Getting Our Players to Watch the Game

Last spring we were having practice and there was tie during a 1v1 competition we were having. Whenever this happens I ask the players a trivia question to break the tie. This time I asked, "Name a Women's National Team player other than Abby Wambach." One of the girls blurted out, "Mia Hamm!" The other had a blank expression on her face. These were 12 year old girls. I think I would have had much the same response had I asked a similar question of a group of 12 year old boys about the Men's National Team.

With the Women's World Cup happening this summer I organized a team get together for the final. It worked out perfectly when the U.S. made the final. In the weeks leading up to the final we talked about the way the games were going and who was playing well. I asked if the girls could name one of the U.S. defenders and a couple of the girls insisted that they could name the whole starting eleven. I asked her to give it a try and she did it easily, even including some of the possible changes that Pia might make in the next game. Some of the girls then proceed to argue about who was better and should be starting. I was shocked but happy that she and her team mates had paid such close attention to the games and the players involved. We watched the game together and road the roller coaster of emotion as a group.

The World Cup created enough excitement that the girls were drawn in by it. But what is there to hold their attention now that it's over?

Our club is an Affiliate Club to Sporting KC so we organized a team outing to game. The girls were able to tour the new Livestrong Sporting Park. It's the most technologically advanced soccer stadium in the world. Everything from the Wi-Fi that covers the entire stadium to locker room chairs that measure the vital signs of the players.

Before the game started we talked about what to watch for how they should watch the players that are playing their position both with and without the ball. As I said in last weeks post, we're going to be playing a 4-3-3 as Sporting KC does. We watched Randy's video describing the defensive responsibilities but now we had the opportunity to watch a team play the same system live.

Watching my players early in the game they seemed engaged and interested. By halftime, the cell phones were coming out and more side conversations were taking place that had nothing to do with the game. Now it's very possible that I'm overestimating the attention span of 12 and 13 year olds but I was a little frustrated that they weren't paying closer attention to the game. This was a great learning opportunity and I felt like some of them were missing it.

I wonder if it would have been different if we were watching a WPS game or Women's National Team game? What if it was the Spanish Super Cup game with Real Madrid and Barca? Would any of these games have held their attention better than Sporting KC seemed to?

What can we do to make the game more relevant to them? How do we engage their imagination enough that they begin to emulate the players they see at the stadium or on Fox and ESPN?

There's no doubt that players can learn a great deal from watching the game played at the highest level. Getting the players interested in watching consistently is a challenge worth working on.

Have a Great Day!

Tom Mura

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