I wrote my column today about two unusual World Cup soccer groupies -- a couple of high school teachers from Iredell County who have attended the past four World Cups and have tickets for No.5 later this month in South Africa.
I'm the stereotypical American with regard to the World Cup -- don't much care about the qualifying tournaments, but then start paying attention just before it starts. I am looking forward to the tournament (it runs from June 11 through July 11), especially the first-round U.S.-England game.
One thing I didn't get in the story: I talked to these two teachers (Terry Shinn and Greg Crowley) a little bit about coaching youth soccer. I've dabbled in it, and I have a 9-year-old son who loves to play.
Both Crowley and Shinn have extensive coaching resumes around here at the youth level -- they have even taken teams of local youth to go play soccer in tournaments in Great Britain.
The two told me that the best thing for a kid to do if he wants to practice soccer is:
1) Make sure he's working on both feet equally (i.e. shooting with your "off" foot a lot). and....
2) Learn how to juggle the ball with ease.
Crowley told me he once had a conversation with an English youth soccer coach about juggling. He asked the coach how many times most of his kids could generally juggle it in a row before the ball hit the ground.
"I don't know," the English coach said. "I never really counted."
"No, really, how many?" Crowley persisted.
"I really don't know," the English coach said. "How many touches would you have in 20 minutes?"
It turned out that most of the kids on that English team could juggle a soccer ball, yes, for 20 minutes straight without it hitting the ground.