Putting together a successful soccer team is all about communication. Each player on the field needs to know where their teammate is going to be at a given time, and anticipate their actions often without saying a word.
That’s the challenge facing the brand-new varsity boys soccer team at Heritage Academy-Maricopa. Last year, they had a coed team, but this will be their first trek into varsity competition. Guiding them there will be Mike Hill, who previously has worked with his kids on their club teams such as Real Salt Lake-Arizona South.
Add to that the smaller practices due to COVID-19 restrictions, and Hill is still trying to figure out where each player’s skill level is at. He said there are a lot of freshmen on the team, with only two seniors and one junior.
“With this age group, they already have a basic understanding of the game, but they have bad habits,” Hill said. “I would say probably 95% of these kids have never played for a club organization.”
One perk of that is he doesn’t have a lot of players coming in thinking they know everything. Club players will often stick to what their club coach tell them. At Heritage, they are much more willing to do what Hill asks and put it into practice.
That ability to listen is key for starting a new program, Hill said. He excitedly points to three players who instinctively formed a triangle while doing a passing drill, something that shows the progress they’ve already made. He said now he’s really stressing soft touches on the ball, allowing them to maintain control of the game’s flow.
That being the case, Hill is still trying to make this season all about having fun, so the kids want to come back for more, and maybe bring some of their friends with them. He knows winning games can be quite the challenge in a program’s first year, so he’s putting the record at a lower priority.
“I’m trying not to be hard-nosed, just teach them the basics of gameplay,” Hill said. “I’m not here for the wins, I’m just here to teach them.”