By DAVID LESNICK
The Daily Inter Lake
The soccer practice Thursday evening for the Flathead Force U11 boys in preparation for this weekend’s State Showcase Tournament at Kidsports Complex was not much different than previous ones.
“I tried to keep it pretty simple,” head coach Scott Strobel said. “A 3 v 3 (3 on 3) to begin, a lot of good stuff kids can learn from small games. Middle part of practice we worked on fundamentals — passing, dribbling and shooting. After that, we went to our bigger game, a full-sided game, or a keep-away game when all the kids are together.”
But this finale, however, ended on a much different note.
“I told the kids how proud I was of them and how much they improved,” he said for the final 15 minutes.
His wife Mara then brought out the Otter Pops she had stored in a cooler. A welcome treat for all on a warm day.
“We sat down and enjoyed,” coach Strobel said. “Reminisced about the season a little bit and getting ready for the weekend.”
A big weekend it is with state titles on the line for U10, U11 and U12 boys and girls teams from 12 Montana clubs.
The Force U11 boys began preparations for the spring season in January with indoor workouts. The fields were ready for play in March.
The Force U11 boys went 9-3, winning the Three Blind Refs Tournament at Kidsports two weeks ago and finishing second at the Hot Shots Tournament before that in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“Not a super team, but a good team,” Strobel said.
Strobel’s son Micah is a center-mid on the team.
Assistant coach Ben Young also has a son on the team, goal keeper Silas Young, as does assistant coach Chris Weaks. Isaac Weaks plays forward for the Force U11.
All total, there are 14 boys on the roster.
“It’s really a family group,” coach Strobel said.
“We are a soccer family No. 1, my extended soccer family. Each of these kids I feel like they are my soccer kids even though they are not my real kids. It takes a village to raise kids, and run a soccer program.”
This marks Strobel’s third year with some of the players. He coached them previously at the U9 and U10 levels.
“The boys are getting more creative and faster,” he said of the progression. “A lot more goals being scored (at the U11 level).
“I’m enjoying the more competitive level,” he said of U11.
“As a coach being more competitive, the players more competitive and the fans. One of the things we stress a lot is sportsmanship, treating others the way you want to be treated out there ... some life lessons along with soccer.
“Each year we learn new things,” he added. “I did a coaching class at the beginning of the year to get my certification. Each year you are adding another layer of soccer, are investing in soccer and growing the program in general.”
Regarding the tournament ...
“I think they are very competitive,” Strobel said of his players. “We want to win every game. Every game we don’t win, we’re still learning lessons to improve on.”
The Force U11 open Showcase play on Saturday at 8 a.m. versus the Bozeman Blitz on Field 5. The Force U11 plays Montana Rush (Great Falls) again at 4 p.m. on Field 7.
It also plays twice on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m.
“Come out strong and tough,” he told his players. “(The Blitz) will be one of our most competitive games (this weekend). In tournament (play), take one game at a time.”
Micah Strobel and Liam Breding have been the team’s main scorers.
“Our strength is the counter attack,” coach Strobel said.
Silas Young has six shutouts.
“I had one kid ask me if I was going to coach in the fall,” Strobel said.
“I said ‘yeah’. They are already planning to play soccer in the fall. That’s awesome, good to hear.”