It’s been a cracking start to the summer season and it all started here.
I took on an Albany under 13s soccer team again for Football West Country Week and with my right hand man Jimbo we won the COUNTRY WEEK TITLE for the second year running. Again, we had a huge focus on teamwork, no passenger and doing the best we can. Eyes, Energy & Effort has always been my Soccer/Football mantra. I was lucky to inherit a team made up of the best 14s and 12s players from within Albany clubs. Some serious talent. I have seen these kids kick it for the last 4/5 seasons but unfortunately always falter at the final…. why? It isn’t the coaching, it isn’t their skill – it’s a belief and being able to manage the team to learn what it takes to win, how to win, and the mindset to win. Some of the team members had come runner up 3-4 years in a row. Cue the “SuperCoach” effect…… it’s a real thing – success creates success – and winning cultures are contagious! So rather than focus on perfect football we had a focus on perfect effort. From warm up in training, to executing drills, to preparation to on field performance, we had it sorted. We also focused on comfort zones – every single training session we did a drill or exercise that was hard, tough, required total focus, and would challenge each player both mentally and their skill and take them completely out of the norm of a 13 and under training session – why – because I knew to win this thing the players had to be able to respond better to the tough times, be tougher when things don’t go our way and to ultimately get this team, to buy into the theory that our attitudes, belief, mental strength and energy was going to win this trophy. We had a great week, including scoring 17 goals on the first day (2 games). Then we copped two week ending injuries on day 2. A torn calf muscle (on a 13yr old – oh dear) and a broken wrist (kids just messing around watching an older kids game and landing on it and …snap). So down to one player on the bench (comfort zone was seriously challenged here). Backs against the walls stuff, we went through to the grand final and to be fair top our team (and no disrespect to our opposition) we comfortably won it…. but not without going through some serious talk before our match.
Hearing kids say on the morning of our final “what if we lose, it will be another finals loss” and having kids laughing and chatting at half time was very, very quickly nipped in the bud. Earlier that day I produced a photo of last years winning team photo (from Jim and my 13s team). The smiles, the no 1 pointing finger. the grins…the winning feeling. It was an easy “We got this guys, stick to our process, and we will take this cup!’ Even with two of our top players out I/we knew we had created a culture within our team to take this final….and we did.
Another week ending in the big trophy (2nd year in a row) and a flurry of “great job – well done – my kid had the BEST Country week experience” messages over the next few weeks. Did the kids all learn about themselves, yes. Did they have fun, yes. Did they learn a mental toughness and how important a better mindset and attitude is, yes. Did they learn what it takes to win, absolutely. Did we play perfect football– no. Did we put in perfect effort and have a system that worked on trust, energy and effort….absolutely. Our team had both the best and fairest winner and runner up and our goalie let in only 3 goals all week in 9 games…outstanding.
A great end to a fantastic football season and then lead into the start of the tennis season with further confidence and ready for the big 13/14hr days ahead.
Back to tennis – Abbi Gibson started the season on fire with a great showing the 12s Nationals. Her first time on clay – an experience to see how she handles being out of her comfort zone – her Dads own words “like a camel skating on ice” was enough to give me as a coach enough info to think, the movement wasn’t perfect on this surface, but can be with more work. Abbi backed up a 6th place finish by winning the Canberra Tennis World Singles champs the next week….and much more confident and she defeated seeds much higher than her in the 14s girls while being back on the safety of the hard courts!
Last week I headed off to Bunbury for the 2017 D’Arcy Slater Cup. It is a great event and concept with players playing in both a team’s event and an AR event. We always take 2 boys teams to this event, and every player gets heaps of tennis. It is a 13 and under event and players who are knocked out of main draw go into a conso, then once knocked of conso the players go into the plate/classic and once knocked out again, go into another draw – perfect to bring players through events like this.
To cut a long story short, our A team won the event. Undefeated in doubles all week and then with the points system had a finalist (Brock Dawson – coached by his Dad in Bremer Bay), and two quarterfinalists, Daly Kerr and Ulrich Kriek. Along with Cooper Childs who won the boys conso final and Tom Hillman who lost in r16, all boys are coached at ATA and do Squads and or privates. Interestingly, 4 of the 5 players all play regular social tennis with adults. And the type of tennis these kids played all week was a pleasure to watch. Aggressive returns, strong placement on serve, crisp volleys, and outstanding team work…… I am confident the regular social tennis with adults played a big part in the boys winning the title. Tennis isn’t all about just hitting…match play (regular) is just as important. Our development team (B Team) also had a great week. Out of the 15 teams involved they finished a strong 4th. So our teams finished 1 and 4 overall. A great effort.
Further good news this week, Abbi has been in perth for a week. Firstly playing in the Junior Hopman Cup for Switzerland. The top 8 14 and under boys and girls are involved and she had a great weekend. She is now in qualifying for the 14s at Nationals. Still only 12, and already qualifying for 12s Nationals, we are keen to get her tougher tennis in the 14s. Some people may think this is a bad thing, but every player is different and no single plan will work the same for every athlete. Anyways Abbi went in the qualifying for the 14s girls Nationals (she can’t get to every points event through the year in Perth (some are held midweek but that’s another story) and blitzed it. She won through qualifying and will now play 2 weeks in Melbourne at the December Showdown Nationals.