Not the South Africa review

As many of you know, I was in South Africa last week for the US-England and US-Slovenia matches.  What many of you don’t know is that I caught Ebola while I was there. …ok, so not Ebola, but I was pretty sick.  I was literally sick the entire time.  The day after I got back to the states I got anti-biotics.  Didn’t want to deal with the doctor in ZA.

Anyway, this means there is going to be a delay in getting my pictures up (some are already up) and also in writing my article (there’s already a draft…though after writing this post I potentially need a new title).  I apologize for the delay.  Believe me, I’d have preferred to be writing daily articles.

One brainless notes:

Chicago Fire pics also up.

A Little Sports Psychology and Some Tactics

Being sick (like drugs) does amazing things to the body and mind.  I played yesterday despite not being 100% even today from my respiratory Ebola (though I’m getting pretty close).  I’m probably going to sound like I’m gloating here, but I have a couple points to make, so stay with me.

I scored four goals, all left footed (I’m right-footed) and absolutely should have had at least a fifth.  A potential 6th would have been the only one to make a highlight reel, but I sent it just barely over the bar (not a field goal).  I think people were mostly impressed by the fact that I even struck the ball cleanly on a volley as I was being taken to the ground.  No foul, I was mostly try to jump over the defender for the volley and it didn’t quite work as I’d have liked. My goals were all ones you’d be expected to put away (and one I stole from what was going to be an own goal, to be honest).  Just for the full story (ok, now I’m gloating…) I also should have had at least one assist.  To put this in perspective, I’ve scored two goals in the season up until now.  Granted, I’ve played left back in a couple of the games and in the goal a couple games, but I played up top this game as I have a couple times before.

Ok, this is where I start making my point…

I’m reasonably fast and reasonably strong.  I can beat players for pace and I can muscle people off the ball – not everyone, but enough for those to be effective strategies for me.  Often when one is sick the game slows down. Not only are you more likely to take care of the fundamentals, but you’re also more likely to work on instinct – that’s kinda what our minds and bodies does when incredibly taxed.  Because of not having the energy to do otherwise, I minimized my runs, stayed higher up the pitch and let the game come to me.  Normally, as one of the better players on my team, I track back to receive the ball and help defensively (as a life-long keeper, defense is important to me).  For the rest of the season, I now realize that if I can score two goals, it’s ok if our defense gives up a goal while I’m at midfield watching the last defender.  This is not to say you should not put in the extra effort the team needs.  I got back on corners to cover a post, for example and sometimes circumstances dictate that scoring isn’t the most important thing.  Our game was very open and we’re not playing for very much.  However, if all you need is a point for a championship maybe you should do the football/hockey version of working the shot-clock.  Clock management is important in all major sports except baseball where I think the closest equivalent is pitcher selection based on inning and pitch count. Like much of life, it’s situational.

All of this is emphatically not to say being sick is the best way to play.  I was barely getting up and down the pitch an hour in and really should have come out.  You can set back your recovery (I don’t seem to have), get injured or simply not be capable of producing a result.  For example, there was what was nearly a glorious through ball that I just couldn’t get to.  I’m not entirely sure I’d have gotten to it on a good day but the defense was beat (keeper came out a step before I got there) and I’d like to think I’d gotten it.

I feel as though I had another point to make, but staying true to my free software roots, I’m going to release early and release often.  If I remember the point, I’ll post it in the comments.

These points, broadly, apply to any sport.  Just think of Jordan against the Jazz.  My career-high in basketball (25*) came when I had the flu (though I faded through the game and we ended up losing)

  • Take one thing at a time (a good life lesson in general). Being one play ahead strategically is great, but there’s a difference in knowing you’re going to 2nd rather than 1st and having your head turned to 2nd before the ball is in the glove.
  • When in doubt, go to goal.  If all you ever do is pass, the shot clock is going to run out, your power play is going to be over, etc
  • Relax.  Part of the reason being sick can help you out on the field is that there’s no pressure.  I, at least, always feel that if I’m able to contribute at all when sick then that’s better than not being on the field.  I have a “I’ll take what I can get attitude” and just play.  This isn’t to suggest that there isn’t “Kobe time,” but part of Kobe-time is blocking out thoughts about the girlfriend in the stands, the media tearing you a new one or simply what your coach and teammates are going to say, and simply getting the job done.
  • Trust your instincts. Doing this will help you relax.  If you’re instinct is to do the same cross-over every time or to try to rainbow the keeper every time, maybe you should disregard this suggestion and spend a little more time on the practice field, but for anyone that knows the game, you’re going to instinctively pick up one when the defense has picked up your best move (or simply that you’re left footed) or when the opposing player is starting to try a new strategy against your stonewall defense.
  • Trust your teammates.  Kobe-time didn’t work in game 7 of the NBA finals, so what did Kobe do?  He trusted his teammates.  You can’t pitch and cover center-field at the same time unless you’re playing against 5’10” 400-pounders, so let your teammates do their job.  If the center-fielder bobbles the ball, at least you’re there to back up the catcher when the throw to the plate is off.
  • Play your position.  Again, I hesitate to put this in, since I stressed this in trusting your teammates, but I want to mention it again because you need to know what your position is.  You need to know this sick or not, but if you aren’t sure of your responsibilities, ask your coach.  If you’re embarrassed to ask just imagine how much more you’ll be embarrassed when you screw it all up during the big game while the cute girls (or guys) are watching in the stands.

Who knows, maybe I learned nothing yesterday to help me going forward and the gods of football were just on my side after trekking 24-hours worth of flight time (one-way) to South Africa.  More on that next time!

*while that’s not a particularly impressive career high, you have to understand that I got best-defense senior year of high school.  Imagine Artest or more appropriately, Rodman, dropping 25 in a 40-minute game (NBA is 48 of course)

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I played four varsity sports in high school (gridiron, track, football and basketball). I went to states with a relay team in North Carolina and made the state semi-finals in football (soccer). I also coached travel football for TFC ( and worked for Eurosport/ I graduated from the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where I study intellectual property and sports law.

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1 Response

  1. I thought – really a rhetorical question – occurred to me tonight. Why does a right-footed keeper always end up on the left side of the field? Left back, left forward and in high school I played left mid one year.

    My Potential Answer:
    I think the reason is because as a keeper I’m not particularly good with either foot, so I’m not afraid to use my left. I don’t favor the right because I have little need to.

    Some clarification on my left forward play:
    Now, two of my goals were back post goals on corners and the other was actually with me having slid into the middle, but I definitely wasn’t playing on the right. I did have one moment of near brilliance with my right foot as I cut back on the left side and bent one in off the back post…but no goal.

    So, what do you think? Is it just coincidence I end up on the left or is there something to not being afraid of it?

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