Running with the Crushers

One runner's attempt to keep running while taking a soccer team to the 2010 AYSO National Games in Florida.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

If I didn't have bad luck . . . .

There is an old saying that seems to apply all too often.  If I did not have bad luck, I would not have any at all.  A rather bleak way to start of a post, but it seems to apply.  After spending 27 hours in a car driving down here, we got in late.  We ate dinner. We unloaded the car.  We went to sleep.  We got up the next morning and while getting a cup of coffee at the the hotel breakfast, I somehow pulled a muscle in my back.  I could feel my back getting tighter and tighter as we traveled.  Twenty seven hours in a car, sleep on bad hotel matresses, and lifting suitcases into the luggage carrier on top of the car did me in.  So, I spent the first day of vacation laying flat on my back all day.  One heck of a way to start vacation.

We made it through team check in without any major incidents.  The check in was well conceived and very organized.  It went off without a hitch.  My back was feeling alot better on day two. We went to a water park after check in.  While I skipped the water slides, I spent the better part of an hour in the lazy river with my younger kids.  Somehow it fixed my back.  I don't know if it was the warm water or stretching my back out over the tube, but it work.

Day 3 did not go nearly as well.  The team had AYSO National Games Opening Ceremonies at 5 PM on day three.  What should have been a fun event for the kids, turned out to be a cluster.  It was poorly conceived and the execution of a bad plan was even worse.  Allow me to summarize... several thousand kids herded into a fenced in tennis court made of asphalt, at 5pm (the hottest part of the day), in Southern Florida in July, without enough water, and without enough space for the kids to spread out so what breeze there was could do any good.  Did I mention, there was NO shade and they delayed the start of the event for thirty minutes?  I had the pleasure of watching two girls pass out from the excessive heat and helping them with the little water that was available.  AYSO touts itself as a child first organization.  After what I experienced on Tuesday night, I would have to say that notion is laughable.  You may think I am being harsh.  Would you still think that if you knew they delayed the start of at least the last National Games (2008) and yet they still planned on herding the kids onto asphalt courts with no shade and not enough water?

Not the greatest beginning to one's vacation.


Soccerfest is a great idea.  You take all the teams that are playing in a given division, like U-10 boys, and you mix up the teams.  You take the reconstructed teams and you let them play one another.  So, I was coaching one player from my team and fourteen players from as far away as Hawaii.  While I am a rather intense coach,as I have mentioned from time to time, I was very laid back.  We had two fun games.  We tied our first game and lost by a goal in our second.  Winning and losing at Soccerfest was really of no concern to me, I was just out to have fun.  And maybe I was paying attention to some of the players I will be facing later in the week.

It was a great learning experience.  It was surprising, all of the issues I have with my players exist with players from California, Louisana, Arizona, Chicago, and across the Country.  I also learned from one of the coaches I met that we are facing some stiff competition.  In Southwest Michigan we have a region of 700 kids.  We pulled players from U-10 boys, U-10 girls, and U-8 boys to form our team.  To play travel club or select soccer in Michigan you have to leave AYSO and join a club team.  In California, for example, a region will have about 7,000 kids, an average number in California.  Any given division  like U-10 boys will take the best forty players from the thousand plus boys in the division to play their select teams.  They then take the ten best players from their select teams to form their team for the National Games.  It was quite an eye opening conversation.

We have played select teams in the past.  We beat several during indoor soccer season and the games we lost we were in until the bitter end.  If the team shows up that took TKO to the brink, losing 6 to 5 and beat Marshall 8 to 2, then we will be fine.    If the team that lost a game at the KASI tournament shows up, we are in trouble.  I can't wait to find out which team shows up.  Bottom line, win or lose, if we play good soccer, I will be thrilled.  Wish us luck.

Go Crushers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

It has been too long.

Well it has been a while since my last post.  Between last minute fundraisers, tournaments, and my job (yes I actually have a job), there has been not time for blogging, running, or sleeping.  So where should I begin; fundraising.  I would like to thank those people I work with that donated and helped make the trip possible.  Their generousity is greatly appreciated.  We also would like to thank all those families that participated in the "It Ain't Over Yet Soccer Tournament."  It was a great weekend.  We had three groups with enough teams to have a tournament: U-10 girls, U-10 Boys, and U-14 coed.  A special thanks to those kids that stepped up from U-12 to play the U-14 teams and make that group possible.  Congratulations to those who won  and thank you to everyone who participated.  This event raised more money than any fundraiser other than the Great Tamale Sale.  I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.  Finally, I would like to thank the Kalamazoo Outrage.  They are a local club team.  They are for soccer what triple A leagues are for baseball.  We did a fundraiser with them.  They are a first rate club and offered us a great opportunity.  Kids from the region got to walk out with the players of both teams, played mini games at half time, and some were ball chasers during the game.  It was a great night.  Kids were introduced to high level soccer.  The Outrage gained some fans and the Crushers made some money.

The team played in two tournaments since my last post.  The first tournament was the KASI tournament in Kalamazoo.  We got off to a great start with two wins.  We played our best game ever scoring seven goals in a come from behind victory in our first game and won a good victory in our second.  In our next two games we lost one and tied one.  In our third game, we lost a hard fought game 1-0 to the eventual tournament champs.  While we played hard, the team from Allegan, the Orange Tigers, played a little harder and deserved the victory.  As a Brazil player, Kaka, said recently, it is not enough to be talented, you have to play hard too.  Our next tournament was a 3v3 tournament that the guys played in.  The girls decided not to enter the girls division.  We played against four travel teams.  We went 1-2-1.  We tied our last game.  It kept us out of the championship.  It was a game we could have won, but our head and our hearts just were not in the game.  We walked away with two valuable items.  First, we can compete against top level talent even when we don't play our best game.  Second, the guys got US world cup jerseys (white) for playing.  They are sweet.

Next is my running.  This is easy... what running?  I start taking my life back tomorrow.

Finally, the trip.  Lets just say it takes A LONG TIME to drive from Kalamazoo, Michigan to West Palm Beach, Florida.  I have flown here several times.  This was the first time I have ever driven.  The good Lord willing, it will be the last time.

All that is left now is the tournament.  Wish us luck.  In true Crusher form we will play hard, we will have fun, and it will be interesting. Log on and follow our tournament.  We sign in on Monday, Tuesday is Opening Ceremonies,  Wednesday is Soccerfest (more on that later), we play Thursday through Saturday, and awards on Saturday.  I can't wait, it is going to be fun!!!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Catching Up with the Crushers . . .

The Spring 2010 Revenge Tour continues.  As I have said a couple times in the past, I am not one of those touchy feely kinds of coaches who just wants to have fun.  I teach my kids to play to win.  Someone once said ( I believe it was Lombardi) \," winning isn't everything, but striving to win is."  If I had to summarize by coaching philosophy in one sentence, that is the one I would use.  So when I started setting up scrimmages this spring, I went back to all the teams we played and lost to last fall.  I have framed this spring as our Revenge Tour.  So far, so good.

The Crushers played the U-10 boys team (the Black Team).  We tied this team 2-2 last fall.  It was in that game that the wall got her name from the opposing coach.  One of the kids on the Black team lives across the street from us and is Taz's friend.  He is a good kid and a good soccer player.  So for Taz, the game was also about bragging rights for the summer.  The game started off with allot of energy.  As usual the Crushers started slow, but atleast it did not take as long for them to get going.  We have been working diligently on passing and finishing in practice.  I have even been taking time away from defense to accomplish this.  It showed both on the offensive end and on the defensive end.  Inspite of some poor defense play, we won 4-2. 

Bad news first, I always say.  The Crushers returned to some bad habits defensively.  The backs were playing too close to the goal.  They would charge the ball and fall for the simplest moves.  They were giving up the middle of the field.  Players,particularly midfielders, were standing around watching the ball, instead of guarding opposing players or attacking the ball.  The Black Team scored two goals because we played bad defense.  It will be a defensive filled practices this week.

The good news is always more fun.  The team is really starting to understand how to play the game on offense.  Blind passes (passes not directed to any particular player) and one time kicks are decreasing.  Ball control and offensive passes are increasing.  The teams still has a tendency to stand around and watch Taz, but they are getting better.  Izzy got two goals after making runs and receiving passes from Taz.  Izzy returned the favor and lead Taz with a beautiful pass that resulted in one of Taz's two goals.

I think the lesson to be learned is don't sacrifice defense to practice offense and don't sacrafice offense to practice defense.  If we, the coaches, let up on any facit of the game, the kids will loose focus and perform poorly in that area.  Balancing practice time leads to a balanced team.  In the end, they are steadly improving. I am most impressed with the improvement they have shown in their ball control skills.  Their ball control skills have improved dramitcally since last August.  I am very proud of them.

We will see you next time.  Until then . . . Go Crushers!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Who are we?

I am reposting our first entry for Running With The Crushers.  I am hoping that we will have some new people logging on.  So, I thought it would be a good idea to reintroduce ourselves.  Besides, it beats typing it over again.  I hope you enjoy reading about our team as much as I enjoy coaching them.


We are the Coed Crushers. We are an AYSO soccer team from Southwest Michigan. In July we are going to the 2010 AYSO National Games in West Palm Beach, Florida. The kids on this team are eight and nine years old. Our team is made up of six girls and five boys. We will be playing in the U-10 boys division. We have been training and fundraising since August of 2009. We are half way through our journey, and the best is yet to come. So come along with us on the first big adventure of our lives.

I am the coach of the Crushers. I wear many hats in my life: father, husband, lawyer, coach, and runner. I am adding blogger to the list for several reasons. First, I want to create a diary or journal of this event in my family's life. When I recently looked back at all we have done since August, I realized I was going to forget the great details of this adventure and I needed to find a way to record them. Second, over the last year, Steve "the runner" has been losing out. When I was looking back at 2009, I realized that while I was coaching three soccer teams, I had not run one race in 2009. I had not run a marathon for the first time in years. I had not even run a 5k. I suffered an injury to my knee playing soccer last fall, so by the end of the year I was not running at all. This has to change. I named this blog "Running with the Crushers" because I hope the weekly post will coerce me to get out the door and run. Hopefully, this blog will encourage me to reclaim the one totally selfish activity in my life. Finally, I am creating this blog for fundraising. I want to create something for those who have generously donated money or other things to our cause. I want to introduce them to the players and their families. I want the donors to see what their generosity has made possible. I also hope this blog will encourage others to donate to our cause.

This blog will focus on the team and our journey. Weekly posts will introduce the players and coaches to our readers. You will also follow the progress of the team, our wins and losses. You will follow the team to tournaments and ultimately to Florida. We will acknowledge and thank those who so generously donate to the team. You will have a front row seat from which to view my attempt in the middle of this mayhem to reclaim the title of runner. Finally, there will be Katie's posts. These posts will view our adventure through the eyes of my two year old daughter. Actually, its my wife's telling of the our story through Katie's eyes. It is a segment I hope you will all enjoy.

So, join us on our journey. It promises to be hectic, chaotic, but thoroughly enjoyable. GO CRUSHERS!

Katie's Back!

Hi everyone....I'm back.  My daddy said it has been too long since I have written.  I have decided that my daddy is nuts and soccer has made him that way.  Don't get me wrong....I love soccer.  I keep telling him that I want to play soccer like "my boys" and he is going to be my coach.  But one of these days, I think he might turn into a soccer ball or something.  Of course, that is one of the reasons I love my daddy so much.  He has taken all of this craziness on and has put his whole heart and soul into helping the big kids be better soccer players so they can kick some butt down in Florida.  (I wonder if I will get in trouble with my mommy for saying butt...  :)  )   I like watching the big kids play and it has been cool watching them win more and more games.  I like when The Terminator gets into it with the boys and takes them on and wins. She's spunky!  I like when The Wall won't let anyone by her or Pink dribbles right by them.  Dallas is the fastest girl I have ever seen.  She is even faster than my big brother, Taz!  I love when Gretta scores those goals....she may be nice, but don't mess with her.  Socks is really good too and I like the way she dresses.  She has style!  I like the boys too, but it is way past my bedtime so I will write about them next time.  Go Crushers!...Ooops that is Daddy's line.  I will have to come up with my own and make it way cuter too.
Good night all. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Running . . .Speed Workouts?

Well, getting back to running it has been an up and down experience.  I was really hoping to tell you all about my great 5K race (Borgess Run), but it was not meant to be.  In my last running post, I had just started running two miles.  I stayed at this level longer than anticipated.  For the longest time, I was feeling discomfort in my knee for the last half mile of the run.  No shooting pain or even a constant ache, it just did not feel right.  In keeping with my new conservative approach, I did not run more than two miles.

Finally, this last week I had a break through.  I ran just under three miles.  It was 2.8 according to the Garmin.  The best part is I could have kept running. Cookie (my 11 month old spaniel mix) came along for the run as well.  She is starting to get the hang of running.  She still starts out pulling, but we get into a rhythm about a half a mile in.  She definitely likes going for the runs.  If she sees me with my running clothes on, she gets excited and starts jumping around.  I think I have a new partner.

The best news was Friday's speed workout.  To get my team physically ready to play in Florida in July, we started training on the track last Friday.  We started with a half mile jog, followed by stretching.  We next did some light bounding to make sure everyone was warmed up. We headed for the bleachers for ten minutes of running stairs.  Finally, we did some sprints on the track.

I divided the team into three groups according to their fitness levels.  Group A is the run all day and all night kids.  Group C are the kids who need to work on their endurance.  Group B are the kids in the middle.  When we ran the bleachers, Group A ran two three minute repeats followed by a two minute repeat with one minute off in between.  Group B ran three two minute repeats with about two minutes rest in between.  Group C ran four one minute repeats with two minutes rest in between.

The sprints were also set up according to fitness level.  We started with four sprints.  Group C ran about 25 yards.  Group A ran 50 yard sprints.  Group B ran about 38 yard sprints.  We followed the four sprints with three more sprints where everyone ran 55 yards.  Top two finishers got to sit. I was going to make them run two 55 yard sprints, but my 5 year old son, Bulldozer, wanted to do one more.

I ran with Group A.  My lungs almost exploded, but I finished everything except the third repeat on the bleachers.  I got about a minute into the last repeat and my knee got that not right feeling so I stopped.  The rest of me spent the next several minutes thanking my knee for speaking up.  The good news, other than this discomfort, my knee felt fine during the whole workout.  I did not have any soreness in my knee the next morning.

As a last word, let me say that Dallas (see her bio in Meet the Team Postings) is a truly gifted athlete.  I knew she was fast.  I have marvelled at her speed in several post.  I learned last Friday she can maintain that speed for long periods of time.  When she was running the bleachers, she started off at a very fast pace.  Anyone who has run the bleachers knows that starting too fast leads to painful finishes.  It didn't phase her any of the three times she ran on the bleachers.  Oh yeah, she ran in basketball sneakers.  I was truly impressed.

Go Crushers!