Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Losing is bad for the game? - FIFA World Cup - Joanne Stuckey


So Day 2 (Sunday) proved to be goals galore! What a start for Germany and Norway. I’ve heard it said that Germany beating Ivory Coast 10 – 0 is not good for the game.  But is it really the score line that is important, or the fact that Ivory Coast were playing their first ever World Cup game?

            With the tournament now having been increased to 24 teams, there is going to be an element in some of the games of a large score line.  Yet to say this is bad for the game is rather short sighted; the bigger picture is not being taken in account. The alternative of trying to stop big score lines in this instance would be to keep the tournament to fewer teams, but this offers zero opportunity for emerging teams to gain invaluable experience. 

            I think it’s fair to assume that Ivory Coast would rather be beaten 10 nil by Germany at the World Cup, than not be there at all.  The lessons they will have learned will help them to make gradual improvements.  The only way they can make these improvements is to play against the better teams – and get beaten!  It’s the classic ‘chicken – egg’ scenario.

            Several years ago, the annual rugby 5 nations tournament in Europe was increased to 6, Italy being the new kids on the block. And they got hammered, game after game by the vastly more experienced regular teams. But now?
            Now they are winning games. Now they are not finishing bottom of the table. Now they are not losing by so many points.  The only way for them to have made these improvements was to have gone through that steep learning curve of being beaten, and beaten by a big score.

            Losing can teach us so much, if we have a positive attitude towards it. Yes it’s hard, yes it hurts, yet it forces us to make changes and improvements.

            As coaches of different sports, I’m sure we’ve all had games where our team were big time losers. (An U8s girls football team I’ve recently been helping to coach have spent a whole season losing.)  But it’s been their first season playing together and the aim was simply to just give them experience of games to help them learn. 
            It would be interesting to hear your stories of what you do or say to your team after a heavy defeat, or a series of losses.

            A lot of focus and importance is put on winning; the result becomes all-important. Yet those coaches who are mature enough to keep their players looking to the bigger, long-term picture, will have a team that is stronger, has more resolve and is able to stand together and keep going, whatever the result.

FIFA Women's World Cup - Day 1 - Joanne Stuckey


So the tournament has finally begun. The years, months, weeks and days of counting and expectation have finally ended. Now it’s up to the players to show the world what they can do.
Game 1, the hosts Canada v China proved to be an interesting game; the passion & organisation of Canada (adrenalin clearing running high, especially in the first half) against the tenacity & dogged determination of the Chinese. The woodwork on both goals got a good battering; yet what stood out most of all was the pitch.

I am still astounded that FIFA have allowed a showpiece tournament to be played on artificial pitches. My biggest gripe is a simple one: they wouldn’t do it to the men. On that basis alone, their actions are surely sexist? Does anyone know the truth as to why FIFA have allowed it?

My second biggest gripe is that the bounce and run of the ball are different than on grass and it’s clearly having an impact on the players.
Tony DiCiccio (Ex USA & Boston Breakers head coach) said: “The turf is an issue on the field and it shows on the players faces.”
Furthermore, the Head Coach of China said they had only played on this pitch once before.

Yet however much we comment or complain about the 4G pitches, nothing is going to change for this World Cup, so we best get used to them, quickly!

Fantastically, a record attendance of 53,058 for any Canadian national team game was achieved. Also, #FIFAWWC was trending worldwide during the game, another achievement.
And just when then organisers and the Canadian supporters thought that the game was going to end in a disappointing 0-0 draw, the referee makes a brave decision to award a last minute penalty.
In spite of the question marks over it being awarded, one had to admire the mental &physical strength of the Canadian hero, Sinclair, who admirably tucked the penalty into the bottom left corner, despite the keepers best attempts to get a hand to it.
It sealed the win, which did seem rather cruel on China who had worked hard to get a point, yet the relief around the stadium was tangible.
Football is brilliant and cruel in equal measures!

My favourite comment of the opening game came after the final whistle from Jen O’Neill (editor of She Kicks website & magazine). She Tweeted: “The person on the stadium PA has a sense of humour. Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ just came on!”

On to game 2 New Zealand v Nederlands

In comparison, this game was much more free flowing in the first half, partly due I think to it not having so much hype and tension around it.  Both teams were keen to press forward at any given opportunity and in particular, some of the movement and passing from the Dutch team was impressive.  The goal from Martens was a quality strike indeed.
Despite The Ferns pushing forwards for a equalizer and spending most of the second half in the Dutch half, the quality of their final pass was lacking and created few clear cuts chances on goal.

What was evident in both games was the quality of the goal keeping.  This has been a weak spot in the women’s game, so it was good to see some good keeping from the girls in-between the sticks.

So overall, a reasonable start to this World Cup. Plenty more games (and dubious referring decisions no doubt), to come.

May the 'butchest team' win? Sexism in the World Cup - Joanne Stuckey


The morning of the start of the 2015 Women’s World Cup and @BBC Sport send out a Tweet saying they’ve “got every game covered” with a picture of their 5 person punditry team.
I know from previous experience what to expect as I begin to look at the replies.  This time is no exception. I had to scroll down to the 11th Tweet to find the first positive comment. The previous 10 (all from men) were a mixture of derivative comments, a ‘charming’ example being “I’m washing my hair.”
The good news is that overall there were some positive comments.

I decided to check out other Tweets (why do I punish myself?!) and again (yawn), the same sexist drivel is on show:
“Make sure not to break a nail”, “Why are they not in the kitchen?” and an amazing comment, “I’d rather shit in my hands and clap.”[than watch]

One Tweet simply asked ‘Who will win the World Cup?’ which brought responses such as: “Outer Mongolian women’s federation”, “The butchest team” and one that only said “hahahahahahahahahahahaha.”
All of these comments are from men.

Yet mercifully, it’s not all bad. One man tweeted: “Ignore trolls. Football family embraces, supports and welcomes all football.” Bravo!

This is what I don’t understand more than anything.
Real football fans want ‘the beautiful game’ to be played and enjoyed by all types of people.  One of reason’s it is beautiful is because it can be played by anyone, anywhere whatever their gender, height, ability (mental & physical), race, etc. Why do these other so-called ‘fans’ want it to be an exclusive male club?

The answer is written on the huge elephant that is in the room. Sexism. Yet I know (from personal experience on Twitter), that the men who have made these comments would not say it was sexist at all, merely ‘banter’.

I’m going to keep an eye on other Tweets throughout the tournament.  It is my hope that by the end of this World Cup, there will be some improvement in the male opinion.  But I won’t be holding my breath.

Cricket...why it's priceless - Rhian Tod


Rhian is head coach for the Oxfordshire U11 Girls Squad as well as a senior player in the county team. Whilst she is still fairly new to the world of coaching, she has been involved with cricket for 13 years and is a true pioneer for the game.
You as a coach, whether you are a volunteer or paid, are so much more than just a pioneer for your hobby. Not only are you providing an opportunity for people to have a go at sport…you are helping to equip your players, whether young or old, with the essential life skills they need to take on the big wide world with capacity, courage and most importantly, confidence.

I am so grateful for sport and the invaluable life skills it has embedded in me.  I started playing cricket when I was 8 years old, and it has been the centre of my summers ever since. Playing it and now coaching it, is not only something I am passionate about but it continues to equip me with the ability to handle any situation I am faced with in everyday life – and that, I feel, is pretty priceless.  

Cricket has taught me how to be a team player - not only in the face of success but also when things have gotten pretty tough…and pretty tough they’ve gotten!  Relationships with people; whether they be professional or social are SO important and it’s no secret that the key to any successful relationship is teamwork. Decent teamwork comes down to one thing, every single member taking responsibility for themselves and their own actions. Whilst this lesson usually comes following hardship and a rough ride on the success train -  as coaches, we are providing a fun environment where players can get used to being in these kind of situations before the reality of the world hits them. For them, priceless.

Discipline – an important skill to possess and I don’t just mean so you avoid raiding the sweet cupboard and sabotage your healthy eating.  Discipline in Cricket is so important – knowing the right time to play the ball, instead of swinging at everything and hoping for the best. You get one chance to bat, so be in control of it, even in the face of frustration.  It takes one delivery to get out and then you are watching from the side line and you can’t score runs from there, can you?  Providing your players with the capacity to exercise discipline in any form of life, again, is priceless. 

Making choices under pressure, thinking on your feet, assessing and responding to a variety of situations, clear communication, adaptability, positive body language – all these skills are imperative to being a good sportswoman and an even better coach.  So…In those moments of self-reflection, which as women we have all too often, remember, that you are not just teaching players how to play a sport, you are teaching them how to play life and that, IS priceless. 

Amelie is Part of the Solution - Coach W


I have spent this week following Women’s Sports Week, a fantastic initiative aimed at raising awareness of women in sport.  I have fully immersed myself in reading tweets, interviews, blogs, articles and listening to TV and radio programmes full of many inspirational women involved in sport.  It is fantastic to see all these women coming together to raise awareness of the huge number of issues we have in women’s sport ranging from a lack of sponsorship, media attention, women in leadership positions, a lack of female coaches and a lack of role models etc etc...

However, there has been one huge factor that has been missed out...the solution.

Everything I have read and listened to reiterates the point that we need to raise awareness of how good women’s sport is and we need more role models to show the world women are as good as men...and yet, we have missed one of the biggest opportunities to show the world that women can do it just as well and encourage women that it is possible to have a career in sport.  I am talking about the incredible ‘opportunity’ that is Amelie Mauresmo; the one ‘woman in sport’ who is on the brink of achieving one of the most groundbreaking feats in sport...coaching an elite male athlete to a Tennis Grand Slam.  Could this be more perfect timing?!

The image of Amelie at the French Open over this last week has it all...a woman coaching a current

world number 3 in a Grand Slam tournament who is heavily pregnant, wearing pink with her hair down looking feminine.  At no point has Amelie tried to hide her femininity, hide that she is pregnant or hide away from the fact that the Worlds media attention is on her just because she is a woman coaching a man.  She has remained professional, disciplined and focussed...and all as a pregnant woman in a ‘man’s world’.

I cannot help but be annoyed that the world of sport seems obsessed by ‘raising awareness’ of current issues of sexism and yet, in the one week where all the attention is on women in sport (in the UK anyway), the one woman who is making groundbreaking head way and proving at least one solution to all this is totally missed.  Amelie truly is the ‘poster woman’ for women in sport.

The time has come to stop spending all the raising awareness, we don’t need the research to tell us there is a lack of women in sport – every woman involved in sport knows the issues...we now need to focus on the solution...and in Amelie, we have one hell of a success story and a truly inspirational role model!