLS has exploded, by more than doubling the number of teams it has in less than a decade-and-a-half, including expansion in cities such as Orlando, Atlanta, and Nashville.

Beckham has tirelessly pursued an expansion franchise here in the magic city. While there has been mutual interest between both Beckham and local authorities for years, the stadium and land issue was a big roadblock, one that took years to settle.

Stadiums have always been a controversy in the Miami sports industry. The two that stick out to most Miamians is the Orange Bowl demolition and the construction of Marlins Park. The historic and beloved Orange Bowl was replaced by the gaudy and superficial new home of the Miami Marlins, which cost taxpayers billions of dollars against their own will.

Beckham had to be careful not to make the same mistake. The original idea was to build the new soccer-specific stadium on the barrier island between downtown and South Beach, but it was not a popular plan among the cruise ship industry, as most cruise lines use the island as their port of call and the stadium would have caused operational headaches for both sides.

Plan B was moving directly into downtown. Beckham and his management group targeted the Museum Park area, close to the Miami Heat's American Airlines Arena. But local residents balked at the idea, so Beckham non-confrontationally changed plans again.

Places such as FIU, Tropical Park, and even Marlins Park were not ruled out. But Beckham and the city would eventually agree to build the stadium in the Overtown district to the northwest of downtown. The city, the people, and the ownership group all seem to be able to get behind this idea.

But do they have the best interests in mind for Overtown's residents? The district has dealt with a long history of riots and poverty, but many feel the area is undergoing a cultural rebirth. The people could see this as a tool for economic development in their neighborhood, but it could also be yet another example of the gentrification seen in places like Wynwood, that was not at all unlike what Overtown was a recently as 15 years ago.

The answer will not be clear until the stadium is open and the team is underway with their matches. As with many social issues today, there will be conflicting viewpoints on how sports and sport issues affect developing neighborhoods.

At the end of the day, however, Miamians have an MLS team for the first time in a long time to call their own. It should be fascinating to see the Latin fusion in the fanbase because while Miami has been a melting pot of Latin America, it has been home to many different nationalities, who's support still lies in the teams back where they or their decendents may have came from. MLS in Miami will provide the chance for millions of people, both of Latino and non-Latino decent, to support their city under one, united umbrella.

Cover Image Credit: @futbolmiamimls

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Can U.S. Soccer Follow Germany's Revival Plan?

It requires good decision making.

The 2000 UEFA European Championship caused a riot in Germany after the Die Mannschaft (men's football team) was humiliated in the tournament. After their humiliation, they sat down and strategically planned out how they were going to become elite again.

In October of 2017, the United States Men's National Soccer Team was eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, obviously before it even started, meaning that they didn't qualify. Following a horrendous qualifying campaign, our men were humiliated even further by losing to Trinidad and Tobago. Since their elimination, a lot of people have been speculating on how our soccer program will revive itself.

Ex-player turned ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman has mentioned the German module many times. And recently, a player who is undoubtedly the future of the USMNT, Christian Pulisic, said that he believes U.S. Soccer can follow Germany's lead and become a world power in the sport.

I believe that it's a definite possibility, but it's going to take a lot of structural work.

Germany's plan was simple after 2000. The German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) made sure that every soccer organization in the country was on the same page. It went top to bottom from regional youth leagues to the Bundesliga. The result? Germany's golden generation, which took over in 2008 and appears that it will be in power for a long time.

Let's just start off by saying that our country is a lot larger than Germany, obviously, and we out number 240 million people. One might think that that doesn't matter because not everyone's an athlete. Those people who are athletes don't all play soccer. If we boil down the numbers, our soccer players outnumber Germany's by 8 million. We have more people playing "their" sport than they do.

I say "their" sport because many people in this country view soccer as inferior to the other sports. Soccer is a European or South American game to many people. Truth is, soccer is probably lower on the totem pole than the other four major sports. What's also true? We were in the first FIFA World Cup, and we placed third. So, soccer is as much our sport as it is "their's."

When the World Cup kicks off this summer, we won't be in it, and that hasn't happened in thirty years. So where do we go from here? Like I said, we already have more players than the Germans do, so what can we do with that?

The Germans, like most other countries, scout players everywhere. From playing in dirt fields to playing in stadiums as youths, if you're playing the sport, you're being looked at. Here, in the United States, we have the pay-to-play system. If you're not spending money, you're not getting looked at. That's how it is with every sport here. But we're historically very good at every other sport. I mean, we dominate basketball every year. Football is literally our sport and we just won the 2017 World Baseball Classic, so yeah, we're pretty damn good. Soccer doesn't get the attention those sports do. We're not recruiting the kids playing in the parking lot behind the grocery store like the Germans are.

Club soccer is also very important and anyone who says it isn't is out of their mind. EVERY COUNTRY has promotions and relations in their respected leagues. If your team doesn't stay competitive and they suck, they will be bumped down a division. Here in the United States, our soccer leagues are not connected in that way. So the perennial losers in Major League Soccer stay. There's competition but it's not as deep as...for the sake of argument, Germany. The Bundesliga is statistically the second most competitive league in the world, behind Spain's La Liga.

FC Bayern München is the best team in Germany and they've been for a long time, especially over the course of the last six years. Half of the German national team is currently playing or played there. They're competitive, they sign the best players, they develop the best players, and in turn, they produce World Cup winners. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Hoffenheim are other German clubs that are just as competitive and produce an absurd amount of good German players. By the way, that guy Christian Pulisic, our best player, plays for Dortmund.

So the plan for U.S. Soccer? Completely rework this godforsaken system. It doesn't matter who it is that gets elected (I'd like to see either Eric Wynalda or Hope Solo) as president, they have to know that they need to get rid of the pay-to-play system. They need to get every soccer league in the country on the same page. This means that youth leagues need to spill into regional leagues and regional leagues into the American Soccer League and then the MLS and so on and so forth. They need to spend time scouting the right players. We need to become more competitive. I know we have the players and the skills. Hopefully we'll be back in the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and hopefully, before I die, I'll get to see the stars and stripes win the damn thing.

Can we copy Germany? Yeah, we can. It's going to require intelligence, time, and a little money (or a lot).

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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