KHS girls' soccer builds on young foundation

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Oct. 4, 2011
Renee Lawlor defends against Drew Gendreau. Photos by D. Coffey.
Renee Lawlor defends against Drew Gendreau. Photos by D. Coffey.

Killingly High School girls' soccer coach Michael Craig has had his players working hard at building their skills this past month. An initial turnout of 35 players was whittled down to 25 because of significant injuries. Now with a majority of freshmen on the team, neither the coach nor his players have the luxury of relying on experience.

“It's trial by fire,” Craig said. “They're young and they're learning the game.” The team is working on building up match fitness primarily, he said. And to that end, he's had them work on their dribbling, shooting and passing skills, over and over again. Craig is trying to toughen them up all around, and he's using the coaching philosophy of the Olympic women's soccer coach to do it.

"Tony DiCicco wrote a book called, 'Catch Them Being Good.’ I try to do that. When they're doing something good, I try to praise them for it,” said Craig.

Because the adjustment from middle school to high school play has been an immediate one for many of his players, Craig has tried to focus on those skills they haven't had time to develop, such as heading. “In middle school, it’s not really expected that you'll head the ball,” Craig said, “whereas here, if you don't head the ball, the other team is going to score.”

So he has them drill, stressing proper techniques to avoid injury. “If you do it improperly, you can get a concussion. You want to hit it with the front of your head, not the top of your head. You don't want to close your eyes,” Craig said. They are the skills that come with practice and play and experience.

To speed up the process, Craig has had his team do possession drills. He's stressed passing and relying on their teammates. He has made them limit their touches to three before passing the ball to a teammate. “There's a lot of putting your head down and dribbling as far as you can go in the youth leagues,” he said. Now it's up to him to teach an alternative. They have suffered their share of lumps for it. Their opponents have gotten the best of them in five of the seven games they've played so far this season.

The Redgals have their work cut out for them, but already they are one game up on last year's record. “We have high expectations for them in the future,” Craig said.

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