Alert: Our February 19 Scholarship Day event has been cancelled due to inclement weather/travel conditions in the region.
First-Year Coach Looks To Educate, Inspire
It’s the dawn of a new era, as the Northwest College men’s soccer team enters the 2017 season with a new coach and a host of new players looking to make an impact in Region IX.
The Trappers, fresh off of a pair of strong “friendlies” against Colorado Northwestern Community College and Northwest Kansas, open their season Friday against Northeastern Junior College at Trapper Field. Head coach Stan Rodrigues said he’s excited with what his young team brings to the table, and was pleased with how the team played in the scrimmages.
“The team well, they beat CNCC 6-0,” Rodrigues said. “Against Northwest Kansas we lost 2-1. I believe we probably could have won that one, but it was a highly contested game, a bit more intense. I think the games set the tone for where we’re at.”
Despite playing well last weekend, the Trappers will need to step up their game, as the team is dealing with several injuries.
“We still have some injured guys, some quality leaders that aren’t fully healthy yet,” Rodrigues said. “They won’t be able to play until the next coming weeks. I think as they come back, our team will get a lot stronger.”
As he begins his first season at the helm for the Trappers, Rodrigues — who brings over 20 years of coaching experience to NWC — said he’s “very impressed with the quality of student athletes at Northwest, especially my team.” He said it was a bit different coming into a coaching situation not knowing what he was going to have in the way of players.
“I’m pleasantly surprised, and at the same time I feel pretty lucky. It could have been a train wreck; you just never know,” he explained. “These guys are really great kids. I’ve coached at universities and everything, and I can’t tell you how positive I think this transition has been.”
Rodrigues inherited a young team from former coach Rob Hill, and Rodrigues said he’ll be looking to his sophomores to provide leadership; unfortunately for the start of the season, that’s where most of his injuries are. This year’s captains are Ryan Tyrer, a sophomore defender from Liverpool, UK, and sophomore midfielder Robert George from Casper.
“With the injuries, their hands are pretty tied, because they’re trying to help coach these kids up and give them confidence,” Rodrigues said. “They also want to give them a little tough love, so they’re frustrated they can’t be out there helping them. Balancing everyone’s spirits has had its challenges in the sense that guys are frustrated because they can’t contribute, yet they have to lay into these young kids to step their game up a little bit.”
Transitioning from high school soccer to the college game is difficult; the speed of the game alone can discourage even the most dedicated athlete.
“It doesn’t matter what you play, whether it’s junior college or the upper levels, the speed of the game, the quality of the players, the execution of everything goes up so much higher,” Rodrigues said. “That’s truly why less than 3 percent of the high school population goes on to play soccer at the next level.”
Rodrigues said his team is united in their desire to excel — not just on the field but in the classroom.
“For me, it’s all about the character of the kids,” he said. “This year, I have to say our heart is bigger than our talent, but our character is bigger than everything. I’ve done this for over 20 years, and I don’t think I’ve had a team with as much character and heart as this group has.”
Every coach, especially one in his first year of leading a team, needs a strong support system in place to act as a sounding board, a confidant and an assistant coach. For Rodrigues, that’s his wife Angela. Not only is she a volunteer manager for the club, she is also in charge of all of the social media aspects and promotion of the program. “Angela is my barometer,” Rodrigues said. “She’s my objective opinion, and she’s been highly impressed with this team. I think that’s made our transition as a family easier to Powell as well.”
Heading into the weekend, Rodrigues said fans can expect a hightempo style of play. Their Trappers’ first two opponents — Northeastern Junior College and Western Nebraska Community College — are traditionally strong programs, and Rodrigues said both will provide a good test for his team.
“I think they are two of the better teams; both have super-experienced