COMETS PLAYERS SHARE SOCCER PASSION THROUGH COACHING
KANSAS CITY (Nov. 30, 2018) ‒ Tuesday morning’s 8:00 a.m. practice at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena came especially early for Kansas City Comets midfielder Lucas Rodriguez and defender Stefan Stokic.
The night before, both Rodriguez and Stokic braved the snow and slush for another soccer practice-- this one located at Sportsplex Olathe in south Olathe, Kansas.
The Comets players were not squeezing in an extra preseason training session for themselves, but for the players they coach for KC Athletics Soccer Club.
Lucas and Stefan are two of the several Comets players who coach for local clubs. They both appreciate the opportunity to share their love for the game of soccer with a younger generation.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” said Rodriguez, “Since I started professional outdoor in 2010. I started coaching in youth camps; I coached the high school in Minnesota.”
Stokic has a similar coaching background.
“I came here in 2004 and I had one team that I coached, and then I took a little break. So I would say since 2008 or 2009 I’m not sure.” said Stokic. “[I coach] for KC Athletics this year. But it used to be Futura, then FCKC, then KC Athletics.”
Monday night’s practice sessions were reserved for Stokic’s 2004 Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) team and Rodriguez’s 2005 ECNL team.
The ECNL is regarded nationally as one of the most competitive league platforms, and it and provides players with exposure to some of the country’s top collegiate soccer programs.
Although they have had success in their coaching endeavors, both Lucas and Stefan are more concerned with teaching than winning.
“If any one of my kids learns a good habit from me then I’d say it’s been successful,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve won local stuff--I’m sure there’s a million coaches out there that have won a lot more things than me--but to me that’s not my number one focus all the time.”
“I feel like I have an opportunity to give these kids something that I had as a young player back home--developing as a player and as a person,” said Stokic.
Both coaches desire to help their players develop on and off the field. Centerback Lily Hendrickson has played for Stokic for the past five years, and appreciates the relationships between Stefan and his players.
“Stefan is probably the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s very in tune with his players, and he gets to know them more. He makes sure that every player feels welcome,” said Lily. “Everybody feels good playing with Stefan.”
Lily’s father, Kurt Hendrickson, believes the relationship Stefan fosters with players is key to his success as a coach.
“I think the girls would say he makes it fun,” said Kurt. ”And he makes a connection with the girls, as well, and I think that’s important if you’re going to get the most out of players, and he’s proven to be able to do that.”
Both players’ knowledge of and passion for the game shows in their coaching. During practice, as Lucas explains a passing pattern to his players, he is demonstrating with the ball himself, all the while maintaining eye contact with his team.
Rodriguez does not just tell his players what to do, he prompts them with questions, helping to guide them to the answers. He asks not only what comes next after a pass to the middle of the field, but for the reasoning behind the next move.
Midfielder Anya Linstrom hears these kinds of questions commonly throughout practices.
“He does it really often because he wants to make sure that we know what we’re doing, and that we have our soccer brains turned on,” said Linstrom, “He knows the game. He’s not a coach who is just thinking ‘Oh, this is the right thing to do.’ He knows, because he plays.”
Lucas’s questions to his team capture his coaching philosophy. He will provide guidance, but ultimately it is up to each player to apply what he teaches them. Anya’s father Phil Linstrom appreciates that Rodriguez always reminds his team that the responsibility falls on the players.
“They know that they’re limited to their hard work, their ethic,” said Phil. “It’s not because they didn’t have the right coaching or the right personnel showing them and teaching them what to do. The kids know that they’ve got the opportunity here at their feet, you know? It’s up to them to take it.”
Stefan and Lucas are set take on their own opportunities in the Comets’ season-opener at the Milwaukee Wave on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at 6:05 p.m. CT.
The Kansas City Comets will open their 12-game home schedule against the Milwaukee Wave at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena on December 15 at 7:05 p.m. CT. The full 24-game schedule is available now at KCComets.com.
Season Tickets are available now and single game and group tickets will be available soon. For more information about the Kansas City Comets, be sure to follow the team on Facebook (@KansasCityComets), Twitter and Instagram (@KCComets).