Q&A with Men's Soccer Head Coach Jon Pascale
Now three seasons into his head coaching career at UC San Diego, Jon Pascale has laid a foundation that he expects will begin paying dividends in the near future. After a strong run late in the 2010 season, those around the Triton men's soccer team have reason for optimism as the 2011 campaign approaches. With training camp on the horizon and fresh off his recent marriage and honeymoon, Pascale spent time talking about his UCSD experience to date and what lies ahead.
Q-Heading into your fourth season at UCSD what have you found to be the easiest and toughest parts of the job?
PASCALE-Coaching is more of a lifestyle then a job. The easiest or best part of it is the interaction with the team. They are great to be around and a lot of fun. You meet some amazing people and form some very strong relationships. The hardest part of the lifestyle is that it can consume your entire life. The team is always on your mind and it can be difficult to focus on other areas of your life, like sleep...
Q-Your team finished strong in 2010, going 8-2-2 down the stretch. Do you see that momentum carrying over into the 2011 season?
PASCALE-Each season is totally different and last fall was a very long time ago. Having said that, we have a belief that we can win every game we play regardless of the opponent. That belief was re-established at the end of last year and carried over to our spring. We have a very difficult schedule but we believe we can beat every team we face.
Q-Where do you see this year's team being strongest and what areas might be of concern coming into training camp?
PASCALE-I think our strength will be in our chemistry. We have a very close knit team that enjoys each other on and off the field. The season can be a grind but enjoying your teammates will help you overcome the difficult stretches.
The biggest area of concern is replacing a senior class that did a great job "being seniors." As a senior you have a sense of urgency that is impossible to describe and difficult to replicate. Our seniors had that last year. They left everything on the field each and every day. Seniors understand that in order to win, you must take care of the little details. This year we will not have any seniors on the roster. The quicker these younger players can understand those concepts, the better chance we have of winning at a high level.
Q-How will the void left by the graduation of CCAA Defensive Player of the Year Jared Kukura be filled?
PASCALE-When you graduate a player like Jared, someone who carries so much of the load, you have to fill the void collectively. The team needs to be dialed in to the system of play and each individual role within that system. When you combine the understanding of how you are trying to play with the desire to win you become a stronger team than when you are relying on a single player to make a great plays.
Q-Which of your younger players do you expect to step into an expanded role this fall?
PASCALE-We expect all of our players to step up. We will be a very balanced team.
Q-How important will it be to get off to a good start this season?
PASCALE-In our conference there are zero days off. Every team is challenging. They all have good players, well-coached and highly motivated. Since we only play two out of conference games, they have major NCAA implications. You need to play well in August/September to have a chance to play well in November/December.
Q-Talk about your coaching philosophy and how it has changed over the past three years?
PASCALE-I don't think my philosophy has changed at all. Surround yourself with good people who are talented and willing to give their best for the team-then you will be successful.
Q-When you recruit are you looking for players to fit a system or certain style of play or do you adjust according to the type of players on the roster?
PASCALE-When we recruit, we try to assess a player's strengths and weaknesses. Can the player's strength help you win and can the player's weaknesses be developed. We are not as rigid with our structure as some other programs. Players often develop in ways you didn't predict in the recruiting process. We want to have the flexibility to play different ways and have players who can fit into different systems. All the players must have a few things. First, they must really want to come to UCSD. Second, they must love playing soccer. Lastly, they must have a strong work ethic and a desire to get better.
Q-How does being a former player help you as a coach?
PASCALE-As a former player, you understand what a college athlete is going through. The adjustment to college life, academics, and the social environment. You understand what the players are going through physically and mentally. All these areas are factored into your decisions. You know when to push and when to ease up. You never lose sight of the fact that your players are learning life lessons that will stick with them long after they are done playing.
Q-When you're not coaching what are some of your other interests?
PASCALE-I enjoy surfing, skiing and most of all spending time with my wife.
Q-You got married this summer. Is your wife a soccer fan? Does she ever give you coaching suggestions?
PASCALE-My wife is a huge soccer fan. She played at Georgetown and still plays in a women's league in San Diego. She never gives me coaching advice but always gives me her honest opinion on how the team performs. She is our biggest fan and occasionally yells at the refs...
Q-What would make the 2011 season a success in your eyes?
PASCALE-To create, maintain, and sustain a culture that promotes hard work, teamwork, competition, a high level of soccer and having fun-and, of course, collecting some hardware.
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