My Stories

Football And World Cup Qualification Failure…

Failing to qualify for the World Cup has highlighted how far the US game has fallen and it’s going to happen to the Australia national team soon.   

The signs of a looming catastrophe are everywhere. In Australia, we aren’t qualifying for the Youth World Cups at all and the majority of those youth national teams are made up of the best talent of the parents who can pay for $2500 a year for Elite Football. The current senior national team is made up of players who had parents who could pay the high fees for Elite Football. Not all players, but a large percentage. So is it any wonder that the only player in the current Australian team who took a unique and different way  to make it in football, had the most impact. Of course, I am talking about Tim Cahill. 

But the pay to play culture in Australia is killing the sport. It’s become even more evident over the last 5 years in this country how “elite football” in this country has become a billion dollar industry. And the competitive kids who are selected early because they are born at the start of the year and run faster than all the rest, keep getting retained in these elite programs because they were there first in, even when the kids born later have shown to have better skills and game intelligence. 

This pay to play culture eliminates the potential x-factor player and makes football a sport that kids from upper-middle class parents can play at an “elite level”. That kid that didn’t even trial for an elite team because of the fees or that kid which got selected for an elite team at U9’s and then had to withdraw because the parents couldn’t pay, is now probably kicking goals in AFL or scoring tries in Rugby League.

The biggest problem of “pay to play” is that it removes the individual from the team and from learning the language of football. It makes it all about the individual. With the investment of parents, they expect results for their child, the individual. Australia is a country that has a population which includes every race of the world and somehow the coaches/selectors are not able to find “real talent”.

I wonder why. 

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My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Football Reality

I coach junior football. I’ve been doing it since 2011 when my six and five-year old started playing. I didn’t want to be the coach because I was never a good player. If anything I played more reserve grade than first grade. But I love the game. I watched a lot of games and a lot of training sessions (as my middle brother was a first grader).

In 2011, small sided games was just a few years old in Australia. It made perfect sense why it was introduced but it was a totally foreign concept to me to have six kids in a team and play 4 v 4. What was even stranger was the fact that the 50% of the kids who registered that year to play U6’s couldn’t even get themselves into a position to kick a ball let alone run with the ball or take a player on.

But I took on the role to coach and god damn it, I will coach. I only trained them once a week in 2011 so I structured the sessions in the same way I learnt about football from my brothers.

Ball mastery, 1 v 1’s and a game at the end. My main mission was to have all the players comfortable with the ball and taking players on. It was tough. And I was disheartened. I was spending so much time with trying to develop the other kids, I neglected my own.

You see when I was playing football back in the 80’s only the real committed kids would sign up. And all the teams had just one team per age group, so if you didn’t make the team you either;

  • Trained harder to make the team the following year
  • Tried to find another club in the area (pending your local Club’s approval, even though they didn’t select you
  • Or you gave the game away and played another sport.

So the coaches back then never worked on skills. It was assumed you would already have ball mastery skills and excellent 1 v 1’s before you even started. One coach told me my job is to not let the striker score and when I win the ball to pump it forward to our striker. I once took four touches before I played a long ball forward and I was subbed. I never took four touches again.

And I’m thinking about my past while I’m training the other kids in the team who have never watched a game of football to stop booting the ball when they get it and to take a touch and try to take a player on.

I’m seeing all these articles about kids engagement and making it fun for them, so they don’t give the sport away and I’m comparing these stories to the 80’s.

I know for a fact, the Club my kids play for had;

  • 84 kids register in U6 to play 4 v 4. Six kids per team x 14 teams.
  • Six years later in the U12’s 48 are left, with 4 teams of 12 players each.
  • The gap between the “A” team and the “B” team is huge.

So effectively isn’t the end result the same as running that one high performing team like it was in the 80’s. By introducing small sided games, more kids register, which mean more fees for the federations. The high number of teams per age group, means more coaches are required. These coaches need to get qualified, so more money for the federations. The qualifications are valid for 3 years, so if those coaches are still in the game, more money is spend on getting qualified. But it doesn’t mean the best kids will be found or retained.

In 2012, I did the FFA Grassroots, Junior and Youth Licence. I knew I needed more knowledge if my coaching journey was to continue. The cost was $160, however if you passed it, the club or the local FA was meant to refund you half of the monies. I passed it and never got a refund. While the course was good it wouldn’t help dad’s or mum’s who didn’t know football. Because there was no ball mastery. Back in 2005 I was given a burnt copy of Coerver “Make Your Move”. It became my bible for teaching the kids “Ball Mastery”. This made a big difference on the kids I coached compared to the other coaches who just did the course/s.

In U7’s I trained them twice a week. Ball Mastery, 1 v 1’s and 5 v 1 Rondos formed part of the sessions with a game at the end. I had to replace two kids who left the team to join another team with their friends in it. But I was given two kids who have never played, so i was back at the start again.

U8’s in 2013 was 7 v 7. That meant four new kids given to me by the club. I know some clubs did skill assessments to place kids, but the Club I was involved in didn’t do it for this age group. So I had 10 kids and it was hard. I had kids again who just booted the ball forward and did not feel comfortable at all with the ball. Even after two years in a 4 v 4 format, it was like these four new kids just started. And again, I felt like I was back at the start.

U9’s in 2014 was still 7 v 7. I took an extra kid so I had 11 kids. It was a lot of subs, but I as going on a family holiday to Europe for the last 7 games and my absence would leave the team with 9 players.

In 2015, it was U10’s and it was 9 v 9. For the first time, the Club had trials to place the kids in Advanced, Intermediate High, Intermediate Low and Social teams. My son born in 2005 trialled and made the U10 Advanced team for the Club. I kept my other son born in 2006 in the U9’s again. He also trialled for the Advanced team and made it.

I coached the U9 Advanced team and a person who played at NSL level coached the U10’s. It’s safe to say that my son, along with others went backwards in their development because of this coach. While this coach played at a high level and he made sure he mentioned it, he couldn’t coach kids for shit. Eventually the parents of the kids in the U10 team got in touch with me to train their kids. I swore this was would be the last time that I would feel intimidated by people who played a high level.

In 2016, I did my Asian C Licence. It cost $1800. A big price to pay. All I have left to do is submit my final video assessment of my game training session to receive the qualification. I have two years to do this. I remember the odd looks I got from the others doing it. On the first day, all the participants had to introduce themselves and every single person except me, played in the old NSL or the A-League. Every single person was skinny except me. I had an ACL reconstruction a few months before, so I couldn’t even participate. And I made a promise to myself, this would BE the last time I would fee intimidated.

Also in 2016, I coached the U11 Advanced team, which had by son in it. My other son, born in 2006 son trialled and got selected for the U10 Skill Acquisition Program (SAP) team. A cost of $1500 to be an elite player in Australia for one year. Imagine my shock when I saw the sessions for an elite program. The coach had the kids playing ball tag and other rubbish like that. The fact that 3/4 of the kids couldn’t receive the ball with their back foot and face forward was not an issue.

Back at my Club, I trained the kids three times a week and I coached both the Advanced A and Advanced B teams. I had my rep kid train one of the sessions. This meant he trained 4 times a week and I was mindful of over training him as I was really subscribing to the research of Raymond Verheijen. His name came about in a discussion due to a football periodisation session he held in Australia where he turned the aircon off and wouldn’t let the people go to the toilet for 4 hours. I was interested as to why he would do that and what was he trying to achieve.

And here I am in 2017, I coach the U12A team (with my two boys back together again and loving it) and two U7 teams (with my youngest in it).

It’s funny that my team doesn’t have any kids born between Jan and May, as the good athletic ones born in those months are in the rep teams. The players in my team have the birth months from June 2005 to July 2006.

And I’m still not happy with the kids 1 v 1 actions. I have taught them all I know but they need more. So I called in an Obi Wan Kenobi like mentor to assist me with this. Back in his day he was brilliant and only injuries derailed his career. His own kids are in the professional youth teams and lot of the other kids he has coached have also joined NPL1 teams. It looks like it’s one of my best decisions. And while the journey is hard, long, stressful and very time-consuming when you are planning sessions and what not, it’s totally worth it.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

The Costs Of Entertainment Today

Last Tuesday, January 13, I took the family to watch Australia’s game vs Oman at the Asian Cup. To do anything family related is a hit on the budget.

The tickets cost me in total  $171.50 which is broken down by $98 ($49 per adult) and $73.50 ($24.50 for a child).

Apparel at the game cost me $140 for 2 kids T Shirts and 1 female T-shirt.

The parking at the venue cost me $25.00.

Mt Franklin Water cost me $33.60 for 7 bottles at $4.80 each.

Coke Zero cost me $5.60 for a can.

Hot Chips cost me $30 for 5 little round boxes sold at $6 each.

A Chicko Roll costed $5.50.

A Stadium Hot Dog costed $6.20.

A pack of Kettle Chips costed $6.00.

A pack of Honey Soy Chips costed $5.50.

All up the whole day with the tickets came up to about $430.

10 days prior on January 3rd, I also took the family to watch a local A-League football game between Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets. Tickets for that event cost me $61.33 for the family. Parking was at zero cost (on the street with a 20 minute walk) and food/drink costs me $50 in total.

So in total I have spent about $540 on football/soccer related events for the month of January so far. To add to that expense, when I purchased the tickets for Australia’s group match against Oman, I also purchased tickets for the Semi Final and the Final. So those events are coming up on the horizon and thanks to some dumb and arrogant decisions from coach Ange Postecoglou, Australia didn’t finish top of their group, so instead of “hopefully” watching a semi final match with Australia playing, they now end up on the other side of the draw and play at different stadiums.

January is also the month when we gear up for the start of school, plus the registrations for all the winter sports (and gear purchases). So from a family point of view, the costs are adding up, plus we are coming off the Christmas craziness of credit card debt that we still need to contend with.

However, the recording industry and entitled artists are so out of touch that they don’t understand that society in general feels a lot of pain when it comes to money.

We also have a lot of other outlets when it comes to entertainment and events. The more that the recording industry bitches about piracy and lobbies so that ISP’s send copyright notices and track our online behaviour, the more the fans of music just give their money elsewhere.

Normally this time each year, I am purchasing tickets to Soundwave Side shows. That has been the norm every year for the last 5 years. I don’t go to a festival because I see it as a waste of time and a real uncomfortable experience to watch only a few bands that I might like.

However, this year, I don’t really like any of the bands that much to go and watch them. So that money that I used for the music industry is instead going to football.

One last thing about all of the arguments about free music and competing with free.

Water is a natural product and it ends up coming out of our sinks for next to no cost at all. However, the water companies like Mt Franklin have found a way to make us pay a premium for bottled water.

One day an artists with a progressive thinking record label will find their own unique way to make the same happen for music.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music My Companion

I watched Australia beat Iraq last night, with my family. I watched 80,000 people celebrate as the 2014 theme song, Bellini – Samba De Janeiro started to play on the loudspeakers. It got me thinking about the role music plays in defining moments. If there is a celebration to be had, music is at the forefront.

After the 2014 World Cup theme song finished, the famous A chord groove from Malcolm Young started, introducing Long Way To The Top from AC/DC. The crowd responds. We know the words. Long Way To The Top is slowly becoming another unofficial Australian anthem. It is the video clip that pushed Long Way To The Top into the stratosphere. It’s the band, on a back of a truck, riding down the CBD of Melbourne. It’s raw, it’s honest. More importantly, it captures the band at what they do best. Perform.

So I am driving home, and the family is asleep. I notice that my wife had put the radio on. It’s 104.9. Triple M. Once upon a time, Triple M was on the bleeding edge. It played music that the DJ’s wanted. It broke new bands. Then like all the radio stations, it started to please advertisers and board members. The playlists became the same regurgitated garbage over and over again. However at 10.30pm it was different. Kick Start My Heart is playing. I haven’t heard Motley Crue on the radio since the late eighties.

Then Bush came on. It was the song Comedown. That bass riff in Comedown, is the same as the verse guitar riff in You Give Love A Bad Name. It’s basic, it’s within the Pentatonic scale and it has authority. It screams PAY ATTENTION.

I had forgotten what a great song Comedown is. I really liked Bush when they came out. I still can’t work that one out. I didn’t like Nirvana a lot, but I liked Bush and after hearing Nirvana and then hearing Bush, you can pick up a lot of vocal similarities. Puddle of Mudd is another band that had a large Nirvana influence.

Pearl Jam was up next with Better Man, however after Bush, I already made up my mind to switch to the iPod. The football game finished with music and then I had music on the 90 minute drive home to keep me company.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

To be great means you need to be great 24/7

My kids played football today. They went done by five goals. Was the other team that better? It was only 2-1 at half time, I tell myself. All I can say is that the other team turned up to play.

It doesn’t matter how much talent a team has, if they don’t turn up to play on game day they will be made to look second grade.

So what do kids do when they start losing.

They become individual’s, team play goes out the window, and the bad day at the office degenerates into the worst day. Kids want to cry but they suck it in. They are embarrassed.

What does this have to do with music?

Everything. If you are not at your best, if you are not creating content that is great, if you don’t turn up to play everyday, you will be left behind.

You could have released two great songs and people are talking about you, there is interest and then you choke. You fail to deliver. In music second chances and comebacks can happen but the task becomes harder.

Big bands rely on their legacy. Smaller bands rely on their connections with the fans and pushing out great content. Once that stops, people might give you another chance, but don’t expect another one after that if you fail.

In the case of the soccer/football team, imagine if their recent run of form got scouts(aka. gatekeepers) interested. Would the team have been picked up? No chance, opportunity missed for them.

You need to be excellent everyday, all the time.

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