soccer

Turning the game on its head will give American soccer a leg up in the World Cup

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News As the sporting world turns its gaze toward Russia and the final games of the World Cup, the United States is on the outside looking in. The U.S. Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the tournament at all after a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago last year. That’s the first time the team missed out on soccer’s biggest showcase since 1990. Yet even then only once did the U.S. advance as far as the quarterfinals. The failure of the men’s team (the women’s team, a dominant force in the world’s game. is another story) has cause plenty of head scratching and advice on how to improve. Most focus on training at the elite levels. Two local men Nathan Richardson and Carlo Celli, both on faculty at Bowling Green State University as well as youth soccer coaches, administrators and parents, have other ideas. Those ideas sprang from their experience here in Bowling Green as well as around the world. Celli is a native of Italy, where he continues to summer, and Richardson’s scholarship has meant stays in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. The result of their passion for the game and frustrations with its state in the U.S. have resulted in a broad prescription in book form, “Shoeless Soccer: Fixing the System and Winning the World Cup.” The book has garnered attention on Fox News and the authors wrote an opinion piece in USA Today. The epiphany came in Bowling Green. Richardson was leading winter training sessions for Bowling Green Soccer Club players at the Community Center. During one practice, one of the young players’ shoe “exploded.” There was no way to fix it, so rather than exclude the boy, Richardson suggested they all play barefoot. Setting fear of stubbed bruised, even broken, toes aside, the kids played on and Richardson realized being shoeless forced the youngsters to play with more care, and with more technique. No toeing the ball with a bare foot, rather they were forced to have the soft touch every soccer player wants to achieve. They were learning without coaching. Another revelation came, said Richardson, when the younger sister of a player showed up and wanted to participate. Richardson always welcomes other players so he let her join. That meant no drills, just a game. As these sessions continued they used different sized balls, even a tennis ball as a way of emulating kids who sometimes had to make their own out of rags. He observed that the youngsters playing on the hard surface of a basketball court were now learning in the way kids around the world learn to play. Not on lush grass that slows the ball down, not in strictly segregated age groups, not burdened by shin guards or even shoes. Not at games and practices carefully controlled by coaches and monitored by parents. The kids in Spain or Brazil or Italy, play in the street. That’s where they develop the skills and creativity to help them succeed at elite levels, leading to the World Cup. In “Shoeless Soccer,” Celli and Richardson turn the world of American soccer, or football as everyone else calls it, on its head. They write: “Everything will continue to be lost without a transformation in American soccer from a reliance on…


Study to see if sports complex could score big here

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents of young children often pack up the vehicles several weekends of the year to head out to travel ball tournaments. Local economic development officials want to see if they might be able to get a piece of that action. Four entities – Wood County Economic Development Commission plus the cities of Perrysburg, Rossford and Maumee – have invested $15,000 each to have a study conducted on whether or not this area could support a massive sports complex. “I think there is a demand,” said Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk. “We all know parents who drive kids to tournaments every weekend. We want to see if there’s enough demand for something of this scope.” Perrysburg Mayor Mike Olmstead suggested the feasibility study after visiting the Grand Park sports campus near Indianapolis. That 400-acre facility includes more than 31 multipurpose and soccer fields, 26 baseball diamonds, and an indoor soccer and events center. “It’s a great idea,” Gottschalk said. That’s why experts in the field have been brought in to do impartial evaluations, he added. If the study finds that such a sports complex would be feasible in this area, then the next question is where, Gottschalk said. Some suggestions have been made that acreage in between Perrysburg and Bowling Green, somewhere along Ohio 25, would be considered. “But we’re not to that point yet,” Gottschalk said. Some signs point to a large sports complex being successful here, he added. There is ample open land, a large population, and good transportation access. “We’ve got better interstate access,” Gottschalk said. The study will look at the number of people likely to be drawn here for tournaments. “How much can we attract from the outside,” he asked. A local sports complex would benefit area residents by shortening their weekend drives to some tournaments. But the big win would be attracting business to the region from those families. “These tournaments draw thousands,” Gottschalk said. “You’ve got hotels being booked. You’ve got restaurants being used. You’ve got stores being shopped at. Those would be new dollars coming into the county.” Gottschalk doesn’t expect the feasibility study to be completed before the first of 2018.