By Gage Nutter
As a freshman coming to college, you are forced to integrate into a new environment. While you are finding your place in this new environment you must also form new study habits, find a friend group, and form time management skills.
On the outside looking in, it would appear freshmen on the Springfield men’s soccer team this season would have difficulty meshing with the large group of older players on the squad. But the first step towards winning games on the pitch is having the ability to trust the guy next to you, and those veteran upperclassmen didn’t waste any time in trying to get to know their new teammates this season.
“Between the juniors and the seniors, and really the whole team, everyone is trying to get to know you on a personal level,” said freshman forward Leland Malloy. “As soon as we met with the team everyone was talking, joking, and playing FIFA together. You would be talking with someone else and they would just be waiting for you to be done as soon as they saw a break in the conversation so they could meet you.”
A stark difference the freshmen class has noticed between the high school level and the college level is the attention to detail that head coach Steffen Siebert stresses.
“We all have our own habits like controlling the ball and just playing. But now its more direct,” said freshman forward Emmanuel Agyemang. “You have to get the ball, pass it, and turn with speed. Everything we do has a reason.”
Transfers like sophomore Glenn Smith, who transferred from Keene State University this year, have noticed that Siebert’s attention to detail is even more intense than other college programs.
“We obviously dealt with tactics [at Keene State], but not as in depth as we do here,” said Smith. “We try to get everything as perfect as we can. Kind of like an aim small miss small mentality.”
Another difference that was impossible to miss for freshmen was the style of play. Malloy, who broke his wrist in the Pride’s season opener, found that out the hard way.
“When I was in high school and in club I was one of the bigger, taller, and faster guys. I would always use that to my advantage. But now everyone is at that level,” said Malloy. “During practice some guys will push you really hard but you just have to push back and be more physical. I’ve also learned that the speed and strength I had in high school isn’t necessarily going to be much of a difference in college. Everyone is physical and fast in college.”
To recruit players into a program. A coaching staff needs a couple of enticing things about the program to draw attention, and the Pride’s points of emphasis are very attractive. The program is led by an elite coach in Siebert, the team has prestige throughout New England, it produces elite players like Ryan Malone (who has gone on to play professionally at FC Lokomotive Leipzig) and Luke Alvaro, and the college continues to climb lists of premier academic institutions in the northeast.
But when it comes strictly down to the soccer program. It wasn’t the prestige or how good the team is that meant most to the freshmen.
“The family atmosphere of the team (drew me in),” said Malloy. “All the guys love playing with each other, talking to each other, and joking around with each other. Then with Siebert’s coaching style and the type of person that he is as well. He is always with us. Sometimes coaches will just go away and not spend time with the team, but coach
Siebert is always with the team. Always talking and always joking around with us.”
Malloy appreciates how much Siebert cares about getting to know his players on a personal level because it’s not something that every coach does.
“He’s not just there to be our coach,” said Malloy. “He is there to be a mentor and there to be a person that you can talk to. A person that you get to know and he gets to know you. Some coaches i’ve had in the past it’s just ‘I’m your coach. I’m your coach only and you will refer to me as coach’. I have had coaches where they do know my family, but coach Siebert is the type of person that will know you personally and really know what type of person you are.”
Thanks to an extremely social upperclassmen group and a coach who cares more about the type of person you are and not how well you play. The freshmen of Pride men’s soccer are well on their way to one day being members of the next upperclassmen group that is eager to welcome in the new class, just as this year’s group was.