I didn’t play soccer as a child. I’m one of those American soccer fans who came to the sport as an adult.
I wasn’t one of you. I’m new(er) but found that I could inhale a LOT of soccer knowledge via wikipedia, satellite TV, live games, blogs, podcasts, etc.
Pretty quickly, I become knowledgeable even if I wasn’t authentic.
But I had another “soccer awakening” at the ripe age of THIRTY-NINE. I decided I wanted to learn to play soccer. America doesn’t have training for middle-aged dudes. You just have to sign up for a league, hope for tolerant teammates and learn as you go. I did that about a year ago and it has changed not only how I watch soccer, but has increased my appreciation of certain aspects of the game. I’m honestly shocked at how differently I view/appreciate aspects of a game that I thought I understood before. When people ask what position I play, I tell them that I am a competent goalkeeper and a very mediocre, but pacy right winger.
Here is a list of things that have changed for me since I supplemented watching with doing…
1. Player’s feet: At live games, I used to watch the whole field. Now I watch players feet to see how they do it.
2. Fitness My goodness are those professionals fit. Lungs of IRON and legs of STEEL. It’s inhuman!
3. Pace: I knew pace was important before. I’d seen fast players abuse slow players, but hadn’t realized what an equalizer pace is until I played. If you are fast, you can overcome technical flaws. If you are slow, you better have technique because the fast guy is running away from you.
4 Communication: When you just watch soccer, you don’t realize how much the players talk to each other. You certainly don’t see it on TV and even at a live game in a small stadium, you can’t hear most of what they’re saying. I played all the traditional American sports growing up and none of them require the level of communication that soccer does. I’m still weak in this area – which is a problem as a keeper – but it’s mostly because I’m not used to talking this much in sports. Never shut-up.
5. Teammates: Now I totally understand now why new players take a while to settle into a new team. You get to the point where you basically know what all your teammates tendencies are, where they will be… trust what they can do. They almost have a body language that indicates what they’re about to do. The other team can’t see it, but you can.