Training

It’s a little backwards. Joining a team and then playing games immediately, without any team training sessions. Like taking the test before doing the homework. I always hated those classes where the teacher made you take a test at the beginning of the semester/year “to see how knowledgeable you were on the subject” – often read: “to see how much of an ignoramus you were”. Ok, I admit, my analogy is slightly faulty. There is one pretty significant difference here. If you are given a test before a class, you are expected to fail. On the other hand, if you are given a game before a training session and you fail then you may have lost your chance to get into the training session. As a trialist, you are expected to know your stuff. Imagine if classes were like that…I wouldn’t have made it through home-schooling.

Me taking the pre-class test!

Let me be clear here, games are what players love the most. However, training plays a key role in success, which leads to greater enjoyment of games. Preparation is an important factor, both on a team level and a personal level. On a personal level, I have been staying as fit as possible and as sharp as possible on my own. I think I might write an entire post on that subject alone…don’t get too excited. However, nothing I can do by myself can replicate practicing with the team I am playing on.

Let’s use another analogy. I have worked in construction for a number of years. In another life, I could see myself being an architect. Although, I’m sure the things I designed wouldn’t be called infrastructure, but rather infrailstructure. Anyway, you don’t just build a house by ordering loads of wood, piping, electrical supplies, toilets and then start hammering and screwing it all together. No, you follow a blue print that has been designed through hard work, trial and error, and maybe, if the office is a rough place, blood, sweat and tears. The blue print is the unified goal you are working towards. It is beating your biggest rival, it is winning a cup or championship. The blue print represents what you are doing and how you are doing it. The workers on the construction site; the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, each with different skill set resemble the players; the defenders, the midfielders, and the strikers (note: the defenders are plumbers because it’s their job to clean ***t up at the back). They all come together to build the house or to lift the cup. In construction it is called a blueprint. In a sport you can call it whatever you like, the goal, the objective – the idea is the same.

It would be done, but I had to go to training.

What does all this nonsense have to do with training? Well, training is where the blueprint is laid out, usually by the coach/manager, for everyone to see. Then as the season goes on, like the house being built, the blueprint is formed into something real, not just theoretical, not just a piece of paper. The blueprint can be tweaked from time to time if necessary. There are always unforeseen consequences; like weather, injuries, and even mistakes. We are only human. You adapt at every training session. You go back to the blueprint and see how it can be improved. It’s the search for perfection that I talked about in a previous post. The blueprint is the guide leading to perfection. Training re-aligns your goals with the blueprint. You focus on your task within the design. The less you go back to the design, the less you understand it and know its intricacies. In the end, this leaves you with a shoddy house or a shipwrecked season.

In case you didn’t guess, I had my first training session today with Albion. For an amateur team down in non-league football playing two games a week can be difficult enough for guys with other jobs and often families. It’s tough to fit in practices. However, after our cancellation in the midweek game and a by-weekend for us in the league, we wouldn’t be coming together as a team for 9 days. Alas, a training session today to review the blueprint. Re-align goals. Get everyone on the same page.

Successful? Well, yes and no. Every training session has value.

Seeing a Saturday afternoon off in the schedule at this point in the season is like getting a free trip to the Bahamas…too good to be true! Contrary to prior belief, this was actually the case. So, many of the players had made plans in advance of the day. Needless to say, there was not a full turnout to the last minute training session. We ended up with 10 players and the manager and the coach were appropriately frustrated. As was I, considering I was hoping for a chance to gel a little bit with all my teammates. It is easier to gel with players in training because it is more of a learning environment. You can stop, ask questions, and get a better overall idea of how they are all trying to play the game. As I said at first, the training is the homework. The game is the test – you don’t learn as well in a test.

Having said that, training with 10 people is far better than training with 1 – my M.O. the past few weeks. After all, it’s a team game. We ended up making the best of it, as is best to do in these cases. Most of the session was made up of variations of a possession game focused on moving the ball from one side to the other. We also focused on the defensive side of things, where we focused on staying tight and compact, so that the ball could not be played through us. I won’t bore you with anymore details, but I will say I am in desperate need of practicing my distance game. For me this includes any balls hit over 30 yards, with a special highlight on crossing and shooting (both of which are hard to do on your own!).

As always, the important thing is that I got to play! Blessed.

That’s that!

PS. On further thought, I decided that forwards and midfielders both have qualifications as plumbers. The strikers must create openings in clogged up defenses and midfielders have to keep the game flowing. Who woulda thunk, footballers are all just plumbers in disguise.

Don’t be afraid to dive in head first (unless its into the sewage)

Seano

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Pic of the month! Sept 2012

I’ve decided each month I am going to pick a pic that I like and share it on my blog! It will most likely be a soccer shot, but if I find something that I really like on a different topic, it will get the vote. I’ll also try to give you a little information about the picture’s background, including who or what’s in it and why I like it.

I will make it diverse as possible…in other words, I’ll make sure its not always of a Manchester United player, or something biased like that! Don’t worry I will refrain from putting up any pictures off me flexing my calves as well!

The picture this month is actually what gave me the idea in the first place. It is a shot of my old Saint Francis University teammate Wayne posted to facebook. Here you go:

Wayne-kwondo!

Impressive! I know. Wayne is a remarkable athlete. He’s a small fellow, but could probably jump over himself with ease, if that were possible. On top of that, he’s one of those players who is so fast that you have to foul him while you can still touch him if you want any chance at all. He sneaks up on big defenders and swipes the ball off of them before they even knew he was there. Not to mention he can score a good few goals as well.

Now, in reference to this picture in particular, I have no idea how he ended up on this guys shoulders? It looks more like Jackie Chan move than anything, which makes it even sweeter. I can’t imagine the opponent would have been expecting a sweaty groin in his face when he woke up this morning. But hey, when was life ever predictable. Not that I care, I’m a SFU fan, so more power to you Wayne! Thanks for the pic.

Let me know what you think about pic of the month?!?!

God bless and don’t be afraid to dive in head first (unless it’s into a sweaty groin like this guy).

Seano

Getting Some Games

What’s more English than a spot of football? Well, from what I’ve seen its rain and tea.

Stereotypical, I know!

Only the football for me please.

I came to England to play, simple as. Well, I am playing. I recently started playing with an amateur team called Albion Sports in Bradford. They play somewhere down in the large pyramid that is English non-league football. The league is officially called the Northeast Counties Eastern League. I have played 2 games with the team so far and it has been great to get back out on the field again.

For those of you interested, here is a link to the team’s website: http://albionsports.co.uk/seniors/ you can check results and see when our upcoming games are to be played. Also here is a link to the league website where you will find the standings http://www.barisncel.co.uk/tables/long/2012/ we are currently sitting in 4th place.

The first game that I played in was at home at Horsfall stadium. We played a team called Cleethorpes Town, from the East Coast. The final result was 4-0, and to be honest it may have been a little harsh of a scoreline for the opposition. Having said that, we deserved to win. We were far more clinical in the final third and limited them to few opportunities. Throughout the game, however, there were periods where they pressured high and we struggled to retain the ball. For about 20 minutes in the beginning of the 2nd half, we didn’t get the ball out of our half for any sustained period of time. We scored 2 goals in the first half and 2 in the last 20 mins when they began to tire. The first goal came off of a long ball and our center forward got hold of it on the right side of the box before cutting back and smashing it home with his left foot. The 2nd and 4th goals were scored off of thumping headers from corner kicks and the 3rd was scored off a well taken 1 time strike from a cross on the left. Overall, we played smart, absorbed pressure when we needed to and scored at critical times. We were not able to necessarily play pretty football, due to Cleethorpes’high pressure, but we adapted and made them pay for their mistakes – particularly marking on set pieces.

I played on the right wing of a 4-3-3 in this game. I have not played in a competitive game in a few months and it showed, I lacked a bit of sharpness from the start. It was also my first time playing with the team and I struggled at times to read some of my new teammates. These are all things that will come once I get a few more games in me and I am confident I can have more of an impact in future games. I came out after 65 minutes.

A few notes on the game from the team website:

http://albionsports.co.uk/albion-sports-did-themselves-a-power-of-good-with-a-4-0-home/

http://albionsports.co.uk/albion-sports-4-cleethorpes-town-0/

Here is a picture of the home stadium:

Horsfall stadium – Also home to Bradford Park Avenue of the Blue Square Premier Conference North.

The second game I played was away to Dinnington Town. Dinnington is about 1 hour south of Bradford just near Sheffield. We won the game 3-2. It was one of those games were you don’t focus on the performance and just leave with the three points. I started again at right-wing and played another 60 minutes roughly. My performance was slightly improved, but I still didn’t have the cutting edge I am looking for.

After dominating the first half, we only had 1 goal to show for it. We should have been up by more. We then let Dinnington get back into the game a little bit in the second half. Even after we scored our second, through a wonderful 1 time volley from the right back, we didn’t have control of the game. They scored 2 quick goals around the 80th minute to tie the game up, one off of a PK and one from a series of poor clearances. It was our right-back who came to the rescue again as he capitalized off of a good run and cross from one of our subs. We walked away with the W, but knew that we needed improvement. Here is some more info on the game: http://albionsports.co.uk/cook-dishes-up-three-points-for-albion-sports/

Dinnington Town’s Home Ground – bumpier than it looks.

Our next game was supposed to be played at home versus Pontefract Colleries (To me this sounds like a type of exotic dog breed) on the Wednesday the 26th; but after a three day downpour throughout most of England, it was decided that we weren’t a water polo team and the game was cancelled. Cancellations can be very frustrating for a player, you prepare mentally and physically for a game and then it doesn’t happen and it throws you off a little bit. Then you have to change momentum and get some good training in instead. However, its terribly un-motivating to have to put in hard work behind the scenes when you were excited and mentally prepped for a game day. It’s like having to go to the office, when you had been planning to take a client to the golf course. It becomes very hard to get work done and it takes twice as much energy to be productive. So, instead I’m writing this post…

I will keep you updated on games in the future. I am confident that this team can keep winning, there are some good players and the level is competitive. While we keep to our winning ways, I am focused on improving my game individually.

We may be playing the postponed game this weekend, but if not our next scheduled fixture is a WRCC Cup game against Farsley AFC on Tuesday the 2nd of October. Farsley is another local team, located between Bradford and Leeds. They are a few leagues ahead of us and it will be a good challenge for all of us. I am looking forward to the experience of my first Cup game and see it also as a good chance for exposure.

The WRCC is the West Riding County Cup. It is a regional competition for local clubs. Farsley is a semi-finalist from last year and will surely be itching to go a step further this year. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen. Albion was knocked out in the 2nd round last year after losing to penalties. You can find more information about the Cup here http://www.westridingfa.com/cups/2012-2013

Until the next kick about, God Bless you all and don’t be afraid to dive in head first!

Seano

The Wedding

Remember in my last post when I talked about non-words-that-should-be-words. One of my favorites is “parent-noid”: when you think your parents are worrying to much.

However, I recently experienced something to the opposite effect. When I was home for my sister’s wedding, my parents were strangely calm; which was contradicts everything that I’ve heard about weddings. We were doing most of the preparations for the 300+ person wedding reception by ourselves; which included food, set up, building a dance floor, a stage, a cake, and of course a cruise ship (well sort of). On top of that my mom essentially remade the wedding dress too. In light of all of this, I expected to come home, less than 36 hours before the wedding, to utter chaos! Things were pretty calm. No one was “parent-noid”. However, I will admit chaos did ensue in the hours prior to the wedding.

It was an outdoor wedding, with no tent, and despite a week of lovely weather prior, the clouds were threatening to open up that day. We had to cover up all the tables with plastic in the last minute and left the hired servers to make final preparations. While we were inside the church witnessing the beautiful vows, it proceeded to pound down with rain in torrential fashion. In the end the rain stopped and we were able to go on with the plan, the reception and dinner was a little delayed and the ground was a little soggy.

In the end, the most important thing was of course that my beautiful sister Clare, who was a perfect bride, was happily married to her new husband Peter…we like Peter too, though he was not quite as beautiful. The party was great, but as the hosts, we felt like some things could have been done better, partly due to the rainstorm and partly due to lack of planning. I think we must have provided enough booze to cover up the flaws, because reports were excellent and everyone had a wonderful time.

Here are some of the photos.

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So, this is where I find a way to connect a wedding reception to a game of football/soccer. No, the booze was not the only similarity! Helping host the wedding reminded me of coming off the field after a successful game, where the team wins and you are MVP (in this case my Mom and Dad, not me). The fans, like the guests at the party, are pleased and singing the praises of yourself and the team (my family). Yet, you still walk off the field knowing that you could have been better. Any player worth his salt will always look back on a game and know it was not perfect. In a way, every successful footballer has to be a perfectionist. If not they would not bother going to training and working hard to improve.

I remember one of my coaches once gave a speech on a similar theme . I don’t remember the details exactly, but the idea was that he had just finished a wonderful game, where they had beaten a big rival and he had scored the all important goal. Everyone was happy, but then his Dad came up to him and gave him no praise. He merely told him that he missed a chance that he should have buried and it would have put the game away. The point being that there is always room for improvement. Don’t be happy with good enough. Learn from mistakes. Always look to improve.

Take a quick look at Messi and Ronaldo. Imagine if they had been satisfied with their first record breaking season. Well, they would have likely faded into obscurity by now. However, they kept working and broke their own records time and again. Now they are considered among the best to ever play the game. They looked at themselves and they knew they could be better and they continue to do so. The feeling of a good performance is an athletes cocaine, it is addicting. Players are constantly looking for a better high. Yes, I’m saying Ronaldo, Messi, and I should go to rehab together.

In a way perfection has no limits. I think this translates to anything in life. In my experience working construction, it is the same way. If I build a house or a piece of furniture, I know all of its flaws. I know which room is not square, which window is crooked, and which floor tile is just off-color. However, when I look at my sisters lovely artwork, I focus on the beautiful landscape or the detailed texture, but my sister can’t take her eyes off the the smallest smudge or error.

In the end, the wedding reminded me that in order for me to be a successful footballer I need to be my own harshest critic. Of course I don’t mean that I will be severely negative about everything. There are always positives and the positives need to be realized and built upon. However, being an honest critic of yourself can be very helpful. Not only can it lead to improvement of a skill – in my case soccer – but it can also improve your humility, which can always use improvement in the sports world.

When I woke up in the morning after the wedding (alright afternoon) with an empty stomach and a swollen head, there was yet another lesson to learn. It was just like after I wake up from a game, but it’s usually a swollen ankle, or knee, not the head. I, a little begrudgingly, was obliged to help with the terrifying job of cleaning up. I can’t tell you how much trash there was. If it didn’t qualify as a mountain, it was definitely a hill. I wish I could share a picture, but it didn’t seem memorable enough to take one at the time. In any case, I spent a large part of that day cleaning up from the awesome wedding. This reminded me that no matter how bad you feel the day after a game, or a party, there is always still work to do. You can’t sit around feeling bad for yourself because you have a sore ankle, pinky toe, ass-cheek, or head. You have to start fixing yourself up so you can be prepared to doing it all over again (yes 12 more siblings = 12 more parties).

Leave it to me to turn a wedding into thoughts about soccer! Maybe the blog should be called no-brain footballer instead? Sorry Clare, but i did think about you and your happiness a little too. In reparation, I am dedicating this post to you and Peter.

I must also note that this is a little deceiving. I am taking way to much credit for the wedding. My parents were the gracious hosts and put in way more work than me, both before and after I came and left. There were also many other people who were incredibly more helpful than me. I’m just making the biggest fuss and the biggest critic!

Anyway, if you have some more thoughts to add or more likely want to tell me I’m an imbecile, please oblige yourself. But thanks for reading.

God Bless you all and don’t be afraid to dive head first.

Seano

Beginnings

Ok, so I moved to England…ok.

So, England…ok.

I’ve actually first got here about a month ago, but was home for about 4-5 days for my sister’s wedding (which was awesome), and spent about 2 days traveling back and forth (which was not). In that time, I have got the chance to do some pretty cool things already. However, its a bit different coming here and planning on staying as opposed to visiting, so I haven’t done too much in the way of sightseeing and touristing. I know touristing is not a word, but it should be…I know we all have our favorite non-words-that-should-be-words.

So, England. I am currently staying with some relatives of mine just north of the Bradford/Leeds area. They are my Dad’s cousins and are thus my first cousins once removed and their children are my second cousins. They have been absolutely incredible hosts for me thus far and I can’t thank them enough. I have a host of other relatives nearby and throughout the country that I have both met and who I am looking forward to meeting. I have a rich family history from this area, which makes it even more exciting to be here. My grandmother (another person, I can’t thank enough) was born in Bradford and her brothers and sisters grew up here. Her father, my great grandfather, was actually a Bradford City (who were in the premier league not to long ago) player back in his day and so I hope he can give me a little extra inspiration as well! I got to go to a Bradford City game just a few days after I arrived here. It was great, they have a great stadium and ended up winning 5-1 on the day vs AFC Wimbledon.

Bradford City game at "Valley Parade"

Bradford City game at “Valley Parade”

"Valley Parade" - Home of the Bantams

“Valley Parade” – Home of the Bantams

Geographically speaking, Bradford and Leeds are only about 10 miles apart, and located in Yorkshire, right where the country  starts to get skinny. Its probably about 3-4 hours away from London. See the little map below.

location of Bradford

It’s a decent location for access to teams, but then again, compared to the United States, just about anywhere in the UK is a good location for access to teams. Gone are the 12 hours bus rides up and down the east coast for games. I’ve heard complaints about 1 hour drives to away games. Please! That’s what I’m used to driving for a home game. I can’t complain.

I have spent much of my time emailing, calling and visiting clubs within access of easy public transport. Which is a large number. Most of the bigger clubs, tier 5 and higher I would say, receive somewhere from 25-500 player inquiries a week. So, needless to say, the information from an unproven American, isn’t highly likely to make it to the top of the pile without any previous recommendations. Also, I came over to the country about a month too late, since most of the teams had there rosters sorted out as the season was starting. If I had come before preseason, I would have likely had more opportunities. However, I am slowly making inroads and connections and am confident thus far.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to get out and see some things as well. I went to York which is a very historical and beautiful city. I remember the city from when me and my family visited here about 13 years ago. It is a walled City and has some structures dating back to the Romans. Yes, they also have a football team in League 2 (4th tier) called York City; I would love to get a chance with them. I went to a game, which they won 3-1 against Oxford United in a quant little 8,000ish seater stadium tucked into a neighborhood. It was a great game, in a great little atmosphere; something that is significantly lacking in the US.

Here are a few shots of York:

York River

York Minster From the Wall

York Minster from the wall

York Minster

York Minster

York City Stadium: "Bootham Crescent"

York City Stadium: “Bootham Crescent”

My only purely tourist trip was up to Durham, home to Durham Cathedral, which is one of the most impressive of its kind. It was a massively sturdy structure sitting on top of a hill on a bend in the Weir River. Very majestic and powerfull. It is located up north, almost as far as Newcastle. My cousins were going up for a day trip and generously offered to take me along. It is another very historical place, steeped in history. The castle was one of the most northern strongholds in England, or so I am told. It is also the burial place of St. Bede and St. John Cuthburt. I was able to climb to the top of the main tower and get some great views of the surrounding area, which is historically an agricultural area. It has also been made famous, in recent years because parts of the Harry Potter series were filmed here. Here are a few shots!

The Mighty Durham

The Mighty Durham Cathedral

Looking down to Durham Castle

In the tower looking down to Durham castle, which currently houses student at Durham University!

In the cloister
In the cloister, where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed

And finally! The highlight so far. Going to a Manchester United game at Old Trafford! My cousin William and I got to cheer on the the Red Devils who won 4-0 in Paul Scholes’ 600th game, and the legend himself scored the opening goal. Before the game, Antonio Valencia was given the team MVP award from last season. Although he did not feature in the game. I also missed seeing Shinji Kagawa. Fortunately, though I did get a glimpse of Van Persie out on the field for the last 20 minutes. United was slow to start in the first half, but picked up and dominated the game in the end. It was also the debut game for both Buttner and Powell, both of whom scored: The future looks RED!

The famous Stretford End

The Famous Stretford End

Sir Alex Ferguson Stand

Sir Alex Ferguson Stand

I have to thank my cousin’s husband for kindly letting us use his season tickets for the game! They were great seats!

Aside from that, playing has been my focus. I have been keeping myself as fit as possible on my own and getting used to being here. The support from everybody is what helps me through the lonely work outs.

I will do my best to write something once a week or so, probably less comprehensive than this, but just little thoughts as I go on my way or maybe analysis of a game or two. So, keep an eye out if interested.

I’d love to have feedback on this blog, or on this post in particular…please be honest!

God Bless you all and don’t be afraid to dive head first.

Seano