With the success Razorback Soccer enjoyed last season, team members looks to continue that trend, even through roster shakeups.
“Every team’s a new team and every team has new challenges, and last year’s team’s challenge was we didn’t have the season we wanted before, we had dealt with some adversity,” head soccer coach Colby Hale said. “Our record is 0-0, and our legacy this team (leaves) – every team has one – but the legacy this team (leaves) is going to be up to us.”
As time passes, the stars of the previous years graduate and leave holes in the roster for younger players to fill. Hale has some big holes to fill, but he looks to restock the roster with talent and athleticism.
“Our philosophy is the best players play and if we’re doing our job, the older players are developing, and that’s an important piece,” Hale said. “I thought our seniors did a tremendous job, but two, three, four other players (came) in and they had a huge impact. They were players that did well in fitness, had a great mentality; you know, we talk about work-rate, attitude and performance, that’s how you get on the field.”
Experience can be a difference maker, Hale said, but it’s not a guarantee it translates directly to playing time.
“Experience is valuable, playing in big games is valuable, some of these older players returning have played in huge games,” Hale said. “SEC Championship games and NCAA Tournament games, and you know, they beat Duke and Florida who were top five, but at the end of the day, our team knows, the best players are going to play.”
With the sheer volume of athletes in high school soccer, there are over 30,000 high schools in the U.S. alone, recruiting can be very challenging. Sifting through so many players makes finding the perfect fit for a specific program a herculean task, but Hale has certain qualities he looks for in players.
“We’ve just learned in recruiting it doesn’t always pan out the way you think it’s going to. We (could) have a player that we may have thought was going to be better, and someone else steps up.”
But with young athletes comes a transition period, and while some players come out of the gates firing, like Stefani Doyle and Kayla McKeon did last year, others may take a year or two to catch up to the competition of the collegiate level, and that’s okay, Hale said. It’s important to give the freshmen room to grow while not putting too much pressure on them to deliver instant success, he said.
“We try not to put any expectations on the freshmen,” Hale said. “We’re not bringing them in to say ‘Hey, you’re here to save the program.’ You are joining a successful program, and your job is to figure out how you can contribute. That’s going to be a journey that’s going to happen over four years, you know, we don’t try to put any expectations on them.”
Razorback fans will be able to see Hale’s final product when Razorback Soccer returns for the fall semester.