OU soccer: New coach aims to change Sooners' mindset
A coaching change is a difficult transition for players and coaches of any sport. New Oklahoma soccer coach Matt Potter calls it a “fresh challenge,” citing an ambition to reach the elite level of coaching as his main reason for swapping crimson and gray for crimson and cream.
Prior to coming to OU, Potter coached at Washington State for nine seasons, where he won 88 games, had only two losing seasons and coached 30 all-conference selections.
“At Washington State, it would’ve been very easy to stay,” Potter said. “But when a university like [OU] calls, you listen.”
In his first season with the Sooners, Potter compared the experience to a freshman’s first year of college.
“If you embrace everything as being new, you’ll get to find out where you’re at, you’ll get to find out what you’re capable of, and, ultimately, you’ll have the ability to figure out a path of where you want to go in the future,” he said.
Potter inherits a team two years removed from a third-place finish in the Big 12, and he believes the Sooners already have a foundation for success.
“They’ve been to the NCAA tournament, and I think that’s the expectation,” Potter said.
Coming into an established program, the focus of Potter and his staff will be implementing the new staff’s coaching culture.
“Our challenge is to change the mindset,” Potter said. “There’s talent on the team — that’s evident. The challenge is going to be: Do they want to follow through in reaching that potential?”
Potter’s philosophy — one that produced three tournament trips in the last four years at Washington State — is divided into three parts: soccer, academics and life.
Former Washington State players Kiersten Dallstream (2006-09) and Mallory Fox (2006-10) both said the system helped them get by in the classroom, not just the field.
“What Coach Potter provided for all of us was an easier route to success as a soccer player, student and person,” Dallstream said. “He provided endless support, whether it was direct help from him or a designated associate of the team.”
Success is about creating relationships and inspiring growth, Potter said.
“Our job (as coaches), I believe, is to facilitate all our players, and the challenge for them is to leave a more complete person from when they walk in to when they leave,” Potter said.
Along with his philosophy, Potter also brings a new coaching staff to Norman.
Graeme Abel, a former goalkeeper coach at OU in 2008 and 2009, followed Potter back to Oklahoma after spending time at Washington State, and Kacey White, a former member of the U.S. National team, joined the staff in February.
Abel should prove a valuable asset to the staff thanks to his level of familiarity with the program.
“It was great to come in and hit the ground running in the sense of knowing how the department works and knowing the people in the department, knowing who to go to for certain things,” Abel said.
While Abel provides much-needed experience and familiarity to Potter’s staff, White brings experience of a different kind: the ability to relate to the players.
“I can see where the girls are coming from and hopefully help them through that process and to maximize their abilities,” White said.
Despite facing the typical trials of a new coach, Potter said he and his staff will draw upon past experiences and apply them this fall.
“There’s somewhat of an unknown, but ... the expectations are, basically, let’s go find out who we are, what we are and what we’re capable of,” Potter said.
“If the players take care of their piece, then the signs are very good.”