Yeagley counting on culture from a distance

Indiana men’s soccer coach Todd Yeagley has been forced to practice social distancing.

That applies whether he is talking to his parents through the patio door or checking in on his team via Zoom video meetings.

In many ways, the former is more difficult than the latter, in part because the former — Jerry and Marilyn Yeagley — helped breed a culture that continues to resonate within the program.

“We send (the players) a workout, and they go do it on their own,” Todd Yeagley said. “I don’t even have to ask or get feedback. I know they’re doing it.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced classes online and ended the spring season prematurely, the Hoosiers were a self-motivated bunch, conducting what looked like full-on practices inside Mellencamp Pavilion during January.

“I’d have some coach come up to me the next day and say, ‘Where were you last night?’” Yeagley said. “And I’ll say, ‘We didn’t have practice.’ (They’ll say), ‘Well, it looked like a practice,’ meaning the guys went after it and it looked as though we were there (as a coaching staff), so I’m not worried about what our guys are doing with what we can provide.

“They’re disciplined, they’re motivated and they want to win and make a jump to the next level for many of them.”

Yeagley says soccer is fortunate that there is little in the way of equipment necessary for the players. The right mentality is more important.

“We’re giving them workouts, we’re giving them challenges tactically with Zoom quizzes, individual meetings with coaches and we’re able to share screens, so we’re doing everything in our power,” he said. “We’re trying to compete with fun challenges, trying to get guest speakers to come in to talk to the group.”

One thing that is making this unusual offseason more bearable for Yeagley and his Hoosiers is the breadth of experience on hand, something that wasn’t the case a year ago when there was only one returning starter.

“It does (make it easier) on a couple of fronts,” Yeagley said. “Some of the work we can get done with video during this time, we have the players, or a large number of players, who are going to be playing heavy minutes next year, so you have a reference point. You have games, you have teaching moments to be able to show them from last year.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do that last year anyhow, because you can’t talk to newcomers about that stuff. It does allow us to get a little bit more production done that you normally couldn’t do until preseason, so we’re trying to take full advantage of that during this time.”

Indiana will have eight starters returning and a total of 11 players who started at least two games on the roster this fall, not to mention six more who saw game action in addition to those who redshirted.

“(We want to) sharpen up with some of the young players, because that’s typically where most of the growth needs to happen, getting our terminology down, our playing style, allowing them to really dig into their game from last year,” Yeagley said. “We have some worksheets we do, we have some one-on-one (video) sessions with the staff, we’ll do some small breakout sessions with positional groups in these weeks ahead.

“Some of that is harder to do if we were in school and in our training rhythm if you will. We obviously put a full priority on their training and managing all their time, so I’ve been trying to let the guys know, this is a great time to get better in an area we wouldn’t have been able to focus as heavily on.”

With all that in mind, the Hoosiers will also be welcoming a recruiting class that was named No. 1 in the country by TopDrawerSoccer.com last week. Unlike last year, this class won’t be likely to make up half of the starting lineup in any given match. However, Yeagley is putting no limits on the potential.

“The good news is it’s so much different than last year when we had to get these freshmen into the team, we had to,” he said. “This particular year with the development of some players internally and the returning core well intact, it’s now a matter of who can fill some gaps.

“I won’t say we have to have them ready, but it’s a bonus if they are. We begin every year with a clean slate, guys have an opportunity, so no one’s given anything, we know that, but we do feel some of these players can give us some minutes.”

The trick is to balance the value of those contributions with the benefits of saving eligibility for the future.

“We also want to be super careful about giving them very few minutes and wasting a year if it’s not the right decision,” Yeagley said. “A lot of that will be assessed in the preseason, but I do feel that two or three minimally in this class could impact some minutes next year. There’s always some surprises. Every year we come in expecting a player is going to get significant minutes and he’s maybe not in the rotation or redshirts. Or we’ve got some guys we think might redshirt and they come in and are playing a half.”

In recent years, Indiana has seen impact players leave almost as quickly as they arrive with the likes of Mason Toye, Griffin Dorsey, Justin Rennicks and most recently Aidan Morris and Jack Maher head off to Major League Soccer. Yeagley believes the 2020 recruiting class has a chance to stick.

“We have to offset the players that come in with one or two years of potential college with others that might come around,” he said. “I think this group will have more of a long scope, which is also important to keep the culture of our program where we need it.”

It’s a culture that Yeagley knows he can count on to keep the Hoosiers among the nation’s top program whenever play resumes.

One comment

  1. Example of Perspective: Ruth Chris Steakhouse Chain owner after $468,000,000 revenue and $48,000,000 profit last year from 159 franchises or restaurants receives $20,000,000 @ 1% in forgivable loan (forgiveness so just keep employees on payroll). WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH A SPORTS BLOG OR SOCCER? Nothing. JUST PERSPECTIVE.

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