The Mount St Benedict under 14 girls’ team that plays in the North West Sydney Women’s competition will hit the pitch for the first time this coming Sunday.
Preparing for the season has been a nightmare in light of the dumping Sydney has copped over the last three weeks. Thankfully the nucleus of the team is intact, so the first half of our opening match against Beecroft FC might not be the shemozzle it was last season, when the majority of the girls were tasting the game for the first time.
While more developed as players, one problem will undoubtedly remain, that being, a left foot, or better still, a lack of them.
Having a rookie team, I stacked the defence for most of the season, ensuring we stayed in games.
This meant that my one left foot, played at left back for the entire season, sweeping across the back four and cleaning up loose ball situations. Her greatest challenge was often who to pass the ball to when she looked ahead.
The strategy worked to some extent and with a right winger blessed with speed and a decent strike we managed to rustle up three draws and two wins for the season.
The manager survived the axe, mums and dads were all happy and considering the 15-0 drubbing we copped on the opening day of the season, we did okay. Yet the problem of the left foot still lingers.
When my left back looks ahead, the right footed mids are A.W.O.L. They all shift right, wanting to swing onto their preferred side and roar down the flank. The whole shape of the attack is affected.
On numerous occasions, the ball makes its way through the mids and the attack heads to the right corner flag. It all looks very exciting and the parents cheer feeling a goal is looming.
Unfortunately the net result is a ball imbedded on the byline, possessed by a player without the skill or power to play a twenty metre cut back to a lurking nine or ten.
All the while, I stand on the sideline staring at the paddock available on the left side, you know the bit I mean. That area on the corner of the box where, in an alternate universe, a team would stretch the defence by switching the ball quickly and isolating that player one on one with a defender.
Much like the way the Phoenix attempt to use Roy Krishna. Geez I could use him on the left!
I’m sure that my problem isn’t unique and feel confident that many managers struggle with an attack that grinds to a halt down the right side, stifled by throw in after throw in, as right footers try to chip their way down the right edge.
Hopefully, with a couple of new girls this year, I should be able to use my left back higher and play her in midfield. If I can find one player to conceptually grasp width and sit in front of her to occupy the right back of the opposition, I may be able to create more space in the centre for a couple of capable girls who fill the number ten role.
I’m wondering if this dilemma is a byproduct of poor parenting. Just as Ken Rosewall had his racquet snatched from his left hand and strapped to his right to prevent his tennis career blossoming while using the ‘devils’ hand, are we failing Australia’s footballing future by allowing our kids to grow up doing everything with their right foot?
When we purchase a cheap inflatable ball from the service station to keep our kids quiet while travelling home from another family BBQ, what makes us think we can just leave them to their own devices?
Most would begin by playing in the back seat with the ball in their right hand, therefore explaining why left arm seamers are so valuable. Cricket is a perfect example of the value of the molly-dooker and much is made of the challenge created by batting partnerships involving a left and right hand combination.
A football attack needs to have the same balance. When that child arrives home with that ball, we can’t just leave them in the backyard without appropriate guidance. It’s too late for my girls, they have both adopted the ‘commercial’ foot and their career opportunities are severely hampered by their choice.
Given my time again, my plan would have been simple. Using the trampoline as a stable base, my child’s right leg would be tied with twine to one of the legs, rendering it useless to defend against a football heading in their direction.
The second part of the strategy would be a bag of ten to fifteen balls, launched, one by one, at five second intervals in the direction the free, left foot.
Ensuring that contact is made with the instep, the youngster would be forced to parry the balls away with correct technique and thus, become adept on the left.
As a time frame, I wouldn’t have thought anything more than two to three hours a day of this from the ages of three to six would be required.
I regret missing this opportunity and often think of the enjoyment the child would have had doing the drill, as well as the quality bonding time it would have created for us.
The writers of the National Curriculum made an enormous blunder in not including this drill as a fundamental part of their program. I did forward it to them at the planning stage, yet it obviously fell on deaf ears.
As our seasons begin in junior football, many managers will grapple with shape, structure and balance and most of those challenges arise from the lack of left feet at our disposal.
At the risk of melodrama, it is a sad time, not just for football, but for our nation, to see a dominance of overused, commercialised and boring right feet. With some political will, I am sure something could be done on a parliamentary level to redress the imbalance.
I’m calling for an enquiry and unless a nice young fourteen year old girl rocks up from out of nowhere to our team BBQ this week, saying she is keen to join the team, the under 14’s will once again, fail to use the full width of the pitch.
The discriminatory and boring right footers will continue to grind their way down the right flank and the manager’s progressive journey to complete baldness will be accelerated. That is, unless my plan works, what a managerial master stroke that would be.