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Steve Christilaw: World Cup reinforcing area soccer coaches’ teaching

Sat., July 5, 2014, midnight

For soccer coaches across the country, the World Cup is the ultimate teaching moment.

In match after match, it’s the beautiful game at its highest level, played with the kind of passion and pride that grows out of national pride.

Andres Monrroy watches with his son.

“He’s 9 years old and he’s just discovering soccer,” the Central Valley boys and girls soccer coach said. “We’re watching all of the games together and we’re enjoying them, but at the same time we’re talking about formations and spacing. He’s learning how to play the game.”

Between games they head to the park to practice what they’ve learned.

“The World Cup makes you want to get out and play,” he said.

 Gabe Escobar, who coaches girls soccer at East Valley and boys at West Valley, is pleased to see the level of interest the World Cup has created.

“I’m getting text messages from my players all the time – ‘Coach, did you see that!?’ ” he said. “I tell them yes, I’m watching. ‘You watch, coach, that’s going to be me!’

“You can’t help but be excited by all the great plays they’re making and the great saves the keepers are making.”

The games from Brazil serve to reinforce many of the lessons coaches stress every day in practice.

For example, in Monday’s second-round knockout match between Nigeria and France, commentators talked about how Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi’s favorite word during every practice is “communication,” something he stresses constantly.

“I think that may be my favorite word, too,” Monrroy laughed. “But it’s so important. You have to have good communication between players, especially between defenders and midfielders.”

Portugal’s stunning, last-minute goal to forge a tie with the United States in group play serves as a prime example of how critical it is to play hard all the way to the final whistle – something reinforced by the surprisingly large number of goals scored in stoppage time.

The play of Germany’s defense has spawned numerous discussions of defensive spacing because of that team’s personnel while the play of young, up-and-coming national sides demonstrates the value of hard work and dedication.

Discussions about player fitness, maintaining proper spacing, especially on defense, and playing with pride also mirror the everyday conversations of area coaches.

“It makes me feel that I’m teaching things the right way when I hear that,” Escobar said. “I tell my players that I know I’m not the first coach to tell them these things, but I don’t mind reminding them because we all need a reminder from time to time.

“I think it’s good for young players to hear that, too. These are fundamental things that we’re teaching and they see that fundamentals are just as important in something as big as the World Cup.”

Just as important, Escobar said, is to see the skill level these top-level players display – something football, basketball and baseball players are exposed to all the time.

“I think it’s just as big to see big-time stars like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant talking about the World Cup and supporting it,” he said. “Kids see that and it matters to them. They see someone do something spectacular and they want to know where else he plays.”

Not everyone watches the games the same way, however.

Former Central Valley and now Eastern Washington player Paige Gallaway says she doesn’t miss a game and especially watches the formations different teams use.

“I like to watch what they’ll do next out of that formation,” she said. “You can learn so much from watching things like that.”

Her former coach agrees.

“Formations, set pieces, I’m watching it all,” Monrroy said. “Germany really plays the game the way I try to teach it, so I’m watching them closely. They’re just so fundamentally sound and aren’t flashy. I tell my players, ‘Watch the games!’ ”

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