Change in leadership, better relationships with the players and a powerful coaching style are some goals Michael Thomas has in his new position as the head soccer coach.
Thomas was hired as USD’s sixth soccer head coach Dec. 15 following the firing of previous head coach Mandy Green.
Playing at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, then professionally for the Myrtle Beach Seahawks, Thomas has his roots in soccer.
“Soccer’s taken me to a lot of different places,” Thomas said. “Although it wasn’t a prolific professional career, it really opened my eyes up to what the level the game can bring.”
From then, Thomas got into coaching. He moved around before having “relative stability” for 12 years at the University of Denver, the University of Buffalo and four seasons at California State at Fullerton as the associate head coach before coming to USD.
“I was blown away with the facilities and with the people at USD,” he said. “Every time I went through the next step of the process, it was like opening another present. They kept knocking down any hesitations I had.”
Kellee Willer, junior midfielder, said she’s impressed with Thomas’ coaching style so far.
“He asserted himself fast and that kind of made us realize that he’s here to get stuff done and we’re going to get it done,” Willer said.
Thomas said he’s impressed with the team so far.
“We’re a week into training for our off-season program, and the players on the team are working really hard and they’re learning what some of the expectations are,” Thomas said. “They’re learning what my expectations are, and I’m still learning what some of the expectations have been in the past. The players are very open to the new ideas.”
Junior defense Courtney Stodola said the team has a lot of respect for Thomas.
“He came in and told us what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it — he didn’t wait for us to say how we’ve done things in the past or how we wanted things to go,” Stodola said. “He came in with a plan on how we’re going to win games.”
One goal Thomas said he has is making sure the players work well together.
“Everybody’s pitching in with every aspect of the program,” he said. “One of the strongest aspects we have right now is we’re developing a very close team that I think there’s a very high character value with the players on the current team.”
Willer said Thomas is focusing on making the team more athletic, something the team hasn’t been strong in.
“Fitness isn’t going to be a thing that holds us back anymore — it’s going to be an advantage for us,” she said.
Stodola said another goal Thomas has is focusing on different ways the team can score.
“We used to be a team that would drive into the middle, but he’s made it clear that we’re a crossing and finishing team now,” she said.
Thomas said he hopes to reflect on the values of Coyote Athletics.
“There’s a very, very good work ethic within the athletic department and in the teams,” he said. “I think the Coyote teams as a whole battle very hard and that’s one of the reasons that the athletic department has been so successful.
Willer said she’s excited for the new leadership.
“I think it’s going to be a good change,” she said. “People will be surprised with what’s to come.”
Thomas said he has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“One of my favorite words is ‘compete,’ and I think you’re going to see a lot that comes out,” he said. “That’s one of the foundations we’re going to build this program on and we’re not going to shy away from the fact that we like to compete as individuals and we like to compete in a group.”