This archived article was written by: Austin Fietkau
The Eagles may have hung up their cleats for the season, but for coaches Ammon Bennett, Jared Woodhouse and Cole Davis, the hard work has just begun. The off season is a time for reflection and planning as they review the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s team, evaluate and fine tune coaching tactics as well as look for players to improve next year’s squad.
Third-year head coach Ammon Bennett described the transition from last year’s 2015 team to this year’s team as “about sixes,” saying that while he felt the team made great strides forward in some regards, they definitely took a step backward in others.
“Our goal-keepers were strong,” Bennett said, “but we weren’t as dangerous at scoring as we needed to be.” He also felt that some unfortunate injuries caused the team to be a little thin on the defensive side.
For Woodhouse, one of the greatest leaps forward this year was unification. “Last year we were really divided; this year we really wanted everyone to feel like they were part of the team.” Throughout the season, Woodhouse, Davis and Bennett took it upon themselves not only to train and coach the varsity men’s and women’s team, but also the reserve men’s team. “I feel like it helped players, whether they were starters or reserves, to feel like they were valued.”
Obedience to team rules was higher than it has ever been in the program’s three-year history. Even on the field, Bennett said his team had the lowest number of warnings and ejections of any other team in their league.
One of the biggest struggles, Woodhouse says, was consistency. There were some games where the Eagles “outperformed,” and played “phenomenally.” While other times the performance was “severely” lower than it needed to be.
“I think next year we need to find a way to help the team have a little more drive within themselves,” Woodhouse said.
This year’s group of Eagles was the most diverse of any season they’ve played, with nine of their players coming from countries outside the United States. “It can be a tough thing,” Bennett said. Because some foreign players are so used to playing the game a different way, “it can be hard to train them to fit in with our style of play.”
All three coaches admitted that there tends to be a little bit more security in recruiting from within the U.S. simply because you usually get to spend more time watching the player. They can often come to training camps, or the coaches can go and watch them play live in addition to receiving recorded film of the player. With foreign players, however, you often have only a short highlight film to make a recruiting decision.
“I’ll never go away from recruiting foreign players,” Bennett said, “but I’m not sure if I’ll spend quite as much time doing it this next season.”
Woodhouse and Bennett agreed that it’s always tough to know what exactly they need to do differently to improve from season to season. “I think the biggest thing we need to focus on is strengthening the players’ belief that they are all of equal value,” Woodhouse said. All three coaches agreed that they need to share more “words of affirmation” with their players.
“We need to tell our players ‘good job’ when they do good things,” Woodhouse said. He believes that if all they do as coaches is criticize, then their players will become “resentful” and less willing to give their all.
Bennett agreed with Woodhouse and said his plans are to be more “patient” with his recruiting. He said his “aggressive” recruiting style hasn’t always lead to very best decisions on bringing in players, and it’s something he hopes to improve upon for next year’s team.