Teaching the fundamentals is soccer clinic's goal

November 13, 1992|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

There once was a time when Michelle Akers-Stahl would've given up the open shot in favor of a pass.

"I figured that the other player had a better chance of scoring," she said.

Things have changed. Akers-Stahl, an eight-year member of the U.S. national team, says that instruction she received three years ago on how to properly strike the ball helped transform her into one of the top goal-scorers in the world.

Tomorrow, Akers-Stahl and her husband, Roby Stahl, a professional coach in Stockholm from whom she learned her shooting technique, bring their act to Columbia as part of the Soccer Association of Columbia's all-day workshop and clinic at Howard Community College.

The clinic will focus on the basic principles of striking and passing the ball, skills Akers-Stahl says often are taught incorrectly by coaches.

"Before I learned this, my philosophy was just to ram it in the net as hard as I could," Akers-Stahl said. "I was strictly a power player, and I was happy if I scored once every two or three games."

Now, she says she expects to score at least a goal or two a game. The difference? Akers-Stahl says it's a combination of technique, tactics and, perhaps most importantly, attitude.

"It's high risk, high reward," she said. "You can't score a goal unless you shoot a lot. A lot of players are afraid to shoot. You can't think twice about it."

The striker also has something to say about issues involving youth soccer, especially the girls' game.

"Coaches and referees treat female players too much like dainty, fragile little girls," she said. "They need to treat them like athletes. There should be more competitiveness in the sport."

Akers-Stahl says girls bear the responsibility of showcasing the sport every time they step onto the field, because competitive women's soccer is still a fairly new endeavor.

Akers-Stahl knows a little about winning. Last year, she won the respect of the soccer world as the leading scorer in the first Women's World Cup in China.

Some of her other accolades include winning the Adidas Golden Boot Award, being named the 1990 and '92 USSF Women's Player of the Year and gaining All-America status four times at the University of Central Florida.

She is widely considered the greatest female soccer player in the world and was named ESPN's Athlete of the Year in 1985. Many even call her "The Female Pele."

As a tomboy growing up in Seattle, Akers-Stahl said she tried ballet and just about every sport, but eventually settled on soccer because "it's physically exhausting but still has grace and beauty."

Her advice to young soccer players -- stick with it.

"Don't let anybody tell you you can't do it. Do what you set out to do," said Akers-Stahl. "Just shoot for the stars."

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