One group of local young men attained an outstanding soccer season this fall. The U14 Boys CASSA Tri-Hawks beat their spring record of 0-6-2, in the same division, by becoming undefeated divisional champions at their last game of the season, October 31.
The team, comprised primarily of soccer players from Cedar Springs but also, Greenville, Tri-County, Kent City and Rockford, took the first-place title after competing against teams from Ludington, Montague, Cadillac, Big Rapids, Northview and Rockford, and will therefore advance to the next division up in the spring.
Head coach Chris Frilen, new this year to CASSA and the U14 boys, believes that success as a team isn’t only measured on scoreboards. “I was confident that if the young men on the team bought in to what we were going to instill in them,” said Frilen, “they would have a successful season. I didn’t know how that would translate in terms of wins and losses, but the evidence of success would be in their attitudes, collective spirit, work ethic, and technical and tactical development.”
Even so, it is an extremely challenging undertaking for a team to make the 180-degree turn after such a difficult season. One of the key ingredients infused into the winning recipe from the beginning of the fall was the comradery. “It’s absolutely vital,” said Frilen. “A collection of players is just that until there is a distinct team spirit developed. We spoke a lot about commitment this season. For us, it was more than a commitment to us coaches and the CASSA program. We wanted our players to commit to each other that they would work every training session to make themselves better players, better teammates; full credit to our great group of young men that they really bought in and took it very seriously.”
Frilen is known for motivating his players by peppering his practices, pregame and half-time speeches with analogies and metaphors, referring to the kick-off whistle as a “dinner bell,” during a recent pre-game ritual. Frilen speaks somewhat rhythmically to the tightly-huddled players in a smooth calm voice, “If you throw a starving dog a piece of meat, does he go after it half-heartedly or with everything he’s got? Now, in a minute, when the dinner bell goes off, how are you going to fight for this game?”
Clearly, the metaphors are an effective coaching tool, as the obvious enthusiasm builds and the boys zealously respond with intensity but also youthful growls, snarls and laughter as they take the field.
When asked how the team will approach next spring’s tough challenge a division up, Frilen replied with yet another motivational analogy. “We talked this fall about our season being a climb. It takes a lot of work and dedication to reach the summit, but most climbers will tell you they’re never satisfied when they get to the top of the first hill they climb. They’re always looking for the next challenge, the next ascent. We’ll approach the spring season as a new and more arduous challenge. I know our players will be up for it. They’ll give it a real go.”