OU soccer: Coach values academics as much as on-field play
Ben Williams, The Oklahoma Daily
A coach’s success is normally measured by their achievements on the field, and while Oklahoma women’s soccer coach Matt Potter has plenty of wins to his name, his players’ academic accolades are nothing short of spectacular.
During his nine-year tenure at Washington State, Potter had 103 student athletes earn All-Conference honors for academics.
In seven of his nine years, Potter’s team won the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Team Academic Award.
Junior forward Amy Petrikin, who was part of the 2011 All-Academic Big 12 team, said Potter’s expectations academically are unlike those of any other coach she has had.
“His standards for academics are higher than everything I have seen here at OU,” Petrikin said. “He holds us accountable for everything we do. We make sure if we miss a class or anything happens, he wants us to be the ones to tell him first. He really makes it our responsibility. It’s our education, and he really helps us understand how important it is.”
Potter’s GPA requirement is well above the NCAA’s 2.0 that athletes have to make in order to play.
His players are expected to hold a 3.1 GPA, or they have to attend a set number of study hours until they meet the GPA requirement.
So far, all of his players are living up to Potter’s standards, and junior defender Kathryn Watson said it’s because of the amount of time Potter spends addressing the team about their schoolwork.
“We talk about academics just as much as we talk about soccer,” Watson said. “There is a life piece, an academics piece and a soccer piece. So we just try to find that balance. I think the accountability [Potter] holds us to is what makes him so successful.”
Potter says he focuses on all three pieces equally.
“We are committed to the academics piece just as much as the soccer piece,” Potter said. “It’s about what we expect when they come in, and it’s living up to our part of the deal, so to speak.”
Potter is in his first year as the Sooners’ head coach, and his players all are seeing an improvement in their grades. Even Watson said she has seen an improvement, and she was a Big 12 All-Academic team member in 2011.
“Just from the standard he is holding everyone else to, makes me pick up my game,” Watson said. “I’m always at my tutors. I’m at my classes on time. What he is holding our team to has made me step up, as well.”
For Potter, getting the results out of his players is all about setting the bar high. He said the key to his success has simply been holding his players accountable for what they agreed to do at the beginning of the season.
“We ask our student athletes to do what they say they will do,” Potter said. “They put together performance plans and have standards that they set for themselves. All we do is make sure that they follow through with that.”
And so far they have.