SSA Staff Profile: David Cope – 2012 High School Coach of the Year

Dave Cope has been an instrumental part of the Steamboat Soccer Academy since it’s inception in 1994.  As a SSA Staff coach for the past 19 years he has positively impacted hundreds of players.  This past fall Dave led the Battle Mountain Huskies to a Colorado 4A State Championship Title.  The Huskies debatably showed to be one of the most exciting High School Teams to ever play on Colorado soil. They went 20-0, became the first team west of the Eisenhower Tunnel to win a 4A State Soccer Title, and Coach Cope was named the Colorado HS Soccer Coach of the Year.  Dave holds a USSF “A” Licensed and NCSAA Premier Badge.

What is Dave Cope’s Coaching Philosophy?

We believe it is a player’s game.  The consequence of that is that we try to create a competitive environment in training and give the players some ideas.  On game day it is mostly up to the them to make decisions on the field. 

In terms of player development you are a big proponent of small-sided games; how much does small-sided play factor into the training at Battle Mountain soccer?

We play some form of small sided soccer everyday.  We rarely play 11v11 as it doesn’t provide enough touches or enough pressure.  Our day typically consists of some technical work with the ball in a tight space and then some type of small sided game.

Discuss the 2012 Battle Mountain Huskies style of play.

We played a 4-3-3 formation with one target forward and two wingers.  One of our wide players ended up with the most assists on the team, with 17, the other wide player ended up as our leading goal scorer with 24 goals.  That was not a surprise as we put them in those places to maximize their attacking touches and minimize their defensive workload.  In midfield we played with three in a diamond in the middle.  Our outside backs were encouraged to step forward and contest balls in midfield as well as the back.  We had very strong, physical center backs that could also play out of the back on the ground.  Our goalkeeper is very good with his feet and saved 4 PK’s during the playoffs.

What did you feel were some of the key components that lead to such a successful 2012 Battle Mountain season?

The biggest trait of this team was selflessness.  Each player was more invested in the success of the group than in their own personal accolades.  Proof of that was seen throughout the season when players gave up scoring chances to create better ones for their mates.  Early in the season we caught our leading scorer on tape pointing to his teammate after a goal to show clearly who had made that chance.  In the playoffs we had a player for us quoted in the Denver Post as saying, “I don’t even care that I scored, I am just so proud of us!”  Selflessness!

What there any challenges/adversities the team was faced with throughout the season? How did you deal with those situations?

We have always preached that the group is bigger than the player and that we can withstand the loss of any player.  In 2011 we had a player with perhaps the most talent on our team quit the team after a loss to Steamboat.  The rest of the team reacted to that by raising their own game and since that day we have only lost once in 31 games!  This year we lost two players to off the field antics.  Both were starters and both situations gave an opportunity to another player to raise their game and step in.   

Finally, we had a player with a minor injury who faced a tough decision.  3 goals short of a school record for goals scored in a season, we offered him the choice to sit out a couple of games in order to be fit for the playoffs or to play against weaker opposition and, possibly, be carrying an injury into the playoffs.  He chose to sit those games out, be fully fit for the playoffs and give his team the best chance to advance.  He didn’t set that record but, as our captain, he was the first to raise that trophy in the air at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park!  Incidentally, that player spent several summer with us at Steamboat Soccer Academy as he was growing up. 

What advise would you give to any aspiring soccer player?

Spend time with the ball.  The most significant attribute of this group of players, apart from their respect and love for each other, was their technical competence.  We rarely gave the ball away all year.  We lost it at times, but we rarely gave it away.  There is no substitute for a quality 1st touch.