In this exclusive interview, Upper 90 College APAC gained insight into the Columbus State University Women's Soccer program (NCAA D2) through the eyes of Assistant Coach Nick Zimmerman.
Zimmerman comes to Columbus after wrapping up a seven-year professional playing career. He was selected by the New York Red Bulls in the third round of the MLS SuperDraft in 2009 after a stellar career at James Madison University. During his seven years, he played for the Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Carolina Railhawks FC of the North American Soccer League and most recently with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the United Soccer League. During the 2012 season, Zimmerman was named to the NASL Best XI after leading the Railhawks and finishing second in the league with 15 goals.
U90: Last year saw a strong performance both on the pitch (22-3-1 overall, with a loss in the final, to 3x Champions Grand Valley State University) and academically. What do you believe were the key ingredients in your performance? What do you need to work on in 2016?
NZ: We have a lot of work to do this Spring and Summer in preparation for next Fall. Every team in the country is working extremely hard to grow and get better, so every year it’s a very big challenge. We have to focus on quicker problem solving, anticipating and reading the game, efficiency, and team depth. Going into this Spring, we will train to improve all these areas by focusing on each player’s technical and tactical development. For the first part of the Spring, we focus primarily on running, lifting, and technical growth.
As we get closer to the games, we will develop player tactics through training situations that are based on the upcoming opponent. Last season, we were extremely successful in combination play as well as one and two touches. Not only were our players technically prepared to pass, they completely understood the tactics behind the location, speed, and timing of every pass they played. We tried to attack in numbers every chance we had. Like everyone we enjoyed scoring goals.
U90: Columbus State University has always had a strong history of developing players athletically, technically and tactically. What key training approaches and methodologies do you bring to the CSU program, that you feel will transition the team to become even more competitive in the coming season and beyond?
NZ: We try to learn and grow every day. Control what we can control. Our training approaches prepare our players for the toughest situations. We try and prepare them for every possible situation that they may face in the game. Every training session that we design is different, challenging, and functional. The bar is set even higher for next Fall; every rostered player knows that we came up one game short. This alone will increase the competitive culture of the program and the work rate of each individual.
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?
Our goal for each of our players is that they are successful in life after soccer. We make sure that we equip them with all the tools they need in the classroom to achieve what they desire. We pride ourselves on being close and we look after each of our players like family. Being a student athlete you are presented with situations both on and off the field that can prepare you for what may lie ahead. Leadership, teamwork, discipline are just a few qualities that student athletes must possess to be successful.
U90: CSU had a great year in the classroom in 2015, with players receiving All - American Honors. How do you help your players balance playing with their study? What pathways do programs like CSU help student-athletes continue a professional career post their collegiate playing career?
NZ: Here at CSU we have always prided ourselves in excelling in the classroom and this year is no different. This team is no stranger to earning awards such as the NSCAA Team Academic Award. Our athletes constantly strive for excellence which helps push each player to do more in the classroom. As the staff, we understand that academics comes first, and our goal is to create an environment where our student-athletes are successful in the classroom. We help them connect with tutors so that they can be surrounded by all the resources they need to focus on their studies.
U90: CSU have another big season ahead for 2016, what are your goals for the team, and how will you be preparing them for the best possible shot of consistency in the PBC conference, and the NCAA tournament?
NZ: Our goal is to win a National Championship. Period! Our quest began as soon as the final whistle blew in the National Championship game. As our players continue to lift and run this Spring they will be driven by one goal: a National Championship. We will continue to develop our depth by growing every player. During the summer, our girls will continue to work towards a National Championship by further preparing their bodies for the season. As soon as preseason starts, every session is high intensity and builds our team to be successful on the scoreboard.
We play in a fantastic conference that is extremely competitive. We know they are all working very hard and we look forward to competing next season.