Before its first year under the helm of head coach Kylie Stannard officially begins, the Yale men’s soccer team has already seen drastic changes. Coming off a 1–13–3 season, the team has undergone an intense offseason training regimen.
Despite the difficulty of daily workouts and 6 a.m. runs, players have expressed satisfaction with the results of the new training.
“The whole point of the tough spring is to get us ready for the fall, and I think we have done a good job preparing for the upcoming season,” striker Keith Bond ’16 said. “Now it is just up to everyone to maintain their fitness and skills over the summer so that they come back in the fall ready to go. While everyone might not be super enthusiastic about the intensity of our spring right now, it will definitely be worth it come fall when we see our hard work translated into positive results.”
This hard work began with a fitness test. Composed of timed 800- and 400-meter runs interspersed with shuttle runs, the test allows for minimal rest. It is a high standard, Stannard said, but one that he expects Division I soccer players to meet.
Stannard arrived at Yale after spending six years as an associate head coach for perennial powerhouse Michigan State University. In his tenure there, the Spartans went to the NCAA Tournament five times, reaching the Elite Eight in back-to-back years.
He hopes his Bulldogs can ultimately achieve the same thing, explaining his short-term goal is an Ivy League championship while his long-term goal is a national championship.
But, he cautioned, reaching that level will take time.
“This program is not going to just start winning,” Stannard said. “We’re not going to turn things around overnight. It’s going to be a process. Right now, the spring has just been forming a standard about the expectations, the accountability … When things are tough in the spring or in the fall, we can say, hey, this is nothing compared to what you guys have been through.”
As he has said since arriving at Yale, Stannard expects his team to be the hardest-working group in the Ivy League.
He also wants to change the team’s mentality to a “defend to attack” mantra. Following a season in which the team scored only seven goals — for comparison, 126 players matched or exceeded this number across the country in 2014 — Stannard said improvement in attacking opportunities was showcased in the team’s spring games.
“I think it’s been pretty organized within training and there’s been a clear target objective for each training session for what we’re starting with and what we’re building to,” Stannard said. “We do a lot of functional training, so in soccer terms that means we’re working with a specific group in a specific area of the field for a specific purpose.”
This targeted coaching style has allowed Stannard to experiment with different formations and systems. As a result, he said he and his staff were able to evaluate players’ capabilities in a variety of positions.
Bond contrasted Tompkins’s and Stannard’s coaching philosophies, explaining Stannard’s emphasis on hard work has translated to a tough practice schedule, whereas Tompkins’s focus was more on the detailed tactical elements of the game.
While there was an adjustment period to the change in coaching style, Bond acknowledged, he also said everyone has grown accustomed to it and improved.
“A big thing I’ve noticed is that I think the team as a whole is a lot fitter, which was definitely apparent in the spring games,” midfielder Archie Kinnane ’18 said. “Our goal is to be the hardest-working team in the Ivy League, and this spring season has definitely sharpened our edges. Hopefully we can all have a good summer, also, so that when the fall season comes we can be on the winning side of a lot more games.”
Before last year, the Bulldogs had not finished a season with only one win since 1922, when they finished 1–3–2.