Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Senior Day

About 3 years ago, I started a new tradition on Senior Day that I read a letter to each senior aloud to the team before the game. I was planning this when we had a 2-3 record in the conference. I already expected it to be an emotional day. It was possible that we could have to win the game to get in the tournament. We would be playing our most intense rival. It would be the last game on our campus, and the final home game for a senior class who have carried this program to new heights. I thought the last thing we would need is for me to spend time reading 7 emotional letters before such a big game.

I decided we could get together on Friday night before the men's game. I also decided that the parents were invited. I can't explain how I felt reading the letters in front of the parents, but I do think it was special.

I reserved a room in McWhorter - our new $30 million building that houses pharmacy, physical therapy, and psychology. It is beautiful! There were almost 50 people in the room. I explained what we were doing and why we were doing it this way. I'm not sure if people expected me to, but I talked about the season. We underachieved, and I made no apologies. We have to live with it and learn from it. I thanked coaches and staff, parents, and players. Then, I read the letters.

I hope the seniors like pictures. I gave each of them a photobook. The team made each of them a scrapbook. I am so impressed with the scrapbooks. The underclassmen partner up and each set of partners make a page for the book. They put a lot of time, creativity, and personal touch into making the books.

We kept 2 game day traditions. The seniors were introduced before the game with their families. The team made each senior a sheet and hung them on the fence before the game. They were so cute! All 7 seniors were in the starting line up - Jessica Rix, Marcela Sanchez, Lydia Wright, Jayme Trocino, Erica Carter, Maddie Porter, and Patience Whitten.

Our game against Lipscomb was like most of our home games this season. We outplayed them for most of the first half. We looked pretty good doing it, and we had very little to show for it. JTro did score an excellent goal in the first 20 minutes. It was a goal that only she can score. She passed the ball out wide. She moved forward to get it back at the top of the penalty area. She split 2 defenders by keeping the ball close on the dribble and had no trouble placing a shot past the goalkeeper. As happy as it was for her to score in her final game, it was also a huge reminder of what had been missing all year. I couldn't help but think, What if...?

The 2nd half was mostly the same. Lipscomb had a player sent off with 2 yellow cards, and they immediately got a good shot that hit the crossbar. We were inches away from being tied 1-1, despite outshooting our opponent by more than 10 shots.

In the last 10 minutes, we scored 3 goals. Loftis picked up her 2nd and 3rd assists. Amy Jo scored the first goal of her career. Erica got her final career assist and goal, and JTro scored the final goal of her career.

It was a nice way to end the season.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pillow Pets

This team loves pillow pets!

Too Little Too Late

We had to hurry after the game. No stretching. No talking. No visiting. We had to take fast showers and drive to Orlando to get to the airport.

My state of euphoria did not last long. As soon as we got on the bus, I learned that ETSU and Kennesaw State tied, 1-1. That's it. We can no longer finish in a 3 way tie, and there is no way for us to get into the tournament.

Life is cruel. I think many players had given up hope that we would make the tournament. Just when everyone believed again, we were officially eliminated. I did not want to tell the team. We have had very few pleasant post-games this year, and I did not want to ruin this one. I told the team that I was proud of them. They played well. I gave one of my ultimate compliments. I told them I enjoyed watching them play.

As I was changing clothes in the Stetson restroom, I was still so happy with the result of the game and how we played and the resiliency of the players on this team. I thought back to one year ago, when I was changing clothes after the last regular season game at North Florida. I was in a bathroom stall changing my wet clothes, because the team dumped a water cooler on me because we finished in 1st place. The emotions were overwhelming. I was shaking in that bathroom stall at North Florida, and I was shaking again at Stetson. We had just played better against Stetson than we played one year ago, but we are nowhere near where we were one year ago. It is very difficult to understand and almost impossible to explain.

No explanations yet. We have 4 practices and one game remaining. We play Lipscomb on Saturday. It is Senior Day. If we play like we did against Stetson, the game will not even be close. This season, at home, that is a big IF.

When we got back to Belmont, I told the team we were out of the race. I assume they already knew. I told them to not let that take away from the win and the quality of play against Stetson. We need the momentum for Saturday.


Bad News. We gave up a goal in the first 3 minutes of the game. It was similar to other goals we have given up throughout the year, most recently against FGCU and UNF. The shot hit the underneath side of the crossbar and bounced down and in the goal.
It may have taken 10 minutes after the goal was scored, and we took over the tempo of the game. It was great possession, great tempo, great scoring chances, and great effort. It was the best we have played as a team all year. I could rely on every player I put in the game. Each player gave the same amount of effort.

The other thing about the game that was similar to our season... In the 109th minute of the game, we had 26 shots and 1 goal. We were one minute away from outshooting a team 27-13 and tying 1-1.

We could not tie, so I started cheating numbers forward. We were practically in a 2-4-4 during the last 5 minutes of overtime. The play was end to end. Thankfully, Stetson missed some wide open shots, and Marcela blocked a sure goal. With less than a minute in double overtime, we put together a string of urgent passes, a composed cross, and a header in the upper 90.

Going into the game, we were 3-0-1 against Stetson in our last 4 games with 3 out of our last 4 goals against them being off a set piece. Both of our goals in this game were beautiful and scored in the run of play. Kailee, Bailey, and Rock were involved in both goals. Rock played an excellent entry pass into Patience, but the Stetson defender kicked it out of bounds. Kailee threw the ball into Bailey, and Bailey was dribbling from the corner flag toward the corner of the penalty area when she unleashed a shot with her left foot. It zipped past the goalkeeper and into the far post side netting. Amazing!

On the second goal, Jamie Loftis got on the end of a bouncing entry pass. She, Bailey, and Megan Rock locked it into our attacking third and could not get clean shots off in 2 attempts. Bailey played the ball out to the left side where LP ran onto it. She took her defender to the end line, and passed the ball back to Kailee. Kailee took one touch and served it in the box. Because we had held the ball in the final third for so long, we had excellent numbers in the box. Rock headed the ball in the corner against the goalkeepers momentum. I call that, "Putting it back where it came from."

I was elated. I was not thinking about the conference tournament or anything else. I was thinking about how proud I was of our team. They came back from a goal down on a Sunday on the road. They played beautifully and passionately. They have played well 3 halves in a row, and we are peaking at the right time.

Another Saturday practice

One thing that makes the Stetson/Florida Gulf Coast weekend difficult, besides the heat and humidity, 2 drastically different but effective teams, and the distance from Nashville is the 4 hour drive between the two schools.
When our conference opponents come play us at Belmont, there is no travel between us and Lipscomb. The teams get to stay in the same hotel the whole trip. There is really nothing difficult about the travel on the Nashville weekend. It is a disadvantage for us.

We left Fort Myers after breakfast, and we got to Deland in the afternoon. Just like all my other trips to Deland, our hotel parking lot was full of motorcycles. It was Biktoberfest, but I think it is always biker week in that part of the country.

We practiced on Stetson's field. We played chain tag to attempt to help us with our communication. We should have been doing that once a week. We did a team challenge passing drill. At the end of practice, everyone got a partner, and we had an intervention. The team sat in the bleachers while 2 players would get in front of the group and talk about each other's strengths, talents, and any positive qualities that make her valuable to the team. Then the players in the bleachers were invited to tell those 2 players one thing that she could do better to help the team.

I heard a lot of - communicate, shoot more, take on defenders, be confident, be composed. I was very impressed with the way the teammates talked to each other. They would say, "You have a great shot. Shoot more." "You know where everyone should be on the field. Communicate."

It was a great exercise, and I need to remember it, and use it earlier.

That night, during our team meeting, the Campbell game finished up with Campbell beating North Florida 3-2. If we win our last 2 games, we will finish tied with Campbell with 12 points. Campbell beat us head to head, so they would advance over us. Now we need ETSU to win one of their last 2 games to finish with 12 points. If there is a 3 way tie, we will have a chance to advance in goal differential tie breaker. However, the chance of us making the A-Sun Tournament just got slimmer.


I am guilty of over coaching once every other year. Ok, maybe once a year. I don't think I have over coached since the 3-6-1 vs. Kennesaw State in the 2008 A-Sun semi-finals. We went back to our 4-3-3 at halftime.

In preparation for Florida Gulf Coast, we prepared the team to play a 4-1-4-1. There are many reasons for this: 1. It would simplify defending for our outside backs against their outside midfielders. 2. It would prevent our wide forwards from having to receive the ball with pressure on their backs. 3. It would give us a numerical advantage in the midfield. 4. It would prevent dragging our center backs out of the middle and giving up corner kicks. 5. It was result oriented coaching and playing. 6. Our team has not shown any consistency or proven themselves able to win in our current system.

We had a walk through the morning before the game, and I thought the team understood their defensive roles in the system.

They didn't. We spent most of the first half locked in our own half. Just like in the 2008 semi-finals, we were down one goal at halftime. We went back to the 4-3-3 and quickly began to dictate the tempo of the game. We were not able to come back and get the victory this time.

Being down 2-0 and fearing missing the tournament, some of the players got frustrated. I did not like watching our team playing out of desperation, panic, and frustration. It was ugly. It was dangerous. It was not smart.

After the game, we found out that ETSU had lost, so we were still alive. With 2 wins, a Campbell loss, and 1 ETSU loss, we would advance to the A-Sun Tournament. We had to quickly rid ourselves of the frustration and get ready for a difficult game on Sunday at Stetson.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jacksonville/North Florida weekend

Our last 3 games have been against the top 3 teams in the conference - Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, and North Florida. I think Jacksonville is the best team in the A-Sun. I think FGCU has the best possession of any team. I think UNF is the most improved team in the A-Sun. We came close to scoring a goal against FGCU. We came close to scoring 4 goals against Jacksonville. Their goalkeeper made 2 excellent saves. We were 2 minutes and/or 2 inches away from tying North Florida.

Our 7 verbally committed incoming 2011 freshmen and their parents were at the North Florida game. I am excited about this talented class. One played in USYS National Championship Tournament last summer. Three of them play in the Elite Clubs National League. Two more will join the league this year. These players have great experience with their reputable club teams - Mockingbird, Brentwood, Concorde, Carmel, D'Feeters, and Sting.

We played fine against Jacksonville, but we played better in the 2nd half. Against North Florida, we played poorly in the 2nd half. I have no idea what I am going to get when I put the players on the field. It has made it very difficult for me to choose a consistent line up, have a consistent substitution pattern, and even have a consistent preparation for each game.

We have a practice on Saturday mornings between games. It is usually for sweating, stretching, and preparing for Sunday's opponent. I am always cautious not to do too much on Saturday mornings, until that Saturday. We played gaelic football. I learned the game from Becky Burleigh and have not played it in a long time. It is a cross between rugby and soccer. The coaches played. We ran. We tackled. There were scrums. It was vicious.

I decided to play gaelic football, because I think the team is playing out of fear - playing not to lose, playing scared to lose. I wanted to take the fear out of them and show them that we could battle that we MUST battle. We had a substitute trainer that day, and he must have thought I was out of my mind. He was probably thinking, "No wonder the women's soccer team has so many injuries."

I'm not sure which game was more dirty - gaelic football or North Florida. Anyway, we were off to a good start against UNF. At halftime, you would have thought I told the team to stop passing the ball and start kicking it as far as they could. We started playing so direct, and we never had possession of the ball. We defended most of the half, and it was hard to get the momentum back after that. The game went into overtime, and we were 2 minutes away from a tie. The ball was partially cleared from our area to a UNF midfielder. She took a shot from 25 yards out and it hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced down and in the goal. We have given up almost the exact same goal in the games against FGCU and Stetson. The Stetson goal hit the underside of the crossbar also. Unbelievable!!!

It's hard to believe we still control our own destiny. It will help us for ETSU and Campbell to lose, but if we win our last 3 games, we will make the A-Sun Tournament.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking Care of Business

There are 16 days left in the regular season. We need to win 4 out of 5 games in the next 16 days.
Remember when our opponents would have more possession, more shots, and more corner kicks than we would, but we would manage to walk away with a win? Well, our conference opponents are returning the favor this year. Against Campbell, we hit the crossbar more than 6 times.

In our first 5 conference games, we average over 14 shots per game and allow less than 10 shots per game. We have gotten an average of 8 corner kicks per game and give up 4 corner kicks per game. If you have been at the games, you know that our time of possession has been good. We don't have much to show for it.

It's hard to know how much to change just because we are not winning. We are playing well and often better than our opponent. I don't want to over react, but I do want results.

Our last 5 opponents are Jacksonville, North Florida, Gulf Coast, Stetson, and Lipscomb. Our seniors combined record against these teams for the last 3 years is 12-3-3. We can do this.

Kailee and her roommates hosted a team dinner tonight at their apartment.

We have 6 unofficial visits tomorrow, and 7 official visits start Saturday.

I met with every player individually this week. I met with 24 players in 3 days.

There was a calm intensity at practice today. Some of the players were more focused than usual. I would describe it as businesslike. Hopefully, we will be in the business of scoring goals tomorrow night.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Triple Edged Sword

The United States won the first women's World Cup in 1991. I played with and against a lot of those players, and I was trained by Anson Dorrance on several occasions. I followed the team closely before and after the World Cup. I am disappointed that I have an awesome highlight video of the trip to China and the games on VHS. I don't have a VCR.

The United States was not favored to win the championship. Our team was made up of young amateurs, while other teams like Norway and Italy were made up of professional players.

When the U.S. won, Anson Dorrance described his 3 forwards as a triple edged sword. Even if an opponent could stop one of the forwards, they could not stop all three at the same time. I think by the end of the season, Belmont's forwards could be a double triple edged sword or even a triple triple edged sword.

Against Upstate, I used 8 forwards - JayTro, LP, JO, E, Bailey, Dani, Maddie, and Lofty. Each one of them brings a skill set that is different from the other. While there is a defender that might be better suited to defend JayTro or LP, that same defender might not be able to stop E, Bailey, or Maddie.

In order to become the triple-triple, there are a few things we need for our forwards to do: 1. Be consistent. 2. Be confident. 3. Work together. 4. Know each other's tendencies. 5. Execute.

If we start doing these things, opponents beware of the triple-triple!


I stopped being superstitious a long time ago. It just wears you out. There are so many more important things to worry about rather than packing the right shorts, making sure the right underwear are clean, or putting in the correct earrings.

I heard Andy and Kyle talking about what they would or would not wear to games because of us losing a certain game and what they were wearing at the time. During our losing streak, I even heard friends, players' parents, and people in the office talk about what they could wear or not wear to help us win. Colette Keyser is trying to find a lucky lip color for me to wear for games.

I don't believe in any of this stuff. Except... I was worried that wearing my 2008 championship ring to the games might be causing me to appear to be complacent. When I was putting on my rings and earrings on Thursday morning before leaving on the road trip, I decided not to wear that ring. I did put on the 2009 championship ring, because I have not worn it in a long time. Just because I wore it that day didn't mean I would wear it to the game. I did wear it to the game, and we won. I wore it again on Sunday, and we won. Of course, I will be wearing it on Thursday night.

The President's Spirit Award Competition will take place at our game on Thursday night. There should be hundreds of students there. It would be great to set a record for attendance for a women's soccer game. I'll be there with my ring on!


Finally! We got a break! A game that could have gone either way went our way! In overtime!

Just what the doctor ordered. We won a game that wasn't close. Then, we won a game that was very close and came down to the wire.

We scored 8 goals in 2 games. Seven different goal scorers. The assists were spread out all over. We generated over 20 corner kicks. Five set play goals. Four Big 5 goals. That is the Belmont I know and love!

I feel great about Laura Harris scoring a goal in each game. Erica was involved in all 3 goals against ETSU. I am proud of our senior center backs for scoring the goals that gave us the victory at ETSU. Marcela tied the game 2-2 in the last 4 minutes when she scored on a corner kick.

Jessica Rix got the game winner in double overtime with a well placed free kick that landed half way between the goalkeeper and the last defender. That is where we aim, because it causes the goalkeeper to make a decision whether to come out or stay on the line. She got the goalkeeper to take a couple of steps off her line. When the last defender allowed the ball to bounce, there was nothing the keeper could do. It bounced right into the goal.

For her effort, Jessica was named Defensive Player of the Week. Lauren Paynter had 1 goal and 3 assists in 2 games and was named A-Sun Player of the Week. LP is our leading scorer, and she is ranked in the top 10 in the conference in some statistical categories.

We were the only A-Sun team to get 6 points last weekend. All other teams went 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, or 0-2. That helped us make a big move in the standings.

Our next 3 conference games are at home. We must use this momentum to keep going and keep winning.

We played on 2 excellent fields last weekend. The good surfaces helped us play better soccer and get more corner kicks.

Again, we were not able to play at full strength. Sometimes I allow myself to dream about how good we might be and how much fun we would be to watch if all of our players were healthy. It doesn't do me any good to think about it too long. I have to work with the reality of some players not playing at all and others not playing at full strength.

If you had asked me in the summer, I would have said that our starting forwards would be Erica, J-Tro, and Emily Jones. Emily is out for the season. E is 75-80%, and J-Tro is probably 70%. A successful team will have other players take advantage of the opportunity to play, step up, and pick up the slack. I feel like LP, Jane Owen, and Bailey Kimbell are doing just that. Now we need greater consistency.

It is very surprising to me that we have gone into overtime 5 times, and we have no ties.

Finally, I just want to say what an emotional game the ETSU game was. It was less emotional for our team, but you could see the emotion in Andy and the ETSU players. That team was fired up! For us to win that game the way we did was a huge accomplishment. It will get easier for Andy from now on, but I am glad that one is over, and I'm glad we won.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


We set a goal for this game to score 1 goal every 15 minutes. Accomplishing that goal in the 1st half was critical. In the first 90 seconds, Jamie Loftis stole a ball in the midfield, caught the goalkeeper off her line, but Lofty's shot hit the crossbar and bounced out. Over the next 40 minutes, J-Tro had 2 breakaways saved by the keeper. Bailey was taken out in the penalty area, but no foul was called. I am sure most players and coaches were thinking, "Here we go again." We did not execute free kicks or corner kicks well enough to get a goal. With 4 minutes left in the half, I had 6 substitutes on the field. I told everyone on the bench to fill up water bottles, because we were going to the locker room for halftime. While the girls were lined up at the water jugs, we got a throw in.

We just changed our long throw in play that morning before the game and practiced it with a few people but not everyone. Erica took the throw in, Dani made her run, Lydia received the throw and got it to Dani in the middle of her run, and Dani put it in the near post with a good left footed shot in the 43rd minute.

While we were celebrating on the sideline and breathing a sigh of relief, I wondered how many of the players actually saw the goal. I told them to stop watching the game and go back to the water. Maybe it was good luck. We were up 1-0 at halftime. It was a Big 5 goal, it was a goal off of a restart, and it was an important goal. In the 2nd half, we scored another set play goal and another Big 5 goal. We scored 5 goals on the night with 5 different goal scorers.

Since the burn, we have declared an 8 game season. So we are 1-0 with 7 games remaining. Hopefully, this will be the game that changes our season. Like Andy said after the game, "Good things happen when you burn stuff."

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Burn

Less sleep, more problem solving, longer staff meetings... These are the things that happen when you are 1-7. One of Andy's ideas was to burn any and all negative memories from the last 8 games, so we feel like we are making a fresh start.

After practice on Tuesday, I gave the girls homework. Write down anything that caused negative thoughts, doubts, or frustration over the first 8 games. Bring it to practice on Wednesday, and we were going to set everyone's papers on fire.

After practice on Wednesday, we went over to a construction site (always easy to find on campus, usually near the soccer field). One by one, every person lit her (and his) papers and put them in a metal trash can. We had a pretty good small fire going, and we slow clapped until Andy put the lid on the trash can.

No one read their list. Everyone was told that this is the end of negativity, frustration, and the last 8 games. We cannot carry the past with us going into the next 8 games. We must go into our last 8 games with free minds, positive energy, and confidence.

I enjoyed the experience and have felt some weight lifted off my shoulders. Hopefully, everyone else feels the same way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kennesaw State

I'm not going to revisit the whole game. The one thing I want to talk about after this game is the bench. The substitutes played awesome today, changed the momentum of the game, and kept the momentum for the remainder of the game. It was one of the best performances by a group of substitutes that I have ever seen.

As low as our confidence is right now, it was very inspiring to see those 8-10 players play well together and play well against one of the best teams in the conference.

However, it is also an indication of one of the main things wrong with our season - inconsistency. I have not been able to rely on a core of players to perform their best over a period of time. I have not been able to predict how a certain player will do in a certain situation. I don't know why the players are so inconsistent. Injuries? Difficult field conditions? Weather conditions? Difference in opponents? Is it because they are a bunch of 20 year old female college students?

We actually took a lot of positives from the game today. We proved to ourselves that we can play as well as anyone in the conference. We know exactly what we need to work on. We are a deep team with many, many weapons. We have an identity, and it's not too late!


We started Saturday morning watching some video. We watched video of us playing well against Mercer, and we watched video of Kennesaw State not playing all that well. It was designed to be a confidence builder.

We spent about 45 minutes shooting. We created good scoring opportunities on Friday night, so we needed to make sure we could finish our opportunities against Kennesaw State.

I had to meet with recruits after practice. I was very pleased with the level of players we had in on the visit, and I was even happier to get their positive feedback. It was a little awkward on Friday night when we lost in ot, I was very animated with the team, and everyone was sick about the result. The recruits stood around in silence waiting for their hosts. It was uncomfortable for everyone. I'm sure the mood improved throughout the night.

When I was finished with my business at Belmont for the day, I went shopping. I needed a distraction, and I needed to buy a wedding present for Jennifer Rix and her husband Matt Reynolds. They got married on the 4th of July weekend. I couldn't go to the wedding, and I just kept forgetting to get them a gift. I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond in Cool Springs to get them a gift card. When I walked in the store, I thought I saw Matt. I haven't seen him in a year, so I assumed it was not him. I was just thinking about Matt, so that person looked like him.

I bought the gift card, and turned around for a minute, and I saw Don Rix. Then, I saw Matt again and then Jenn. I walked over and started talking to them. We visited for a while. Jenn said they were there shopping for stuff for their apartment, so I gave them the gift card right then and there. No card. No mailing address.

The fact that I've had at least 4 months to buy that gift, and that store is not near my house, it was one of the biggest coincidences ever!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not Again!

I started my day on Friday at 9am with 5 recruits on campus. After 3 meetings, 2 tours, and many other obligations, it was time to begin our conference season against Mercer.

My personal record against Mercer is abysmal. Mercer has had soccer forever. As a player, I played against Mercer and my team won 6-0 or better. I have a very funny story about that game, but I won't share it now. The mid-90's were some of Mercer's best years. They had one of the best players in the country - Mirella Ninic. I had just started the program at JSU in the same conference, and we had to play them twice each year. I was going 0-2 against Mercer for 3 years before ever getting a result against them. In 2000, my JSU team was down 2-0 at Mercer. We were probably going to qualify for the conference tournament, and Mercer was fighting for their tournament life. It was possibly a do or die game for them. JSU came back and won that game 3-2. I still remember all 3 goals in the 2nd half. I remember some of the halftime speech, and I remember the Mercer coach not getting up off of the bench at the end of the game and remaining in that same position as we got on the bus.

Since 2005, Belmont has not beaten Mercer. I think our record vs. Mercer since 2005 was 0-3-4 going into Friday night's game. Yes, we beat them in PK's to win the 2008 A-Sun Tournament. That felt like 2 wins, but it goes down in the record book as a tie. We lost to them in the 2007 Semi-finals in penalty kicks, and that one is a tie too.

The first 45 minutes, we played as well as we have played all year. We had 3 excellent scoring opportunities and despite other opportunities, we failed to score. At halftime, we talked about how Mercer would not quit, and we couldn't play like we did in the 1st half. We would have to play even better.

We did not play better in the 2nd half. We didn't play terrible, but we did not sustain the same level of play. Regulation ended in a tie, and we were destined for our 4th overtime game out of 7 games. We did not have the momentum going into overtime. We gave up 2 or 3 corner kicks in the final minutes of regulation. I felt a sense of accomplishment to deny Mercer from scoring on a corner kick in the last minute of the game.

We gave up a goal with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half of overtime. I can't describe the feeling - depressing, deflating, disappointing, sick, familiar, ...

I will tell you this, after the game, I let the team have it. We have lost 6 games - 4 in overtime and 1 in the last seconds of the game. After those games, I have been positive, I have been critical, and I have said nothing. I have been very careful not to rub salt in the wound, and I have been worried about the team's resiliency and ability to bounce back after a devastating and dramatic loss. Friday night, I rubbed salt in the wound.

I don't know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing, but I am running out of things to do and things to say. I do know this. My staff and I are working together to make sure the team believes we can win and we will win.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jane Owen Robbins

One of the most fun parts of this job is watching young women gain confidence and the effect it has on all aspects of the student-athlete experience.

As a freshman last year, Jane Owen played in 2 games. She did not come in at the same level as most of the girls on the team, and she has been working to catch up ever since. JO plays center back, and it is not a position where I substitute very often. If you are not #1 or #2, you get very little playing time. The great thing about Jane Owen is that she trains so hard at center back that she makes our forwards better at practice. For a coach, this is a great situation. For Jane Owen, it is probably not her ideal role, but she continues to work hard at it.

On Wednesday, I was making the travel team for the last trip, and Jane Owen's name was in the bubble of players who might not travel. She was on the travel team in the morning, then not on the travel team after lunch. She was definitely a player I would evaluate in Wednesday's practice to make a final decision. While JO was working hard at center back, I thought about how she almost scored a goal against SEMO. We have some forwards who are injured, and I needed to take more forwards than defenders.

While we were in Missouri, I told Jane Owen that there was a slight chance that she might play forward against Missouri if I had to go deep into the bench. I told her to make sure she watched the center forward during the game. Since we only played 30 minutes, I did not go deep into the bench that game, but I did have to play a lot of players against SEMO on the 100 degree turf. Andy came up to me during the game and told me he thought we could put Jane Owen in the game at forward. She ended up having a great scoring opportunity, and the goalkeeper made a good save.

Wednesday's practice was 1.5 hours, and in 90 minutes Jane Owen's training habits took her from not travelling to the travel team. She did not get in Friday's game against Eastern Illinois, but when she played on Sunday, she scored a goal against Indiana State. JO will do anything to help her team, and she just keeps finding ways to help us and herself.

It takes an excellent attitude to embrace your role, like it or not, and find ways to help the team in your role. If a player can help the team within her role, then her role is more likely to change or grow.

One more thing. When we had our team meeting on Friday night, JO had some of the most important observations and said some meaningful things to her coaches and teammates. Probably the best thing she said was that it was a privilege to be on the team, to travel with the team, and to play in the games. She told her teammates to not take that privilege for granted, because there were other people who would do anything to earn that privilege and/or take a player's place.

I hope everyone can be as good a teammate to Jane Owen as she is to them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big Five Goals

When I played in college, my coach told us that the most crucial parts of the soccer game were the 1st 5 minutes of a half, the last 5 minutes of a half, and 5 minutes after a goal is scored. Those are the times when the most goals are scored.

Years later, I heard April Heinrichs call these Big 5 Goals. Her team would yell, "Big 5" during these times of the game, so everyone would focus.

Big 5 goals have played a huge role in our season so far. We have given up Big 5 goals in every game - SEMO-2, Clemson-1, Minnesota-3, Arkansas State-1, EIU-1, ISU-2. Even the game we won against Arkansas State, we gave up a goal in the first 5 minutes of the game. We did manage to score 2 Big 5 goals in that game.

The team knows how important the Big 5 is. We are working on it.


One year ago our record was 1-4-1. In our last 14 games last season, we were 9-2-3.

game at Indiana State

Sunday's game at Indiana State was on turf. Just another unfamiliar environment for us.

It was a big challenge for us to regroup against a good attacking team. It was 0-0 at halftime, and I thought we would play even better in the 2nd half. I wish I could say it is uncharacteristic for us to give up a goal in the first 5 minutes of a half, but it's not this year. We gave up a goal in the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half.

We had the mentality and ability to tie the score and go into overtime (again). Still tied at the end of the first overtime, we gave up a corner kick in the 2nd minute of the 2nd overtime. They scored, and we lost our 5th game - the 3rd overtime loss.

I was not pleased with the quality of our play, but I have not been able to be very critical of the team after games. When the team wins, I can be much more critical of them. Even after losses, I am usually able to speak honestly about the game. The overtime losses, the penalty kick losses have been devastating, so I have had to choose my words and time my coaching very carefully.

Instead of saying too much right after a loss, I have been addressing weaknesses and correcting mistakes in individual meetings, practices, video sessions, etc.

Although we lost on Sunday, it was a step in the right direction. The girls played much harder. They fought for each other. They had more desire, discipline, and dedication. We're getting there.

the day after

How do you recover from losing on a penalty kick in the last 12 seconds of a game?

We had practice at Indiana State on Saturday. We did a team challenge. The team had to complete passes under pressure for one minute without making a mistake. The girls almost completed it in the first try. Then, they could not make it 30 seconds. They started getting frustrated, and it started getting quiet. We had just talked about adversity, effort, leadership, and teamwork the night before. When the team accomplished the goal, they passed successfully for over 2 minutes.

Then we played a 7ASide round robin. There were some good shots, near misses, good saves, and good goals. It was fun.

Then, we drove to Carmel to spend the day and have dinner at Jessica Rix's house. It was awesome! We watched college football, ate, played corn hole, passed the football, played ladder golf, took naps, did homework, etc. The weather was great. We had a wonderful dinner. It was a great time!

After dinner, we drove back to Terre Haute to spend the night. Sunday would be a difficult day and an important game for us.

road trip

Before we got on the bus on Thursday, I talked to the team about how we must go 2-0 on a road trip in order to finish atop the Atlantic Sun Conference. The objective of this trip was to go 2-0 on a non-conference weekend, so we knew we could do it when conference started. Well, that speech didn't work out too well.

One penalty kick and one overtime later, we were 0-2 for the weekend.

I have never coached a game where there is a game deciding goal in the last minute of the game. I think I have seen goals scored or given up with 1:something on the clock but never 0:something. At Eastern Illinois, the referee called a penalty kick against one of our defenders in the last 12 seconds. We lost 1-0 on that goal with 0:12 on the clock.

It was by far the worst field I have seen in the 2000's. A ball could be rolling along the ground, and bounce over the player's foot when she tried to trap or kick it. After about 30 minutes, we had to vacate any passing in our game plan and just play direct and try to kick every ball over their defenders. Although this kept the ball out of our defensive half, it did not result in shots or scoring chances. We only took 1 shot in the second half.
I've been thinking about the quality of that field, and it has made me pretty upset. All the teams that show up there to compete and work hard deserve far better than that. Any coaches who spend time preparing their teams to play against Eastern Illinois deserve better than that. The coaches and student-athletes at EIU deserve better than that. There is no way you could practice on that field and get better. I'm not mad because I lost on that field. I'm just mad about that field, and the message that it sends to those who use it.
In addition to the bad field and officiating, the team gave one of our least inspired performances in a long time. The last second penalty kick was shocking. After the game, I said nothing to the team. We just got on the bus, went back to the hotel, got ready for dinner, and went to eat.

After dinner, we had a team meeting. The meeting lasted over an hour. When you lose games the way we have lost games this year, it leaves a scar. We are working through some scar tissue right now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Injury Bug

Part of the reason we have been so successful the last few years is because we have avoided injuries. We've had players playing injured. Erica and Jayme played injured in 2008. Jessica played injured in 2009 and will continue to do so this season. Jayme and Maddie are joining Jess this year on the playing injured list. Actually, JTro has only played in part of 2 pre-season games and against Clemson. She is scheduled to join practice this week. We have not had a season ending injury since Elizabeth Bublis tore her ACL in the spring of 08. I can't remember the last season ending injury we had in a fall season.

We had one the other day. Emily Jones tore her ACL, LCL, and meniscus in practice. She went all out. I feel bad for Emily, and the team will miss her. She has been starting and improving every game and every practice.

At practice, I was making sure everyone was getting a chance to play in an exercise, and when I looked at the people who were sitting out, I had more injured players than I had substitutes. The injured players were Jayme Trocino, Emily Jones, Dani Stolt (IT Band), Sari Lin, (torn ligament in her ring finger knuckle), Megan Rock (back, pelvis, and hip problems), and Jamie Loftis (back pain). In the next game against Arkansas State, Erica left the game with a sprained ankle and possible torn ankle ligaments.

Could this be the year when injuries affect how successful we are? Injuries have affected some individuals over the years, but they have never affected the whole team. We're getting pretty close to that now.

I was worried over the summer, because I knew we had a lot of injuries that were preventing people from getting fit and preparing for the season - Jessica Rix, Jayme Trocino, Patience Whitten, Maddie Porter, and Lydia Wright - 5 seniors. A few days before report day, Megan Rock called me and said she was injured. Other than Megan, none of these injuries kept people from working hard during pre-season, so I was relieved and thought maybe we were more healthy than I thought. The more games we've played, and other players have picked up some injuries, the larger affect it is having on our team.

There are 2 positive things that could come of this. Maybe we start getting healthy and get everyone back at the right time. Maybe we have other players step up when given the opportunity in practice and in games. Actually, we will probably need both of those things to happen for us to reach our goal of winning the A-Sun.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Worst Loss at Belmont

There were so many things that were disappointing about Tuesday that I've been contemplating what to write. Do I tell the whole story? Do I say nothing? Do I just wait and write about the next game or story?
Actually, the disappointment started at practice on Sunday. The coaching staff decided that we would not use conservative defensive tactics to get a result. We decided that we would stay in our 4-3-3 against their 3-5-2. We were going to play for development and not for the result. It meant that we would have to have exceptional individual and small group defending against Minnesota. Our defending in that practice was terrible. Maybe I should have changed my mind when I saw how poorly the majority of our team was defending. We trained well before the Clemson game, and we played well against Clemson. We trained poorly before the Minnesota game, and we played poorly in the game.
Tuesdays game helped us identify some things to work on to get ready for conference games. I think we learned from the experience. Ultimately, that was the goal all along.
In 2005 and 2006, my goal for the team was to compete and gain confidence from getting results. A good result then could have been a 1-0 win, a 0-0 tie, or even a 2-0 loss. We lost to Louisiana State 2-0, and I remember feeling really good about the result. We used tactics that allowed the players to play within themselves and allowed the team to have a chance to win the game at the end. The players worked together for 90 minutes, and it allowed us to become more cohesive, more competitive, and more confident.
That was not our goal this year against Samford, Vandy, Missouri, Clemson, and Minnesota. Our goal was to gain experience in our system against high level competition. Where we were exploited against great teams, we will fix before we play Mercer. The things that made us successful against those teams, we will use to our advantage against conference opponents.
We're not a bad 0-3 team, but I don't mind if our conference opponents think we are. Hopefully, after Sunday, we will be 1-3.
I am watching the USC football game. I might be the only person in Tennessee watching Lane Kiffin coach.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sari Lin

Other than a few of the early years at Jacksonville State, I have had outstanding goalkeepers. Even when I played, I was lucky to play with national level goalkeepers and All-Americans. In 1989, my college team finished the season with 3 goals against. We gave up only 3 goals in 20 games. It is still a NCAA record. I don't think it's #1, but it is one of the best season goals against average in the history of NCAA women's soccer.
Sari is an excellent goalkeeper. She has had a great start to her career - 2008 All-Freshman Team and Tournament MVP. 2009 First Team All-Conference, Belmont Female Athlete of the Year. 2010 Pre-Season All-Conference pick. She has been ranked nationally in save percentage, goals against average, and shutout percentage. Sari is probably the biggest reason for our 2008 tournament championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. It was truly a team effort, but the goalkeeper often gets the credit (and the blame).

We have another great goalkeeper on our team - Nicole Berner, a freshman from New Jersey. Nicole came in ready to challenge for playing time. During the pre-season, Nicole out-performed Sari, and she has started all 5 of our games.

I am not writing this to give a public comparison of the two goalkeepers or to promote one goalkeeper over the other. I am writing this to talk about how one young adult has dealt with a situation that was probably very difficult and how this has defined her character.

Sari could have responded very poorly when she lost her starting position. She could have felt entitled to her position. She could have pointed the finger at others. She could have blamed me or Kyle or Andy. She could have blamed Nicole. She could have given up.

I do remember a training session while we were in Alabama where Sari looked like she was giving up. Then, she made that decision to compete for her position. I think she had to hold herself accountable to be able to make that commitment to herself and to her team. Since the Samford game, Sari has not taken one play off in training or in games. She is getting her timing back and her confidence back, and Sari's new work ethic is going to make her even better than she was before.

I am proud of Sari and the way she has handled this. I hope her peers and teammates will learn from her example. I know they have noticed. What a tribute to the value of collegiate sports. This is not the last time that Sari will be knocked down and challenged in her life. She has shown at a pretty young age that she can pick herself up, wipe herself off, and put herself back out there.

Not all student-athletes have the same reaction or attitude as Sari. A few years ago, I had a player quit the team when she lost her starting position. She told me that she was a junior and she shouldn't have to continue to prove herself.

I am glad Sari didn't respond that way, and I am grateful for Nicole's talent, preparation, and contribution to our team. Is it possible that we not only have the best goalkeeper in the conference but we have the 2 best goalkeepers in the conference?

Friday, August 27, 2010


We lost in overtime for the 2nd game in a row. The results have been the same, but the background stories could not be more different. The weather was beautiful tonight. The team played very well in front of a big crowd. The players played as well as they have been practicing.

We were down 1-0 at halftime, and we tied the game with 7 minutes remaining. I was proud of our experience, maturity, confidence, and determination.

Then, the referee decided to let Clemson win. He gave them a penalty kick 8 minutes into overtime. I believe our team had a little lapse in defending, and Clemson was attacking. However, it was not a physical game, and the referee had called very few fouls. He called that penalty kick out of the blue.

I feel bad for the players who worked so hard to play toe to toe with an ACC opponent just to have the referee decide the game, not the players on the field. It's a shame.

We did play toe to toe with Clemson. They took one more shot than we did, and we had 2 more corner kicks than they did.

It is just a bag of mixed emotions - upset to lose, pleased with our ability to compete with a big school, sad for the girls, impressed with our improvement, and disappointed in a few players.

I am guilty (again) of having unrealistic expectations of our players and our team. I begin every season idealistic that we are going to play like Spain in the World Cup. I get so upset when we don't. It usually takes me a few weeks to get accustomed to our strengths and weaknesses and to be more realistic about our abilities. This season is no different.

I am going to spend the next 2 days watching Minnesota on film and in person. I believe they are the best team on our schedule, and they will be one of the best teams I have ever coached against. I know 1:00 is not a good time for a game on a Tuesday, but I hope we will have a decent crowd. Free hot dogs and lemonade!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

tough conditions

We had 2 extremes in Missouri. Friday night, we played on a wet field in rain and wind. Sunday afternoon, we played on hot, dry turf. The temperature was 95 degrees in the parking lot, but it was over 105 degrees on that turf. It was the first time I ever had a water break in the middle of the half, and I have coached MANY games in extreme heat.

We lost 2-1 in overtime. There were many chances to score for both teams, and there were some good saves by the 3 goalkeepers. I think our team worked hard, especially considering the circumstances. If the girls will work hard in that heat against a non-conference opponent, I know they will work hard against Mercer, Kennesaw State, Stetson, and the others.

I have been happy with training this week. The team is looking to possess the ball more. The training environment is more game like. Team defending has improved. The goalkeepers are training at a high level. I think this schedule, the competitiveness within our team, and our experience is working to our advantage.

Our next 3 games are at home, and the next 2 games are against Clemson and Minnesota. What a great moment for Belmont women's soccer.

The soccer field and its surroundings look beautiful right now. At one end is a brand new 4 story dorm with an observation tower and a beautiful new $20 million building. I was at the men's soccer game yesterday, and the students can't help but come to the game. They walk out of their dorm, and they are at the game. It is a very unique environment, and I hope we are able to take advantage of it.

We still do not have a manager. Everyone has been helping with laundry and passing out equipment. We will have one by Monday. Jayme Trocino is injured, so she was the acting manager on the trip to Missouri. She had to video the game, do the team's laundry, and order food for the team before and after games. I think she has a new found respect for managers.

I plan every meal in detail on the road trips. Before a game, the players cannot eat too much or too little, too early or too late. The team ate breakfast at 9:30. We had food on the bus for everyone to eat before the game, but the players were not exactly aware of what food we had or where it was. I was out of routine, and so were they. By the time the game started at 2:00, the players were hungry. By the time overtime started at 4:00, they were running on empty. I guarantee that won't happen again this year. We will have a manager with us to be responsible for food. I will be more aware, and the players will be more responsible.

There are so many different things that go into being successful. It truly takes a team to manage, prepare, motivate, and perform.

See you on Friday night!

Friday, August 20, 2010

No Contest

We got our new uniforms today. They are a little small, but they look awesome!

Just when I thought I had seen it all, tonight's game at Missouri was a first for me. As we rode in the bus at 5:15, we watched a storm blow in from the west, and it arrived at the stadium about the same time we did. The sky went from blue to black during our 15 minute ride. The game manager met us on the bus and escorted us straight to the locker room where we sat for the next 1 1/2 hours while the storm hit. After an abbreviated warm up, we started the game at 7:45 on a saturated field with puddles.

After 14 minutes, we were winning 1-0 on a breakaway goal by Erica Carter off of a pass from Jamie Loftis. I thought our team played with courage and heart. Missouri was a physical opponent, and if that were not enough, a strong wind started blowing right in our faces. With the wet field, wind, and physical pressure, it was extremely difficult for us to get the ball out of our half. It took some great headers, some blocked shots, and some excellent saves by Nicole to be winning 1-0 when the game was suspended.

We waited in the locker room for 45 minutes. At 9:00, the game was cancelled. The team wanted to play. They were already asking if we could play the rest of the game in the morning. When I told them that Missouri has a flight at 8:00 tomorrow morning, they said they would play at 6am.

We were all very excited and disappointed that the game ended the way it did.

Tomorrow, we drive to Cape Girardeau, straight to the SEMO soccer stadium to practice at 3:00.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


August 3rd was the earliest report date women's soccer has ever had. We decided to take our pre-season training off campus. We went to Indian Springs School where we had convenient and unlimited access to the dorms, cafeteria, and soccer fields. It was one of the hottest pre-seasons we've had in a while, so we were practicing at 6am and 7pm. Besides soccer, there was very little activity other than eating and sleeping. It was very productive for the team and very conducive for me to coach for 2 weeks without worrying about money, meals, travel, and other distractions.

Before coming back to Nashville, we played Samford. It was a difficult game for us, especially the first half, but it was very good for us to play against that kind of pressure. It will help us be better prepared for Missouri. We lost 1-0, but we improved throughout the game.

Once we were back in Nashville, we had 73 people at our Welcome Back Dinner, hosted by the Trocino's. I think it is important for the women's soccer family to extend beyond the players.

The next evening, we played Vanderbilt. The first half started kind of slow, but there were 3 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game, and we finished by getting 2 corner kicks in the last minute. The score ended 2-2. As much as I wanted to win, I think a tie is fine.

As men's soccer and volleyball are arriving on campus and beginning their grueling practice schedules, we have tapered down to 1 practice a day to get ready for our season opener on Friday at Missouri. Missouri has finished in 1st place in the Big XII the last 2 years. Athletically, they are out of our league. I told our players we are not playing them in individual sports like track, 1v1, or weightlifting. We are playing them with 11 players at a time. If we work hard with each other and for each other, if we work smart together, then we will be competitive in this game.

Last week, I was nervous about this game. Today, I am excited!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soccer Camp

It is not even August 20th, and we have had 21 practices and 2 games in 15 days. I guess I forgot to count. I am sure everyone is excited to have tomorrow off. The next time we get on the field, it will be for our game vs. Missouri - 2009 Big XII Champions. What is the Big XII called today?

It has rained 2 nights in a row and most of the afternoon and evening today, which reminds me that I want to mention the flood back in May. My birthday was on April 24th. We were supposed to go to Lee College for our last spring game. There were storms, so we cancelled the game, and I was able to stay home for my birthday. It was not a fun day, because the rain was so hard that it leaked into the basement and caused me to have to do much more work than I wanted to do on my unexpected day off.

That was not the weekend it flooded, and my leak was nothing compared to the damage caused by the flooding one week later. The Friday before the flood, I remember telling friends to have a good rainy weekend. On Saturday, I actually did not know that Nashville was flooding. I was busy working in the basement. When the tornado sirens went off about an hour before I was supposed to drive across town to a friend's house for dinner, I decided to turn on the television. The first thing I saw was cars floating down I-24. It just got worse from there.

From Saturday afternoon until Monday or Tuesday, the local channels were local news only without commericials. It was at least 48 hours of uninterrupted flood coverage. The newscasters were sleeping at the stations. It reminded me of when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida.

Sunday morning, Maddie's father called me. The house that she, Jess, and Charlotte rented had flooded. They needed help moving their belongings, a place to put them, and a place to stay.

The street below me is in a flood plane. They had to wade through water to their backyard, walk up the hill into my backyard, up my driveway, and get picked up in the street in front of my house. People carried cats, dogs, babies, etc. up that hill.

I learned of friends who lost their homes and practically everything in them.

The neighbors started ripping out their flood damaged walls, floors, HVAC units, etc. and put them in their front yards by the street. They put all of their flood damaged possessions out there too. A truck with a claw would come by and pick up all the trash and put it in a dump truck. The smell of flood is horrible! As the water receded, it left moldy marks on all the bushes, fences, houses, and trees. You could see a distinct water line on most houses and shrubs.

Belmont students, faculty, and staff did a great job volunteering to help flood victims all over the city. Jamie Loftis' high school flooded.

I just had to mention the flood. I will be back soon to discuss pre-season and the team's preparation to defend our conference championship. Make sure you check out Belmont's new athletics website. There are video interviews with women's soccer and volleyball. On the Atlantic Sun Conference website, a women's soccer player from each school is being interviewed. Erica Carter will be on tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Alumni Weekend

April 16-18 was alumni weekend with the alumni playing the current team on April17th. I provided dinner for the alumni on Friday and lunch and dinner on Saturday. I gave out some pictures and t-shirts. Hopefully, everyone got enough to make them want to return the next time.

It was a small turn out and a young group, but it was great to have the participation. The alumni team had 3 or 4 subs, and I had coached all but one of them. It was fun to see them play together again.

The current team played against Martin Methodist on Saturday at 11:00. We won 1-0. Then we played the alumni at 3:00. The current team won 4-0. The alumni got the first shot of the game.

I appreciate the alumni who e-mailed me and updated me on their lives. It was nice to hear from so many former players. There were different updates and conflicts. There was a wedding, a wedding shower, national board exams, finals, a soccer tournament, work, pregnancy, etc. Typical alumni stuff.

It was a blast looking through old pictures, listening to old stories, and sharing new news. Jenn Rix talked about her wedding plans. Bublis talked about getting engaged. Micaela is going to Norway to play. Everyone talked about how much the team ran in the spring before I got there. My favorite story is the FAU game.

It was not supposed to be the last weekend of the spring season, but our game got rained out the next week. At least we ended on a good note with 2 wins in one day and our first full sided wins of the spring.

The most valuable thing I learned this spring is that not all of our players are good enough yet to win games. All of our players are good practice players. Our role players are good enough to make our starters better in practice, but we are not deep enough to play everyone and still win games. In the spring, it was more important to give everyone playing time than it was to win. In the fall, it will be opposite. It will be more important to win!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring Season

The 7 A-Side Tournament at WKU proved that it is difficult for a Division I soccer player to purely have fun playing soccer. We definitely had a good time, but the players also got fired up in the heat of competition. I thought it was a good event for us, and I was proud of both of our teams. We finished in 2nd and 3rd. Obviously, if we had allowed players to flip flop between the 2 teams, we would have finished 1st and 2nd. However, it was another great opportunity for all the players to play, develop, and prove themselves.

The weekend after Easter, we went to the University of Tennessee. Our opponents were Tusculum and Carson Newman. Both are good Division II teams. The Lady Vols have an incredible stadium and great practice and multi-purpose facilities. We watched them play Memphis before our game. After their game, I was a little surprised by what I saw.

Every young female soccer player in the stadium from the ages of 6 to 16 came down to the field for autographs, a closer look at the players, a chance to talk to players or coaches. This can be great, because I believe in our players being role models, but the excitement of the young fans was serious to me. The Tennessee team hid in the locker room. They sent someone out to tell the girls that they were not signing autographs that morning, and they did not leave the locker room until most of the young fans had left. I have seen the Tennessee women’s basketball team and witnessed their following. They are like rock stars, and the women’s soccer team is not far behind that.

That is a lot of responsibility on a student-athlete. Are they mature enough to handle that? When a high school student is choosing a college, should that be part of the decision making process? Major? Location? Size of school? What is my potential for fame? I know football players and men’s basketball players choose a school based on how many times that team plays on national TV. Are women’s sports at big schools not far behind?

Just as the Lady Vols had enough fans to make it feel more like the regular season than the spring, our game against Tusculum certainly had the drama of a fall game. We lost 3-2 after being up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes of the game. Tusculum scored the winning goal in the last 3 seconds of the game. I was devastated. Our team that is supposed to be so experienced and talented and successful fell apart. We did not make much improvement in our 2nd game of the day against Carson Newman. We tied 0-0.

I think we lost a lot of momentum that weekend. Some players picked up injuries. Some got their feelings hurt when I held them accountable for the low quality of play. The team lost some confidence in themselves and each other. Even though I thought we learned from the games and designed some practices to help us get better, I think some players checked out, mentally, the rest of the spring season.

Hopefully, I have identified some of the causes for the burn out and will be able to prevent them in the future.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Begins with new Assistant Coach

We had a couple of good practices before spring break. When we returned from spring break, we were able to practice Monday – Friday and play a game on Saturday. Six days in a row of soccer is probably the most consecutive days of soccer these ladies have played since they were in high school.

During spring break, our basketball teams lost in the conference tournament. In the men’s tournament, the Belmont coaches and staff and I were happy that Lipscomb lost in the first round. Our excitement did not last long because, unfortunately, Belmont lost too. The men’s basketball team finished the regular season in a four way tie for first place. Our women’s basketball team won their first round game in overtime. It was good to see them win a close one. We were unlucky to get ETSU, the defending tournament champions, in the semi-finals.

I love March Madness. It’s nice being able to watch basketball on the computer in the office and not having to worry about the “boss button.” Actually, I am watching a women’s game right now – Florida State vs. St. John’s.

My new assistant coach is Andy Stoots. I did not have to look far. Andy came to us from ETSU where he has been an assistant coach/associate head coach the last 6 years. Andy is knowledgeable about the conference. ETSU qualified for the A-Sun Tournament in 5 of his 6 years. Andy is an excellent recruiter. He can coach any position. Andy’s character and integrity make him not only a great fit for Belmont but also a wonderful young man for parents to feel good about teaching their daughters. He is working at Belmont about 4 or 5 days a week while he and his family relocate from Johnson City.

I think the Belmont women’s soccer program is in a great place when I can attract an assistant coach with so much experience. I have hired very few assistants who were actually full-time coaches prior. I credit the team’s success, Belmont University, and being in Nashville as big reasons why I have been able to bring such good assistant coaches to Belmont.

We played MTSU on Saturday. The score ended tied 0-0. They had more chances to score than we did. I was a little disappointed in the quality of our play. I was even more disappointed in the lack of energy and excitement. I know it is not going to be like the fall, but it needs to be more intense than study hall. The wind did not help the quality of the game, and every time the ball went out of bounds, it blew away, and it took 2 minutes to chase the ball and get it back in play. It was difficult for both teams to sustain any kind of rhythm. It looked as if we had not played in a while, which we haven’t played in a while. We had 6 players, who did not dress for the conference tournament, play in the game on Saturday. The spring is a great opportunity for our depth players to develop and prove themselves.

I am excited about this weekend. We are going to a 7 A-Side Tournament at Western Kentucky. Kyle and I split the team into 2 teams. He will coach one, and I will coach the other. Players should be excited about 7 A-Side. This will be a good weekend to fix the lack of energy and excitement.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What a Winter!

I am blogging and crying. I am watching the Olympics and just watched the Canadian ice skater whose mother passed away of a heart attack 2 days ago. Wow! I have been watching the Winter Olympics the majority of the games. I must admit I lost some of my dedication during the ice dancing. I think the team has been watching them a lot too. When I see the girls, I hear them talk about the half pipe, curling, and snowboard cross.

When the Olympics started, it was colder in Nashville than it was in Vancouver. They were bringing in snow to Canada while the Belmont field was covered in it. This is my 5th winter in Nashville, and I think we have had more snow in 2010 then the other 4 years combined.

We had planned 6 small group sessions for each player in January and February, but because of the weather, each player had 2 sessions. Today, we had our first team training session. It was my biggest spring training session ever with 23 players. This is the first spring when the team will be able to play full sided at practice. Last spring, I think we were lucky to be able to play 6v6. I am very excited about our potential this spring. I think it can be productive for the team and fun for the girls.

One thing that is not fun is hiring a new assistant coach. Derek left at the end of January to become the new assistant coach at Vanderbilt. If that sounds like it may have been awkward, it was. Everything is fine now. The Vanderbilt coach and I are long time friends. It was a test for me to not allow professional relationships affect personal relationships and vice versa.

Hiring a new assistant will test some of the very same principles. It is not easy to find a qualified, loyal, experienced person for this position. The salary does not allow a person with a family to stay long. A younger person who is good will work for this salary long enough to gain experience and move on. It makes it hard for me to keep good help, and I feel like I am taking a big risk every time I have to hire a new assistant. I don’t work well with a new person right away. It takes time to learn each other’s strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and philosophies. I also feel bad for the players. It is a stress on them too – learning a new person, trying to make an impression, and adjusting to the way a new staff works together. It takes some of my players a while to trust a new person. Who could blame them with our recent track record with assistant coaches?

I hope you have read the article about the 2010 signees. I am happy with the class and think we got exactly what we need. Several people have been very complimentary about our recruiting class. They have said to me that the article makes it sound like an awesome class. In my sarcastic way, I like to tell them that Kenisha is not going to write stuff like, “She is an average player and a part time starter for her high school team. She started playing soccer when she was 6 years old and quit when she was 12.” I say that all in fun. The players are as good as the story.

I did something for the first time yesterday that I am going to continue doing. We practice at 4:00. From 3:00-3:30, I watched game video from last season. I watched 10 minutes of our game against USC-Upstate and 20 minutes of our regular season game against Kennesaw State. It was a very good transition time for me. I went to practice energized and motivated. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

In the weeks ahead, I look forward to telling you more about our practices, our games after spring break, and introducing my new assistant coach. Here are the best things I have heard people say they have given up for lent – facebook, using sarcasm, and pressing the snooze button.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 Signing Class

With 23 players returning from last year's conference co-champions, this was definitely a year where we set out to get quality over quantity. My main goal was to get more creative and more dynamic in our attack. I think we accomplished this goal as well as added depth and some new talents to our reputable defense.

All 5 of our recruits come from excellent club systems where they compete against high level competition, are trained by great coaches, and some are nationally ranked. This class brings multiple state championships, ODP experience even at the international level, several USYS regional appearances, and numerous athletic as well as academic and leadership awards. As a result, I think our team at Belmont will be more skillful, more deliberate, and more competitive.

Amy Jo Anderson plays various attacking positions for BUSA. She is a tireless worker and does not back out of any challenges. We plan for Amy to give us the ability to attack out of the midfield on the dribble. She can commit defenders to step to her and open up space for forwards.

Nicole Berner is a goalkeeper for CRUSA FC Bucks Fusion. She is a hard worker who will challenge Sari and Ashley to become better players. Nicole gives us stability in goal in the future. She is strong and aggressive and has a great physical presence in the box. Nicole is an excellent shot stopper and has great range. I think training with Kyle, Sari, and Ashley will take Nicole to a new level very quickly.

Jennifer Collins plays center back for Carmel United. She will provide depth for us in a position where we have experience, but she is versatile enough to get playing time at other positions while she develops into our system. Jennifer is a smart defender. She reads the game and anticipates well. She can shut down an opponent before they receive the ball, and she understands angles and distances when they have possession. Jennifer is strong in the air, and I am confident she is capable of sliding into a defensive role for us when we need her.

Emily Jones hails from Cleveland, TN and plays for the 3 time State Champions - FC Alliance 92 Black. I knew I wanted Emily the first time I saw her play, when she was a sophomore. Emily is the kind of forward who will have as many assists as she has goals. She beats defenders with speed. She can cut to the goal, or she can get to the end line. Emily provides great crosses that are easy for her teammates to finish. I think she will be difficult to defend, and she will provide space and opportunities for Erica and Jayme and other teammates.

Bailey Kimbell is Amy Anderson's teammate on BUSA 92 Elite. They have won 3 Alabama State Championships. Bailey currently leads her team in goals in the Region Premier League Central Division. She is a student of the game. Bailey makes smart dynamic runs with and without the ball. She will be a player who is easy for her teammates to work with on the field. I think Bailey will add to our scoring production right away.

I could not be more pleased with the 2010 recruiting class. They not only fit our needs as a team, they fit the profile of a successful scholar-athlete at Belmont University and in the Atlantic Sun Conference. All five of our signees will immediately help us maintain our steady improvement, and they are the quality of players that assure our program continued success in the future.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Just to let you know about what I did personally during the break. I took my first REAL Christmas vacation with travel, family, and no recruiting. I was in Colorado for 2 weeks and had a great time. It was time to come back to work on January 4th, and I was very much looking forward to it. I got a stomach bug on the 3rd that put me out of commission for two days. I found out that my 96 year old grandmother passed away on the 5th. Immediately, I went to Dallas and returned to Nashville on January 10th.

When I opened my e-mail on January 11th, I had not responded to e-mails since December 18th. It has been a whirlwind ever since. There were unofficial visits to coordinate, the spring practice schedule to set, and many other scheduling, recruiting, and academic issues to handle.

Speaking of academics, the team finished the fall with a 3.257 GPA. Seventy percent of the team had a 3.0 or higher. We had 7 players on the Dean's List and one on the President's List!

We picked up a few other post-season awards. Jayme Trocino was named to the NSCAA All-Region Third Team. She is one of only three players in the conference to make it. Jayme also made the NSCAA Scholar All-Region Second Team. She was the only A-Sun player to make the Second Team. Elizabeth Bublis and Annie Musacchio made NSCAA Scholar All-Region Honorable Mention. It is an honor to have players recognized at this level. They all 3 deserve it.

Our spring schedule is set, the fall 2010 schedule is set, and the fall 2011 schedule is set. The 2010 roster is set. Signing Day is next month.

Our basketball teams lost the first round of the Battle of the Blvd at Lipscomb on January 11th. Several of the girls went to the game even though school had yet to start. We host the 2nd round of the Battle of the Blvd. next Tuesday night. I am ready to witness us get our revenge! The women's soccer team will be introduced on the court at halftime to acknowledge our 2009 conference championship and First Team All-Conference players.

I am looking forward to getting back out on the field in small groups next week. I hope the weather cooperates. The team is conditioning and lifting weights with Josh, Nate, Kyle, and Renee. Everyone should be fit for our first practice Feb. 22nd and our first game March 20th.