Upper 90 College had the opportunity to interview Coach Chris Kranjc of Hastings College Nebraska (NAIA). Coach Kranjc has instilled a winning culture over many years that has seen the Broncos become one of the top soccer college programs in the USA, culminating with the school's first team National Championship in any men’s team sport in 2010. We get an insight into the 2014 season, and what is in store for the Hastings College Men's Soccer program for 2015.
U90: Last year saw a strong performance both on the pitch and academically. What do you believe were the key ingredients in your performance? What do you need to work on in 2015?
CK: Our chemistry really showed throughout the year. We had a few tough results but the team bounced back quickly which I believe is a result of our strong team chemistry. I also believe our team defending was exceptional all year as we did not give up many goals. Lastly, our ability to score goals at the right times allowed us to win a lot of tight games. This next year I think we still need to continue to develop our team identity, improve of defending effectiveness, and work to be more efficient in the final third.
U90: Hastings has always had a strong history of developing players athletically, technically and tactically. What key training approaches and methodologies do you bring to the Hastings program, that you feel will transition the team to become even more competitive in the coming season and beyond?
CK: It boils down to our philosophy. I am a strong believer that the game is the best teacher, so we put conditions in games to bring about a topic. We do a lot with technical activities along with games geared towards areas of emphasis which are mostly directional in nature. We also have one of the best strength coaches in the country that helps our guys develop athletically.
U90: 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?
CK: Fantastic question. We have a had many successful stories of players coming from other countries who have gone to play professionally or find their way into a very successful profession. Looking at the academic side, not only do students focus in their major area but they also explore other areas in the general studies part of their overall course load. Many of these courses develop a students skill sets which make them prepared for their chosen career or graduate school. Many intangible skills are developed with students that are involved in athletics. Skills such as time management, team work, professionalism are developed. In terms of soccer, the college system develops player technically but tactically as well. Players are put into professional environments in terms of training and sport science.
U90: Hastings had a great year in the classroom in 2014, with many players receiving Scholar All- American Honors. How do you help your players balance playing with their study. What pathways do programs like help student athletes continue a professional career post their collegiate playing career?
CK: Hastings has been strong academically for many years. In addition to our scholar all-Americans, we were awarded the team academic award the last 2 years. We make sure our players are able to attend classes during the day by scheduling training in late afternoon or evenings. And we also only miss 4 class days during the course of an 18 game schedule. We do have a learning center for our players to get help from as well as study halls.
U90: Hastings 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 of consistency in the GPAC conference, and potentially the NAIA tournament?
CK: Our goals always remain the same. We want to go as far as we can in the national tournament, win the conference, and have a winning record. We will be iworking hard in the weight room, getting ourselves cleaner technically, and developing our identity. We need to make sure our players understand their roles and develop them inot the roles from both a technical and tactical perspective.