Shane Beckett loves his drama.
This is his first year as head coach of the Muskie boys’ soccer team, and it was at the team’s initial meeting where he made it known that he is more Dick Vermeil-ish in his coaching methods than Bobby Knight-ish.
“I put an overhead up of all the guys that had made the team already and it was a blank overhead sheet,” Beckett recalled of the meeting that took place just after March Break.
“Ohhh, big dramatic statement, right? But that’s definitely the mentality that we’re trying to push onto these guys—that nobody is secure,” he stressed.
That statement was observed by almost 50 students hoping to crack this year’s squad.
That number is now down to 35, but Beckett and assistant coach Jodi Easton have not been comfortable in taking a student aside and breaking the news to him he has been cut.
“It’s getting really hard,” Beckett admitted last week. “Like today, we cut a couple of Grade 12 guys and you’ve got to look these kids in the eyes who have been working hard.
“Jodi and I almost talked half-an-hour today about one guy and at the end she said, ‘Who signed me up for this job anyways?’
“All the other things are great, but to have to tell a kid that is working his butt off that ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ that’s tough,” added Beckett, who is taking over from Rick Chambers after having been part of the Muskie boys’ soccer program in some capacity for six years.
But the process is thorough. Beckett and Easton have comprised a player evaluation that is divided into 25 categories covering everything from a player’s tactical prowess to his mental toughness and coachability, the latter of which is one of the most important traits they are looking for.
“I would cut a guy that has amazing skills but gives me headaches off the field,” Beckett replied when asked how he would deal with a player who has the skill of a Ronaldo but the personality of a Michael Owen.
“I’d rather cut him and give it [the roster spot] to someone that doesn’t give me headaches off the field,” he stressed.
“We’re a pretty good team. We don’t need a Ronaldo [one of world’s best strikers]. We’d love to have him, but if he’s going to give me a headache, then he’s gone because I have enough headaches with my job,” Beckett laughed.
The cutting process also has been delayed.
The Muskie boys’ hockey team’s recent trip to the all-Ontarios in Windsor put a crimp in Beckett’s schedule because seven players had expressed interest in trying out for the boys’ soccer team (the bulk of whom had played on it before).
So, Beckett has had to make up for that two-week delay, where he made no cuts, and start making close to five a day since their return last week.
“We’re getting into the nitty-gritty,” said Beckett, adding the Muskies’ first tournament will take place in Winnipeg at the end of the month.
The team will consist of anywhere from 18-22 players (22 is usually the ideal amount for a team to provide full scrimmages during practice), but Beckett said he will not put a 22-man team together just because of that convenience.
“I’ll take 22 guys because it’s good for scrimmaging, but I won’t take 22 guys only for scrimmaging,” he remarked. “If there are only 18 guys that deserve to be on the team, then we’ll only take 18 guys.”
So what is the coaching staff looking for? What can a player who has never tried out before, or one who has tried out before but didn’t make the team, do to leave an impression?
“The big things that Jodi and I are looking for is a kid that is going to improve,” Beckett said. “That coachability, that determination, that drive—that’s what we’re looking for.
“Obviously, as a coach, you look at their skills, but those guys on the bubble are the guys that we’re looking for,” he added. “And there are a lot of guys out there that are working hard and a lot of guys on the bubble.”
But the main thing Beckett, with his blank overheads and sometimes unusual but very effective coaching methods, is trying to convey in his first year as head coach is this: “I don’t care who you are or where you came from—you have to always be working for that jersey.”
“We want to make sure we push them so that it pushes everyone to raise their game rather than having guys just coasting out there because they think they’ve already made the team,” he reasoned.
“And we could very well cut a few Grade 12 returning players because there are some Grade 9 and 10 players out there that are going to be superstars for us,” he added.
Beckett sure does like his drama.
Shane Beckett loves his drama.