Reflection – An Important Tool for Successful GKs by Megan Kinneman
News from Norway
Time flies! I am already over halfway through my first stint here in Norway. Since the last update, the team hit a rough patch, struggling to find a rhythm and losing five games in row. We played one of the best teams in Norway twice in one week, once in the regular league and once in an elimination game for the Norwegian cup. We lost 5-1 and 5-0. That is a lot of goals against in one week, but the reality is the team we played against is currently just better than us. The next three games, we struggled to play our soccer and got off to slow starts, one of which was my fault. I called my defender off to clear a through ball with my feet outside the 18, but the ball died earlier than expected on our long grass, and I unfortunately cleared it off my defender (or the oncoming attacker?) for a goal against in the first thirty seconds. (SIGH) This start definitely did not help us remain positive and composed when our team was struggling to get out of our multi-game rut, but it happens and all you can do is move on.
Due to the five straight losses, we were rapidly dropping in the standings and desperately needed to get back on track. Our coaches decided to simplify our style of play to eliminate giveaways in bad places on the pitch. We adjusted to playing very low pressure, often a 4-5-1 in our half, transitioning into a VERY direct counter attacking style. If it was very obvious to high pressure on a backwards pass or mistake by the opposition, then we would press. We were able to tie our last game before a two-weekend break proving that our adjustments were helping.
We then had three weeks of training before the next game. It came at a critical time when we needed to get back to work and refocus after a rough patch of games. Fortunately what I have learned in my short time here at Arna-Bjornar is that this group of women is very special and does a very good job of sticking together when things get difficult. We focused on maintaining/ improving fitness for the last five games of the season, continuing to stay compact defensively, and improve on the direct style of play the coaches had implemented. Coming out of the break, we won our first game 2-1, scoring in the first 30 seconds. It was clear the break was very beneficial for the group to mentally regroup and regain confidence.
My team defends very differently than any other team I have been on. It has taken some time for me to adjust my organization and positioning accordingly. The outside backs do not go out to meet the opposition on the flanks unless
they have to. They often drop in to allow the winger to recover and pressure the ball. The center backs stay very central to avoid leaving the other center back isolated. This requires the center mids to slide wider and sometimes deeper to cover the space that the center back would usually shift into. All of these differences in our defensive system have tactical implications for my role as a gk in behind them. In general I have found that Norwegian soccer is very direct, which usually would mean I could typically play higher off of my line to clean up any through balls. However, with our team playing such a low-pressure defense, I have to sit a bit deeper because there is not as much space behind the back line for me to come without getting caught in no man’s land. In addition since we are sitting in deeper I also have to be more prepared for long range shots. On the contrary when we are pressuring higher up the pitch, I can cheat off my line more with less risk and without fear of being beat over the top.
In this block of games I found myself making more mistakes than I am used to. I think adjusting to the differences in play and overthinking the games is probably a large part of it. I have played well overall, but not quite up to the high standard I hold for myself. With five games left, I have chosen to focus on enjoying playing soccer and taking advantage of the unique opportunity I have in front of me to get myself back to my usual level of confidence and performance. When I start to focus on mistakes versus the big time saves that have kept us in games, I know I am overthinking and not enjoying what I am doing. Even after 18+ years playing soccer, mistakes still happen. Recovering and learning from the mistakes and improving the mental side of your game is what is important, especially when it comes to limiting the mistakes going forward.
Balance & Family
In addition to be stretched on the field and continuing to develop and establish myself here in the Toppserien one of the best parts about playing abroad is the cultural exchange and life experiences gained off the field. During this stint of losses and regrouping as a team I was fortunate to have my parents and my brother visit which was fabulous! So fun to share my adventures with family as Norway is SO different from Houston! My parents were here for just over two weeks and saw three games. They probably explored Bergen more than I have! They stayed in Bergen as there is more to do, especially while I was training. It was nice to try new restaurants, walk the city, and show them where I have been living. We also had an away game in Oslo while they were here and I was able to stay for our recovery day to explore the capitol with them. Oslo has much more big city feel, where as Bergen is very quaint and quiet. We were able to check out the harbor, visit Vigeland Park (a large park with over 200 sculptures by the same sculptor!), and have a couple good cups of coffee! My brother visited for just four days, however he caught our first win out of the break compared to the losses my parents witnessed. On one of our days off we took the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour. We left Bergen harbor at 8am for a 5 hour fjord boat tour through the Sognefjord (largest fjord in Norway), then had a 1 hour train ride from Flam to Myrdal (known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world) and ended with a 2 hour train ride back to Bergen. It was a long day, but well worth it to see the unbelievable sights of the fjords and the countryside.
Part of my contract with the club requires that I coach the academy every Tuesday. At these sessions roughly 50 kids (ages 8-12) split into 5 groups and rotate through 5 different stations. Fortunately for me most people in Norway speak
very goodEnglish or enough that you can get by. However, since these children are young and learning English it has been very challenging for me to explain the drills. I have learned some Norwegian, but not enough to coach the kids how I would like. So instead I do a lot of demonstrating and pointing. It is difficult enough to keep 8 year olds focused in the United States where everyone understands what I am saying, now imagine trying to keep kids from acting up when they know you don’t speak their language! Despite the challenge, the young players are impressively technical and fun to work with. They like to point at different colors and teach me how to say them in Norwegian. Often ending with them laughing at my inability to pronounce certain words and sounds. One of my young students came to our game on Sunday and all I could say was “takk!” (thank you). Time to learn more Norwegian!