By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2012 Holy Cross men's soccer team enters a new era under head coach Marco Koolman. He brings a wealth of experience and success to the program as this will be Koolman's 16th year as a collegiate head coach. He owns a career record of 201-75-28 and won the 2007 national championship at Franklin Pierce. Holy Cross returns 17 players from last year (2-13-2, 1-6 Patriot League) and welcomes nine freshmen. The Crusaders also return their top six goal scorers from a season ago.
The Crusaders start the regular season with a home game at the Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium on Aug. 30 at 7:00 p.m., versus Quinnipiac.
Recently, Koolman talked to GoHolyCross.com as the team prepares for the 2012 season.
GoHolyCross: Describe your coaching style.
Koolman: I believe in the strength of my own players and the team that we put out on the field. Through a controlled and possession orientated game I like to control the pace of the game which ultimately leads to the final result in our favor. Players must have the ability to think for themselves, make decisions and be creative at the right time. All must fit within the game plan and our team philosophy. The practice is for the coaches; the game is for the players!
GoHolyCross: What do you look for in a recruit?
Marco Koolman: Recruits have to be the complete package. Obviously the prospective student-athlete has to meet the demands and expectations, specific to the position(s) we are recruiting him for. As a soccer player, show us the passion, personality and motivation toward continued development and learning. More importantly, the person and what he stands for intrigue me. His character, personality and core values form the foundation. I am looking for individuals who separate themselves from the pack, what extra-curricular activities they are involved with at their schools and/or in their communities. I always want to know what else they can add to the program apart from their soccer abilities.
GoHolyCross: You had a lot of success at Franklin Pierce including winning the 2007 national championship. What can you take from that experience to lead to success at Holy Cross?
Koolman: At Franklin Pierce I had the opportunity to build a successful program after previous coaches established a level of success. The talent and character of the individual players allowed me the opportunity to maximize their potential. You learn quickly that the players are not just about their soccer abilities but more about the complete picture. Building relationships with the players and creating a true team bond allowed me to give them more freedom to integrate and take ownership of the program. Allowing the student-athlete input in the program and respecting their opinions and observations provided a great learning environment to build trust and confidence among all members in the program. The fact that student-athletes have the confidence to step up in key moments says a lot of the strength of our program then. I want every member to understand that our success is built on trust, respect and faith. With that I learned that each member has no choice but to hold themselves and their teammates accountable for their actions, even if that means sacrificing for the sake of the overall team success. Working with great people and building stability provides for a lot of long lasting success.
GoHolyCross: What are your thoughts on the Patriot League?
Koolman: A competitive league with a style of play that is physical, fast, direct and often decided by re-starts. I am looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead in this league and hope to contribute to the overall success of the league, raising the RPI and contribute to the growth and continued development of the college game.
GoHolyCross: What do you see as a strength of the team?
Koolman: Our team is built on team unity, sacrifice and respect. Our players buy into to the brand of soccer we are looking to play with confidence in establishing a positive reputation filled with quality soccer. The possession game and individual creativity should make it hard for teams to compete against us.
GoHolyCross: Can you talk about how important the leadership of your four seniors of Pat McCann (Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Evan Polanik (Holliston, Mass.), Shane Regan (Quincy, Mass.) and Steven Stefanak (Massapequa, N.Y.) is to the team?
Koolman: The four seniors have experienced a lot over the past three years! The trip to Barcelona this spring was their blessing as it truly re-vitalized the team. That trip brought this group closer together. It was the start of a dismantled group of players turning things around to become one united group. Following the example of the graduated seniors these four boys continued to keep the group together. This season I don't expect anything different from each individual. They have their own character traits, which will help the group succeed and be stronger than they have ever been. We have the right balance of leadership on and off the field with this group of players.
GoHolyCross: What can Holy Cross fans expect from a Marco Koolman coached team?
Koolman: The program will be branded with attractive, quality soccer that is going give the positive lift people have been waiting for. The fans will be excited to come to the games and watch good, organized soccer with lots of excitement. We are looking forward to embrace the fans of the local community and create one big soccer family.