Sunday, April 1, 2018

Run, Jenny! Run!

The story of Soccer in the United States.

By: Vidda Grubin

Read the story in this link to Forbes

and then continue below.

At pick-up games at the local university, when I was high school age, I was “Runner” to my teammates. Runner, the not so subtle sarcastic reaction to the most obvious aspect of my game.

The university was Ohio State. The players ranged from wildly terrible to good local high school and college players to very good ex-professionals from around the world. This was the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I didn’t like the nickname. Don’t get me wrong, I could run fast and just about forever. But in the context of those games, “Runner” was definitely an insult. Pride and love of skilled sports would not let me wear that moniker for long.

I spent the entire summer before going off to play small college soccer working on dribbling and, more importantly, teaching myself to juggle without staring at the ball. My inspiration for using this training technique was basketball.

One of the first things you are taught in basketball is to dribble without looking at the ball. I surmised that if I could juggle without looking directly at the soccer ball, my touch and vision would improve dramatically. I was correct.

I could already juggle pretty well, but it took every day, an hour plus per day to become proficient at juggling without staring at the ball. The result by the end of the following year was a whole new appreciation for the sport of soccer, and a great deal more joy and success while playing. I was still a “Runner,” but I was a Runner that could play, bitches!

Back in the 80’s there were a lot of suburban kids who were “Runners.” Well meaning coaches, lacking real world soccer skills, tended to rely and fall back on fitness (running) as the answer to most issues with their teams. Three mile runs, six mile runs, twenty full field sprints, followed by a jog around the park were normal in a lot of suburbs back then.

Fast forward to today. Millions of kids in the United States have played, are playing. They watch the best teams and players in the world. They emulate those players and understand a great deal more about the game than me and my peers did at the same age. And yet…

The United States Soccer Federation just contracted to spend a billion dollars on wearable gear that tracks where, how far and how fast players in the states are running during training and games. As much as things change (almost entirely due to the beauty of the sport itself and the kids who love the sport), some things just simply don’t/won’t die. Is this an April fools joke?

Great players are great because they can settle a ball within an inch of their foot, even if that ball was played to them from sixty yards away and there is a defender with an elbow in their back. Great players are great because they can see spaces and movement on the field before those spaces and movement even happen. Great players are great because they can spin a defender with a simple, clever touch and then split three defenders with a perfectly weighted pass to a teammate rushing to goal.

For sure, to do all those amazing things listed above, the great player has to be fit, but a fit player who cannot do those things is only a “Runner.”

I learned my lesson. I had the drive and love of sport to improve. Even in my late twenties, while playing open amateur league soccer, I was still finding ways to get better. Racquetball courts are amazing.

If there are any kids out there that read this, learn to juggle, then learn to juggle without looking at the ball, then find a racquetball court and pattern juggle.

For instance: play the ball with the right foot off one wall so that it comes off the wall and over your head, as you turn, play the next touch left footed off the opposite wall so the ball comes off the wall and back over your head. Now start making up your own patterns, and use every possible body part. Have fun, bitches!

All the best,
Vidda Grubin
Former “Runner”
And The Ghost

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