“On the Pitch” is a new series spotlighting some of Midwest United Kalamazoo’s coaches and teams, where each coach shares perspective on the season and their coaching philosophy.
First up is Todd Wells, coach of the 2004 Royal Girls who compete in the USYS National League and will be competing for a State Cup title in Saginaw in October.
You've won your State Cup group now for the third year in a row. It's a great achievement to not only advance to the round of 16, but do so consistently over time. You made it to the quarters last year, how are you preparing the team for this year's challenge? "The girls now know what to expect and what it takes to be successful in Saginaw at the round of 16 and quarterfinals. However, I think the overall feeling is that continuing to improve and focusing on details will help us to be successful throughout the fall, including in the State Cup matches. So rather than focusing on that particular weekend, we are really seeing those games as another challenge and another opportunity to test ourselves against solid competition in a stressful environment. The girls understand what is at stake, but also understand that they need to treat every game, and specifically every moment on the field, as a chance to prove themselves."
You're now in your second year with this group competing in the National League - Midwest Region after winning the Michigan Premier League P1 division at U14. How has your experience been overall competing at this next tier? "Having had experience at each tier of the former National League (Midwest Regional League) with a previous team, I knew what to expect coming into the National League. The competition is certainly more consistent, and every team has qualities that, on any given day, can be good enough to beat any other opponent in the group. Our girls have learned that consistency is vital and that small details are incredibly important, particularly in regards to: set pieces, defensive responsibilities, ball-winning, and responding transition moments. I believe our girls have responded well."
Working with U16's brings unique dynamics, from sleep and nutrition, the stresses of school and of course the challenge of continuing to develop them as players. How do you approach this group to keep them motivated and focused on the task at hand? "These aspects of the team dynamic, motivation and focus, are in my opinion the toughest with young players this age. Trying to balance academic and social responsibilities, physical and mental fatigue, and all the other issues that kids these days face is incredibly difficult. I have try to be mindful of periodization, managing what I expect at training, and allowing the girls to enjoy their school experiences. I think coaches of teams this age need to be aware of when their players need breaks from training. They also need to be aware of the needs of each individual player - every girl on my team has individual qualities that need to be taken into account when managing the overall group at training and games. Our team has multiple two-sport athletes and many girls who hold positions of leadership in their schools. I need to be mindful of that. Of course, sleep and nutrition are also important. The parents become extremely important, as they play a large role in helping their kids to maintain manageable routines. Goal setting is also something we spend time with...both individual and team goals. So motivation really stems from a multitude of factors. It is a difficult balancing act."
What advice do you have for parents and players that may one day be thinking about playing at this level, and even aspiring to play at the collegiate level, as many of your 2004's do? "Having coached many teams at this age group at a fairly high level, and then having the college and W-League coaching experiences, I've learned that there are so many factors that play a role in determining whether our girls will end up playing collegiately. There are probably too many to mention, but here are a couple:
The girls know that they must be willing to do their work in order to play in college. What I mean by this is that they first need to be willing to send emails, make phone calls when applicable, and attend prospect camps. If they are interested in certain schools, they know they must do their part to make sure the coaches understand that. They also need to have a very good sense as to where they belong in the grand scheme of college soccer. In addition, they ALWAYS need to remember to maintain the best grades, honor their school and family commitments (whether it be Student Government, Band, or otherwise), and they need to always be genuine, good people.
2. There is a different level of commitment that you see when dealing with a player that will end up having a successful college career. It is tough to explain, but easy to identify when you are coaching a team of great players. The players I am referring to generally have work ethic that sets them apart from others. They train on their own, watch the game, and never lose focus on their goals. They also have a passion for improving themselves while also making their teams better. These player are competitors and leaders, and tend to have a VERY strong sense of who they are - an adequate level of self confidence, but even a more visible desire to win at every minute moment of every game. They also have an incredible desire to learn and be coached - the best players I have ever worked with will soak up all the information they possibly can and apply it to their craft.
3. I find that most of the college bound players are also the best teammates. They can adapt to others, find a way to contribute to any team, and add something to any team they are involved with. What gives them this attribute? I think many qualities: patience, positivity, passion and so much more. As girls get older, I think it becomes a little more difficult to have these attributes...for a variety of reasons. These players are not always the most vocal or loudest, but I would say that they are the most mature and the most 'put together'."
Todd Wells’ Bio:
Coaching Qualifications: USSF C License
Battle Creek Community Soccer Club - Former President and Coach
Lakeview High School - Former Men's and Women's Head Coach
Portage Northern High School - Former Women's Head Coach
Kalamazoo Outrage of the USL W-League - Former Head and Assistant Coach
3 time USL Y-League National Qualifier - West Michigan Fire, TKO Premier SC, TnT Soccer Club
TKO Premier SC/Midwest United Kalamazoo FC - Staff Coach
Midwest United FC - Current 2004 Girls National League coach
Kalamazoo FC of the NPSL - Assistant Coach
Kalamazoo College Women's Soccer Assistant Coach - (2007- 2019)
Playing Experience: Former High School All-State player
Why I coach for Midwest United FC: Midwest United FC is a group of outstanding coaches, volunteers, players, and families. I have made life-long friends, and I enjoy challenging myself at each training session to help our players improve.
Fun fact about me: I enjoy distance running, cycling, hiking, and landscaping.
Parent Perspective: “Todd has earned the trust of these young ladies through his professionalism, preparation, knowledge and sense of humor. This trust has enabled Todd to set high expectations and push them to perform at their peak. Todd has established a remarkable culture for the '04 Girls this year where they love to spend time with one another, work hard in training and accept their wins and losses with dignity throughout the year. This is a team that is developing right in front of our eyes! This is the way it should be, and I am very blessed that my daughter has a mentor like Todd Wells in her life.”