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David Purdum

High school soccer: How the No. 1 team in the nation makes a game plan

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It’s a conversation McIntosh boys soccer coach Bunky Colvin has had often during his career. A football coach will approach Colvin and say something like, “I just thought you went out there and kicked the ball around.”

The Chiefs have won 38 consecutive matches and are ranked No. 1 in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. They didn’t reach such heights by just kicking the ball around.  They have a plan and are very good at executing it.

“I don’t think people realize how much is involved in it,” said Colvin, who is in his 15 season leading the winningest boys soccer program in Georgia.

He tries to keep his game plans to one page. Teenager attention spans don’t last much longer, he says. Just like other team sports, Colvin looks for ways to utilize his team’s strengths and exploit opponents’ weaknesses. He’ll gather information from live scouting, video and experience. Coaching tendencies are noted, and key players identified and broken down. It all goes in the game plan.

“I’ll tell them that this player doesn’t like to go left,” Colvin explained. “Or that the keeper isn’t comfortable handling crosses in the air. We’re going to play this formation, but if they do this, this is how we’re going to shift. We literally give them a detailed list of things.”

Sometimes practices are built around game plans. Other times, especially before matches against over-matched opponents, game plans are built around the more-competitive practices. Either way, Colvin gets his point across and is in tune with his players come match time. Adjustments are made on the fly and executed smoothly.

New McIntosh athletic director James Stanford checked out the Chiefs from the sidelines earlier this season and was impressed with how quickly in-match adjustments were made and executed by the players.

“Coach Colvin and his staff have prepared the team in practices to compete at a very high level,” said Stanford said in an email. “This is apparent when Coach Colvin calls in an adjustment and the team instantly transitions. Coach Colvin recognizes the opponent’s defensive strategy and makes adjustments quickly. The team transitions to the call and the results have been fantastic.”

Colvin says the adjustments can be simply a tweak to a player’s movement. He and his assistants will be watching for a how a team reacts to a player’s movement and then counter.

“For example,” said Colvin, “if I know that they’re concerned about the speed of our player and are intentionally man-mark him with a player in the center, the simple adjustment is to pull that player out wide, because I want to draw a player out of the middle. Then, I’ll have player make a run into that space.”

“Sometimes, it’s something simple,” he continued. “Sometimes, it’s literally changing our entire formation. So instead of playing four in the back, we’ll go to three in the back and I push another attacking player up.”

McIntosh faces Houston County on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s state championship game. The Chiefs then close out the regular season against rival Starr’s Mill.

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