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.