By Vern Hee
This year’s Trojans soccer club team has added a new coach to the roster. Jodd Friesz is not totally new to the Trojans, but in terms of club coaching, by his own admission, he is just a rookie.
Last soccer season he coached the Trojans girls junior varsity and now will also be assisting on the club team with head coach Joe Sladek. Sladek is also assistant to the head varsity coach, Pam Larmouth.
In soccer, club teams have transformed the landscape of the sport in Las Vegas and here. Gone are the days when a girl can play all her life in AYSO and expect to automatically play on the girls soccer team at the high school level.
Many college athletic directors expect their athletes to have club experience. To excel in most sports in Las Vegas, you have to be playing some form of club sport.
The Lady Trojans soccer team is the first of the high school sports to go entirely club. There are a lot of teams in Las Vegas that have their best players on club teams, but not their whole team.
This clubbing of the team has led to two state titles for the Trojans.
“We have 15 kids out for the Club team,” said Friesz. “We have five eighth graders, six junior varsity players and four varsity players on the team. Then we have two games a week. I am just helping out.”
Friesz is like Sladek in many ways. He is just getting a later start.
Sladek started coaching in AYSO but his involvement increased when his girls, Sydney and Haley, were around nine and ten.
The first-time coach would be the first to admit not having any soccer experience prior to coaching for the Trojans. He is self-taught and learned the sport to help his daughter, Jessica, become better. She plays on the junior varsity team.
“I always played and watched sports growing up. Watching others and learning from others is a benefit. I learned so much when I went to coaching seminars in California. I just listened and learned. In Las Vegas, I’m the rookie coach and oftentimes don’t get to ask questions, so I just soak up the information like a sponge,” he said.
In club, everything becomes more complicated and you have to learn a new system of offense and defense. Over the years, as a club and varsity coach, Sladek has perfected the system used by the Trojans and his club teams.
“I am definitely learning Joe’s system,” said Friesz. “We ran it during the junior varsity. All the girls train together so if you are going to run it in varsity you have to run it in junior varsity.”
Friesz said the system is complex and takes a bit to learn but he likes the way it flows.
“In a nutshell, every one has to be in the right position and it flows. It helps you play defense. It is a one-striker system. It gets the ball to the outside. It’s a defensive formation that helps you counter other attacking formations,” explained the rookie coach.
He said in the system the striker an attacker or scorer pretty much free flows and stays on the side where the ball is located. They stay on top even when the ball is on the other side. She overlaps and can go on either side of play.
“Our system is harder on the younger ages — not everyone has the talent to run this,” said Friesz. “At an earlier age you have some that don’t have the skills. With this system everyone has to participate to make this flow. So this system is not for younger players. I believe by playing in the off season we get about a year’s growth from the kids playing club ball. It’s probably more intense than the high school season. We are hoping many of the kids will go to varsity next year.”
It is interesting that Larmouth and Sladek are developing another coach. Some have speculated Sladek would be leaving after his last daughter, Sydney, graduates next year. Sladek maintains he has not made that decision yet and plans on coaching for a while.
Sladek is always all smiles when he talks soccer. Normally, he’s a quiet man, but when someone wants to talk soccer he becomes more animated and alive. The sport is a big part of his life.
Sladek said one reason for developing the new club coach is many of the older kids on the varsity team play on different club teams in Las Vegas, so he wanted to be able to develop the younger kids coming up. He had to start a younger club team. Sladek still coaches many of the older girls in club so he can not be in two places at once. He said Friesz coaches for two days of the week while he takes three.
The younger team will ensure the Trojans will have a new crop of players to replace the seven seniors leaving after next year’s season.
“This is a newer team,” said Sladek. “We’ve got a group of younger girls playing in the spring this year because we have some of the older girls playing on different club teams.
“This is the first time these girls have played together so they have to figure each other out. We got beat 2-0 nothing by one of the best teams of Las Vegas, Players 97 team.”
Yes, his club team got beat. Even Sladek realizes he can’t win all the time. Part of the process of the club experience he said is losing to better teams so your team gets better.
“It is a little faster and a lot more physical than what they expected. This was the first time a lot of them played club ball. It was the first time for all but three of them.
“The season will go for seven games in February and March. If they want to go through the state tournament then they will have five more games through April and May,” said the veteran coach.