Lisa Mann got one heck of a belated housewarming gift as the coach of the new West Virginia State University women’s soccer team – a sizable regional youth soccer tournament with dozens of teams just a short walk away from her office.
With the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup running its older age group brackets at Shawnee from last Thursday to Tuesday, Mann and assistant Glen Butler have gotten a front row (or back porch, depending on your perspective) seat at plenty of prospects to add to a team that will play its first games this fall.
While having a plethora of players a few minutes’ walk away could make a future impact on the Yellow Jackets’ roster, it’s having an immediate impact on the team’s pocketbook. Fledgling programs like State’s are looking for any opportunity they can to conserve dollars. Getting a glimpse at the players at Shawnee is paying off.
“When I first got here and put the recruiting calendar together, we have a limited budget, obviously,” Mann said. “So when I saw a number of events were coming here to Shawnee, it helps us massively.
“All of these are events we would have been going to and would have cost us out of our budget,” she added. “Now, they’re right on our doorstep. Now we can go additional places.”
Mann and Butler can watch the players on Shawnee’s fields, Mann said, but NCAA guidelines prohibit them from talking to them face to face as they’re walking off the fields. They can text the players, talk to the players’ coaches and send emails after the event. After the tournament finals Tuesday, they can talk to the players in person if they’re juniors and seniors.
That can be a benefit, too, Mann said. She and Butler can’t get to every player they’d want to contact in a condensed period of time. So they can spend the weekend evaluating and then plan on which players to call.
Mann said she wants to play a more possession-style game rather than the more vertical American style. The possession game usually lends itself better to international players, and there are plenty of international players among the 15 to 16 set to arrive this fall.
Mann would like a roster of 25, so she and Butler are still looking and she’s keeping a keen eye on the American players at Shawnee.
“They bring the physicality to the game,” Mann said. “You do need the athletes as well. It depends on the position as well. So maybe our wide forwards and our fullbacks, we might go for a pure athlete.”
Building a team from scratch isn’t easy, but Mann said it has been fun.
“It’s been a challenge, but one reason I took the job is because it was a blank canvas,” she said. “I could literally design it how I want to design it, so I can go out and recruit those players.”
And over these last few days, she hasn’t had to break the bank to do it.