The Voice of The Yellow Jackets, Wes Durham has moved to a new position at Fox Sports 1 and sadly is moving on from Georgia Tech after calling a total of 760 GT basketball and football games over the past 18 years. I cannot imagine listening to a Tech football game on the radio without him and he will truly be missed by the Tech faithful. Yellow Jacket fans were lucky to have such a class-act and truly one of the great radio broadcasters of his time for so long. It has been reported that Wes will continue calling all Atlanta Falcons games even with his new gig. Durham was the 2006 recipient of the Furman Bisher Award for Sports Media Excellence and an eight-time winner of Georgia Sportscaster of the Year Award. We will miss you Wes! Here are a few of my favorite Wes Durham Georgia Tech calls from over the years: April 3, 2004(#3) Georgia Tech 67, (#2) Oklahoma St 65(Final Four) Alamodome, San Antonio, TXWill Bynum’s layup with 1.5 remaining; sends Georgia Tech to the National Championship Game. September 11, 2004Georgia Tech 28, Clemson 24Death Valley, Clemson, SC“The Legend is Born” as Calvin Johnson scores on amazing catch in corner end zone with 11 seconds remaining; GT scores three TDs in the last 4.5 min to take the win 28-24. November 1, 2008Georgia Tech 31, (#15) Florida St 28Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GAFSU has ball 1st and goal from GT 3 with Tech clinging to a 31-28 lead; Rashaad Reid recovers the fumble in the endzone after Cooper Taylor’s helmet-to-football hit with 45 seconds remaining, giving the Yellow Jackets a stunning victory. November 29, 2008(#22) Georgia Tech 45, (#11) Georgia 42Sanford Stadium, Athens, GAGeorgia Tech’s Roddy Jones rushes for 214 yards and Georgia Tech finally wins one over the Bulldogs with a victory in Athens 45-42. October 17, 2009(#19) Georgia Tech 28, (#4) Virginia Tech 23Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GAJosh Nesbitt leads a deadly triple option attack and the Jackets upset the #4 Hokies on Thursday night at Bobby Dodd. December 5, 2009(#10) Georgia Tech 39, Clemson 34(ACC Championship) Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FLThe Yellow Jackets get a key stop to win rematch with the Tigers and the 2009 ACC Championship; book a ticket to Miami with a BCS Bowl Game Berth in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
At a young age, ‘raw’ ability is very vulnerable to go in a positive or negative direction based on what the current coach and future coaches emphasize. I have seen a lot of kids over the years have tons of talent, have lots of success based on scoring goals and their coaches praise this and the biggest thing is looking at the picture picture when we tend to focus on short term success and ‘right now’ instead of fundamental development for the future. It’s a very hard thing to explain- but what she learns right now, what her coach emphasizes- all these things at this age are ingrained into their game. It’s wonderful if good things are developed autonomously early, but on the flip slide it’s hard to go back once you develop bad habits. What I mean by “right now” success at the rec level at her age is basically this: You can be successful in U8/U10 by sticking your fastest, most athletic kids at forward and everyone else just kicking the ball aimlessly toward their direction of the field. This works because everyone is at varying levels and if you can outrun someone to the ball, then you can score a lot of goals with athleticism alone and not soccer skills. As they get older, the kids that don’t want to be there drop out, everyone is fast, size/speed equal out and it becomes true ‘soccer’ instead of kick-ball. The thing that separates good players from bad ones is their touch on the ball, their confidence and their decision-making has a purpose. A lot of times parents or coaches yell instructions or cue every single thing they do so at some point they have no idea what to do in a situation when all those cues go away. By touch on the ball I mean…they dribble with head up and close to the body taking small touches and receive passes close to their foot (not bouncing 20 feet away). When I say ‘play with confidence’ I mean… they commit to doing things and playing with sureness, players that are hesitant, worried or overly cautious about what the results will be if they happen to make a mistake play slowly, nervous and passively. This basically can be avoided by having a coach (or parents) that understand the process, don’t freak out if they make a mistake or act in a way that makes them learn the game. The best teacher in soccer is failure, especially at an early age- “pass the ball” is one of the things I hate hearing the most, yes passing is critically important, but if a player is open and has field space in front of them they should be encouraged to dribble. I believe it’s about not being to high or low as a coach, mistakes lead to correction- if you overemphasize every action you need to probably remind yourself it’s about them. The #1 issue I have had in the 3-4 seasons I’ve coached my U12 academy girls is their fear of making mistakes, if you kick the ball aimlessly forward or want to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible every time you have it you aren’t learning anything at all, let them learn from mistakes now when the results don’t matter and encourage creativity/dribbling/etc. otherwise you are developing kids that have no idea how to play soccer the right way or with any sort of purposeful decision-making during play. When I say ‘playing with purpose’ I mean… every action they take on the field their is some thought behind it and reasoning. If Bobby is wide open and has no pressure on him at all then toe kicks the ball across the field 30 yards and it accidently gets by the goalie and he scores vs. Bobby is wide open and he dribbles the ball into space and draws a defender over (which now gives more open space to his teammate) and attempts to make a pass but does so a fraction of a second too late and other team intercepts and scores- which one is better? the first thing he did with no clear reasoning or purposeful action or idea why. The second thing he did so after analyzing the situation and coming to a decision of what he feels like is the best thing to do. #2 is what you want, even if short-term result isn’t good. In America we are used to sports like basketball, football and baseball where coaches make a lot of decisions for the athlete- baseball players get signs to bunt, steal a base, etc.; football players get the call from the coach to either run the ball or pass it, basketball players call timeouts and their coach draws up a scoring play for the final shot. The difference with soccer is that it’s not coach-centered at all in-game. PLAYERS need to make decisions instantly, change their minds instantly and adjust to new situations as they unfold. Good coaches are able to make sure good decisions can be made in games by setting up activities in training sessions that replicate them. This is a lot to digest, I didn’t know a lot about ‘learning’ the game and I made a lot of mistakes which has changed my philosophy on learning the game almost daily. I will summarize in saying the most important thing you should do for her is (#1) keep love of the game first, stay positive, supportive and encouraging first and foremost; if you know the best player in the world and they hate soccer then nothing else matters. (#2) whether it be academy or rec- (and I know this is sometimes out of your control) as a parent educate yourself on the things above and try to place her or get her involved with a coach that cares about individual development and knows the game. Sometimes this may involve spending the money and committing to academy (and sometimes not) you get what you pay for like lots of things in life- with higher investment come higher expectations. Some rec coaches are great and some are awful, it is a crap-shoot. If your buy a car you can go to a sketchy little used-car lot you may find a gem or you may get a clunker, if you buy a new car it’s a bigger investment in many ways but probably the ‘safer’ choice as far as quality even though it may take sacrifices. It’s just one of those things you and your family will have to decide shortly if it’s something you want to commit to and prioritize or just take your chances at rec level, I have seen pro’s and con’s from both sides, i’m not trying to steer you in either way- just decide what you feel is best from your individual situation.