By Doug Hare EBS SPORTS EDITOR
BIG SKY – The Brazilian soccer star Pelé was one of the first to popularize calling soccer “o jogo bonito” or “the beautiful game.” Whether we are speaking in Portuguese or English, soccer does have its aesthetic merits—but only if played with skill, artistry, passion and ingenuity.
That is why it’s been satisfying for me to coach the U15 coed Big Sky Futbol Club team for the past two seasons. With the fall season winding down and one last tournament to play in Bozeman, I’ve been reminiscing about the progress my team has made in two short seasons: leaps and bounds.
In our first spring season as a team, goals were hard to come by, our decision-making questionable, and our ability to possess the ball nonexistent at times. Unlike American football coaches, you don’t get to call in plays or call timeouts. The goal is to create players who have an instinctive feel for the ebbs and flows of the game, knowing where the next pass should go, where they should be positioned on defense, how to run off the ball, when to attack directly and when to switch the field of play.
It’s been rewarding to see my players figure out the fundamentals of the game and how a relatively simple game, with respect to rules, offers the endless complexities and entertainment of 22 players trying to get a spherical object into a rectangular frame. For my team, players standing still transformed into a cohesive unit creating dynamic attacking chances; unnecessary turnovers turned into strategic passing that ended with the ball in the back of the net.
Across the board for Big Sky FC, coaches and parents saw significant improvement in the quality of play, not only from the previous spring season, but throughout the fall season as well.
“As a new U6 coach, I definitely felt the challenge of introducing the game to a group of 13 kindegarteners. But as the season went on, it was great watching both players and coaches develop into a team. I hope a lot of them came away with a new appreciation for the game,” Coach Kevin Daily said.
With over 120 players participating in the program, Coach Tony Coppola of the U18 coed team noted that there is now a strong pipeline of players who will eventually contribute to his team as they get older and more experienced with the nuances of the beautiful game.
With robust numbers of participants as a relatively new club, that pipeline will eventually open up the possibility for Lone Peak High School to petition for a varsity soccer team, or even a women’s and men’s varsity team, to compete in the Montana High School Association’s Class A division. Currently, projected enrollment numbers could turn LPHS into a class-B athletic program within two years.
“Well, it’s too early to say but that is a conversation that parents and coaches should start having. It might not happen next spring, but it would nice to see [then] seniors like our captains Sara Wilson and Evan Iskenderian representing their high school on their home field,” said Coppola, an award-winning history teacher at Lone Peak.