Life’s a Pitch

The Passions of the Press Box

Michael Calvin (editor), 2012, Integr8 Books

Weymouth FC, Leeds United, Portsmouth, Fulham, Montpellier, Derby County, Crystal Palace, Sunderland. When soccer journalists would follow their heart, you would read headlines about teams you hardly hear a word about today. In “Life’s a Pitch” journalist from the BT soccer webpage teamed up to tell the stories they cannot write about most of the time, because of their personal attachment to the clubs and players involved. They tell about the one season or the one successful run a team had for a short time when it raised out of mediocrity, they talk about brilliant players who always were undervalued, players who will always be remembered for one goal they made and players who lost the support of the fans completely. If someone, not a soccer fan himself, reads the stories they might wonder why the events described have lead to such an attachment with the clubs or soccer itself. These are no songs about heroes or Champion League wins, these are mostly stories of constant disappointment, except for this one glorious season in the past. Soccer fans can relate to that and know that going with a team through hard times will strengthen the bond with a club as much as championship wins. Getting excited every summer about the new players and the positive news from the training camps, followed by the disappointment in fall, when you know this season will be just as bad as the last one, that is what it means to be a real fan. It is the failures which make a team attractive, too. Being the underdog probably relates to as many people’s life as the wish of being a winner. And sometimes if this underdog feelings fades, because the club becomes too successful, the fans might even turn their back, quite the same as the good weather fans of the Top 3,  because they cannot relate to it anymore. This underdog feeling is prominent in most of the stories in the book and allows you to understand why clubs have supporters even when they never did win anything.
The book kept me thinking about my own club and how I got attached to it. I did not really have the one event or game which did it for me. My interest in soccer and in Dynamo Dresden started when my uncle bought me my first weekly soccer newspaper and the special edition for the 1984/1985 season with all the teams in it. Since then I regularly read about soccer and up to this day I consume soccer majorly through reading news about it than watching it live or on TV. The late eighties and early nineties were the high times of the club I was able to follow, when they played in the European Cup and later after the reunion in the Bundesliga. That all ended 1995 when they dropped to the third league and then some years later even to the fourth. For a decade one disappointment followed another and they debt from the times in the Bundesliga where weighing heavy on the club, until it was at least able to come back to the second league. It is still a long road to old glories and I think the best they probably can achieve is to be an underdog in the Bundesliga but today a third league championship is as much as worth as a first league championship was in the past and the passion about following every game of the club, hasn’t changed a bit.

Biography: 0/3
History: 2/3
Background: 2/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3

Next book: The Blizzard Issue Ten (June 7th)


Training Soccer Champions

Anson Dorrance, Tim Nash, 1996, Echo Point Books & Media

Anson Dorrance is the most successful college soccer coach in US women’s soccer. In this book he describes how he did set up the soccer program at the University of North Carolina and what made them successful. This is not a training or coaching book that explains tactics or techniques, it talks about how to set up and run a team in general. The chapters of the books are focusing on different aspects of the organization of a sports team. One chapter will dicuss how to create an positive competitive environment in training, another one how to make sure everybody is able to learn and improve even if not playing regularly. It is also covered how to get good players beyond good, by making them understand the why of decisions taken in training but also on the field. Dorrance also talks about how to make sure, that the preparation for soccer doesn’t end when leaving the training court, especially focusing on how to keep player’s fit during vacation and how to make the off-season challenging for everyone. Furthermore Dorrance highlights the value of statistics, so that players get constant feedback. The statistics do not only provide that, they also make the player’s feel that the feedback is less subjective, because it is not directly coming from the coach.
Another important point the author points out are the differences between men and women. That starts with what type of relationships is required to get respected to them but also how they react to criticism. Finally he also describes how to provide the best players with enough space for creativity and how to create acceptance for their unique skills.
The only part of the book which is a bit outdated is the tactics part, simply because it is from 1996 and at that time the 4-4-2 was dominant and a attack line with 3 forwards was new. Today that is probably not the case anymore.
All in all the book is not so much a soccer coaching book but a book about leadership and how to organize a team with a soccer team as an example. Competition without hostility and creating a learning environment which provides everybody constantly with feedback and makes them able to improve no matter on which level they are, are just two aspects of that. Others are providing the space for independent decision making for the people who have the skills to do so but also to treat everybody with respect even if they will never will be your top performers. All these topics are discussed in the book and therefore it is not only a good read for soccer fans but also for managers who look for some insights in team management.

Biography: 0/3
History: 0/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 1/3

Dresden – Wiege des Fußballs

Jens Genschmar, 2012, Edition Sächsische Zeitungßballs-Fußball-1874-1945/dp/3943444074

Wer die Anthologien Goal-Post Vol.1 & Vol.2 gelesen hat, weiß ja schon, dass England bereits im viktorianischen Zeitalter eine reiche Fußballkultur hatte. Aus Deutschland hat man weniger Informationen über diese Zeit, deswegen ist Jens Genschmars Buch über die Anfänge des Fußballs in Dresden, die ja auch die Anfänge des Fußballs in Deutschland sind, so interessant. Man muss dabei aber direkt erwähnen, dass man in dem Buch keinen historischen Abriss oder Zeitzeugenberichte finden wird, wie in Goal-Post, sondern hauptsächlich Bilder. Der Autor, der auch das Fußball-Museum in Dresden leitet, hat seine Archive durchsucht und zahlreiche Bilder und Dokumente über den Fußball bis zum zweiten Weltkrieg zusammengetragen und in dem Buch zur Schau gestellt. Jedem Zeitabschnitt ist ein kurzer Text vorangestellt, doch der Fokus liegt darauf, dem Leser die Atmosphäre der damaligen Epoche mit Zeitdokumenten näherzubringen. Das funktioniert ohne Zweifel, umso mehr, wenn man sich in Dresden auskennt und die verschiedenen Orte zuordnen kann, doch eine Fußballgeschichte Dresdens, die mit Quellen und Zitaten gespickt ist, wäre sicherlich auch ein interessantes Projekt für die Zukunft.

Biographie: 0/3
Geschichte: 3/3
Hintergrund: 1/3
Taktik & Spielphilosophie: 0/3

Next book: Training Soccer Champions