Guilt set in late Thursday afternoon as I sat watching the second of three televised professional football games. The Thanksgiving meal had been hours ago. Part of my brain was telling me I needed to take advantage of the down time and get a little exercise, but the other side was winning in saying “Just rest.” Finally, I gave in to the proper call and said, “Who wants to go out and get some exercise?” It was, after all, a nice day to be outside.
One of the more ambitious in the crowd suggested a pick-up soccer game, but I had to pass. It was a little more exercise than I wanted at that time.
A lot of people get the wrong idea about soccer and you really have to go to a game to get a complete understanding if you’re not playing. It may seem like they run a little and stand around a lot. That’s not really what is going on. The good ones are always moving, anticipating where the ball may be going. There’s not a lot of standing around going on, even by the golakeeper/netminder.
I had the chance to really watch the Bartow boys soccer team in a recent match. This year’s team has already been on the field for a few chilly nights. They’ve already had to play some very tough opponents, both home and away. Some of the teams have players that have been teammates for many years. A good boys soccer program in Polk County can hold its own against programs in nearly any other part of the state. A win in Polk County means something.
The junior varsity usually hits the field at 6 p.m. With the time change, it’s already dark, so these games are being played under the lights. There are rare occasions when the JV stays home (one of those is tomorrow night when the varsity goes it alone at George Jenkins). A doubleheader night sees games at 6 and 7:30, but when the varsity plays without the JV, games start at 7 p.m.
The junior varsity sets the pace for the night. Varsity players watch the first half of the JV game before heading off to do their own prep. The varsity players watch closely. You can learn the opponents tendencies, even though it will be a different squad. Most programs are tightly connected, JV and varsity. There could be a game night advantage showing itself to those who are watching.
When the JV game is over, the players usually stick around. A couple may end up being the sideline ball boys while others support the varsity or view the game knowing there may be another chance to face this opponent.
These players don’t have the large enthusiastic crowds that follow football, basketball and the like. They do draw strength from the small but supportive crowds that turn out to support and enjoy the games. The work being done on the field is unpredictable as plays develop. Long passes lead to connections that lead to breakaways. A one-on-one with the opposing goalie is a tense moment. A scramble for the rebound adds to the excitement. There is plenty of emphasis put on scoring, but the play by the defenders and midfielders can be equally important without ever becoming a statistic on a score sheet. The work in making a play from start to finish can be unnoticed by those who are not students of the game. Those who understand the intricate nature of the game appreciate the good plays and recognize those that could have been better. Those who view soccer as full field kickball have a little learning to do in order to completely appreciate the game.
Next time you get an opportunity to see a soccer game, try watch it from a tactical position, from a position of anticipation. The different viewpoint will open up enlightenment into a sport that can be very challenging by more than just the amount of running that must be done. It can introduce you to the art of soccer and how success can come through preparation, hard work, commitment and dedication. You’ll soon see that elements like position and possession play key roles and how the players make their own opportunities.
Those opportunities to learn start tonight as Bartow hosts Lake Region. There are three home games in December and two more in January. Road trips aren’t that far either and the team always welcomes support when they take to an enemy pitch.
The 2012-2013 boys soccer program is under the direction of varsity coach Matt Cooper, assisted by Shawn Fitzgerald and JV coach David C. Turley. Members of the varsity squad are seniors Caleb Brooks, Andrew Hamm, Jordon Hicks and Chad Thompson. Junior squad members include Ignacio Contreras, Jose Martinez, Josbel Rodriguez, Roman Sierra and Christian Stowers. There are eight sophomores including Kevin Craig, William Gibson, Austin Guthrie, Zach Hastings, Dale Lutton, Alex Montes, Christian Torquemada and Nikolas Trejo. The lone freshman is Nathan Sipe.
The junior varsity team is made up of Khristian Anderson, Jason Blackwelder, Daniel Camacho, Vawuen Cairo-Lajares, Sami Chehaib, Ryan Daniels, Jesus Dominguez, Ethan Eichar, Benjamin Hamm, Austin Inclema, Mason Jones, Dorian Lorente, Andrew McCoy, Kani McGarr, Erick Mesa, Nathan Pandolfi, Christian Rosario, Tyler Scott, Jose Vanegas and Yannick Young.