Monday, November 07, 2011
Anton Chekov said, "People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy." But he didn't sit through a two hour soccer game in pouring rain, gusts to 30 mph and a bone-chilling 40 degrees. Lots of us have, and our happiness can only be measured by a victory and a hot cup of cocoa. Winter doesn't spell the end of soccer; it just condenses the time that games can be played on unlit fields. Actually soccer never ends. Around the world soccer continues all through the winter. It's a great season to share televised matches and become students of the game. And with the NBA questionable for this year, your family can easily give soccer a chance to captivate your interest. You can begin to follow particular club and players, while you develop a better understanding of team tactics and individual skills.
In the next two weeks, men's and women's college soccer teams will be vying for an elusive spot in the NCAA championships. The women's brackets will have been announced on November 7 and the men's will be announced on November 14. Chances are very good a game or two will be played close enough to your home to attend. If not, then you can catch some of them on television. Watching these young men and women compete provides an excellent opportunity to see the skill level your youth players will need to aspire to if they have dreams of playing college soccer. You will also be watching future professional soccer stars. Men's schedules for Division I, II, and III can be found at ncaa.com/sports/soccer-men/d1
and Women's schedules for Division I, II, and III can be found at ncaa.com/sports/soccer-women/d1
Presently the play-offs for Major League Soccer are underway. The league has added several notable foreign players such as Thierry Henry and David Beckham, but it is primarily dependent upon U.S. talent. These young men rose out of the ranks of programs your son and daughter participate in like US Youth Soccer Association and the Olympic Development Program. Players that my sons either played with or against are now in the MLS, so that we feel a very personal connection to the teams and the competitions. It's fun to see someone streaking down the field and to remember washing his uniform during an ODP tournament! Schedules for the games can be found atmlssoccer.com/mlscup/2011/playoffschedule
The United European Football Association (UEFA) Champions League runs nearly year round with the finals in mid-May and new qualifying rounds beginning in late June with winners laying claim to the European Cup. Every country in Europe can enter up to four teams into the qualifying rounds. The Champions League should not be confused with the UEFA Cup also known as the Europa League. Both leagues' qualifiers, knock-out rounds, and play-offs run nearly in tandem one with the other so it can be confusing sometimes as to which competition you're viewing. Schedules for the competitions can be found at uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/index.html
If you don't want to watch all of Europe compete, you can concentrate on the English Premier League (EPL), which sponsors some of the top soccer competition in the world. EPL games are broadcast regularly on Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus, Gol TV, and ESPN. Sirius-XM radio broadcasts EPL games on the weekends. The league also boasts a number of U.S. players who again came up through the ranks of youth soccer programs. The EPL teams have thousands of U.S. followers and even some U.S. owners, so the Atlantic Ocean isn't much of a barrier to enjoying the battles on the English pitch. Your family can select a team to follow and be sure to catch the games that come up each week. Developing an interest in professional soccer gives your kids the role models in the sport that help them maintain their commitment and inspire them. Sharing in that interest lets kids know that you value their choices. Follow the games on the website and through the Fox Soccer schedule: premierleague.com/page/Home
While looking at that Fox Soccer schedule don't forget to look for the US Youth Soccer Show. This thirty minute program focuses on youth soccer events and training, giving viewers access to great coaching tips, player bios, and highlights from some of the best youth soccer games. I have a special place in my heart for this program since Robbie had a brief interview in the very first episode. So I naturally tuned in to catch his moment, but ended up loving the entire show, most of which didn't feature Robbie's smile. Nevertheless I have tuned in every episode since because the program gives great information for parents of youth players and players themselves. A new episode premiered on November 4 and airs again November 18 at 6 p.m. ET and December 1 at 7 p.m. ET, so check it out.
While some of you in the southern climes can enjoy soccer outdoors in the winter, most of us have to deal with the cold, snow, rain and ice which make outdoor soccer less viable in the winter. Short daylight hours also put a crimp in any outdoor play if fields don't have lights. So most of us hunker down indoors and await the thaw and daylight savings time. Take this opportunity to enjoy some of the winter soccer happening all over the world and available to us via our cable and satellite TV. While our winter's discontent with long nights, higher heating bills and gray days can't be completely eliminated, watching a great soccer match can bring a few hours of delight.