By Matthew Yoder
Involvement with soccer on the Shore has seen a steady progression. Pop-up leagues up and down route 13, one in particular just south of Oak Hall, have given kids and adults alike an outlet to go beyond backyard practicing. For some of these kids, the journey has brought them to a more organized level of play at Arcadia High School.
Entering his third year as head coach of the varsity Firebirds, Steve Bisson, along with his coaching staff, sees the goal as tightening all the natural ability they have into a technical effort. Bisson will get there by relying on the healthy mix of old and new he’ll put out on the field.
“We have maturity to show them what’s going on and young blood to keep everybody alive,” Bisson said.
Bisson will also rely heavily on a pair of assistant coaches, John O’Brien and Cosimo Franze, who both bring with them years of knowledge from the game they love.
“I’ll be using their insights to put together a format for the game,” said Bisson.
Monday, as the varsity team was across the bridge in a scrimmage, O’Brien was back on the Shore, working through possessional skills with attentive junior varsity athletes.
O’Brien is encouraged by the ready flow of talent entering the ranks of Arcadia, as the team seeks to compete with the mainstay of the Shore, Nandua.
“We had an amazing group of talent come out of the eighth grade, the way they read the game, their vision, they are mature beyond their years on the pitch,” said O’Brien.
The possessional game O’Brien had his squad working on, referred to as piggy in the middle, was an effort to focus on playing more as a cohesive unit.
“The test is to try to get them in a system of play, positional plays, playing confidently and heads up,” O’Brien said.
The goal is similar for the varsity team. Across the board, the coaches believe the kids are quite adept at dribbling, but branching out beyond individual efforts will help this team approach new levels.
Franze is a member of the Coast Guard, stationed in Chincoteague. He was informed of a sports program in need and willingly came out, volunteering his time in directing his passions for the sport toward a team looking for winning efforts.
“I feel like I can make a pretty good impact on this team, as long as they’re willing to listen I think we’ve got a good team,” Franze said.
Franze’s ownership of the process was evidenced by his contemplative focus on drills aimed at looking beyond the dribble.
“I think these kids were born into the game. I’m trying to get kids on the same page, to see the play, I want them to be more field conscious, they don’t have to just dribble,” said Franze.
The professional game has highlighted players like Lionel Messi who create scoring chances for themselves, but Franze believes that is not a model to emulate at this level.
“I like being able to teach the play and see the play develop, passes are ultimately the easiest way to score a goal,” Franze said.
The 2020 schedule for Arcadia is loaded against talented teams, but Bisson believes in the old credo that if you want to be the best you have to play against the best. The Firebirds will undoubtedly be road warriors this season, hoping for the fearlessness of youth against strong competition.
“They’ll see what else is out there,” said Bisson.