Saturday, June 26, 2010

Back to basics

-- Michael Vick is in the news again. I don't really want to comment much until I know more about the situation but the basic rundown is that he was back in Virginia celebrating his 30th birthday at a nightclub and some time shortly after 2am a man was shot. The man is believed to be one of the co-defendants in Vicks dog fighting trial, though again, details are still sketchy at this stage. All early reports claim Vick was not present at the club when the shooting happened. The question I'm mostly interested in is whether Vick invited his old friend to the party or whether he was a gate crasher. If he was invited, then I can't fail to see that as poor judgement from Vick, who should be doing everything possible to distance himself from his past. I'll come back to this at some point in the future when more details are available. -- Now, it's not very often you can compare football and soccer in terms of what one might teach the other. The games are very different in almost all key areas. But watching the World Cup (yes, my football withdrawal symptoms are that bad) I'm reminded of two things that are very important to both sports: 1) Don't always believe the hype 2) Sound fundamentals are vital In the first case, I can point straight away to the cases of teams like Italy (the defending champions) and France. These are two teams that are packed with world class talent, yet both have had dire tournaments, finishing bottom of their respective groups (with Italy finishing below that giant of international soccer; New Zealand). In addition, teams such as England, Germany, Spain & Portugal have all had their struggles during the group stages, despite being loaded with top flight players. Meanwhile, a number of the lesser sides have put on a good show, with Japan being among the biggest surprise qualifiers to the knockout stage. What this tells us is that on any given day, any team can win. If big stars fail to live up to their billing and show the quality that they are known for then all bets are off. Similarly, lower order teams can persevere with a little commitment, hard work, organisation and team spirit. The lesson we should take forward with us is into the 2010 NFL season is not to write off teams like Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa and Kansas so easily. At the same time, we should be wary about handing the Superbowl over in June to teams like Dallas, Indianapolis, New Orleans or Minnesota. This world cup has taught us that the difference between good and bad is - at times - wafer thin. Which leads me to point number 2. One of the big difference's has been in the execution of fundamental techniques. Passing, scoring, off the ball movement; these are all things that teams like France and Italy have struggled with. Just this evening I was watching the game between Spain and Chile and noticed that the Chilean players struggled to put good quality crosses into the penalty area. This is something that children are taught how to do in school. There are players playing in the lower divisions in England who can put in better crosses than the ones I saw today. Imagine having a QB in the NFL who couldn't complete a simple quick slant on a regular basis (JaMarcus....). The guy would never last (JaMarcus....). Whether it's soccer, football, or for that matter any sport, fundamental skills need to be honed to perfection, even still at the highest levels. For all the talent in their teams and the clever ideas and formations their coaches tried to utilize, the big guns have suffered at this world cup mainly through their poor execution of basic skills. For Italy and France the wounds were mortal. For England, Germany, Spain & Portugal, the wounds were not as bad, but they're still not out of the woods yet. Lesson to be learned? Get the basics right first. Whether it's kicking a soccer ball or throwing a football, you can't perform well without fundamentals. Have a great day everyone. P.S. Good luck to Team USA against Ghana!

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