Dmitri Strunkin | Assistant Coach | Men’s Soccer | Fitchburg State University

Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?

On my recruiting trips I look for the following qualities in athletes that we would like to bring in our program (given adequacy in technical skills and athletic ability):

– vocal leaders on the pitch. I need players on the field who can consistently and constantly reinforce coaches’ message during the game, somebody who understands cycles of the game and knows when to spur teammates out of funk and when to calm them down from the anxious state. In my years coaching I realized that it is a natural ability and cannot really be coached.

– game (in my case – soccer) intellectuals. In many cases 50/50 balls can be won, goals can be scored and saved by making a move half a second ahead of your opponent; these proactive runs are made by those who read and understand the game well.

– we all like to win – I look for players who hate to lose. This quality seems to be rather helpful as a building block for team’s character, it works as a good resource when players need to dig deep in the last minutes of the game.

Could you give an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?

Stories of players who surprised us coaches are numerous. Most recent one is that of a freshman who was included on a team’s roster as a practice player. Needless to say, kid worked hard during practices, showed up well when subbed in during last game and he is going to start tonight as a half-back. Traits that helped him to get to this place? I suspect that kid just really wants to play college soccer, he understands very well what we ask of him, he is tougher in defense than we thought he would be, he is smarter with the ball than he showed during tryouts/preseason, but more importantly he has been more consistent in his performance during practices and scrimmages than the guy who started in his position before. And once given a chance he took it and ran with it because he was ready.