This week I had the incredible opportunity to go behind the scenes with the University of Kentucky men’s and women’s soccer programs. I’m extremely grateful to the tremendous staff of these programs – Johan Cedergren, Ian Carry, and the assistant coaches – for their warm hospitality during my visit. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these true professionals.
Whilst on campus, I watched both the men’s and women’s teams train and was inspired by the intensity of the training sessions, which epitomized UK’s culture of excellence. In fact, those high standards were on display everywhere I looked on campus, from the action on the pitch to the recently constructed business and law buildings.
During my visit I also spent a good deal of time speaking with the coaches about their tactics, philosophies and leadership styles. Their relationships with players begin long before the athletes join the team. The coaches spend a great deal of time getting to know potential recruits, understanding their personalities as well as their family dynamics. From the time the recruits arrive as freshmen, they are welcomed as Wildcats and given full support by their teammates and the staff.
Being able to cope with adversity and disappointment is something both coaches expect from their players. On the day I visited, players competed for a starting spot during an 11v11 scrimmage. The ball movement and control was excellent – fast-moving with lots of great communication. It was fascinating to see players’ reactions to adversity – both individually and collectively as a group. Cultivating resilience is a topic that both the men’s and women’s programs value.
As I toured the UK campus, it was clear that the school places a high value on its athletic programs. From the world-class training facilities, to the data scientists dedicated to monitoring the athletes’ output and performance, the Wildcats receive abundant resources and tremendous support. The school’s emphasis on athletic excellence helped the men’s soccer team take home last year’s conference title and make it to the Elite Eight.
High school athletes who are seeking a college experience that emphasizes academic and athletic excellence would do well to consider the University of Kentucky.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.