It’s Not a Hand Ball…or my beef with what coaches teach our young soccer players

I love soccer.  I think we’ve established that through previous posts over the past few years.  I’ve played most of my life, coached for about ten years, and reffed for about eight months now. Recently, I agreed to get back into coaching club (travel/select) soccer.  As you can see, I’ve seen the sport from many perspectives.

Playing and coaching have led to a number of the observations to follow, but reffing has really brought clarity to how widespread some of these are.

The biggest misnomer in the sport has got to be the “hand ball.”  Everytime the ball makes contact with a hand, the players, coaches, and fans of the opposing team cry out “hand ball” and expect the referee to blow the whistle and award them a free kick.  First, the free kick is for “handling”.  This means there’s more to it than hand and ball making contact.  The position of the hand in respect to the body is a big factor, including motion of the hand after contact.  Another factor is the play itself.  Did the player have time, in the opinion of the referee, to move his hand out of the ball’s path.  Intentionally handling the ball, obviously, is a violation.  Yelling “hand ball” isn’t going to make a referee call it.  Play until you hear a whistle.

“I got the/all ball!”  This is another of those cries that’s supposed to make a ref not award a free kick to the fouled player’s team and, hopefully, prevent receiving a caution or send off from the referee.  Whether the player actually gets the ball or makes first contact with the ball may be a factor in the referee’s decision to simply award a free kick or to caution or send off the offending player, but it isn’t the deciding factor.  The direction from which the tackle came, the force used in the tackle, and the follow through weigh heavily on the decision.  The player can make what she thinks is a clean tackle that gets the ball, and then watch the rest of the game from the parking lot if the referee thinks the tackle was reckless.

Another cautionable offense that is actually taught by some coaches is standing in front of the ball to prevent the team awarded a free kick from taking a quick restart.  The Laws of the Game provide a 10 yard radius from the spot of the ball which defenders are to vacate and not enter until the ball is back in play.  Nowhere does it say that the kicking team must ask for the 10 yards.  If a defender plants himself in front of the ball to “direct his teammates” or tie her shoe, the ref can caution the player.  Do yourselves a favor and move back from the ball and coaches, don’t tell your players to get in front of it.  Some refs are real sticklers for this and will caution a player with little or no warning.

There are, of course, other fouls and violations that players and coaches often don’t quite understand.  Maybe I’ll talk about some of them later. For today, though, just remember that the referee is the authority on the pitch and different referees have different aspects of the game that they enforce more tightly than others.  Play within the laws of the game, show good sportsmanship, and respect the referees and their decisions.

Play to the whistle!


“Please don’t help people,” says the Humanist…or my beef with the anti-religious

This is the kind of crap that bugs the Hell out of me:  the atheists or humanists (or whatever you or they want to call them/themselves) who are so afraid that if a child is exposed to religion, they might fall down on their knees and become devout Believers on the spot, that they try to insert themselves into any instance where of school/church contact in the wrong way.

American Humanist Association demands students stop feeding starving kids

In this article/editorial, the Humanists are making an issue of a school that has partnered with a church to have the students help prepare “food boxes” for starving people in Haiti.  Apparently, one parent complained about this “service project” last year, and then complained again this year.  It does not say what the school system said or did in response to the complaint.

In this instance, my beef with the Humanists, who claim, as the anti-religion folks so frequently do, that this violates the State-church separation portion of the first amendment to the Constitution is this:  They say they don’t have a problem with the children doing a service project or that the service project is feeding starving people.  Their supposed issue is that it’s done at a church.  If that’s really the issue, maybe they should pony up some money and start up a service project that’s non-religious that accomplishes the same goal.  Unless and until there is a similar non-religious project for the schools to partner with, they need to shut the Hell up and leave the school alone.  Other than using religious terms for what they call the food boxes and symbols of their religion being seen by the children in the church, they are not being preached to or proselytized (based on the article).  If that is happening, then there is a valid complaint by the Humanists.  If not, get out of the way of kids learning to help others.


Yet Another Hollywood Overdose or My Beef with Sympathy for Fidiots

I know this is going to come off as harsh, derisive, mean-spirited and make me look like a huge ass hole to a lot of people, but I’m really damned tired of all the outpouring of emotion and sadness when some dumb ass “star” overdoses on drugs and/or alcohol.  I’m sorry that they will have to be written out of your favorite television show, that you won’t get to watch them walk down the red carpet again, that you won’t see interviews of them on TV or the supermarket rags as you go to checkout, that we won’t be fascinated by their wit and charm and intellect as they spout off on this or that topic on which they aren’t experts, and that you’ll now never have the chance to run into them in an airport or on the street.  Generally speaking, these “stars” have nothing to do with our lives other than being on a show or two that we watch.  Too many of them are prima donnas and pricks who think they deserve special treatment because they are overpaid to entertain us.

Now, if his girlfriend has really been with him so much of the time, she had to know he had a habit, so the question becomes, “Was she trying to get him to clean up his act or an enabler by participating or pretending it wasn’t going on?”  I know, sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do or say to an addict, you’re not going to get them to give up the habit.  You’re then stuck with difficult choices:  leave them, turn them in to the authorities, or continue to live with them (hoping they’ll “wake up” and quit) until they die via OD or due to a destroyed body.  None of those options are easy or good.  So, unless the girlfriend was enabling him, I certainly feel sorry for her, and for the family and friends who may have also had to sit by and watch this guy kill himself.

You may have guessed who’s death spawned this post.  If not, here’s an article about how Cory’s girlfriend, Lea, will cope with his death.

Do I feel sorry for him?  No.  Unless you can tell me that someone shot him up on drugs against his will the first time to get him hooked.  I’m guessing he chose to do it.

Why does it really chap my ass when I see all the boo-hooing about “Star X” or “Star Y” killing himself/herself?  Because they had a choice.  They chose to be addicted, certainly, at least, to begin the habit that maybe they thought would be just recreational use.

You know who didn’t have a choice?  Besides all of the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen, policemen, firemen, and all the others who put their lives on the line to defend our lives and way of life…people like Talia Castellano, the thirteen year-old girl who died today after battling cancer since she was seven, Liam Witt, “Prince Liam the Brave, who died a couple years ago, a few months shy of his seventh birthday, also of cancer.  And there a plethora of others dead or dying of diseases they did nothing to bring on themselves that you never hear about.  These are the people who deserve your sympathy.

Okay, I’ve cooled down a bit.  I do feel a wee bit of sympathy for the dumb ass who killed himself, because it’s sad when someone kills himself, violently or otherwise, but my initial reaction stands.  It isn’t one of “Oh, that’s so sad!”  It’s “What a dumb ass!”


**BTW, my lack of sympathy doesn’t have to do with the fact that I don’t watch Glee.  If I heard that Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki OD’d, my initial thoughts would be the same.

Leadership Should Not Be Involved in Design

The bottom line:  Leadership shouldn’t be making the design decisions because all too frequently, they are more concerned with pretty and shiny and the Gee Whiz Bang than they are about how well a product or service functions.

They will preach all day long about how important it is to have a well-oiled machine, a cohesive team, highly collaborative organizations, and the like, but when it comes to approving designs, they always seem to fail to ask the most important question, which is not simply “Does it work?”, but “Does it work well?”

One instance that comes to mind is the menu interface for Verizon’s FIOS television service. At heart, it is a grid layout like Cox Communications’ interface, but Verizon thought they needed more colors and shapes and logos which makes it more difficult to read the menu as the size and shape of the box change, as well as the color. There are two or three different layouts from which the user can choose their favorite. Unfortunately, they all suffer from the size and shape change. Now, it is likely that a designer/developer came up with the interface, but it was almost assuredly thumbed up by at least one level of management before being implemented. It’s quite possible that the initial design was more plain, but deemed by managers to need more style. Who wants a boring, simple, easy to read menu?

While I’m bad-mouthing Verizon, let me also add that their remote is horrible. It had more buttons than necessary and no ‘live’ button. The button you use to instantly get back to the live feed (if you’d paused the show for some reason) will take you to the live feed…unless you are on a channel that has a special feature. In that case, you get taken to a different channel/feature instead of just to the live feed. Shouldn’t be too big of a problem, except that more special features are added to more and more channels. You can see the problem.

The web and software are another couple areas where management should leave design to the experts. Instead of seeing something on a popular site and telling your folks that you want that feature, provide the goal you wish to accomplish and let the people you’ve hired (because they have more knowledge in these areas than you) come up with the design/interface. That neat widget you like may not be what’s driving traffic/interest to the other site/product and may not accomplish your goal.

Leaders, do your job: lead, provide vision, set goals…then let the experts do their jobs. Ensure the product isn’t hideous and that user feedback is captured, perhaps before unveiling the final product, but don’t lock in on something that may not be relevant to your product/brand. Trust your designers…or replace them with yes men or monkees, because they can produce unusable products for you without being driven to drink.

Learn To Laugh At Yourself …or My Beef with “He’s Making Fun of Me!”

At the risk of losing followers and pissing people off, I’m posting about a topic/news article that some people feel very strongly about…obviously.

The title of the article says it all:  Asian-themed fraternity party sparks protest by Duke University students.  I don’t really need to summarize that one.  But I do need to post about it.  I’ve seen articles similar to this before and almost posted, but held my tongue (fingers?).  Well, I can’t hold back any more.
Should the Germans get offended when Americans try to imitate Oktoberfest by wearing lederhosen, putting crappy beer in big steins, cooking sausages, and getting drunk? (Why crappy beer?  Because while Budweiser may have come from a brewery run by a German family, the beer is flavorless crap compared to “real” German bier.)
Should the Irish be offended by St. Patrick’s Day antics like turning piss-water beer green, wearing Kiss Me I’m Irish buttons, and wearing plastic green hats?
How about the Italians?  Should they scream racism every time someone has a toga party?
Maybe those of us who are “academically inclined” should take to the streets when people want to have “nerd day” at school.
Enough of this PC, touchy-feely, he’s-making-fun-of-me crap.  Grow up, already!
Believe it or not, some people actually learn about other cultures when they are figuring out what to wear or take to a theme party.  Why is the round, conical hat symbolic of Asian culture?  What does Oktoberfest celebrate, anyway?  Who was St. Patrick?
And even if no one learns anything, the party is supposed to be fun.  Yeah, there will be stereotyping.  Yes, people will speak in horrible attempts to fake an accent and dress in varying states of attire that resemble closely…or not so closely…the styles of the party’s theme.  As long as the party is done with the goal of being a fun, it’s more a mass parody than a mean spirited ripping of a culture and shouldn’t be banned.
When’s the last time you saw protests outside a production of The Mikado?
While we’re on the subject, when did it become verboten to use the word Oriental when referring to Asians…and why?  (I was being serious with that, btw.)

What’s in a Name? …or My Beef with Changing the Name of an Organization

I’ve worked in a number of jobs with different companies, some larger, some smaller, some mostly efficient, some nearly dead in the water…the organizations, not just individuals working there.  Over time, I’ve seen or been through a number of re-organizations and/or name changes.
Re-organizations, if done correctly, and for the right reasons, can positively affect the organization’s productivity, efficiency, and morale.  It can also save an organization money by streamlining processes, removing unnecessary amounts of middle management, and eliminating excess manpower.  No, I’m not a heartless scrooge, but from a business standpoint, there are almost always employees who aren’t performing up to standards or who just simply don’t really have a legitimate function in the business.  In a re-organization, many such employees may be identified and many of them may be re-purposed and shine in their new function.  Every re-organization doesn’t have to include a dramatic cut in the workforce.
So, what’s the deal with renaming an organization?
I understand why a business might want to change their name.  A company that had one of their jets nosedive into a swamp, for instance, might want to rename itself when it is ready to do business again to try to distance itself from negative images associated with the old name.  Makes perfect sense.  The new owner of a company that has had falling sales or service may choose to change the name to reflect new ownership/management to re-energize interest in the business.
Within an organization, though, not much comes from changing an organization’s name.  A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet, but an inefficient, ineffective organization by any other name is still poop.
One reason an organization might change its name is to sound more modern, more hip, more current…sexier.  Same function, same goals, same people working there.  “We haven’t accomplished anything in the last few years, but now we’ll do nothing with more swagger.”
Another reason ineffective organizations change their name is to provide the illusion of changing their function.  After failing in their stated goal for a few months to a few years, they change their name to match their newly rewritten core functions.  Basically, they are still supposed to do the same thing, but they give the appearance of having a new focus by busting out the business thesaurus and “re-inventing” themselves.
Unless an organization, while not “re-organizing”, changes its leadership or a significant portion of its personnel, simply changing the name and rewriting the goals won’t turn it into an efficient, productive part of the overall business…and let’s not even go into the costs in time, manpower, and materials to change an organization’s name.

Poor Sportsmanship or My Beef with Not Even Showing Up

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, on days when I have a soccer game, my mood is happier as I look forward to playing a good game.  The team I’m on prides itself in being a good bunch of guys, not or skill level (though we’ve got plenty of that, too), but our attitudes and sportsmanship.  We very rarely have a disparaging word for each other on the pitch or off.  We may gripe at the ref now and then, but not to the point that we pick up yellow cards for dissent.  And we don’t take cheap shots at the opposing players.  We play hard and fouls happen, but we don’t play to injure.  We are gracious when we win and don’t sulk when we lose…and we show up for every game regardless of our record…unlike the team of losers who chose not to come out and play their final game because they had no shot at making the playoffs.  Who does that?  And it had to be pre-coordinated amongst their team because not one of the poor sports showed up.  It wasn’t like it was starting to get close to start time and they are short enough players that they can’t play…not one player was at the field.

Based on knowing a few of the players for that team, as well as the age of a large part of the player in the league, I have to wonder if this is the kind of crappy sportsmanship and attitude kids are being taught in sports.  I can’t fathom not showing up for a game because my team has nothing to gain.  To that extent, my team could have not shown up.  We were already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and, in all likelihood, were going to have to play tomorrow anyway, so why risk an injury to one of our players.  These two thought processes are what drive decisions in the professional arena of any sport nowadays…and it sucks.

If a team has nothing to gain by winning, but by losing they can position themselves better…the first pick in the NFL draft, for instance…why play hard.  Why put forth the effort?  Who cares that the loyal fans are paying ticket prices or exorbitant cable package prices to watch the games only to see second stringers?  And, on the flip side, why risk your star players when you already have things locked up?  A perfect example is the Chelsea vs. Liverpool match this past week.  Chelsea had virtually no chance of taking fourth place in the Premier League, but they will play for the UEFA Champions League title in another week, so the put in the first stringers who can’t play in the championship game and the second stringers…and Liverpool put a 4-1 beat down on them.  The same Liverpool team that Chelsea had beaten a week earlier for the FA Cup title.  Chelsea being one of my favorite teams, I was bummed to not see my favorite players in action and to see the team get whomped.

The other problem with pro sports doing these things is that it teaches kids that it’s okay to not play your hardest, to take a dive because this fight doesn’t really count and you should save your energy for later, that it’s okay to not even show up.  It’s teaching kids piss poor sportsmanship…and don’t even get me started on the prima donna chumps who take themselves more seriously than their teams.

Show up, play hard, be good sports!  That’s what sports, and life, is all about.

%d bloggers like this: