How times have changed. This sporting caste system of supposed superior and inferior programs has been replaced with a type of gun-slinging Wild West era where anything can and often does happen. Any program with a group of organized, hard-working and highly motivated (and perhaps lucky) athletes can take down a top ten team or at the very least make life extremely difficult for them. The days of the predictable win are over and in every league and region of the country opportunistic gunslingers are lurking waiting for a chance to take the big guys down.
The result is often close and hard-fought games with unpredictable outcomes and plenty of upsets and surprises. This presents an interesting challenge for coaches as we try to prepare for games because, in this “any given day” scenario where anybody can beat anybody else it demands that we prepare with confidence and expect to win, but that we also keep in mind that over-confidence or under-estimation of an opponent could have disastrous results. The days of looking at your schedule at the beginning of the year and assuredly checking-off your anticipated wins against the “weaker” teams are long gone for all, but the most super-confident, or perhaps foolhardy, of coaches.
Perhaps more odd was our game against a Marist team that had us under considerable pressure in the early stages of the match and not feeling too good about our play. Following one of our first quality attacks of the match we scored a goal off a free kick and then proceeded to get four more goals in the next twelve minutes. Nobody, ourselves included, saw that coming! Marist was playing reasonably well, arguably better than us, and then the unforeseen goal binge happened and the game was irrevocably changed. While I would love to take some strategic coaching credit for what happened I am realistic enough to know it was just the inconsistencies of our Wild West sport, where anything can and sometimes does happen, showing themselves again!
Coaches know there will occasionally be days like these and that on “any given day” we can be beneficiaries or victims. Luck, preparation, opportunity and talent all play a part in what our teams accomplish, but who among us will be brave enough to predict our fortunes in the Wild, Wild West? It certainly won’t be me!