by John Unrein
Numerous professional athletes have paid credit to soccer for success they’ve had in other sports. Christian Okoye and Odell Beckham Jr. are both former and current National Football League players who started out kicking a checkered ball.
Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutumbo were African born soccer goalies who claim they wouldn’t have had the footwork they possessed in the low post in basketball if it wasn’t for soccer agility drills. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant can also be added to the list of basketball players who were soccer disciples growing up.
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Its diverse appeal is that it can be played in some manner by almost anyone of any age. The sport combines a blend of sprinting as well as endurance running. Your vision is used for space and timing. Using a ball with your foot increases agility and foot quickness.
Many are coping with the loss of their favorite activity that allowed them to socialize with others due to coronavirus concerns. Grain Valley Eagles Boys and Girls Head Soccer Coach Tyler Nichol is among those lamenting time away from the game.
“It’s been really hard. I miss seeing all my students and players daily. The fellowship shared with the coaching staff as well. We get into this profession because we care about people,” Nichol said.
“Growing up I loved sports and played everything under the sun. My dad was a baseball player as a kid. I fell in love with soccer.”
Nichol continued, “There’s a free flowing and creative nature to soccer. You have to be a problem solver and critical thinker in the moment. You don’t get timeouts, and there are no setting plays. You are never bored in soccer. I was a mover as a kid.”
Nichol has spent seven of his eight years in public education in the Grain Valley School District. The Grain Valley resident is appreciative of the opportunity the district gave him to become a head coach when he was very young in the profession. Being an Eagle is a family affair for Nichol, as his wife works for the district as well.
Nichol was set to coach seven senior girls this spring who are all scheduled to go on and play college soccer. Finding a way to communicate with his players during this strange time and being supportive of them is a thought that’s never too far away.
“Group Me (text messaging), email, and Google Classroom are all things we use to stay in touch. Google Meet conference call also allows us to talk with the kids virtually and hang out with them to know what’s going on in their world,” Nichol said.
“We have provided suggestions of drills that players can do at home by themselves. Juggling soccer and tennis balls, receiving passes from a family member or off of a wall to execute a proper turn in being ready for play in a fast manner, dribbling through slalom cones with the inside and outside of the foot, and stepovers are just a few.”
Nichol was honest with Grain Valley News when asked what differences exist between coaching boys and girls.
“I’m right in the middle of the fence on this one. There are differences, but perhaps not as many as people think. Boys tend to be more competitive and inherently confident in themselves. Girls tend to have less ego and are a little bit more coachable,” Nichol said.
Nichol wrapped up his thoughts, “Regardless of male or female, every player is different, and you have to find a way to communicate with them based on who they are and the relationship you build. Each season is different in what the entire group dynamic brings, and you have to be aware of that and adapt to it if you want to be productive.”
Time will tell if spring sports and activities resume at the high school level in Missouri. Everyone’s well-being and health is the first priority in that consideration. Soccer is on the mind of many who are used to having grass under their feet while next to friends during this time of year.