Our club is blessed to have a lot of great writers as well as great coaches, players and parents.  Here we assemble some of their thoughts, ideas, musings, and viewpoints.  We hope you enjoy them…
Reflecting Back on the 2023/2024 Season!!

As summer swiftly approaches and my kids impatiently anticipate the end of the school year and the first plunge into the pool, I can’t help but reflect upon this past MACH 1 season. We’ve had some nail-bitingly close games, and we’ve had some blowouts, but for me, that’s not what I’ll remember. Reflecting on this season, I will remember the hard work and dedication each player, coach, and parent put into this club. I will remember the profound sense of community that MACH 1 fosters. I will remember the new friendships that my son has built, and I will look forward to the next season. MACH 1 almost didn’t happen for Pierce. I remember this day like it was yesterday…

My son, a new soccer player with only a few seasons of town soccer, embarked on his MACH 1 journey last fall. It was a hot, muggy summer afternoon, the kind of day you want to sit around inside under the AC parked in front of the TV. When we finally arrived at the Burrillville Middle School field. The field was alive with activity. Boys and girls raced around and skillfully dribbled their balls up and down the field, donning the trademark orange MACH 1 practice uniform. The air was buzzing with chatter and excitement as old and new faces blended to form the new teams for the upcoming season. I glanced over at my son, expecting to see a broad smile, but instead, he greeted me with a look of dread. The other kids’ skill levels intimidated him. He saw them practicing and wanted to quit before he even got started. Thankfully, Coach Rob talked him out of that decision, and we are still here today. Thanks to the friendships he has made, Keeper Coach Steve, and his team coaches, I have witnessed a remarkable transformation in my son. His confidence as a goalkeeper and player has soared. He now enjoys playing the game more and has developed a deep love and appreciation for the sport.

I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity the MACH 1 Staff has given me to share my experiences as a parent in the club and for the readers who take the time to read my articles. MACH 1 has profoundly impacted us, and we are proud to be part of this community.

Since joining MACH 1, what positive transformations have you witnessed in your child? We would love to hear your insights info@mach1fc.com

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph

Game Intelligence and Why it Matters?

As time raced across the clock and the loud buzz erupted, I felt a sigh of relief because this particular game was over. I’m not usually rushing to meet my son after a game because he is always the last one off the field. I hurried down the stairs to the first floor because I wasn’t sure how he would feel. With his backpack on and sweat streaks down his face, I asked him my usual question, “How did it go?” Luckily, he gave his typical shrug and smile and then asked for his post-game blue slushy from the snack shack. I figured that was the end of our conversation; boy, was I wrong.

Later that night, freshly showered and ready for dinner, my son said, “I felt bad for the other team.” I asked him why. He paused and then replied, “They won, but they didn’t get to play the game. They didn’t get to make any of their own choices.”

Puzzled, I looked up from the soup I was warming and asked him to explain. “Their coach was just yelling at them and telling them exactly where to be and what to do. It made the game less fun, and I’m glad my coach doesn’t do that.”

I smiled and thought about his last words, “They didn’t get to play the game.” He was right; even though the other team won, they didn’t get to play the game, which was unfortunate.

Before my son joined MACH 1, I was ignorant about what “really playing the game” entailed. I remember at another game, I was standing next to a MACH 1 parent, and that’s when I overheard the term “Game IQ.”  I leaned in because this term was new to me. I had never heard of it before that day. Game IQ or Game Intelligence, what is it, and why does it matter?

According to Professor Mark Williams, game intelligence is about the ability to process information, anticipate what is about to happen, and react accordingly. https://www.fifatrainingcentre.com/en/community/science-explained/mark-williams-on-game-intelligence.php

At my son’s age, I never thought about what happens when the boys take the field at the start of a game. I always thought the coaches made all of the decisions. I’m glad I was wrong. It feels good to know that my son and the other players are part of a soccer club that allows them to be equal partners in their development as players.

According to another source, GoalNC, an online Soccer publication (https://goalnc.com/about), “Soccer is not just a physical sport; it’s a game of strategy, intelligence, and quick decision-making. Elevating your soccer IQ can significantly enhance your performance on the field.”

Here are some key strategies to boost your soccer intelligence: (https://goalnc.com/elevating-your-soccer-iq/)

  • Watch and Analyze High-Level Matches
  • Study Tactical Formations
  • Play Regularly
  • Understand Player Roles
  • Improve Your Technical Skills
  • Stay Physically Fit
  • Engage in Soccer Discussions
  • Read Books and Articles

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph

I am a Superhero!

Today, I just received some amazing news! Are you ready for it? I am a superhero! Guess what? As a parent, you are one, too! Sure, I can’t shoot lasers from my eyes or stop time, but I am Captain Marvel when it comes to my kids’ athletics!

According to a study conducted by Harwood and Knight, 2015 (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1291711/full)

“Although parents, coaches, and peers all contribute to the outcomes of young athletes in this context, parents remain the primary social agents shaping adolescent experiences and participation in sports throughout childhood and adolescence.”

But wait, what about the coaches? Okay, I’m only sharing half the story. When it comes to player development at games and practices, Coaches are still the captains. An excellent coach can take players far and beyond in their athletics and help players foster their skills and love of the sport, while a poorly trained coach will do the opposite (we have all experienced both). But parents, don’t count yourselves out; at home, we significantly impact kids’ growth and attitudes toward sports.

So now that we have recognized our superhero powers, how do we support our kids and coaches?

According to Dr. Luke Patrick, PhD, LLC, Sports psychologist, here are some key things we as parents can do:

1) Let the coaches do the coaching and challenge yourself to only yell support. In other words, let any feedback you give, verbal or nonverbal, be either in affirmation of a job well done, or encouragement when things don’t go well on the playing field. No advice, no correction, no coaching (https://www.lukepatrickphd.com/post/parental-positivity-with-purpose-in-youth-sports).

2) Parents can then focus on their best role: being their kid’s biggest fan! When things go well, go wild with joy! When your kid falters (which inevitably they will do, because that’s sports and that’s life), stay chill, trust the coaching process, and know that learning is not only a long game but also goes best when kids have a strong sense of being supported and loved no matter how they perform (https://www.lukepatrickphd.com/post/parental-positivity-with-purpose-in-youth-sports).

As a parent, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to withhold feedback or help from your kid, especially after a loss. We try to do what is best for our kids but must trust the process. By remembering our role, we can “stay in our lane” and help our kids enjoy their sport/sports. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph

The Incredible Player’s Mindset!

A player’s mindset is a complex enigma. It consists of numerous moving parts: How a player thinks, how they shift their mindset mid-game when things are out of sync, rallying and not giving up, and keeping their head on straight to think clearly enough to get over that mental wall that you hit when you are frustrated with your performance (and the list goes on). Keeping the “Player’s Mindset” can sometimes seem almost impossible, but during my son’s game last week, I was fortunate enough to see the incredible “Player’s Mindset” at work.

Here’s how it unfolded. We were headed for a crushing loss. We were halfway through the second half of the game when I noticed it. It started when I saw my son weave around his opponent and then boot the ball to our midfielders. He was in complete control, and he was determined. I was impressed and astonished because I had never seen him play with so much confidence before. All of his hard work was starting to show. I followed the ball to the midfielders, and then the strikers, and I saw that same air of confidence and control – the boys were focused and determined. As the ball moved back and forth between teams and our boys seamlessly switched positions mid-play per coach Jose’s directions, I realized that our team was capturing the essence of the Player’s Mindset. They weren’t thinking about the score; they were playing the game freely. It was a joy to see! They looked to each other, passed the ball fluidly, and listened to their coach. Was it always perfect? Of course not, but they were trying, and that’s what counts. They tuned out the extraneous chatter and stayed present as a team.

Bouncing back and staying focused during a game, especially when you are losing, or your team feels out of sync, is a complicated and sometimes impossible task. Still, I was impressed that our team continued and played the best competitive game possible while employing the Player’s Mindset.

For more information about the Player’s Mindset: https://www.competitivedge.com/how-to-maintain-a-positive-attitude-when-youre-losing/

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph

A Coach’s Life on the Pitch

Recently, I coached a couple of groups/teams of U10 players in a 4 x 4 tournament. The games were exciting and full of quick play, with players subbing out every 5-7 minutes. I always find it difficult to restrain my enthusiasm at a player’s successes within the game, affirming their efforts with comments like, “Great pass, nice shot, go, dribble! Good hustle, try again… All the coaching philosophies tell us to reserve instruction and direction to practice and sit quietly at the game. That is a personal challenge for me. I’m not apologizing. After all, at this age, I believe players require an “attaboy” to stay connected and build confidence in the game, and that they should get recognition – it’s a significant reason I coach! I think it was Dr. Phil who said, “It takes 100 attaboys to make up for one. “You should’ve done…”

Although I am often loud and have been told that I have “One of those voices that carry,” I’m always aware of my tone, and I use the “inquiry” model in my constructive criticism; “Can you dribble by your opponent? Use your left foot. Try it! Great pass, I love it! Take one more touch closer before shooting, …?” Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, we hear the opponent’s coach yelling, “Shoot, shoot, shoot,” – even when his players don’t have the ball. We also hear the shouts of the player’s parents. How are these players able to think independently above all of the chatter?

This brings me to the real point of my “story”—adult behavior.
Parents, please don’t coach from the sidelines; that’s my job as the coach. This is a vital coaching rule shared at initial team meetings starting every season. Once, I heard a parent say, “Nobody’s gonna stop me from yelling down at my kid.” To clarify, I understand your passion but always make positive and encouraging comments, especially with the younger ages. Remember, we want players to make the decision to dribble and beat the opponent. “Pick their path.” Pressure the ball when the other team has possession. Pass the ball across the field and take a shot on goal.

And most importantly, not be afraid to try and sometimes make mistakes so that they learn and grow. The game is where it all comes together. All the countless drills, skills, and strategies our players and coaches work together on are tested. As coaches, we want the player to make decisions!

So, back to the other day’s games. This one boy comes off the field with his shoulders slumped and a grim face. He was clearly frustrated, maybe even on the verge of tears, so I called him over to sit with me on the bench. A conversation ensues as I assure him he is playing well. He tells me he is upset because his father won’t stop yelling at him. I try to downplay his dad’s overwhelming instructions by saying, “He means well. He wants you to play better. I will speak with him…” When I ask him if he’s ready to go back in, he says, “Please don’t put me on the parent’s side,”…. And I comply.

Later, in another game, a happy, smiling young boy hits a beautiful
shot off the post from a distance, and with the dead ball restart, I sub him out, and he comes off the field weeping and crying. I confirmed with him that the shot was beautiful and told him not to be sad; he’d score next time. When he finally regains his composure, he says, “I wanted to score cause of my Dad.” As a coach, hearing a player put so much pressure upon himself is tough. We all know that there are all kinds of stresses in this world, some of which we can control and some we can not. As parents, please emphasize the FUN of the game and the enjoyment of the sport, the value of teamwork, and the general learning of skills that soccer can offer. Let’s go out there and do this for our soccer kids!

– Tony Spagnuolo

Have We Lost the Gracious Winner?

It’s the last play of the game. Our team prepares for the corner kick, and the defense tenses with anticipation. Our Winger lines up – he’s primed to go. He looks to the offense and then launches the ball across the goal from the right side. The crowd’s eyes are transfixed as the goalkeeper dives for the ball – it’s a valiant effort, but it’s just out of reach. The ball speeds past and then it hooks into the far corner. Cheers and shouts from both sides erupt! It’s a close game, but we are victorious.

As excitement and disappointment dissipate, and both teams and coaches line up to pass on the traditional good game elbow bumps, I gather my things and join the sea of parents and spectators as we cross the field to bring our players home. In retrospect, what affected me most about our win was not the win itself but what happened afterward. I met my son, and we passed the other team’s parents as they gathered their chairs and blankets before meeting up with their kids. As I walked past, I smiled and said, “You guys played an amazing game! Thank you for coming out.” One of the parents paused and looked at me with surprise. She turned and said, “Thank you for saying that.” At that moment, I knew that she meant it, and I wondered if I was the first person ever to say kind words after a loss or if the concept of being a “good sport” is too focused on how our kids handle defeat. What about the win? Are we forgetting how to be gracious winners?

As a parent, I always talk with my kids about going out and doing their best before every big game. I tell them to have fun and not take a loss too hard because each experience is a learning one. But why do I leave out how to handle a win? Is it because I feel like they are always going to lose? Are we missing the whole picture?

We know there would be no game without players on both sides. There would be no game without coaches to guide their players. There would be no game without referees to moderate and keep a fair game going. There would be no game without families supporting their players. If we solely focus on helping our players handle defeat, we miss the entire game experience!

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph

Failure on the Road to Success

It’s game day, and the crowds are here. The sky is bright with excitement as anticipation hangs in the air. We line our camping chairs up along the sidelines, watching the game unfold. It’s the second half, and our team has the ball; we pass and then speed up the field, whizzing by the other players with their goal within reach, but then we make a mistake, and the other team steals the ball. We chase as they race towards our goal, and they score. The other team cheers in delight as this happens over and over again until we have endured a crushing loss. We leave disappointed, and our kids are sometimes upset. Failure is here, casting its seeds of doubt over us like a heavy blanket.

It’s tough to see our kids fail. It’s hard to sit there and witness disappointment. To stay silent while they suffer. To know what to say without leaving a lasting scar. I’m guilty of it too. When my son misses a shot or passes in the wrong direction, I silently cringe, and my mind starts to race with thoughts like- How can I help him improve? Where in the yard can we practice more? I go into “Fix It mode.” Why am I so compelled to fix something that doesn’t need fixing? My son never asks me to “fix it.” Also, what’s so awful about failing, and what’s the best approach in these challenging times?

We need to remember that failure is vital to success, even when it’s hard to witness. It helps kids build resilience and recover more quickly when they face failure again. The urge to protect our kids is normal, but mistakes are natural and okay. Learning from them is key.

According to expert David Schwartz, “Resilience is about learning that success is a process, not a birthright.” https://fortune.com/…/failure-is-good-for-kids-resilience/

Take it from the great Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan (https://www.forbes.com/quotes/11194/)

We don’t need to like failure. We just don’t want our kids to fear it.

– Jodie McMahon-Joseph