As the Lipscomb Lady Bison go through spring soccer workouts it is readily apparent the program has a new attitude.
Kevin O’Brien isn’t going to settle for mediocrity. He plans to build a program that will compete on the highest levels with teams like Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“We have a long way to go to develop a squad that is going to compete at the highest Division I level, but with our peers I think we can be competitive,” O’Brien said. “I want them to understand that there is not a game we are going to go into that we can’t win.
“We are really working hard at getting them organized and understanding each individual role and responsibility within the team so that collectively we can be more successful.”
Coaching in soccer is very subjective. System, formations and styles of play are designed at the coach’s discretion. O’Brien appears to have quickly won the confidence of his players, but he has no idea how the program has been operated in the past.
“I’m not exactly sure how it went in the past, but I know we are trying to come together in a more disciplined fashion,” O’Brien said. “The expectation level is high.”
O’Brien, in his first head coaching job at Lipscomb, knows that his approach can work at Lipscomb based on his past success at Davidson, a school with an enrollment of approximately 1,700. He had limited scholarships available as associated head coach and recruiting coordinator for Davidson’s men’s soccer team. In addition, he also had to find athletes who could handle the rigorous academics of the school.
“We got players that weren’t at the same level as a North Carolina or a Duke, but we beat them,” O’Brien said. “So there is not a soccer game that you go into that you can’t conceivably win.
“What needs to happen is the players have to buy into the tactical game plan, and obviously produce on the field. They have to minimize mistakes and certainly be fit.”
The fitness of his team has been of immediate concern to O’Brien.
“We are going to play teams this spring that are fitter than we are,” O’Brien said. “So as we move through the rest of the spring and into the summer that will be a great focus of the coaching staff.
“We want to get every player fit enough so that every player, when called upon, can go in and increase the work load and increase the energy. We want them to increase the team’s ability to produce without breaking down mentally or physically.”
In the past defense has been what previous coaches have depended on to make a difference. O’Brien wants a balance of offense and defense, but he knows that is going to take some time.
“You build a squad in terms of what you’ve got and I think we have more defensively-minded players at the moment,” O’Brien said. “But you defend to attack. My focus is going to be very organized and exploit an opponent’s lack of organization in transition.
“That is a big theme in the world of soccer today – speed of play, transition, a counter attacking style. I think that will give us the best chances of success. To play a wide-open, stretched out game against some really good opponents would be to our detriment.”
O’Brien knows the limitations of his team. But he prefers to dwell on the possibilities.
“The reality is we will be limited in some ways when we go into games,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have real impact players … one who can take over a game like a central midfielder that is so creative and dynamic or a goal scorer who finishes that majority of her chances.
“It is going to have to be a collective effort. I think more so than ever our team has to have a great team effort, team spirit and team performance to get a result. Looking at the team we are going to have to score by committee.”
O’Brien would like to see multiple players on the score sheet each game.
“We don’t have any standout 10-to-15 goals a year type players,” O’Brien said. “We are going to have to be opportunistic when we get our chances. It is going to have to be a gargantuan team effort.
“I’m recruiting and trying to find that player who can score double-digit goals each season, but they are few and far between. They are the toughest players to sign, but I won’t stop.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.