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Pitch Points knows #BlackLivesMatter

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I run through some links of interest to Nashville SC, US Soccer, and more. Alas, the “more” is much heavier stuff nowadays.

The Big Thing

I have no intention of speaking for the Black community, nor am I trying to fake being woke to score points with the larger soccer community (y’all know where to find that if you’re interested), but Sam Stejskal’s recent discussion on Allocation Disorder summed up my feelings well: it is not my right to speak for anyone but myself, but it is my responsibility to speak for myself. We can all do more when it comes to social and racial justice.

I would encourage donating or volunteering with an organization like Gideon’s Army, which has the mission of ending the cycle of incarceration in underserved communities, particularly the Black community right here in Nashville. A program like Kickin’ it 615 doesn’t specifically serve the Black community and I don’t want to All-Lives-Matter my call to action in the local area, but if you’re looking for something soccer-related, low-income and refugee communities could obviously use some help. 

Moving into some links…

The Vocal Minority podcast discusses racism in society and stadiums, with a concentration on North of the border (it’s primarily a Toronto FC pod). I found it primarily because they linked to my breakdown of MLS teams’ statements – which they only briefly had time to mention on the episode itself – but it’s a good, honest discussion.

Also, as someone who mostly grew up in Michigan and is very familiar with Ontario accents, hearing someone speak in one with a mad-as-hell tone of voice was new to me. 

The Athletic talks to a number of players in MLS for their takes on the, uh, state our society is in. 

I had some mixed feelings about LA Galaxy firing Aleksandar Katai because his wife is a racist and bad, but kept coming back to, “there’s more to this story.” Former Chicago Fire teammate CJ Sapong says there was a pattern of behavior with the player himself, and while certainly Sapong’s not speaking for the Galaxy, you can pretty safely assume that these sorts of anecdotes indicate that the Galaxy did not get satisfactory explanations from Katai when they discussed the issues with him.

Other serious, but way less-serious stuff

The final days of the US Soccer Development Academy were wild times. I am glad to see that a number of more-invested individuals share my opinion that the DA had to go, but that the way the Federation went about it was… not the thing to do.

“It could have been wrapped up in a better way that maybe respected the clubs that were members of it a little more, maybe respected the people that put a lot of time into it a little bit better,” he said. “If the decision is made, for whatever reasons, that it needs to go away, OK, that’s fine. But if it’s gonna go away, let’s do it the right way.”

As with a number of college programs in soccer and other sports, the coronavirus pandemic is the final straw (and maybe PR cover) for a cost-saving measure that the decision-makers wanted anyway, of course. 

Speaking of college soccer and money, how will NIL rights for student-athletes – which will get through despite the NCAA’s resistance – impact a sport like soccer? Unlike some college sports, the possibility of a professional career (and multiple pathways to such a career) put the NCAA in a more competitive environment in which they have to play ball a bit more… though we’ve seen in recent years that it’s more intent on digging in its heels and harming student-athletes than actually doing what makes sense, so… shrug.

“Using coronavirus as an excuse to make cuts you wanted to make anyway” is not going to be the case if and when high-level amateur and semipro clubs can’t survive the revenue losses and other complications from the current situation.

Otto is a former semi-pro soccer player who sold his party bus business and quit his job as an after-school soccer coach to start the Oxnard club in 2016. He said that he will push through the financial hit due to the pandemic.

But like many lower-tier franchise owners, he doesn’t have the overhead to spend forever.

“I’m worried about the long term,” Otto said. “If [the pandemic] goes on through 2021, it will be an issue.”

Many of these clubs are passion projects from the get-go, and not profitable to begin with. Soccer in the United States is a sport that tends to draw from a population (on both the playing and administrative sides) that can throw a bit of good money after bad, but the reserves don’t last forever.

Very less serious stuff, of the normal soccer variety

Congrats to Tennessee state boys’ soccer player of the year, Brandon Parrish of Fairview High School. Parrish will play his college soccer at Clemson. 

This very good interview with Nashville SC Academy Director Jamie Smith from The Herald in his native Scotland is almost as much about music as it is about soccer. Heck, it’s definitely more about music than it is about soccer. However, there’s a very good soccer-related quote that gets to the core of his philosophy:

“There is a great TED talk by a teacher called Ken Robinson. He talks about how the general education system educates kids out of creativity with standardised testing, having to meet these benchmarks and goals. In the coaching world we are at a risk of coaching kids out of creativity. You provide data, you’ve got video analysis, you’ve got benchmarks and goals – and, again, I’m not saying those things are bad – but if that is the main thing that you are going off then it makes the game . . . I don’t know . . . it’s not how I was brought up playing football. There’s so much to be said for throwing a ball out and letting kids play.”

Nashville SC Academy Director Jamie Smith

Here’s the TED talk he mentions. It’s worth your 20 minutes generally – there’s a reason Smith is out recommending it to people – even if the specifics of how it applies are fairly well drilled-down in the Herald interview.

Speaking of Nashville SC academy, it’s kicking off its second season, with a message from various people inside the club:

Looking forward to the growth of the Academy.

The coronavirus pandemic (and resulting shutdown of on-field activities basically the world over) has allowed teams to take a step back and look holistically at their recruitment. Here’s an interesting interview from Sounder at Heart with Seattle sporting director Chris Henderson.

Etc.: A long interview in Spanish with Brayan Beckeles. His audio is pretty poor at times, so I’ll admit to only absorbing parts of it. We regret the error. … A long (print) interview with Jalil Anibaba, with some interesting takes on development and his current (as of a couple weeks ago) preparation for returning from the coronavirus dead period. Any excuse to shoehorn a Hal Mumme reference into a soccer discussion is a blind link from me. … Some youths in the NYRB system. … A pair of Nashville SC selections on David Gass’s all-Ghana MLS squad.

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