MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2012
Low numbers no problem for men’s soccer spring ball
Ryan Pratt may wind up being the youngest guy in the world to be able to say he’s seen just about everything … and mean it.

Pratt, the new JU men’s soccer coach, recently completed spring drills with the team – all nine players – and was able to make the most of it despite the low numbers.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,’ ‘Pratt said this week. “With the limited numbers we had, we had to focus on the things we could control which are our approach to training, our attitude toward training and games as well. We couldn’t focus on how we were going to defend or how we were going to attack in large numbers.’’

The minimalist numbers came in that the Dolphins have lost 16 players since the end of last season, 11 to graduation and the remainder to the natural attrition generally taking place when there is a coaching change. Pratt came on board in mid-February.

“It’s difficult,’’ he said, “but you find ways to do other things in training. Obviously you can’t do certain things but you can work on individual sessions geared toward technique or skill development.’’

Pratt said he wasn’t disheartened by the short-handed, 7 a.m. practices, in fact, he knew what was coming.

“I’ve never been in that position before where I’ve been at a university and only had nine players,’’ he said. “I knew the way things were going to be before I took the job and it wasn’t discouraging at all.’’

In fact, Pratt says the limited numbers probably were helpful.

“It was perfect for what we needed to accomplish with the group we had here to lay the foundation for moving forward,’’ he said. “We’ve got nine guys who are completely on board with what needs to happen. It’s easier to affect a smaller group of numbers than a larger group of numbers. I feel like each of the kids in our group is moving in the right direction.’’

The team got in four games and finished 3-0-1 and Pratt said the practice intensity matched game effort.

“One of things I thought the guys did well was every time we practiced and every training session we had they worked extremely hard,’’ he said. “That was a constant and when we got in the games that was no different and that’s the way it should be.’’

In the interim, Pratt and assistant Todd Eason have been at breakneck pace finding new players and the digging has produced results as 16 new players have committed.

“Eleven are from Florida, one from Texas and the rest international,’’ he said. “Four are transfers, we tried to get a little experience with the transfers, and the rest are freshmen.’’

Pratt says as the school year winds down, he finally feels as though he’s getting grounded although he still has “those’’ days every once in a while.

“Up to now it’s been a whirlwind,’’ he said. “One day you feel like you accomplished a lot of things and then you wake up and the next morning come in the office and think ‘I don’t think I got anything accomplished, what did I do yesterday?’ I’m just now feeling my feet are touching the ground a little bit. It was a massive challenge and an exciting one for me and coach Eason as well to come in and put our mark on the program so soon.’’

The team begins its fall drills Aug. 7.

- Jim Nasella