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Diving Practice


Unreasonable passion, irrational exuberance

Diving Practice

Daniel Yudkin

“During the first 32 games, there were 302 players who could be seen at some point rolling around in pain, crumpling into a fetal position or lying lifeless on the pitch…”

- Wall Street Journal, June 27th, 2014

Circle up boys! Huge win yesterday; kudos for that. But. Tournament’s not over, and we have a big game coming up. So today I want to see some serious hustle. I want to see some drama. Put Meryl Streep to shame. Everyone knows victory is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent exaggeration.

Start off jogging in place. Warm up those muscles. Now, nice and easy, throw in a light grimace or two. Nothing fancy, just a basic show of anguish. We’ll be getting to the harder stuff later, promise.

Work the mouth, bare those teeth, shut the eyes—good. The best expressions come from within. You gotta believe that pain. Remember that time you got dumped. Remember when your dog died.  Remember how many soccer players end up with debilitating brain damage. Whatever it takes. This game isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Careful not to over-extend those masseters. This is a ninety-plus-minute match; I need you sustaining that torment through overtime.

Let’s shift gears now. Throw your arms skyward in outraged incredulity. Your blind grandmother could have called that foul. Do ten reps, and don’t sacrifice form. If you get tired, sit this one out and practice your dismissive hand-wave.

Work in some verbal accents. I want you saying “Bof.” Try it. “Bof!” Good! Now roll your eyes in exasperation, shrug resignedly, and storm off. That’s what I’m talking about! Congratulations, boys; you’re scoffing at a French level.

Now for some basic ankle-clutching. Thompson, can we get you in here to show off your clutch? See his air of puzzled apprehension? Makes you believe something’s seriously wrong with the connective tissue. Remember, even if a call doesn’t go your way, evincing persuasive suffering will up our chances next time around. Are you athletes? Yes. But you’re also politicians. Politicians who woo constituents with sob stories and finger-pointing.

We’re gonna kick things up a notch. Advanced writhing sequences. I know we’ve gone over this a hundred times, but yesterday’s performance was lackluster: your shrieks were implausible; your face-grips tepid; your thrashing uninspired.

So today we go back to fundamentals. Question. When to begin the writhe sequence? That’s right—anytime the ref’s vision is obstructed and an opponent’s elbow drifts anywhere near your face. In the box, of course, feel free to do it for no reason at all.

What’s the first step to the sequence? Good: select a target area to begin clawing at desperately. Nose, eyes, back of the head—all good options. Whatever happens, make sure you commit. I’ve seen too many writhes rendered unconvincing by a mid-writhe target-switch.

What’s the second step? Correct!—the howl of injustice. A terrible wrong has been committed only to be rectified by a whistle and a yellow card. The undeserved pain is washing over you in wave after inexorable wave. You are a victim, noble in his misery, seeking the protection and remuneration of the wise and perceptive referee.

Third step? The crumple. You are a felled tree. You are a sack of iron. You are a lifeless ragdoll. Unnaturally sprawled arms and misshapenly bent legs are also encouraged. 

And what, gentlemen, is the final step to the writhe sequence? Show me. Excellent! Key word here? Immolation. If we haven’t redefined Stop, Drop, and Roll by tournament’s end, we haven’t done our job.

We’re now at last part of practice. You know what that means. Let’s all get into position. I want you all unconscious at the count of three. One, two, three…very nice! Now. Imagine it. They’re taking you off the field in a stretcher. An oxygen mask has been placed over your nose and mouth. The refs are conferring in hushed tones. The camera has been averted in courtesy to your family. The crowd is wondering if they’ve just observed the snuffing out of a nascent life.

Then. Just when people are convinced the Grim Reaper himself has blighted this tournament with the indelible scar of tragedy, you know what to do. Flutter your eyes with the breath of life, take a few uncertain steps back onto the field, and get ready to nail a bicycle kick.

Great job, guys. Grab some water. Tomorrow we’ll work on the post-goal celebration dance. Some of you are out of sync.