December 11, 2005

coming to grips with my role

I have always thought of myself as a midfielder, wanted to be a midfielder. I played midfield for the past five years. I have the fitness and speed to be a very good winger, but this season I was forced into central defense because we had so much quality in midfield.

That was hard for me at first. As a sweeper, I don't run as much. I don't get involved in the attack. I have much less room for error--one mistake, and I'd better recover or it's one-on-one with the goalie.

Over the past several weeks, though, I've come to realize that I am a sweeper by nature. What seems to me to be natural and relatively effortless, other players have been praising as "great" play. I see the field and the play developing. I have good closing speed and recovery speed, and I couple that with good anticipation of where the play will go. I have even learned how to direct my other defenders on the field.

I still wish I were in midfield, attacking and building the game, but I have finally come to grips with the fact that I should be in central defense. That's just who I am, in my skills and in my personality. I have always loved watching great defensive play, whether it's football or soccer or even baseball (maybe that's why I never really got into tennis or golf or track, for example). And I do get a sublime satisfaction in thwarting an offensive threat and deflating the attackers' hopes.

Aw, hell, I never scored many goals anyway and wasn't about to turn into a serious offensive threat. Better to do what I'm good at and accept who I am than try to be something I'm not.


bluesugarpoet said...

Let me get this right: you are feeling a little blue about having to play Sweeper? The Sweeper is one of the most important jobs on the field! Just as you mentioned, it takes a player who can understand what is going on over the entire field - to actually *see* what is happening on the field, anticipate the next course of action, and to direct the rest of the defense accordingly.

Sweeper has always been my favorite position to play because I get to tell people what to do and I have a chance to be physical too (you don't see forwards slide tackling, do you?).

Conversely, I have found that as I get older that I can't play Sweeper as well as I used to be able to do. I'm not as quick as I used to be and I get hurt more easily. Instead, I've been demoted to forward or mid. Demotion, ha-ha. It just depends on how you look at it, I guess.

PJD said...

Thanks for the note. I have always wanted to be part of the attack, to be known as a skilled player, a good passer. Actually, I think it's good that I put myself in midfield for five years because it has made me a much more skilled defender. But at heart I am a defender. I realize that sweeper is an important position--a good central defense allows the midfield to focus on attack more, allowing the entire team to flow better. But it's hard for me to hang back while the ball moves forward, to deliberately pull myself out of the play in order to keep defensive shape.

The funny thing is, both my boys are also natural defenders. The 6-year-old, in his first year of soccer this year, showed not only a great ability to disrupt a play, but also a natural awareness of where to put himself in a good defensive posture. On the flip side, he always trailed the play and had almost no clue where to go when his teammates had the ball. Some of the other kids seemed more natural at that and less aware of where to be on defense. I find it intriguing that certain kids seem more fit for certain roles on the soccer field, and I wonder how it relates to their personalities in general.

I read recently that in the 1970s, the NFL commissioned a psychologist to study personality traits of players at various positions. He was able to define the personality traits pretty precisely, and what I read suggested his definitions were still true today. I am certain the same is true in soccer.

The one potential enigma is the player who sees himself as a striker but is equally comfortable in goal. I know a few players like that. I wonder what it means?

Unknown said...

GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! Sorry, just had to get that out my system. Too much watching FĂștbol de la Liga Mexicana, I guess.

An important thing to remember about soccer, and well, many sports -- they're team sports. Sure a good QB in football, good pitcher in baseball, etc., can make up for a lack in other positions, but the best teams over time are the ones that have good but not always great players in all positions, not just one or two. So be happy if you've found your position, even if it's not as glamorous as someone who gets to score GOOOOAAALLLLS!