Watch Soccer Like a Star: Lessons for On and Off the Field

04 Dec 2014 10:49 AM | Deleted user

11 players, 90 minutes and 7 miles.  Just a few of the facts we learned at the December program of Boston Women in Finance,  “How to Watch Soccer Like a Star.” 

Led by Felicity Day, NSCAA Premier Coach and Managing Director of John Smith Soccer Academy,  we learned to look for “triangles and diamonds” on the field as teams use different “systems of play” to stage their strikers, mid-fielders and backs.  Whereas one team may use a 1-3-5-2 set-up, with 1 keeper, 3 defenders, 5 mid-fielders and 2 strikers; another may use a 1-3-4-3 with the keeper again assisted by 3 defenders, but now with 4 mid-fielders and 3 strikers.  Her advice, “A coach has to adjust as appropriate.  If the other team has additional strikers, maybe that means you match their system of play or, depending on your team’s skillset, maybe you stick with a set game plan.”  Advice that applies equally well in the workplace!

Although soccer is a 90-minute game, the referees hold more power than the time clock.  While the game clock counts up to 90 minutes, the referees can add “stoppage time” based on time when play was halted on the field.  While typically no longer than 5 minutes, she reminded us that, “Five minutes may not sound like a long time, but stoppage time can be very meaningful” as evidenced by Portugal’s game-tying goal against the U.S. men's team during this summer’s FIFA match.

As to the physical demands of the game, Felicity pointed out that in a professional game, the players can run as much as 7 miles.  It may be tempting to give players a rest, but coaches must consider substitutions carefully as there are only 3 allowed per game and once a player is taken out, that player cannot return to the field.  This led to a discussion of yellow and red card penalties.  Whereas the former is typically only a warning, the latter is a serious offense and the player must not only leave the game, but also the field altogether.  Important too, a player removed by a red card may not be substituted. Thus the team as a whole is at a serious disadvantage with only 10 players remaining.

What if the game ends in a tie?  There will be two 15-minute overtimes as needed.  Overtime play is not sudden death, but rather continues the full 15 minutes.  And if after the overtime play the game is still tied?  Then the coach chooses 5 players to participate in a shootout.  Talk about pressure - one player at a time, alternating teams, trying to score a goal.

Felicity imparted some great leadership lessons as well.  “Own your place on the field,” she said.  “If you’re on the field, whether you think you’re as good as the other players or not, you’re there for a reason.”

With women’s FIFA world cup play scheduled for this summer, there is no better time to support the game of soccer and use these lessons learned both on and off the field.


Felicity Day played soccer in college and professionally in England, before earning one of the highest coaching licenses, the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) Premier Diploma ‘with distinction’.   Following which she was recruited to be on the Academy staff of the NSCAA. In her role as Director of Coaching of a local club, John Smith Soccer Academy, she is one of a handful of women to hold that title in the state.  Felicity was inducted into the University of Mary Washington's Sports Hall of Fame in October 2009. Additional information on John Smith Soccer Academy is available here.


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