My first few weeks at University of Cincinnati has certainly been an enjoyable experience. Starting in a new school, in a new role, in a new city, there have been a lot of adjustments, not to mention the cold weather! There has been no time to waste and it has been an action packed few weeks for everyone in the office. The key to a new coaching staff, or even an old one, is communication. Neil Stafford has worked hard to get us all (himself, Nate, and I) on the same page in every aspect of the program. As all three of us are new to the program, it has been a real learning experience from finding out school policies, planning and preparing for short and long term, right down to the access number of the photocopier. Recruiting, of course, has been a key objective as we organize the upcoming months, and there is no time to waste to watch players locally, coast to coast, and across the world.
With the team, we have really been focusing on four key areas in our daily work: physical, technical, tactical, and mental. Although in our “off-season”, the team practices twice a day and the sessions have been tough. On the physical side, the girls have been working with Strength and Conditioning Coach, David Neil, twice a week in a unique soccer specific program that focuses on core strength and injury prevention. There is also a yoga and swimming workout implemented into the weekly schedule. In addition. the weekends are off so that the girls can recover and this enables the workload to be high and demanding all week. During the daily soccer sessions with the team, there is also a technical and tactical focus to each session. We have been working hard to stress the importance of possession and I am sure our players can hear “Keep the ball!” echoing in the heads for the remainder of the day. That said, the defensive side of the game has been stressed to each player, as everyone is aware that our defensive organization and structure will determine our success. It is hard work to play in a system that you constantly have to move with and without the ball, and that is where the mental side of the game becomes a huge factor. Decison making and concentration levels are two areas that our players are tested in every time they come to practice.
Neil has stressed that, in order for us to be successful as soon as possible, everyone will have to go above and beyond what is typically expected. High standards have been set in all areas: a 3.4 minimum GPA, 100% class and study hours is expected, fitness levels are set at levels they never have been before, and the quality of our training must match the effort. Hard work and sacrifice are a given and not compromised. With this approach, it creates an environment where “we sweat the small stuff.” The facilities and support system available to our team are second to none, so it is vital that we make the most of everything that we can use. Attention to detail and holding others accountable are both familiar phrases as we have looked to set the bar higher every week. I have really enjoyed this environment because I think it brings the best out of coaches as much as the players.
With our first spring game coming up on Saturday, we are excited to see our progress against outside competition. I think its fair to say that we are excited with the tempo of the training sessions and enthusiasm of the players in recent weeks. But we also know that this is very much a process and that setbacks will become part of our journey, as they always are in soccer. We will not develop new habits in the games, and instead our habits will be on show for all to see. Therefore, cornerstone of our work will always be practice because that is where these habits are developed. As time moves on this spring, we will slowly begin to see what kind of progress we are making, and how quickly we can recover from our mistakes and even eliminate them in the future. This is definitely an exciting time at University of Cincinnati Women’s Soccer!