The Art of Pickup

In Footy Culture, Front Page, Special Ones by Aaron WestLeave a Comment

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The Cast of a Pickup Game

We call it pickup, but for any of us who play regular small-sided games with a group, let’s be honest–we all know it’s much more serious than that. Good pickup soccer is an art. The proper balance must be met in order for everyone involved to enjoy themselves, get better, and want to come back. Just like in a movie, there are some typical characters in any pickup group. Some are integral to a great game, and some we could all do without. Let’s examine the cast of a typical pickup game…

The Coach: The Youth Soccer Coach is a great addition to any pickup game. He/she is always positive and encouraging, giving just the right amount of verbal instruction without overdoing it or being too intense. Typically The Coach is a good player, but not the best out there, and is fully aware of those limitations. It’s always a bonus to have The Coach on your team because he/she will be reliable and ensure the team is well-organized.

The Trickster: This guy or girl sees pickup as the place to try that Ronaldinho move they saw on Vine. Hey, why not? Because no one wants to put up with that nonsense! It’s annoying whether it’s happening on your team or against you. Yes, pickup is competitive enough environment where you (likely) won’t get two-footed for being a bit cheeky, but it’s not fun when people start trying ridiculous moves and hogging the ball. We all know this player and how annoying it can get when we are trying to win a game and all he/she is thinking of is how to pull off a nifty meg. Pickup IS the place to try things and have the freedom to dribble, but don’t be “that guy” who takes away the competitive element of the game by trying to show off too often.

The Goalkeeper: This player doesn’t actually wear gloves or use his/her hands but might as well. It doesn’t take long to identify The Goalkeeper in a pickup game because no matter where the ball is, he/she will be guarding the net (or cones/shoes/garbage can). It’s always good to have that person who you know will stay back, organize defensively, and be aware of the goal, but it can be taken a bit too far. If you have one Goalkeeper in your pickup group, you might as well have two so at least each team has equal protection.

The Way-Too-Good Old Guy: Any good pickup game features the dude who can barely get out of his car, limps up to the field, hobbles across the line, and then legitimately f***s everyone up out there. It’s like some type of scientific enigma how the body can function so poorly until it’s time to juke a defender or put in a gutsy tackle. These guys are freakishly strong, shockingly nimble, and often have crazy life stories and experiences surrounding the game. No pickup game is complete without The Way-Too-Good Old Guy.

The Wannabe: Pickup is likely the highest level play The Wannabe has ever experienced. An average player all through the ranks, pickup is where he/she gets to play with some elite players and seemingly fit in. You can tell a Wannabe because he/she is usually trying just a bit harder than everyone else and also (although attempting to hide it) getting more excited about success and more angry about failure. For The Wannabe, pickup is not a good training environment or a fun time–it is his/her World Cup.

The Dude Who’s Always Late: No matter what time pickup starts, there’s always that guy or girl who consistently shows up 30 minutes late. There’s an appropriate grace period with pickup–the time when everybody is showing up, tying shoes, stretching a bit, setting up the field. If you show up after that time, it’s not cool! You are disrespecting, and often ruining, the game. Yeah, it is pickup, so it technically is ok to just jump on whenever, but any group that plays often will have a routine. Once play starts, it’s a pain to stop to make changes on teams or add in a latecomer. Everyone has that day now and again when you’re stuck in traffic or a commitment beforehand runs late. But if you are late to pickup every time you play, you’re doing it wrong. Seriously, don’t be The Dude Who’s Always Late.

The One Everyone Likes To Play With: This is the guy/girl who makes everyone happy when they show up. Whether he/she is on your team or not, it doesn’t seem to matter. The One Everyone Likes To Play With just makes the entire game better. Typically this person is one of the best players out there–enjoyable to play with and also fun to play against because they pose a challenge. This player also has a great “pickup attitude.” They take the game seriously enough to make it competitive and fun but never too seriously. They do not get overly upset about anything or want to win so badly that they will cheat or ever hurt anyone to do so, but they try hard to win. The One Everyone Likes To Play With seems to always be in touch with why we play–because soccer is fun when everyone is working as a team for a desired result.

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About the Author

Aaron West