In losing head men’s soccer coach Matt Edwards, the players of the Knox College soccer team lost more than an athletic administrator. TKS met with several players on the team to discuss their reaction to the news, Edwards’s influence on the program and their hopes for the future of the program.
Senior Sean Dockrell said that the news of Edwards’ was a surprise to the team.
“When Coach Edwards broke the news to the team that he will soon be leaving, it was a shock to us all. We had just finished our most successful season in nearly 30 years and the team was looking forward to the next,” Dockrell said.
Dockrell said that the team has since returned to business as usual, focused on training and extracurricular volunteer opportunities.
“The response to the news of Edwards was of course unexpected, but since then it has been positive. The team has returned to post-season workouts, indoor soccer and volunteering at the YMCA. Despite some short numbers due to injuries and study abroad programs, the whole team is working hard,” Dockrell said.
Senior Jacob Polay echoed Dockrell’s statement. Polay was the only four-year senior on this year’s team, and served a role in bringing Edwards to Knox.
“Although I haven’t been with the team as much this term because they are still in training, the atmosphere from what I understand is still good. The guys are still working hard even in the shadow of recent events. They still have the goal of winning a Midwest Conference Championship. Nothing changes; those guys are going to win next year,” Polay said.
While the goals of the team have not changed, Dockrell said that they will have to adjust to having a target on their back coming off a successful season last year.
“The team realizes that next season is going to be different from any we’ve had so far. They are not returning as an underdog team, but as regular season Midwest Conference Champions and Finalists. Next season they will be defending the title and hoping to move one step forward from last year,” Dockrell said.
Dockrell and Polay differed on their opinions of how they would like the college to approach the coaching vacancy. Polay advocated for current Assistant Coach Clint Moore due to his experience within the program.
“I want a coach that will keep things going in the direction they are headed,” Polay said. “Personally, I think there is only one person qualified to keep this program running and staying successful and that is for Assistant Coach Moore to stay at least in a co-coaching relationship. He knows the drills, he set them up for us every single day, he ran practices by himself, and he himself is a decorated Knox alum academically and athletically.So I would like to have a coach who knows what it takes because that is what will take this team to the next level.”
Dockrell believes that the recent success of the team will aid in attracting capable coaches to fill the void left by Edwards.
“For me there isn’t a particular type of coach I would like to see at Knox,” Dockrell said. “I know that the coaches and athletic staff are trying to find a replacement for Edwards and I trust their judgment.” Edwards, Dockrell says, was the driving force in turning the 1-16 team he inherited just two years ago into conference champions. “[His success] is exactly what will help attract the kind of coach that Knox needs to take over,” Dockrell said.
Dockrell pointed to the culture put in place by Edwards, which he believes will remain with the team regardless of which coach takes the reins next year. He also believes that players recruited by Edwards will continue to improve.
“I have no doubt that the program will continue in the right direction after Edwards leaves. Over the past three years Edwards has not only built a soccer culture here at Knox but also a solid foundation for the program. Edwards has recruited some very talented players who will be looking to improve from last year and get more playing time,” Dockrell said.
The experience of playing in a conference championship will also play a role in maintaining the high goals held by the team.
“The large freshman class will have the experience from last year and now understand what is required to win a conference title. Last season we played some very competitive teams and although we had an unfortunate ending I know that it will be motivation for the players to improve,” Dockrell said.
That is not to say that Edwards’ expertise will not be missed.
“Over the past two seasons, Edwards has definitely had a big impact on how I play. Most of all he has helped build my confidence as a player. Edwards has a great ability of encouraging a player and helping them to build confidence,” Dockrell said.
“In terms of how Coach Edwards made my play better, in every way; he showed all of us guys how capable the body is and to push our limits every day. Skill-wise, mechanics and positioning were key. One of our main objectives, and this came from his coaching, was to make play predictable. He taught us how by strictly positioning ourselves properly we could force play in a certain direction. That was probably one of the most significant lessons I learned,” Polay said.
In losing Edwards, the team is losing more than a coach. For many he was an important presence in their lives outside of soccer.
“Although I was looking forward to working with Edwards and the team next season, as a senior my time with college soccer is over, so I was thankful that I got the chance to work with him while he was here,” Dockrell said.
Junior Charlie Harned was recruited by Edwards, stating that Edwards was the reason he came to Knox.
“Our relationship during my time at Knox was so much more than what I expected. As corny as it may sound, he’s one of my best friends at Knox. He’s a lifelong friend. As far as soccer knowledge goes, his record speaks for itself.”