Rebuilding from the ground up

“Frustrating” is one word that the Mounties men’s soccer coach George Jenkins has used to describe the shape of this year’s men’s soccer team. Harsh as it may be, it is the reality for the Mounties, who have not qualified for playoffs since 2004.

When Jenkins took the job as the team’s head coach in January, he was taking a position with a team that consistently finished low in the league standings. He knew he had some work to do, but the extent of it surprised even him.

When asked if coaching the team is a tougher situation than he expected, Jenkins said, “yes, absolutely, it’s more than I thought. As we go farther down the road, I’m finding out more things. [There are a lot of] challenges we go up against.”

“We are way behind where we need to be. You could really tell that when we played Acadia. The program needs to be revamped. It needs to be reshaped,” said Jenkins, who has coaching experience in Argentina, the United States and Europe.

“I was hoping for much more, but we need to go back to the beginning and build a foundation,” he added.

Jenkins also discussed making changes to the culture of the team this season. “It’s not an easy thing to change. We have a training session, and they are excellent in the session, but we go back on the pitch and they go right back into their old habits. One or two wins out of the season [is] what I am hoping for.”

Jenkins said that upon his arrival, “discipline here was almost zero and there was almost a sense of entitlement. We put an end to that.”

Fourth-year player Mario Hennessey said that significant changes were made to the team’s training, including “much stricter policies regarding how punctual you are to practice [and] how much effort you have to give in practice. Things are a lot more structured.”

With his younger brother entering his first year on the team, Hennessey has some advice to offer him and younger players. “Although the season likely isn’t going to be what anyone is hoping for, look at it as a base [from which] to progress and do what you can at every practice and every game to get better individually.”

Apart from structure, Jenkins has also placed an emphasis on recruiting. With connections in Ontario, he hopes to bring in fresh players to build his team around.

“I have been recruiting a lot. A lot of the players I am getting are [in] grade 11, grade 10 – these are future players coming. You have to build.”

Last weekend, the team earned a 2-2 draw on Saturday in Halifax against Saint Mary’s in their best outing of the season.

On Sunday Mt. A hosted the Cape Breton Capers (CBU), a team ranked seventh in the country. When asked about his expectations for the match, Jenkins said, “we have to look at it as, ‘let’s try and keep as many goals out of the net as possible.’”

The Mounties started the game with energy. Nine minutes in, the Capers scored off of a set piece due to a combination of an error by the goalkeeper and poor marking.

The Mounties attempted to settle back in, but a mixture of poor defending and a high quality level from Cape Breton led to a 4-0 CBU lead at halftime.

Mt. A looked better after the break, stringing together passes here and there. The team went forward at times before settling back and defending. The result was never in doubt: 5-0 for Cape Breton.

With eyes toward next year, the Mounties will have to learn from tough games like this one. As Jenkins put it, “it’s only up from here.”

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