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Ross McMonies Set to Lead Strikers As New Director
U18 boys coach Ross McMonies will take over as Director of the Missoula Strikers Soccer Association, the Strikers board officially announced Monday. McMonies, a lifelong soccer player and coach began his tenure last week.
A native of Scotland, McMonies has youth and professional playing experience and has made his career coaching youth soccer, obtaining an F.A. Level 1/UEFA B coaching certificate (equivalent to a “B” license in the United States) along the way. According to Strikers Board member Nikki Grossberg, it is this deep soccer experience, in addition to McMonies’ experience running youth community and athletics programs, that convinced the Board that he was the right person for the job. “There were several very impressive candidates for the Director position, each of which brought something valuable to the table,” said Grossberg. “The Board thought Ross’s coaching and playing background were important factors when coupled with his organizational experience.”
McMonies replaces Strikers legend Heidi McDonald as Director, and he is aware of both the challenges and the opportunities of following such a strong leader. “There is no doubt that I have big shoes to fill. Heidi has done an incredible job bringing the club to this point, and it is my job to keep the ship moving in the right direction. I want this transition to be a smooth as possible.”
McMonies is also determined to make the club stronger by focusing on building Striker’s on-field programs and focusing on the overall experience of players and their parents. One of his primary objectives in his first year is to build out processes for providing timely information for parents, players, and coaches and facilitating communication among them.
For McMonies, a strong club can be measured by its players and coaches. “I see so much potential here in Montana---Missoula, in particular,” he said. “Missoula Strikers is already such a great club. It has produced many great players over the years and it is my aim to develop a system that can produce many more. I hope that with the introduction of my philosophy and methodology, we as a club can continue to grow and elevate our players to a level where they are continually recognized at a regional level. One of my big focuses will be on our coaches. I am a huge advocate for the coaches and I want to ensure that they are provided with all the resources they need.”
Board member and Parent Committee liaison, Jeremy Brown, is optimistic that McMonies will lead the club in the right direction. “Losing Heidi McDonald was hard, and there is no doubt there will be some challenges to keep things on track, especially in Ross’s first year,” said Brown. “But this is also a chance for Ross to improve on the progress that the club has made in the past decade and to drive the organization to new levels of success, both on and off the field.”
Note: McMonies will meet with the Parent Committee in the upcoming weeks to meet the parents, to communicate his vision for the club and hear parent suggestions and concerns. Be on the lookout for communications regarding the time and place of the meeting.
Strikers' Director Heidi MacDonald Moves On
After 12 years of tireless work on behalf of the club, Strikers' Director Heidi MacDonald has decided to step down at the end of the 2014 soccer season. Whether you know Heidi as a fun-loving coach, a caring mentor, a tireless worker on behalf of her beloved club or a trusted friend always willing to lend an ear or a hand, her impact on soccer in Missoula and in the state of Montana cannot be overstated.
When Heidi started her work with Strikers in 2002, she was a former player, helping oversee a MicroStrikers program of 150 kids. She leaves Strikers as the longest tenured Director in the club’s history and with a legacy that includes development of the State’s first Academy program and the largest and most successful competitive program in the State. Those 150 MicroStrikers have grown in number to over 500, and the Strikers Itty Bitty program is also on the rise, all under Heidi’s persistent, caring watch.
Heidi has navigated the club through tough times with courage and persistence. She has led our coaches, players and parents through countless successes with dignity and humility. At every turn, she has encouraged Missoula’s kids to be exceptional. And she is as proud as any parent when they inevitably are.
We will miss Heidi immensely, and we know that our transition to a new Director will not be without its stumbles. But the club will continue to get better and better, relying upon the foundation of determination and optimism that Heidi has instilled in us.
The Board of Directors has commenced a search for a new Director of the club. Interested candidates should send a résumé and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck to all the Strikers players, parents and coaches at the State Cup and at Regionals! And when you see Heidi MacDonald there, please tell her thanks and good luck in her future endeavors!
Keane Hamilton Announces First Annual Strikers' Soccer Camp
Missoula Strikers Coaching Director Keane Hamilton announced today that the club will be organizing a new summer soccer camp for kids ages 5 through 12. The camp, which will take place Monday, June 23 through Friday, June 27, will be run by Hamilton and will feature a number of Strikers coaches. “The camp is geared toward every level of soccer ability, and it will provide kids a great opportunity to work with a variety of different awesome coaches from our Strikers staff,” said Hamilton.
Strikers Host Charity Games to Benefit Family of Diren Dede
Strikers’ U18 boys held a fundraiser to help the family of Diren Dede on Sunday, May 4th, in connection with friendly games versus the Coeur D’Alene Sting starting at 11:00 am at Sentinel High School.
Diren, a center back for the U18 Boys Black team and a German exchange student of Turkish descent, tragically lost his life last month. His family is planning to return Diren to Hamburg, Germany for a memorial and then to bury their son in Turkey. Donated baked goods were sold on Sunday, and donations were collected at the field. Checks may also still be sent to Strikers U18 Boys Black head coach Geoff Birnbaum at 4445 Quaking Aspen Court, Missoula, MT 59802. Please make checks payable to Missoula Strikers and write “For Diren Dede” on the memo line.
A similar charity game was held by Diren's club team in Hamburg.
Warming Up For Spring Soccer
As spring soccer ramps up, Strikers welcomes two local physical therapists and former coaches back on the field to teach our young athletes proper dynamic warm-ups and plyometric drills that have been proven to help decrease the rate of non-contact ACL injury on the field. Jessica Kehoe and Leah Versteegen from Alpine Physical Therapy
were joined by Alpine aide and U-18 assistant coach John Prugh at the Strikers Academy opening week of practice. They ran a 10 minute dynamic warm up and basic introduction to plyometric form for the 8-12 year olds participating in the Academy. Over the next several weeks, these three will be attending practices for each of the Strikers competitive teams to educate players and coaches on dynamic warm-ups and age appropriate plyometrics for injury prevention. The program they teach has been adapted from programs which have been shown in recent research to reduce non-contact injuries.
The long term goal is for all kids participating in Strikers, including the Academy, to be able to reproduce this warm-up prior to all practices and games. Coaches will provide assistance and feedback to the younger players so that by the time they reach the U-16 level, players should be able to complete the warm-up on their own. The dynamic warm-up is the same for all age groups, while the plyometrics will increase in difficulty as the players move up in age. Coaches, parents and players can check out this link on to help remind them how the dynamic warm up is run.
Alpine Physical Therapy will also be offering free player consults for MicroStikers, Academy, and Competitive Program athletes. Jessica and Leah can provide initial consultations right away to help determine what you need to do to manage your injury, whether it just be rest and ice, PT treatment, or a visit to your doctor. As former Division I college soccer players they know what it takes to be a competitive soccer player, and they will help get you back on the field as soon as possible.
Higgins Picks Up Prestigious NSCAA High School All-American Honors
What catches the eye about Kyle Higgins’ 2013 soccer year are his staggering offensive statistics. Higgins’ 17 goals and 10 assists helped lead the U18 Boys Strikers team to a 23-3-3 record and a second place finish at US Club Soccer’s Northwest Regional Tournament. And he followed up his club soccer season with 21 goals for the Hellgate High School varsity team in the fall. The latter achievement not only led the Montana high school league and set the Knights school record for goals in a season, but it recently earned Higgins 2013 All-American honors as announced by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
But what makes Higgins one of the nation’s best performers? For his club and high school coaches, there are numerous reasons. “He has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net,” says Higgins’ high school coach, and Strikers Academy Director, Jay Anderson. “Kyle is a tremendous finisher in front of the goal or outside the box.”
Strikers’ U18 Boys coach, Geoff Birnbaum, agrees. “And Kyle is more than a goal scorer. As our target player he had to absorb physical pressure and contact and receive, control and distribute the ball to start our attack. He was our metronome, setting the speed and rhythm of our play. When that is set right, and he often set that, we were one of the most explosive teams I have ever coached.”
Higgins adds his name to an impressive list of players who have received the NSCAA's prestigious award (handed out to only the top 60 high school players in the country each year) that includes current US National Team members Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya and Eric Licaj, a large number of current MLS players and, notably, Champions League finalist and Borussia Dortmund star center back Nevin Subotic.
Can Higgins achieve similar heights in the game? Birnbaum is a believer. “Becoming a great player is more than natural talent. Kyle lived with a soccer ball, touching the ball thousands of times outside of training. Kyle is also a student of the game and a coachable player open to direction. Add to that the character formed by dedicated parents and a close family that made for the balance needed in his life and you have an All-American player and an All-American kid.”
Strikers' Alumnus Keane Hamilton Set to Take On Coaching Director Role
Keane Hamilton knows what it takes to create a winning program. After all, the Missoula native and Big Sky High School grad captained soccer powerhouse Fort Lewis College during a successful collegiate playing career in which he led the Skyhawks to a national championship in 2009. Four years later, Hamilton hopes that he can translate what he has learned about building and maintaining a successful program to his hometown club, as he takes over Strikers' Director of Coaching role.
For Hamilton, Strikers should be the best club in the state and a top club in the region. “In five years, Missoula should be competing to be the best program in the state at every age group. With the number of kids in the Academy and Micro Strikers programs, along with the quality of coaches available in Missoula, we have the tools to be at the top of the state as well as to compete at the regional level.”
How will the club get there? Hamilton believes the key is instilling a competitive attitude. “The development of young players starts with the club encouraging players to make a strong commitment to training and constantly pushing themselves and their teammates in practice. Also, teams should continually push themselves and play against higher level players. This means going to tournaments out of state, playing the top teams in the state, anything that gets the kids outside their comfort zone and pushes for improvement. Finally, the club must encourage young players to watch more soccer. This includes older club teams, college games, and especially professional games. Players should watch the game at its highest level for motivation and learning purposes.”
Hamilton is the first to acknowledge that his youth soccer experience was the key to his own college success.
“Growing up playing soccer in Missoula – YMCA, Micro Strikers, and finally to Strikers from age 12 to 14 – I loved it. I had great teammates and coaches all the way through. Seeking additional challenges at age 15, I played up on the U16 FC Missoula team. From age 16 through 19, I played with the U19 Strikers. Playing with and against seniors in high school as well as college players when I was 16 was a fantastic challenge. Getting to play up against players that were much bigger and more experienced than me pushed me to improve and was the reason for much of my success at the college level.”
Hamilton’s plan for success:
1. Develop goals as an entire club so players, coaches, and parents can all work together to improve the level of soccer
2. Encourage the club to play a brand of soccer that focuses on intelligence and skills
3. Encourage a team atmosphere throughout the entire club, not just within individual teams
Hamilton knows he needs to start his tenure as DOC by hitting the ground running, as tryouts for Strikers were last week.