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Six Degrees: If I Owned the Team – Open Practices

MLS: Portland Timbers Training Handout Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK

1) This is the fourth column of a new series, a series that might make Merritt Paulson angry, but will more likely make him howl with laughter. In this series, I’ll tell you what I’d do if, one, I owned the Timbers/Thorns, and two, I was absurdly rich. Not Jeff Bezos-rich, but richer than Merritt Paulson. Rich enough that the team wasn’t my main source of income, but was more of a hobby. Rich enough that I didn’t need the team to make a profit, I just needed them to break even.

First week, we talked about TriMet. Second week, we talked about food. Third week, we talked about drinks. This week, we’ll talk about open practices.

2) This week’s idea. This one’s pretty simple. Once a month, the Timbers and Thorns hold a practice that’s open to the public.

3) The details. This would be two practices, one for the Timbers, one for the Thorns. They can do them same day or different days, I’d leave that up to the coaches. Whatever they decide, we’ll have the teams run their practice at Providence Park. The gates will be open, so anyone can wander in off the street, free of charge, sit down, and watch a professional soccer practice. Since there’s a non-zero chance an opposing team might send spies, these open practices won’t be where the coaches go over strategies for the next game. This would just be basic soccer stuff. Skills and drills, conditioning, scrimmages, stuff like that.

Fans would absolutely love seeing all of this, but you know who would love it even more? Local coaches. And I’m letting those folks come down onto the field. That’s right, if you coach any level of soccer, all the way from professional down to high school down to five-year-olds at the park, you can come down onto the field and watch up-close how the pros run a practice. I’ll even provide someone from the team – one of the assistants, perhaps, or maybe an intern – to answer your questions about why they’re doing particular drills in a particular way.

I don’t know how long practices normally last, but it can’t be more than three or four hours, right? If that’s accurate, we could conceivably do the Timbers and Thorns on the same day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Or maybe not, maybe we’d hold them on different days. Let me know down in comments which you’d prefer.

4) The positives. As with pretty much everything I’ve suggested in this series, this is almost entirely for the fans. As a real-world fan (versus a fantasy-world owner) I’d definitely go to some open practices. I’m not sure I’d go every month, but now and then, sure. I think it would be fun as hell.

And while, for me, it would solely for fun, I think it would be absurdly helpful for less-experienced coaches trying to hone their craft. If I coached soccer at the local middle school, hell yeah, I’d go to these. I’d go down on the field, ask a bunch of questions, take a bunch of notes, then use my newfound knowledge on my 8th-graders. And since some of those well-coached 8th-graders might end up going pro, this could conceivably help the Timbers/Thorns somewhere down the road.

5) The potential negatives. How big an inconvenience would this be for Gio Savarese and Mark Parsons? Would they resent it?

Looking at it from the outside, I’m not sure how inconvenient it would be. Surely, once a month the teams have a practice that has zero strategizing, and is instead dedicated entirely to basic soccer skills. Why not let people watch that?

A bigger inconvenience might be letting coaches down onto the field to watch and learn. But if the team assigns someone low-ranking to look after them and answer their questions, how big a deal would it be for the main coaches? They’d just run a practice, same as always.

Another potential negative is that this might be a bit of work for the Providence Park staff, having to deal with 100 random fans in the stands, then maybe cleaning up a little afterwards. But honestly, how bad could it be? It’s not going to be 25,000 fans. If we got a thousand people, I’d be amazed. Maybe you’d get a thousand for the very first open practice, but after that, no way.

What about you? If you see some negatives I’m not thinking of, lemme know down in comments.

6) In the real world, where Merritt Paulson still owns the team, could this actually happen?Honestly, I see no reason this couldn’t happen. It’s very little work and would make a lot of fans and coaches happy. Is making fans happy and helping local coaches get better important to the team? I dunno, man. I just know that, if I was owner, I’d try to make it happen.

What do you think? Bad idea? Good idea, but slightly flawed? What flaws do you spot? Gimme some ideas to fix them. Let’s see if we can make this happen – in our imaginary world, at least.