The Endless Season – Girl’s Soccer – Why It Matters

You know how hot it was. You really had to WANT to be out there. And they did, on baking playing fields which sprawl for about half a mile to the west of the enormous indoor complex south of Rt 30 near Coatesville. Nearly a dozen games on this Tuesday evening, all but one are girl’s matches. A freshly-defeated team files off the field, their coach leading them up an embankment to a vacant spot, where he chides them for lackluster effort. «We have our next shot on Thursday,» he tells them. «Blow it off this way again and you can forget about getting those letters from the colleges. They’ll be using the backs of our programs to write down the names of other teams…»

United Sports Center, mid-February, 8pm:

Three of the indoor matches feature pre-teen girls’ teams. In the adjacent gym of Lightning-Fast, speed-training consultants to professional and amateur teams alike, a petite master-trainer named Shannon Grady, who is also a professional runner, is closing the pro shop when a woman walks in with her daughter, asking to sign her up for the next Speed Clinic. The girl is ten. I ask Shannon how young she’s gotten them. Eight.

Blame Title IX if you wish. NEWSWEEK did, but for other reasons, its venerable George Will echoing a lament that the initiative was a «train wreck» which had shoe-horned female athletes into college sports at the expense of established men’s programs. Boo-hoo! The Women’s World Cup 1999 triumph would have happened without Title IX, the threnody went on, because application of the 1972 legislation wasn’t codified and enforced for well over a decade, by which time women’s sports had already blossomed on their own. NEWSWEEK subsequently balanced their spin on Title IX, putting a dumbbell-curling Michelle Kwan on the cover, and in their «Gamma Girls» cover-story, correctly crediting Title IX for facilitating the emergence of well- adjusted teen girls who weren’t back-stabbing clique-queens or basket-cases. Go ahead, blame Title IX for the legions of Type A parents eyeing sports-scholarship dollars. But if you look a little deeper you’ll realize that this is a small price to pay for the bounties of the girls’ soccer-mania unfolding around us.

Like many of us of above a certain age, I can recall when soccer was an autumn boys’ sport, grudgingly included as a sidelight to football in private schools. You didn’t see «pick-up» soccer games they way you do with basketball or football. And girls played field hockey. As the growth of soccer in this country parallels the growth in women’s sports altogether, it seems as though a junction was unavoidable: no other sport offers all girls the same wide-open opportunities and possibilities.

ALYSSA- my niece, was far less outgoing than her twin older sisters. Small, but solid, she had no team-sport experience at age 10 when I enrolled her in Lionville Youth League soccer in an attempt to open her up. As she’d signed up late, her first time on the field they put her into a game. She didn’t know anything about positions and rules («What position are you playing?» I asked, just before she went in. «I’m a captain.» she said), but made up for it with such agility and aggressiveness the coach was near tears when I moved her on to a traveling team a year later.

She needn’t be big. Or tall. Or strong. She needn’t possess the natural gifts which separate the Mary Lou Rettons and Michelle Kwans from their peers early on. There are no expensive lessons, equipment, clothes or facilities. Give her a few yards of space and a ball, and she can stay busy for hours. It’s democratic, equal-opportunity as can be. Her sport’s not a «girls’ sport» or some other segregated subset, but a universal game, the biggest in the world. And now, like generations of boys before her, she has idols of her own. Some, like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, are icons, household names, drawing crowds wherever they go. Some, like Philadelphia’s own Heather Mitts and Lorrie Fair (both of whom are models), are gorgeous enough to be sex symbols. And tough? Oh yes, feminine, but at the same time, tough. Best of all, tough.

FELICIA- another tiny, shy girl, younger and far less physically-aggressive than Alyssa, this dark-eyed beauty had a tendency to shrink from soccer’s inevitable collisions. But she’s on the Phoenixville United team, coached by Stassi Theodoropoulos, himself something of a local legend in youth soccer training. A former professional club player in Europe, Stassi, 54, lives the sport and has an excess of excited energy which he spends in drilling several teams, including the girls’ varsity at the Villa Maria Academy. His work with the Phoenixville United grew them into a machine which thrashed most of their opponents, including some older girls’ teams. And Felicia? She’s grown too, her timidity a distant memory as she now tears into any opponent who comes her way.

There are the school teams. There are local clubs like the Lionville Youth Association and Phoenixville Area Soccer Club. There are bigger organizations like the Intercounty Soccer League and Philadelphia Area Girls’ Soccer (PAGS), which provide a framework for much of the league play throughout the region. All of this adds up to an impressive tapestry growing thicker by the week, and you don’t need to look very hard to see its evidence. New playing fields are popping up everywhere, and on any given weekend or evening you’ll likely to drive past a girls’ match.

Charlestown Park, Phoenixville, October:

Now with autumn, the fields get little rest. Be it Saturday or Sunday, before one game finishes, other teams arrive and are warming up at the sidelines. It’s the same way down the road at Lionville Youth Association. Not to mention at the schools. It’s the same way everywhere. And once the girls reach their teens many of them are playing for both their schools and their league teams. Even Stassi, with all his energy, can’t match that. With the main season in full swing, he’s had to hand off his beloved United team while he tends full-time to the Villa Maria girls. But they’re in good hands he assures me, and he’ll be keeping an eye on them all.

In an editorial I wrote for Women’s Physique World in 1999, I called our Women’s World Cup victory the finest day in women’s bodybuilding: «What else can you call it when the predominant image across America is an ecstatic young woman ripping off her shirt and flexing triumphantly before the entire world, and no one questions it?» A new paradigm of physical acceptability had been launched with these new heroines, I said, «and that’s significant to us because their prominence is forever tied to straining sweaty muddy-specked quadriceps, bone-crunching collision and all-out exertion. It’s raw muscle, shown in function. And thus needs no excuses. Lady-like? Ha! You tell Mia she’s not ladylike!»

Charlestown Park, Phoenixville, early April:

April? That’s right, it’s early April…a raw, rainy Saturday afternoon, but Stassi’s United girls are loving it. The rain and the mud are part of the fun. They’ve just shut out the other team four-zip, and despite the rain they happily kneel on a blanket, clowning for some post-game photos. It’s those other people huddling in the rain who don’t seem to be enjoying it. But that’s ok…they’re just grown-ups. What do they know about fun?

It can only get better. Our local heroines, the Philadelphia Charge, completed another stunning season last year where they lead the league until the final week. We head into this year’s Women’s World Cup with tens of thousands more devotees than were on-hand for the last, many destined for those same fields. They’ll be ramping up the volume on a new generation of superstars who ratchet the standards of physical possibility even higher. The young league-team girl amidst this growing swarm enjoys a freedom her mother only dreamed of, a future unfettered by antiquated notions of physical correctness, sports-conditioning and the limits of femininity. From the mud and dust of her local sward, through the scrapes and bruises of countless collisions, she can see. And she can soar.

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The History of Elastic and Its Use in Clothing

Elastic is a small narrow loop of rubber or similar material used for tightening, gripping, and holding of things with ease purposes. It has the quality of being stretched and then returning back to its original shape. Elastic has different names like rubber bands, gum bands, binder, and lacquer band.

The history of elastic has its roots back to thousands of years. The modern elastic band goes back to the mid 19th century. From the very beginning, man knew there were certain objects that would spring back to their original shape when the pressure applied on them was removed.

At first, this thing annoyed man but with the invention of fire and creating the wheel, man also thought of using elastics in his life. This property of elasticity was commonly showed by the animal parts, which man ate. Thus, the first elastic strings were born, which were made from animal gut to hold things together. With the passage of time, man realised that these strings of elastic could also be used as weapons. When a bullet was loaded in to these elastic strings, they were thrust through the air at a great velocity. This resulted in the invention of bow and arrow.

Rubber is a very popular elastic material. Many of the products made from rubber are bounced around, stretched, and pounded, and since they are elastic they return to their original shape. Because of this property, people use rubber in a lot many ways. It was named rubber because people found out it could rub the pencil stains. Rubber was used by the Early American Indians before Columbus even set his foot there. They called it Caoutchouc derived from the word cahuhchu meaning weeping wood.

This substance was obtained from the sap of the rubber tree. The original rubber bands in older days were made from the latex sap of rubber trees. However, today rubber bands are made from technology that is more modern and materials. The Mayans also added juice from vines to the rubber sap to create a durable and elastic material to bind things together. This was the first type of the rubber band. Later in 1845 modern rubber band was invented. In 1923, first mass production of rubber bands was started by William Spencer.

Other elastic materials have also several uses. Rubber has various uses in today’s world. Rubber is used for tires, elastic bands and other bouncy and stretchable objects. Elastic materials are also used in sports. Insulated, elastic balls are essential to many sports as non-elastic balls would deform when used. Basketballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls have to be elastic to allow them to their normal shape.

Elastic is used in clothing as well mostly for fitting purposes. Elastic provides a room for stretch ability and recoverability of clothes. The elastic waistbands are especially very much in use. They help you choose pants, trousers, etc of size smaller than your original waist, thus making you look slimmer. In addition, they can be used for a longer period, since they don’t get wasted if you gain or lose weight. They are adjustable. Elastics are also used for chest fitted gowns or shirts. They also act as an accessory to create various designs on your shirts. The elastic laminated sheet is also used in many articles of clothing. Such articles include shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, socks, athletic wear, swimsuits, shorts, medical and surgical garments et cetera. The stretch ability and recoverability in these clothes because of elastic sheet helps movements easy and make clothes more durable since they don’t get torn or ruptured.

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Why Germany Won The World Cup 2014

Now that the excitement of the World Cup 2014 has died down and we have had time to digest the memorable moments of the tournament, this is a good time to reflect and examine why Germany won the trophy.

There is a general consensus that the Germans were deserving winners.

They went to Brazil after passing through a period of failure and underachievement. They had failed to win the World Cup since 1990, finished dead last in their group in the 2000 European Championship and went to the semi-finals in their last 4 major international tournaments but failed to win a trophy.

In discussing the reason for their success in 2014 one could look back to the beginning of the century when Germany revolutionized the game at home by instituting far-reaching reforms with a focus on youth development, by introducing a new policy to include immigrant players in the national team and by using scientific methods to help with the preparation and performance of players.

These were no doubt contributing factors but in my opinion the overriding reasons for their World Cup success were the development of team discipline, an emphasis on attention to details and the team’s overall efficiency.

TEAM DISCIPLINE

In the World Cup Germany won the hardest group in the first round including a 4-0 win over Portugal. But it was in the knockout rounds that the overall quality of the team began to appear when they patiently overcame a resolute Algeria and beat host and favorite Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final.

How were they able to do this? The short answer is that it was largely due to discipline. In 7 games, they never conceded a penalty, got only 6 yellow cards and never received a red card while suffering the third most number of fouls of any team.

This discipline did not emerge overnight. As head coach Joachim Loew said «it was the product of many years of work». It started 10 years ago from the days of previous coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

They adopted a ‘team-first approach’ to their game I.e. the players must maintain a belief in collective goals and a consistent commitment to training and preparation on a daily basis.

What emerged from the experience of watching the German team in the World Cup was a model for a young player to learn by evaluating his or her own commitment to the team.

The standards exhibited by the Germans were that a player must make the most of every opportunity on the field, buy into the team’s collective goals, set aside one’s own personal agenda and focus on the team’s objectives.

A high level of mental discipline in controlling emotions in the heat of the competition is also important. A player must stay disciplined and not lose control of his emotions, get sent off and leave the team to play a man down.

Regardless of how much discipline a team has, the process of finding ultimate success is not complete until it acquires another standard set by Germany, namely, attention to detail.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Before the World Cup 50 students from the University of Cologne compiled a database of information about every team, their structure and players which was made available to the German squad.

In Brazil, the Germans set up base by building a 14 villa luxury compound in the middle of a small town of 800 people protected by high walls and armed guards.

It was located in a tropical area in order to prepare the players for the hot conditions they would experience. Care was taken to use grass on the training pitch that was identical to that used on Brazilian pitches.

The camp was like a fortress, made to exclude all outside distractions but ideal for focus and concentration. The players were isolated from the outside world and were given new cell phone numbers to avoid receiving calls from anyone. And of course they had the usual complement of physical fitness specialists and psychologists.

Attention to detail also focused on tactics on the field.

Each player knew what he had to do and did it. Each of the 6 matches leading up to the final was treated as a warm-up and there was no celebration for winning until after the final.

After a close extra-time win over Algeria in the round of 16, the captain Philipp Lahm was moved from the midfield to full back for the last 3 matches. This change of tactic worked because after that they scored 9 and conceded only 2 goals.

It was noticeable that when Germany was defending, their front men retreated into deep positions to help the defense especially to recover balls that rebounded from their keeper. In contrast, when Mexico lost to Holland the Mexican strikers failed to do this; in the 88th minute Mexico was leading and a shot rebounded from Mexican keeper Ochoa and went straight to Dutch attacker, Wesley Sneijder who was unmarked and able to convert it. This neglect of a small detail cost Mexico a place in the quarter final.

GOAL EXPECTATION AND EFFICIENCY

In a study conducted among European clubs for the season 2012-2013, to measure the overall efficiency of teams (I.e. the number of goals scored in relation to chances created), two measures were used:-

«Shooting efficiency» measures whether you score more goals than are expected (probable) given the quality of chances you are presented with, and

«Defensive efficiency» measures to see if the number of goals conceded is lower compared to the expectation.

Interestingly the only team that appears in the top 15% in both measures is Bayern Munich (STATS BOMB- Goal Expectation and Efficiency, by Colin Trainor, August 6, 2013). The relevance of this is that the German national team is predominantly made up of Bayern Munich players. They are almost one and the same.

Not for the first time the words «Germany» and «efficiency» appear in the same sentence. In the World Cup this efficiency traversed onto the field of play. In the game against Brazil, Germany were outshot by Brazil 18-14 despite the one-sided result and in the final, Argentina created 3 clear chances and missed them while Germany created one which was taken and so they won.

With the largest population and the richest economy in Europe, Germany has an available pool of young talent and could spend about 1.1 billion dollars since 2001 on the soccer revolution. What has emerged is not a once-in-a-lifetime «golden generation» of players but a sustainable system that can produce great players at the highest level for a long time.

Victor A. Dixon

July 31, 2014

Best Football Teams In Bulgaria

Football is religion for this small country. Throughout its communist times, the Bulgarian nation managed to preserve its nationality and freedom exactly through supporting the country’s favourite football club – Levski Sofia named after the apostle of Bulgarian freedom from Ottoman rule, established in 1914. Known under many different names throughout the years, broken down and dissolved in an attempt to subdue the enthusiasm and empower the communist motto «If you’re not with us, you are against us» and stomp on the basic human rights to support a team they love, Levski Sofia football club has managed to perservere and come out on top in today’s society. It has won 26 Bulgarian Championship titles, only beaten by its rival CSKA Sofia. Famous football icons such as Gundi and Gonzo who played internationally have captained the team and have taken it to worldwide fame. Gerena stadium is the main stadium of Levski Stadium with capacity of 19,000.

The other mostly supported Bulgarian team is CSKA Sofia. Its history is a little different to Levski’s as they were the Army’s team in the past – supported by the government in power and managed by the very same. Considering they have won 31 title in the shorter history, founded in 1934, it is only fair to consider the fact that during communist times they were pushed to victories in order to maintain the control of the governing party by proving to the ordinary citizen that the leading party is the almighty powerful tool that is to lead them. If we put that aside, CSKA has provided one of the top quality footballers on a worldwide level, including Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov, one playing for Barcelona, reaching 4th place with Bulgarian national team and winning the Golden Ball award and the other playing for top clubs like Tottenham, Manchester United and Monaco and winning the Champions League, respectively. CSKA Sofia has a great academy for youngsters and is known to promote young footballers and develop them to become great professionals.

The most famous, risen to infamousy football club recently is Ludogoretz. It’s owner is Kiril Domuschiev, a wealthy businessman that funds the club and supplies it with a budget nearly 5 times as large as the second to it in terms of finance. Their main strategy is to acquire footballers from abroad, primarily African regions and Brazil and use them to dominate in the local championship. Results speak for themselves, Ludogoretz has been a champion for the past 4 years since it emerged in the Group A of the Bulgarian football league. They played in the Champions League groups last year narrowly losing to Liverpool and Real Madrid and beating Basel on home turf. The team resembles Manchester City and Real Madrid in terms of management and is the top club in Bulgaria at the moment.

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