The Coachening

Yesterday, me, my brother, and our cousin with whom we grew up from just down the road in our little town were all coaching youth sports teams on the same day.  Social media confirmed this.  The latter two are both doing basketball right now; I’m doing an indoor soccer team and we’re about to start basketball for the kids as well.  And this got me to thinking…

Why most of us do it:  the kids are really fun as pre-teen participants, of course, and it’s great to be part of their team-sports development.  We can all list the stock positives for youth athletics.  Most of us who pick up the coaching gauntlet also feel like we know a little something about the sport at hand; we have some knowledge or wisdom to impart.   Continue reading

Coaching Class E License – Prep Work

A friend and I have been coaching rec league soccer at the YMCA for our boys the last two years.  This summer we decided to try and take some of our players and form a competitive team to play in local soccer tournaments in our area.  We have a good central group of kids, and the the thought is we can find a handful of other good players from the Y teams in our age group to fill out our roster.

So far so good.  We decided to sign up for the Illinois Class E Coaching License – a two day course focused on ages 9-12, sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation.  We figure this will help us improve our training sessions and overall coaching.  This weekend we’ll be at the course, but prior to that we had prep work to complete.

The prep work consists of three main assignments:  Rules of the Game/Referee Introduction, Concussion Awareness, and Coaching Philosophy/Team Management.

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No tourney picks; Coaching…

Maybe it’s not having my team in the tournament – although, I’m usually more objective and make better picks when the Illini are out.  Hey, can this please be the last year in many without the Illini in the tournament?  Coach Groce, looking in your direction…  Maybe it’s because I actually won the pool last year and am feeling the pressure to repeat.  Maybe it’s because the wife’s been monopolizing the laptop…

At any rate, no March Madness picks this year.  Just couldn’t carve out the time to do it.  At least five or six people are disappointed.

The real reason:  the joys of coaching.  Yes, Youth Soccer  Spring Season is nearly upon us, and there’s stuff to do…  Getting all the drills and mini-games organized, having the kids vote on shirt colors and team nickname, contacting the team sponsor for this year’s donation, pricing and ordering the team shirts, securing a field for practices, writing the welcome email for team parents…  Yeah.  Not to mention the weather’s been nice enough a few days to actually get the kids outside and kick it around a bit.

So that’s the reason.  Focused on the kids’ season.  Yeah, I’ll be tuning to watch the tournament (and the NIT as long as the Orange and Blue are alive) and hoping  for upsets and Wichita State to shut people the hell up.  But no official picks.  Maybe next year.

Summer Illini Post

With oppressive heat comes the doldrums of the MLS season, with teams slogging through the humid air and attempting to stay playoff eligible.  Baseball is just not on the Beemsville menu, but the Illini are always on our minds.  After a crazy-active off-season in which the three major sports all replaced their head coaches, it’s mostly quiet on the orange & blue front.  But, hey, look!  A blue helmet!

Block I on Blue

Yes, Coach Beckman has been implementing his changes, including COMPETING! for everything and anything.  And, hey, if teams like Oregon and Boise State and Oklahoma State can have multiple uniform-helmet combos and score lots and lots of points, why not Illinois?

This design will look good with the orange or white shirts.  It’s pretty basic, pretty similar to the Bears helmet, and also signals a logo/branding shift Illini fans are just going to have to accept.  Athletic Director Mike Thomas has spoken about the importance of marketing/branding in college sports, how it builds familiarity, opens doors, sells shirts, etc.  And since the Chief was taken from us (and even before that as they moved away from that symbol), the Block I has pretty much become the symbol and logo.  Thomas has stated he wants to reinvigorate from a marketing/branding standpoint, so we should expect some kind of new variation on the Block I as an official logo.  How much can you really do with a Block I?  You don’t want it in italics.  You can’t add a bunch of bling.  They’re probably afraid to add any flourishes like feathers that might offend sensitivities of the anti-Illini crowd.  At least we’re pretty much the only ‘I’ team in orange and blue.

Football has been picking up steam in recruiting, no doubt about it.  Coach Beckman went out to COMPETE! and landed Bolingbrook Quarterback, Aaron Bailey, who will be great in the spread and is considered one of the nation’s top dual-threat QBs.  The Illini have also added a number of defensive lineman and defensive backs, some O-lineman, and running backs.  It’s a nice turn-around from the flailing about that marked then end of the Zook tenure, and people who know recruiting seem encouraged. Continue reading

March Sadness

It’s been a rough stretch for Illini fans.  Usually we’re buoyed by (often misplaced) optimism this time of year.  It’s tournament time and you have some talent; with a little luck and some inspired play you make a run.  Or not.  The last five-six years it’s been not.  Not enough wins, not enough recruits, not enough March success.

That’s why Bruce Weber was fired on Friday.  It wasn’t the epic collapse (10 of the last 12 losses), so no – don’t blame AD Mike Thomas for not giving the cliched ‘Vote of Confidence’ a month ago.  This is what Tom Izzo did in a post-game rant, also on Friday.  If you care to look, you’ll see that his rant was eerily similar in theme to his response to Tom Lickliter’s firing by Iowa two years earlier.  Izzo and Weber have been close for years, so we’ll forgive him the reaction, but the truth is the Weber-led Illini are much less a threat to Michigan State’s perch atop the conference than some of the alternatives.

I watched Bruce’s statement on Friday.  It made me sad.  Sad because a hard-working guy who has class and treats people the right way could not attain the level of success needed.  It’s a pretty damning commentary on the state of college hoops that a guy like Bruce Weber gets sacked while a guy like John Calipari not only gets a pass for his indiscretions, he thrives.

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Illini Teetering Precariously

…or, like Wile E. Coyote, have they already gone over the cliff but have yet to realize it?  Since our last entry on the topic, Bruce Weber’s Illini have dropped three straight.  Three straight close games, two of which came down to the final play of regulation and included some pretty terrible calls by the officials.  But that’s three losses, which drops them out of any aspirations for the conference title and begins to put NCAA tourney hopes on thin ice.  Realistically you wanted to win two out of the last three if you’re for real.

But these Illini are what they are – a pretty tough defensive team (though not elite) prone to long futile offensive lapses.  They have some good athletes and good role-players, but at certain positions lack enough skill or talent to put them into contention for the Big 10 and deep tourney runs.  This has been the case for the majority of Bruce Weber’s tenure.  According to Illini beat writer Paul Klee, in the years AD (After Dee) the Illini are .500 in conference play: 48-48.

That’s not good enough for Illini fans.

My brother (sometimes known as the Rube) posted a couple of long rants on the last blog entry.  They are quite entertaining and offer a good deal of insight.  The Rube was a member of the Rebounders’ Club for years until quite recently, attended practices and interacted with players and coaches more than most fans.  He opines what most of us believe:  Coach Weber works as hard as any coach in the nation, runs a clean program, cares for his players intensely, and is a good and decent man.  But his teams have not executed well enough and won enough.  After several long and heated discussions, here are our three main points: Continue reading