FRISCO, Texas (Sept. 23, 2016) – For 2016 North Texas Soccer Dr Pepper Boys Recreational Coach of the Year John Moen, his first head coach experience came as a result of a less than ideal situation.
“I was the player-coach of an Under-19 team in the fall season, but I fractured my hip and wasn’t able to play the next season,” Moen said. “I became the head coach of the team at that point, and everything started from there.”
Moen’s team would ultimately end up qualifying for the North Texas Soccer Tournament of Champions. After taking a break to go to college, Moen felt the itch to return to the game.
“Being away from the game sucked, and I thought coaching was the right thing to do,” Moen said. “
I went over to Plano Youth Soccer Association (PYSA) and asked if there were any teams that needed a coach, and turns out there was a team that had lost a coach and would have been split up if they didn’t find one. So I took over, and I have been coaching them to this point.”
Moen, who had been playing soccer since he was nine, was able to draw on a variety of experience while playing in North Texas whether it was recreational, club or high school soccer.
“Playing in North Texas I was able to meet and be coached by a lot of people who had a variety of experience like playing or coaching overseas,” Moen said. “Playing high school soccer was probably the first time I thought coaching was something I wanted to do because my coach at Plano East [High School] Rick Woodard, enjoyed it so much, and how could you beat having your job be soccer?”
Once Moen began coaching the Foxes, one of the things he found himself focusing on was discipline.
“I think discipline is one of the biggest things because they are kids, and I have played on teams in the past where kids went out there looking for a fight, so with my team we have worked on helping the kids grow into gentlemen,” Moen said. “I believe soccer is a gentlemen’s sport, and you can learn there are consequences for your actions. If you get in a fight in soccer there are the consequences of getting ejected and hurting your team, while if you get in a fight in real life you could go to jail and the people you care about will be affected.”
Possession is one of the other philosophies Moen emphasizes, and while it took a season for the players to build chemistry, the Foxes dominated during its second season at the Under-16 level. Moen thought his side would have another year or two in the U-16 age group, until the new U.S. Soccer age mandate rendered a couple of his players too old for the age group.
“Everyone was impacted by the change, but I feel we were one of the teams that were affected the most,” Moen said. “I talked with my assistant coaches and we never really thought about splitting up the team. At some point you are going to have to deal with the adversity of playing older players. They are likely going to be bigger and stronger, but at the end of the day you have to put the ball in the back of the net. If you can do that better, then you can win.”
The result was the Foxes moving to the Under-19 age group despite having some players being 14 or 15 years old. It also meant the games would be 90 minutes as opposed to 80.
“I told my players that at one point I was in college and playing in the Under-19 age group, so it was possible they could be playing against guys in college despite my players just entering high school,” Moen said. “I told them that they weren’t boys anymore – that they were becoming men. After that we said, ‘Alright U-19 let’s do this’.”
When it comes to advice to coaches who are just starting, Moen explains the importance of giving everything you can to the players.
“The players are coming out because they want to learn how to play soccer, and they have the expectations that you can teach them,” Moen said. “I know parents will go to clubs expecting to get a product in return, but I don’t think there has to be a boundary. Sure I am a rec coach, but I can teach kids a lot of the same things. Just make sure to give 100 percent and not just show up so the team can play.”
As far as his reaction to winning the award, Moen is convincing in his argument that it was unexpected.
“I was surprised to even be nominated. As I mentioned in my speech I was thinking I was just going to get a free meal out of it, but then I heard my name being called -- it was just a great experience,” Moen said. “I’m thankful to everyone in PYSA who was involved in trying to get me to win, and I plan on building off it to step up the coaching ladder from here on out.”