EWU soccer coaches put San Juan girls through the ringer

After a water break to beat the heat, coaches Tamara and George Hageage teach tactics to local soccer players. The Hageages run the women’s soccer program at Eastern Washington University.  - James Krall
After a water break to beat the heat, coaches Tamara and George Hageage teach tactics to local soccer players. The Hageages run the women’s soccer program at Eastern Washington University.
— image credit: James Krall

“Freeze!” shouts Coach George Hageage.

The girls on the soccer pitch slam themselves to a standstill.

“Where’s your diamond?” he asks. The girls look around and notice the shape they’re in on the soccer field bears little resemblance to the diamond shape Coach Hageage is looking for.

“Clara, who are you supporting?” he asks. Clara points to a teammate. “Right. Are you outside?” Clara nods, takes in a clearer view of the overall situation and moves to a better position to offer support for the ball handler.

It’s soccer camp for the high school, and an unusual one for local players. Wolverine Coach Mark Fishaut called in some coaches of a quality not normally seen on-island.

George Hageage and his wife Tamara run the women’s soccer program at Eastern Washington University. They came to the island last week to offer a soccer camp for Fishaut’s team. Some 29 girls and three boys signed up for the week-long camp.

The girls saw it as an opportunity to relearn concepts that are easier understood than they are to implement during the heat and confusion of a game.

The Wolverine girls soccer team, because of the number of students it involves and the parent support shown during the budget process, was one of the six sports that survived the initial cuts the school district faced earlier in the year

(As of this week, the remaining programs have been preserved for the next year because of strong community support. See related story).

This spring, Fishaut invited the Hageages to the island for the first high-level soccer camp that many local players have attended. According to Fishaut, normally players have to leave the island and head down-Sound in order to spend a week at a soccer camp, where it’s more expensive and the quality is variable.

“By bringing these folks here, people get to live at home and basically, it’s dirt cheap with this many kids. They set a team rate,” he said.

Fishaut knows that the athletic budget is tight this year and only last week reached a level of funding whereby the various programs are back at last year’s levels, certainly not more. He took the initiative to ensure his program would have a just a little bit extra to work with.

“I set a fairly low total fee, but a little higher than it actually was,” Fishaut said. “The surplus will help with the funding for school. For any equipment that won’t be in the budget. It makes it self sustaining.”

Being hot out, even at 10 a.m., players got some water and then took a knee and listened while another concept was taught. They then broke into practice groups and tried to implement — or at least duplicate the circumstances where the lesson would be useful — the concepts taught by their visiting coaches.

“Being able to read the game is something that takes practice and work,” Fishaut said. “It’s essential and it’s not easy. The ones who ‘get it,’ go on to play at higher levels. The ones who don’t, don’t.”

Essentially, said Fishaut, the Hageages are teaching a version of the Dutch system, which emphasizes changing spaces — open spaces and closed spaces — on the always-moving, always-changing field and how to exploit them.

Tamara Hageage pointed to hockey and basketball has using the same principles although the language used to describe the concepts is different.

“It’s about learning to become aware of where everything is happening on the field,” she said. “Wayne Gretzky was the best at hockey because of his understanding of the game. He was aware of where everyone was everywhere all the time.”

Wolverines Whitney Porter and Lauren Zander took the week-long camp as an opportunity to hear some familiar concepts presented a different way, which helps.

“I’m here to get better at my skills,” Porter said. “A lot of it is review. I’m learning a lot of technique stuff and I’m improving on my foot skills, so it’s good. It’s also good to see the freshmen coming up and that’s exciting.

Zander agreed. “Soccer season is going to be starting up and it’s good to get the whole team together.”

Separately, the two coaches said the same thing in different ways.

“It’s more along the lines of knowing how to manipulate space and fill in space on offense and defense, as opposed to playing a position,” Tamara Hageage said.

Diamonds are soccer players’ best friends

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