Recently we caught up with Saginaw Valley State University's (NCAA D2) Head Men's Soccer Coach Cale Wassermann. As of writing, Coach Wassermann had accepted a role as the Assistant Coach for Michigan State University (NCAA D1) for 2015. Coach Wassermann departs SVSU with an overall record of 64-23-17 and as the winningest coach in program history. He led the team to three NCAA Postseason appearances in his five years. He claimed two GLIAC Championships (2011, 2012) and was twice named the GLIAC "Coach of the Year" (2011, 2012). He was named the Midwest Regional "Coach of the Year" in 2012 and was tabbed as the NSCAA National "Coach of the Year" following the team's historic 2012 campaign. He leaves the Cardinals after turning the program into one that is prominent on the national level.
In this interview we gain insight into Coach Wassermann's approach to training, his view on the level of competitiveness in collegiate soccer, and the opportunities available for players considering the US college soccer pathway.
U90: Last year saw a great performance, academically and on the field, with a Round 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. What do you believe were the key ingredients for the performance?
CW: I believe it starts with a foundation and culture of hard work, over the last few years we have built that here, the culture of competing at everything we do, from training and games, all the way to class work and exams.
U90: Many young players look toward professional pathways in Europe and other regions, sometimes foregoing their education for a shot at “the big time” in a foreign league. Given you recruit players from international markets, how do you feel that the US college soccer environment develops a player for life after college from an academic and professional playing perspective?
CW: Well I think the best thing about coming to USA is that you can do BOTH! You can aspire and develop to try and become a professional, but also gain an education and prepare yourself for a career after soccer. For the players that choose to stay in the summers especially, there are many leagues like the PDL and NPSL to play, develop, and gain great exposure in the summer months while also preparing for your fall season. Players are constantly getting better here and with all the added exposure and growth of the professional leagues here, not only MLS but other leagues like the NASL and the USL Pro leagues, there is more and more opportunity. The best part is though, whether becoming a professional or not, that college education and degree gets our student-athletes here ready for the next stage in life.
U90: Oftentimes when we interact with potential recruits, they ask about the quality and competitiveness of the divisions, and naturally assume that D2 or D3 schools are not as competitive (i.e. the top tier teams) as opposed to their D1 counterparts. Do you feel that the big D2 and D3 schools can compete convincingly across divisions? What are the benefits of players playing at a D2, rather than D1 level?
CW: Well I will speak mostly of D2 and D1 as that is where I am the most familiar... and depending on the team and year, sometimes you can't tell the difference! Obviously the Top D1 teams in the country are going to be at another level with the funding and tradition which can lead to a higher level, but there are many mid-major and smaller D1 programs that are mirror images of D2 programs. In our preseason and spring season, we play some very good D1 programs annually, and we are very competitive. Many D2 programs have players that were recruited to D1 schools but chose the D2 for certain reasons like academics, ability to contribute, or even because the D2 was more competitive and a better chance to win the league or even the National Championship.
U90: SVSU have another big season ahead for 2015, what are your goals for the team, and how will you be preparing them for the best possible shot t the National Title?
CW: We are always looking to build and improve, so our goals never drop. We always look to maintain a team GPA over a 3.0, do well and be involved in the community, as well as compete for our conference, regional, and National Championship. To prepare we train, work out, focus on individual and team development, as well as play the toughest spring schedule we can to prepare our team for the fall. This spring we are slated to play 3 top D1 teams, a top NAIA team, as well as a top NPSL (High Men's amateur team) team called Detroit City FC. Last year when we played Detroit City in the Spring, we had about 2000 people at the game. Those kind of challenges and environments push our guys to be work even harder to prepare!