Sorry for disappearing like that after the final! It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with limited computer access, so consider this a catchup post.

I managed to watch the final with my four kids (Ages 9, 7, 3, and 1) in a local restaurant. We had been running errands and our last stop was to get cleats for our daughter before summer camp. By the time we found a pair she liked and fit, it was 5 minutes before kickoff, none of us had eaten, and we were 25 minutes from home (which doesn’t have a big screen TV yet anyway) So we hit a local restaurant I knew had a big screen at the bar and there we were, Soccer Dad and four kids sitting at the bar watching the match. We got some funny looks from other folks eating lunch when we’d erupt with a cheer or groan (even the 1 year old yelled ‘Yay!’ and clapped when Zizou’s PK went in) Of course my eldest decided he was cheering for Italy. Oh how I’ve failed as a soccer parent! The interesting part was how many people kept creeping into the bar area to catch an update on the match – great to see in the US.

Ah Zizou, you’ve been known to be a hothead at times but did you have to do that? So much ink has spilled already over this I’m not sure there is much I could add except to say that we’re all human, the pressure can be intense, and it was justice that he nailed Materazzi. Ooops did I say that out loud? Bad Zidane! Bad!

Let’s just say I had to do some delicate dancing explaining to my kids why one of the players I’d been pointing out to them repeatedly in terms of grace, skill, and footwork during the Cup had just flattened some guy with a headbutt. It was sad to see how many in the media piled on and didn’t really understand that a) Materazzi is sometimes referred to by his own countrymen as L’animale so how about a little background, b) the 4th referee was the one who told the AR who then told the CR, it was not the big TV, c) He got the Golden Ball via a vote taken at halftime BEFORE the headbutt, and d) this would not somehow turn off new American soccer viewers – we like violence in our sports even if it’s uncalled for.

I’m not excusing what he did and he obviously would have done better for his team if he hadn’t. But its not the end of the world.

Among the explosion of articles talking about ‘the Butt’, I found a couple that had interesting takes on it. Check out ‘Zidane y va marquer’ over at Bitch PhD and ‘Three Cheers for Butthead’ over a Time. UPDATE: If you haven’t eaten within the past hour, check out Hannibal Zidane over at ThroughBall. OMG.

I really enjoyed the World Cup even for all its fits and starts. Like any huge event – there is always a lot to improve, but it was exciting and as a US soccer fan it was invigorating to see so many people get excited about the sport I love. Even if they don’t continue tuning in to MLS, it was great to see.

Looks like our new USL First team got a name – the Carolina Railhawks. The name was chosen from hundreds of fan submissions and it turns out that Jarrett @ Triangle Soccer Fanatics was the winner! That’s karma considering TSF will be one of the best places to get Railhawks news as they get ready to play. It’s an interesting name. I chuckled when Triangle Pro Soccer talked about how the name would reflect the history of Cary (which is a HUGE suburb of Raleigh) because most folks here never thought it really had much of one. Most people when asked what Cary stands for will reply ‘Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees’ since many NC transplants who work in nearby RTP live in Cary. But there is a railroad history there like many cities in North Carolina so it makes sense. I’ll admit the name struck me as odd at first but it’s definitely growing on me. The use of the hawk is great as we have hawks flying all over in central NC. Besides, it’s not like there aren’t other odd names in the USL First like Silverbacks, Battery, Impact, Raging Rhinos, Sounders, and Whitecaps. I think Railhawks will fit right in. Congrats Jarrett!

So where did I disappear to? The day after the final, our league’s summer camp took place. We had almost 120 kids participating in four different programs from a 1 hour introduction to soccer for 3-4 year olds to a full day camp for 6-14 year olds. While the folks at Challenger Sports take care of running the programs, volunteers from our league take care of all the other stuff like water supplies, sprinklers to cool down in, concessions, first aid, etc. I was going to be there all week. I had my laptop, my cellphone, and my bluetooth adapter all ready to get online from the concession stand. Windows, however, had other ideas and insisted on reinstalling my cellphone’s dial up service every time I tried to connect. It was a nightmare, so I never managed to get online (I’d used the same setup MANY times before without a problem) By the time I got home I was as exhausted as my kids and crashed pretty early in order to be up by 6:30AM to start the next day. Let’s just say I had HUNDREDS of emails waiting for me when I logged on early this week.

Once camp ended, well this week is all about getting the Fall 2006 season setup for our local league. The other coordinators and I have been busy assigning rosters, recruiting a few coaches, etc. Looks like we’ll have 600 kids in Rec and 100 in Challenge this Fall which is our best year yet. Not too shabby for a small city of 8,000 people or so. Practices start in a couple weeks so it’ll be busy for a while as I’m coaching both a U8 team and a U10 team.

I sure hope you all stick around! While I had a lot of fun posting about the World Cup, the primary focus of On The Pitch has always been youth soccer. Sure, we’ll stray into other areas from time to time, but don’t forget that it all starts with our youth programs. With Coach Arena being let go, there will be a renewed focus on how the US is developing soccer players and what the best way to do that is. Can’t wait to write those posts! It won’t be boring!

Posting here at On The Pitch is intermittent normally. Sometimes a couple posts a day, sometimes one post a week. Feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed so you get alerted to new content asap. As always, if there is a topic you’d like to see covered here or if you have a post you’d like to submit about youth soccer, just drop me a line. Nothing like a good guest post to liven things up!