Published: January 18, 2012
If the devil is in the details, Penn State men’s college soccer coach Bob Warming is going to find it.
The veteran soccer mentor, who has guided the Nittany Lions the past two seasons, looks at the off- season as a chance to get very detailed in physical, technical and tactical training.
“For me, this is a much more ideal time of development for players,” Warming said. “In the fall you’ve got a game, regeneration day, some time to watch video and then get ready for the next game. Now we can look in more detail at each player’s performances, set goals for each of them, and then after each of our spring games, review their play and apply the lessons the following week. It’s analogous to how the USSF Development Academy is set up, and I think it’s one reason why we’ve had players drafted every year in MLS since it began.”
Warming said the team is currently limited to 8 hours per week, only 2 of which can be actual soccer. The spring season proper begins Feb. 19th and, with an international match and an alumni game included, the Nittany Lions will play 7 matches in 7 weeks. The team has the advantage of using the massive Holuba indoor facility, which Warming said allows for a 120x80 field.
Among the training emphases are a physical component, including evaluation of VO2 Max testing to determine if players are working to their highest fitness potential; a tactical component featuring detailed analysis of the ProZone Stat service which breaks down player performances down to virtually every kick of the ball in the regular season; and a technical component utilizing the old-school method of players hitting a ball against a wall, with individual programs varying depending on positions played.
All of the data crunching still leaves room for Warming to rely on his eyeballs and his coaching instincts in evaluating his team and planning for the fall.
“This week in training we’ve had 4v4 competitions,” he said. “We can evaluate who scores the most goals, has the most assists, blocked shots, and that kind of thing. I also always look at whose team wins the most. Every time we play, the teams are different. It tells me who has the intangibles. Maybe they’re not the player with the most goals, assists or blocks, but his team always seems to be winning. I’ve always found that to be a very valuable tool when determining who will play what role with your team.”
After enjoying a 14-win season in Warming’s first year at the helm, The Nittany Lions started the 2011 campaign strong, but struggled to a winless Big Ten campaign and ended up at 9-9-4 after dropping the Big Ten Tournament final to Northwestern.
Looking ahead, Warming sees the spring as a key in rebuilding the team defense.
The bright side is that we’ve had soccer at Penn State for 101 seasons, and this year we set a new school record for the number of clean sheets recorded, and (starting goalkeeper) Andrew Wolverton is returning. The bad news is we’ve lost 3 of the starting guys in the back line. So we’ll need to find the right group back there, from our returning players and our incoming freshmen.”
While mere mention of the name “Penn State” instantly evokes thoughts of the scandal that led to the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the firing of Joe Paterno, Warming said the team and the university itself is moving forward.
“What happened was awful in so many ways, but if you walk around the campus you’ll see that the university and athletic department is going about our mission,” Warming said. “The motto of the school is ‘Success with Honor,’ but that’s also our mission. The university is working to get this thing figured out and to make sure nothing like this could ever possibly happen again, but our kids and our coaches weren’t involved in any of this. We have a mission and we’re getting after it.
“It’s something the team is aware of obviously, especially with the volume of media on campus every day, but it’s not something occupying our thoughts probably as much as it was for a couple of weeks,” he continued. “We just had I think 16 guys make the Dean’s List. We have some focused kids here and everyone will keep working to get to the other side of this.”