So there I was having a meeting with the players and all of a sudden one of them ask’s “when are we going to start a 11 a side team?”.
I stated as soon as we have 20 players which will be enough to cover for people being away on holiday and injuries when they happen (in this team, it is a lot). I thought no more about it until they handed me a list of 22 players available play.
“Well having names on a sheet of paper means nothing, tell them to turn up to the training session next Thursday and I will organise everything to get us into a competitive League.”
Thursday arrived and to tell you the truth I was a bit excited but at the same time I had some reservations. Well, 24 players turned up, it caught me out so I set about with a session and pulled players to the side to get their details as the session was progressing. Now I had the task of sorting out some games for them to play. Find some opposition that wont beat them into next week, but still give them a game to compete in.
Getting friendlies was becoming a bit of a challenge, the teams that would be seen as the same ability were two hours travelling distance away. But not being put off by a minor logistical challenge, I tried to get things organised. When I got games organised one thing or another got in the way. Transport unavailable etc.
I found out about a Friday Night League which is available in our local area, run by the County Football Association. It is £30 a week and it is a drop in and play type of League, so the teams turn up with their players go on the pitch and play a 11 a side match for an hour.
It was a challenge for the team but I put it to them, I explained to them that the teams might be above their ability but as long as we didn’t lose by to high a score and had attempts at goal it could be a good learning opportunity. They bought into it (Must be very good at persuasion techniques) and I registered the team for the League.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned but hopefully you should be able to tell by the title at the top of the page. The team I am coaching/managing is higher ability mental health and disability players.
The first game I was worried, very worried as I have put them in a league well above their ability and it was going to take some exceptional managing techniques to keep them from walking if we get a drubbing. (honesty)
The game started and the opposition were 2 – 0 up after 10 minutes, I re-jigged the side and set them to re set in positions after they lost the ball. The team settled and as the half time whistle sounded the score was only 3-0. I thought the team recovered well from a shaky start.
Half time team talk was, the players stating that the pitch was massive and the team were very good on the ball. I explained to them some basics and then stated “to be honest I was expecting us to struggle throughout, but you have recovered really well, now that you have had a reality check can we use this as a preparation exercise of getting used to playing 11 a side and get fit for when we play teams at the same ability as us. Then again if we stay in this League we are only going to get better with more games. Are you willing to put in the time? This is what you have asked for and we are now playing in a league, something, we weren’t even considering 6 weeks ago. All I want from you this half is try and play your passing game, when mistakes happen get back and support, then I want at least 3 shots at the oppositions goal.” One of the players asks what happens if we score? “that’s easy, I will take that as a win”
Well we lost 6-0 in the end, the lads push themselves above and beyond what was expected and the opposition said they had to change their game as they weren’t used to being closed down so quickly and constantly throughout the game. The team tired in the last five minutes but they all came off the pitch with a big smile, I was very happy as I was worried about us getting beat by 10+ goals.
So 6-0 sounds like a drubbing but when you look at the team and their different problems they have plus it was the first time they had played together and also most of them had only played 7 a side football. I take the whole process as a step forward and very positive. The lads and now lasses now know what is required.
Onwards and upwards.