Blank Page

When the author is writing a story, he must constantly go back to the blank page and fill it in. One of my most entertaining teachers I had at St. Francis University, who referred to himself as The D-Man, had written a few books in his time – including the textbook for his class. As a fully tenured professor on the brink of retirement, he had a story or two to tell and class typically went off on a tangent or two.

One of my favorite stories that he told was about meeting President Ronald Reagan. I may get some of the little details wrong here, but it was when he was a young professor at an Ivy League school and Reagan was coming to give a speech. My teacher knew he would be meeting the president, so he began building up the moment in his mind and trying to think of what to say to show his appreciation and admiration. What came out was “Hey Ron, I’m the D-Man!”

And then he did this...

And then he did this…

Students were always trying to pick his brain for interesting stories or advice from him…or sometimes they were just trying to waste time in class. Students interested in stroking his ego and getting some brownie points (me) would ask him about his books. This was a topic he was always happy to talk about. It’s nothing he said about his books specifically that stuck with me, but rather what he said about writing a book. He said something to the effect of “you come to the page and you write one word, and then another, and then another…and then you do that again”.

I am doing what you might call a creativity program with my sister, Clare, called “The Artist’s Way”. Similar to what the D-Man said, the Artist’s Way stresses “showing up at the page”. Whether you are a writer, a poet, a painter, a screenwriter, designer, musician, etc… you have to be willing to show up at the page or the canvas and let yourself fill it.

I have the chance to “show up at the virtual page” every time that I write a new blog. What I find in the process is that I show up with a general idea of what I’ll write, but then the post takes on a life of it’s own. Then, when it’s finished, I sometimes sit back and say “Wow, where did all those ideas come from?”

For instance, I remember one of my posts from last year called “The Missing Ball“. I came to the page planning on writing little update about how I had lost a ball while training and ended up writing quite a bit about No-Shave November…and the humility I suffer from my lack of ability to participate in it. Like untended facial hair, a blog can often take on a life of it’s own as well.

Not acceptable

Not acceptable

Getting out on the field and playing soccer is an incredibly similar process. The pitch is the blank canvas, the empty page. You have to take the chance to show up. Then the game takes on a form of its own and you get to impress your unique talents upon the outcome. The more pages you fill, the more comfortable you get with the process and the more you can develop and improve. It’s when you don’t get the chance show up on the page when things get frustrating.

So, after being back at Hungerford Town for the last few weeks, I did get the chance to play in two games. In the first game, in a single elimination tournament, we played a team a league below called Bishop’s Cleeve. I played for about the last 25 minutes and did quite well, although we had already essentially won the game when I entered the match at 3-0. I played on the right wing and nearly got a goal. We won the game 4-0 in the end in a comfortable performance. It was nice to get a run out since I hadn’t played for a few weeks since my return from the Thatcham Town loan which I mentioned.

The next game, we played in another local Cup/Tournament against a team in a lower division called Whitchurch United FC. I got to play 90 minutes in central midfield and did well. We ended up dominating and winning the game, but we only managed to score 1 on the night. It felt good to get a full game. I was able to successfully fill the canvas, but not having played a complete game in a while, it wasn’t my most fluent and impressive display.

Having only had these two opportunities to play and signs of more chances on the horizon, despite solid performances, I requested to go back out on loan. I really need to get a significant stretch of games to find some consistent form and rhythm in my game. I need more chances to show up at the page and improve my confidence and my ability to influence and dictate the pages that I play a part in. At this point, If I’m not getting the chance to even show up, then I won’t get anywhere.

Therefore, I’m back out on loan at a club in the division below called Fleet Town FC. So far they have really been struggling this season. They are second to last in their league and haven’t won in about two months, so my work was cut out for me. It was an exciting and yet difficult challenge to try to help them get their season back on track. My first game with them was last Saturday. We ended up tying 0-0 against a mid-table side called Evesham United. I played full 90 minutes and if the game was a piece of music, it would have resembled a heavy metal rave, rather than a classical concerto. In other words, it was a bit of a battle and far from the prettiest, most technical game I’ve played in.

Calthorpe Park - Home of Fleet Town FC. The slope on this pitch from end to end is so drastic that it effects tactics considerably.

Calthorpe Park – Home of Fleet Town FC. The slope on this pitch from end to end is so drastic that it effects tactics considerably.

While it was a good start, seeing as we didn’t lose, I know that personally I have much more to offer and I’m looking forward to the next game! I’ve recently come to enjoy, and even crave, coming back to the blank page and impressing myself upon whatever unfolds. So, now I have an itch to walk out onto the pitch again as soon as possible and to take one stride at a time, just as the artist takes one stroke at a time. In this way, I will consistently create new work and eventually, I will have my masterpiece.

Until next time, don’t be afraid to face the blank page. Write a word and you are on your way.




Give a man a Cookie…

A wise man once said that the way to a man’s heart it through his stomach.

Another wise man once said give a man a cookie and keep him happy for a minute, teach a man to cookie and keep him happy forever. This man was apparently so busy being wise, that he didn’t have time to write his name down for our admiration.

One day, I had an intense craving for a nice warm homemade chocolate chip cookie (yes ladies, sometimes us guys need a chocolate fix too) and since none of my lovely sisters were around to oblige me, I was very unhappy. Let’s face it, none of us want to be unhappy. This, of course, meant that I had to learn how to make them. So, I emailed home with the urgent subject line “TEACH ME HOW TO COOKIE!?”

Apparently, there is actually a cookie dance! Amazing what you can find on the internet these days:

My kind sister Mary was nice enough to send me the complete idiots guide to baking cookies. What I essentially learned is that cookies are so good because they are basically made up of sugar, butter and as many chocolate chips as you see fit…surprise, surprise!

Now, whether it’s driving or putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea, we all know that men are often too stubborn to ask for or follow directions. I am certainly more than guilty of this…and proud of it. On the other hand, our female counterparts, often find it easier to ask for or follow directions without hurting their pride.

Sounds about right

Sounds about right

I’ve noticed; however, all this turns on it’s head when it comes to baking/cooking. I am lost, scared, and hopeless without some recipe or directions to follow, whereas, my sisters and my mom seem to effortlessly whip up all sorts of delicious goodness without a single guideline.

Inevitably, after living on my own, I’ve gotten fed up (no pun intended) with frozen pizzas, pasta, and bacon, so I’ve tried to make some improvements on my cuisine. I’m happy to say improvements are being very slowly made…or, in other words, I can now eat what I cook.

Despite the little I’ve come to learn about cooking and baking, I’ve realized that it’s not an exact art – even on one of those really brutal cooking shows, like Top Chef. Sure, there are general guidelines given to provide a certain structure to the competition, but even with all the same ingredients, the cooks come up with wonderfully varied dishes.

Once you get to now the general patterns in food, then you can experiment and develop different things from there. It’s just like colors. There are a few primary set’s of colors that all artists draw from and mix together to create a huge amount of other colors and tints to please the eye. It’s about knowing which colors go together to make new and exciting colors and, likewise, which foods and tastes go together to create new and exciting dishes to please the palate.

This makes me think that more men would be willing to cook if they knew they didn’t have to ask for directions!

Do you want to know what else cooking is like? Yes, you guessed it: soccer. There are a few ingredients and basic principles that give a backbone to the entire sport. The “staple foods”, so to speak, which include things like players, a ball, goals, etc…. Out of those staples of the game come an endless number of outcomes; different formations, different styles and so on. Hundreds of thousands of unique players throughout the game, mixed together to make thousands of teams; each with their own special flavor.

Spain has it’s “Tiki Taka” quick passing game that simultaneously dulls and tires the opponent until the opening presents itself and they pounce at just the right moment with a clinical execution and finish.

Classic Tiki Taka in the video below:

Germany has recently developed it’s game into a high pressing, energetic and exciting brand of football; with the purpose of overpowering the opponent with constant surges of pressure and precision. How distinctly German.

English football is known for it’s relentless pace, energy, and physicality and it’s inability to score penalty kicks when it really matters.

Brazil are historically notorious for using their wonderful flair and trickery to beat the opponent. The coined the term Joga Bonito after all (The beautiful game). They, along with many of the South American countries, are also streetwise footballers, meaning that they find clever ways to bend the rules as well. This is actually meant to be a compliment not a criticism.

It’s a pleasure to watch:

In the past, Italy was famous for it’s “Catenaccio” football, which focused on defending strongly at all costs. Nowadays, these tactic are lauded as boring and “anti-football” by purists, but the value of a strong defensive unit is invaluable in modern football, nonetheless.

All these are different versions of the same game, with the same ingredients and the same guidelines. Maybe that’s why we like sport so much, because just like painting, cooking, or writing it is an art form with an infinite number of possible outcomes. We are entranced with the variety of these outcomes and can be inspired by them as well. I guess that’s why we call it the beautiful game.

Clearly, the next logical conclusion to make here is that great managers/coaches are essentially great Chefs. Try telling that to the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola, current manager of Bayern Munich, who are considered by many the best club team in the world. They might take as a complement of course, but they would probably miss the point.

SEE! I told you he was a great Chef

SEE! I told you he was a great Chef

What they are good at; however, is being able to mix the right ingredients together in the form of players and tactics. The reason it can be so hard to do is that sometimes ingredients have a bad attitude and talk back – imagine if that happened in the kitchen!

On the other side of the coin, as a player, you want to become an ingredient that can make any dish a bit better…you know, like bacon. Every player wants to be the bacon on the team. The bacon is more often than not, the MVP. The guy that stands out. However, you can’t have a team with just bacon and the best chefs know that. You also need those players that are the steak, the potatoes, and the greens. The standard and foundation to a team, the core. These players are a constant and rarely hurt the team, whereas, we all know that bacon is not always good for you.

Well, that’s Cooking for Soccer 101 in a nutshell. I hope it provided you with some enlightenment about the beautiful game and some of it’s intricacies.

I’ll admit there’s a bit of a stereotype here as well, because I know there are plenty of wonderful male chefs. I just happen to know far more who are not.

The important thing; however, is that you all know that I can now make myself a mean Chocolate Chip Cookie. I still won’t invite you over for the main course, but you’re welcome to dessert.

The proof is in the pudding

The proof is in the pudding

Until the next meal, go head first.



The Light Side

I apologize if you read the title to this post and immediately thought “oh yes, the opposite of the Dark Side. Why is he going to write about Star Wars”. Well, I’m not. Although, now that I have said that, I remember just the other day seeing that there has been an official date announced for the movie release of the 7th installment of the epic Star Wars series.



I don’t remember the date exactly, but it’s irrelevant to the conversation we are about to have here.

This announcement has me a little bit excited, I must admit. I’ll even go so far as to say, it’s given me A New Hope.

Why, you ask? Well, it can’t get any worse, can it? I think we can all agree, that the last couple of films weren’t quite up to snuff; particularly when compared to the epic original trilogy…and to some critics that might be putting it lightly. So, as they say, “it can only go up from here!” This is such a great positive way of thinking isn’t it. Typical glass half full mentality. Move past being ashamed and get on with it.

Things often happen when playing football that can be quite similar. Moments where you can only smile and laugh at the situation. Moments where The Empire Strikes Back, so to speak (alright maybe that’s a stretch, but it will get worse before it get’s better). These moments are what we will refer to here as The Light Side.

The classic light side example is what I have come to know as The Sniper. Essentially, what happens is that the someone is running at a gallop all alone and they proceed to trip and fall over – usually to the delight of all, but particularly the delight any opposing fans who might be around. It is quite comical, especially when performed to a high standard. It’s as though…wait for it…someone used the force to make them trip. And, of course, for those of you who don’t believe in the force, the sniper imagery works well too (minus the gore – usually).

Look, we all know that it’s funny until someone get’s hurt, then it’s hilarious! Well, that is sometimes true in footie as well. It’s terrible to say, but sometimes you can’t help but laugh when a guy gets hit in his groin area. This sounds so bad, I know, but I promise I only laugh as I’m running over to check he’s going to be alright. Once I was playing and the same guy was on the receiving end of this cruel punishment twice in the matter of 10 minutes. He had only just recovered and returned to the game! It was, indeed, an unfortunate case of The Return of the Jedi (I warned you it would get worse).

There are also crunching tackles that at times send someone flying, especially smaller players…like myself. This is sometimes called getting “bodied”, or “weighted”, and more often that not leads to shouts and jibes of the “Get in the gym!” variety. Vain attempts at trickery can also be met with the inevitable shouts of glee and abuse! I once had a teammate go for a flying overhead kick, which he missed terribly and proceeded to fall awkwardly on his head. It looked bad, but after our immediate concerns were alleviated, the laughter commenced and we didn’t let him forget it for quite a while.

Miss-kicks, in general, are very common Light Side moments. Whether it’s someone missing the ball completely, or someone hitting a shot so poorly that a it goes out on the sideline rather than the end line, these events are always met with jibes from all quarters. The equipment can even play it’s role in providing a laugh at times. I’ve seen people – and, in some cases, been the guy – who get caught in nets, run into posts, slips on cones, or pokes themselves with a corner flag.

In one training session, a team of mine was using these training poles as markers. The poles are about 4-5 feet tall and can be used for just about anything from a goal to field markers. On this particular day, we were using them as opponents for a shooting drill. We essentially had to touch the ball around these poles and have a shot. In a matter of 15 minutes, we had broken three of them! After the first two broke the manager was getting annoyed and questioned our clumsiness, but when someone stepped back onto and broke a third minutes later, no one could avoid a good laugh.

Although there are special cases where it is in fact the human.

The Phantom Menace that haunts all players in the game, is the own goal. There are two types of own goals. Those that are clearly incidental (for instance, a shot that is going wide deflects off of a defender’s body to go in) and those that appear intentional. One day in training we were working on our free kicks; one team attacking and one defending. On one of the plays the ball came loose and one of the defenders emphatically smashed the ball home into the goal, and raised his fist triumphantly. We all looked at him as if he were crazy and the bewildered and irritated coach asked him what the hell he was doing? He legitimately thought he was on the attacking team. Yea, maybe the Attack of the Clowns!

After the coach berated him for his lack of focus, we all had a good laugh at him and will enjoy chatting about that moment for years to come!

Pardon the slight overuse of Youtube on this particular post, but the plethora of ridiculous videos is too easy to get my hands on and so amusing. Little bloopers like this happen quite often on the field, sometimes they are caught on camera, and other times they aren’t. Frequently, they are “had to be there” moments, so I apologize if that is the case for some of my stories here.

The main point; however, is that there is plenty to laugh about despite all the Dark Sides of football. Kind of just like life, I guess. If you can’t appreciate these moments, then chances are you’ll be a pretty miserable person.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to sneak in the last Star Wars title into my post, so here you are: “Revenge of the Sith”!

Had to fit that in somewhere.

All the best, and don’t forget to appreciate the light side of life.

Peace, Sean Solo.