Kamloops, BC—The 2016-17 Canada West women’s soccer season was truly a rebuilding experience for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. As the playoffs begin this weekend, the WolfPack are ‘on the outside looking in’ after making their first post season appearance in 2015-16.
The WolfPack underwent a major house cleaning which included an entirely new coaching staff. The result was a record of 1-12.Kelly Shantz took over the program in April and reflected this way on his first campaign at the helm: “From a results standpoint I would of course wanted a better showing, but in the end, we are not really surprised. The Pacific division of Canada West is a bear to play in with good teams everywhere and our roster, which I figured out to be mathematically by far the youngest in all of USport, was destined to be a building year.”
This begged the question of whether he would have done anything differently in any area of his selection of player personnel and development of the team. “I asked my assistant coaches that a couple times as the season wore down, and they all felt pretty strongly I got it right from an approach standpoint and that is how I feel also,” Shantz explains “There was a lot of emphasis on the process instead of the results and as we are were building good habits to carry us into the future, not just win a game week to week. Establishing a consistent culture of effort, heart and expectations was very consistent from all of us. “
Shantz says the highlight of the year was their lone victory which came at home over the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves. Shantz says his biggest surprise coincided with his biggest fear. “That is that we would struggle so much that dissension might set in, players may quit and the long term program suffer even more.”
He continued:” Maybe the mix of all new coaches, no matter how well we knew each other ahead of time, would founder for direction. None of this materialized though. The players stayed tight as a group and were a really high quality group of young athlete’s to be around all year. We got along well as a coaching staff and shared ideas and concerns openly. I know for sure I took advice from every one of them and put it to use immediately in games. “
The WolfPack have all but one player eligible to return next season. Katie Harding (midfield, Salmon Arm, BC) has athletic eligibility left but she is graduating this spring from the TRU nursing program. Still, Shantz is blunt when sending a message to those who want to come back. “It’s no exaggeration that every single area and position on the field needs to be improved on. That will either come from the current group working hard and using all the resources at their disposal to be better in every way next year or by adding new players into the mix. The current players have a good work ethic and all seem to have a pretty clear awareness now of how much needs to be done to be better by next summer’s training camp and I am there for them. I want them all to have the best opportunity possible to excel in the classroom and on the field if that is their dream. “
Shantz will spend the next few months recruiting throughout Western Canada as well as launching into a winter training program with the returning veterans. As he puts the season behind him, he has one final message: “I loved my first year as Head Coach and need to thank the community at large for the unbelievable support I have had. From TRU administration and the whole athletic department to the parents of the players, to the women’s soccer alumni, to my friends and family there has been nothing but positive energy and well wishes and helping hands at every turn. We have a great thing going here at TRU and the Wolfpack and I am very excited to press ahead with the program….full tilt!”