2015 SEASON: Welcome



After coping with the less-than-challenging schedules that distinguished the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, disconcerted fans will be treated to a 2015 slate of games that has been spiced-up signficantly and features home contests against long-time district powerhouses Dallas and Coughlin; the agenda also includes what are likely to be challenging road games against Wyoming Valley West and Williamsport. And the schedule will, of course, continue to include the usual in-league conflagrations with Scranton Prep and Valley View. Add this up and there will be at least SEVEN (7) fan-worthy games on the docket, games in which we could see some real competitive fireworks.

The Lady Comets will play 9 games on the road but will enjoy 8 contests on domestic soil, with back-to-back home matches straight out of the chute: first, on Friday, Sept. 4 against West Scranton @ 4:00 p.m and, then, on Saturday Sept 5  with a 1:30 kickoff against Dallas. The full 2015 schedule is posted on the menu to the left.

2015 Season
1) Which of these teams on the Lady Comets regular season schedule will be the toughest opponent this year?
   Scranton Prep
   Valley View

A pensive Coach Jacobs after practice with his talented troops.
Tuesday, August 18

Club-soccer teammates Emily Clauss and Kaila Steenback bring skills to AHHS
The 2015 Lady Comets are now immersed in pre-season practice sessions. The players' work rate has been industrious despite the sultry weather. With four all-conference players returning to the roster, the team will once again look to contend for the Lackawanna League title this fall.
The Lady Comets will host a multi-team scrimmage on the glorious grass of CSE Field on Wednesday, August 26 @ 11:00 a.m.
(Photos: Emma Black) 

Leia Parry, Allyson Derry, Emily Cacioppo, Jasmin Patel, Emma Henzes

The often-asked question: "do I look fast in this dress?"









        . . . the practice session

                      of all practice sessions


Saturday, August 15


Over the years, soccer parents would often ask me to be sure to "teach the players to be aggressive." Such requests were not surprising to me because we live in an anxious, let-me-get-there-first society. Many of us believe that, even though we need to be respectful of others, nothing is going to be handed to us--we have to go get it!  We have to stick up for ourselves, fight our way to the top, and overcome any tendencies to be shy and demure.

While there is in fact a good deal of truth to "aggressiveness" cliches, I sometimes think that the sports community has swallowed this wisdom whole. In other words, I think many of us have gone too far and now place an uncritical emphasis on the aggressive side of the game. We hear this in the boistrous voice of the well-meaning parent who shouts to his kid: "you gotta go get the ball; it is not going to come to you." Now, I do not know, for example, how many parents have seen enough soccer to notice that the second half of the above statement is simply not true--that is, during the course of a game, the blinkin' ball does sometimes come right to you--and I mean right to you--and not always by accident or luck, but quite often as a reward for one's patience, intelligence, and well-chosen playing position.

We certainly cannot have wallflowers and frozen statues on the soccer field; we also cannot play tentatively simply because we are worried that we will look bad or are afraid we will make mistakes; this kind of caution shreds confidence and eschews opportunity. So, yes, there is a certain amount of value in coaching kids to be aggressive--to simply "get after it." We do need to pressure the ball, hustle to our assignments, look for viable counterattacks, tackle purposefully when we do tackle, and in general play as if we have faith in ourselves. However, if we teach aggressiveness without giving proportional teaching time to the counter-balancing disciplines of patience and self-control, then the advice to "be aggressive" becomes dangerous, especially when it is touted as a brilliant panecea.

I would go so far as to suggest that, when coaching very young soccer players, the words "be aggressive" are best left unsaid--unless the coach is both willing and able to temper such an entreaty by placing that bold statement in the context of reasonable, state-of-the-art soccer technique and tactics. If one encourages aggressive play, then one must at least learn to deal with the potential Frankenstein one has created by explaining exactly how, when, and where to be aggressive and how, when, and where to ease off. Although I believe it is unhelpful for parents to shout instructions of any kind to kids during a game, it would certainly be nice, for a change, if we heard parents say something like: "be patient on those tackles," "drop out of that space," or "pull back on your restraining-line runs." Instead we are over and over again treated to tried (but not always true) commonplace performance commands; that is, soccer fans quickly develop what I call their "starter pack" of player instructions. This introductory packet usually includes the following phrases: "fire it," "carry it," "cross it," "go to it," and "throw it up the line." Also included in the starter packet are the debilitatingly anxious locution "get it out of there" and the essentially omnipresent proclamation "send it." If you are new to the game, practice these seven mantras nightly and you will soon be ready to participate vocally at a soccer match. Do not worry if you do not know when to shout one of these instructions or the other. It does not seem to matter.

We cannot play an entire game of soccer with full throttle aggressiveness, and I do not think that anyone really believes we should. Indeed, even aggression afficionados might reply: "I do not mean that we need to be aggressive all of the time." My rejoinder would be: "good, then let us tone down and qualify our persistent calls for proactivity." Yes, players should work hard and compete every second they are on the pitch. But there is a difference between playing with whistle-to-whistle intensity and slogging through a quaqmire of unmitigated aggressiveness.

The truth, as we all really know, is this: soccer calls for players to be both guarded and aggressive; both proactive and reactive; both cautious and appropriately adventurous. Thus, the trick to success in soccer is not summed up in the words "be aggressive." It is instead encapsulated in knowing when to be aggressive and when to sit tight. When lack of aggression causes a bad thing to happen in soccer, we need to be clear about the situation: the bad thing happened--not simply because a player was unaggressive--the bad thing happened because the player was not being aggressive at a moment when she should have been.

At the same time, untutored aggression creates as many problems as does timidity. Misplaced aggressiveness, which is actually pretty common in high school soccer, leads to all manner of soccer sins, including: diving-in on tackles, surrendering a ridiculous number of DFK's, failing to hold one's position in a zonal defense, taking low percentage shots, taking high percentage shots incorrectly, breaking down compactness on the back line, needlessly turning the ball over, being booked or being sent off, (and sometimes simply) needlessly exhausting oneself. 

I firmly believe that most people--even those who argue for aggressiveness--understand that a soccer player needs to pursue an intelligent balance of aggressiveness and meaningful retreat, a proportionate use of both push and patience. But people rarely phrase things this way. I believe that some high school soccer teams lose more games because of a misplaced and misunderstood aggressiveness than they do because they were too passive--and I say this even though I agree that too much passivity invites trouble. There is a place for aggressive effort in the game, but soccer is also an exercise of character, prudence, and reflection. Have an aggressive mentality as a default position if you feel such a need but note that it is not necessarily the more aggressive side that wins when teams of comparable ability and athleticism meet--in these kind of evenly-matched games, it is often the more disciplined team that prevails. Although a strong sense of genuine self-confidence is necessary to succeed in sports and life, we must develop this confidence in the right way; mere sanguineness or falsely-instilled self confidence can lead to disasters that are worse than those caused by lack of confidence.

In the ancient Chinese classic--the Dao De Jing--the wise philosopher Lao Zi teaches that happiness in life comes from finding the balance between the opposing life forces of the yin and the yang, the hard and the soft, the proactive and the reactive. We need to pattern our self image after both the mighty oak and the pliant willow tree. 

By the way, the commitment to tempering aggression is not something that is espoused only by conservative coaches or by coaches who use static tactical design. I myself often coached teams to play "up-and-down-the-pitch" soccer and always liked to run a high press, rarely employed bunker defenses, and got my holding midfielders involved in attack. All I am really saying, then, is this: instead of placing an exaggerated emphasis on aggression, as many members of our soccer culture do, let us consider a more balanced approach. Soccer players do need to be tough, but sometimes they have to be tough enough to be soft. A high-gear, in-your-face aggressive attitude can be very helpful psychologically. However, we always need to employ the proper tool for the particular job at hand--and we can easily be fooled about the proper use of tools. For example, in the world of food consumption, a fork is much more menacing than a spoon; but the latter is the preferred choice if I am trying to win a soup-eating contest.

As Aristotle points out, courage is not fearlessness; it is instead acting with an appropriate degree of fear. Those who never consult their compass of fear are as immoderate as the coward who fears too much. Getting kids to play aggressively is important; however, if we can also get them to channel and shape that aggression with sensitivity, prudence, and finese, then we will really be teaching our players the game. Some soccer coaches might take issue with what could be perceived as an underlying "prissiness" in the position I am taking, but let me say that I am willing at any time to take on the counter-arguments from these coaches--but, remember, I will not do so too aggressively.