Recently we interviewed Dale White, Head Men's Soccer Coach for Mercyhurst University (NCAA D2) to get an insight into a highly competitive Division II soccer program, his coaching methodologies, how important academics are and how he recruits from international markets. Mercyhurst compete in the PSAC conference where Coach White led the team to a title win in 2014. Currently, Mercyhurst are ranked 9th in the US among NCAA Division II teams. Over the years, Mercyhurst has consistently reached the National Tournament, in 2012 reaching the Final Four, and in 2013 reaching the final eight. The school and soccer program have also had a strong record of developing great student athletes with All- American honors.
U90: Last year saw another strong performance both on the pitch and academically, with another run into the National Tournament, and a 9th rank placing nationally. How did you prepare the team throughout 2014 to compete so consistently? What do you need to work on in 2015?
DW: The ethos of the team is that everyday is an opportunity to be better than yesterday. In reality we are all human and go through seasons in our life, in our year/ season etc. Growth is measured in many different ways and during the tough times I believe student athletes often increase their capacity to succeed. We are preparing for the 2015 season in the same way as always. The goal is to finish number 1 in the Atlantic Region. The teams we play against are the ones who dictate the price we have to pay to attain that goal. Therefore each student-athlete has to work towards fulfilling their potential and trust that together we can attain the goal.
U90: What key training approaches and methodologies do you bring to the Mercyhurst program, that you feel will transition the team to become even more competitive in the coming season and beyond?
DW: The fitness culture on the team is very strong and mostly comes from the players themselves. Many of the student athletes are light years ahead of where myself and my peers were at their age as it has become so scientific. Therefore, most of our role as coaches is to implement tactically and gel together the team to get the dynamics right. Most of our success thus far has come from analyzing the gap between where we are and where we want to be. However, from this point on I believe we have to keep doing what we are doing to get us over the line and help us win a national title. Most of the things restricting us at the moment are external.
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?
DW: I am a huge fan of the American academic system. Studies here are much more practical than the education system where I come from, Great Britain. From what I understand, most of the Commonwealth country’s education system is based on the British which appears to be much more theoretical than practical. As an example, if the students are studying business here, they will work with local businesses in a real live practical project.
There is a large emphasis put on communication with some lecturers offering credit for class participation. Coming from an environment in Great Britain where you are given your workload at the beginning and have to hand it all in at the end with little emphasis on attendance and participation, this was strange for me at first. However, I have since realized how much this helps prepare the students for the real world. How you contribute on a day to day basis is valuable to the corporate world and how well you can communicate your ideas has a huge influence on your success after college.
U90: Mercyhurst had another great year in the classroom in 2014, with many player receiving All- American Honors. How do you help your players balance playing with their study. What pathways do programs like Mercyhurst help student athletes continue a professional career post their collegiate playing career?
DW: Success in University is determined by two main variables, your ability to prioritize and your time management skills. Many of the student athletes in a University such as Mercyhurst have a clear vision about what they want to do after University or at least a direction they want to work towards. In that respect we are blessed as it creates a great environment for the marginal student to grow in and it allows the better students to feed off each other and stay motivated. Mercyhurst has all the right mechanisms in place for the student athlete to grow and develop. There is a broad alumni base that can help students get to where they want to be once they leave Mercyhurst.
U90: Mercyhurst 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 PSAC conference, and the NCAA tournament?
DW: Our first goal is to win the Atlantic Region which would put us into the last 8 in the nation. Within that goal we hope that we will retain the conference title. We will break down their preparation, so step one will be to be prepared for pre-season, in order to do that there will be a summer fitness package that goes out towards the end of June. Once the student athletes are here and we figure out the new players and how they will best fit we start with the tactical preparation. There will be three pre-season games this year that will let us work out the kinks and we start the season with two huge games against number 1 and number 3 in the region.