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Soccer: On the Sideline with OSU Coach
Steve Simmons


Steve Simmons comes home to OSU in his first season as head coach of the men's soccer team with a winning attitude and a winning team.

Oregon State's Danny Mwanga and Men's Soccer Coach Steve Simmons
© Foreign Interest, 2009
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Setting Goals in Familiar Fields

By Sherry Harbert, Foreign Interest


Steve Simmons’ coaching career has taken as many twists and turns as the movements of his players on the soccer field. His latest turn as head coach for Oregon State University (OSU) men’s soccer led the Beavers to second place this year in the Pac-10 Conference. It may look easy to enter a program and coach talents like Danny Mwanga, Colin Mitchell and Steve Spangler, but it takes a strategic understanding of the game and the players to create wins on the field. Simmons runs the OSU program with a philosophy that creates opportunity for each player on his roster. His game plan is bringing a winning record to the campus and a winning attitude to the team.


Though it wasn’t enough to land the team in the NCAA College Cup, the 2009 season stands to serve notice that OSU is building a force to be respected. In its last weeks, the OSU team kept UCLA at bay with a 1-1 tie, followed by wins against San Diego State and the University of Washington. Simmons’ goal for the season was to make sure his players knew their roles so they could have the positive experiences on the field. “I want them to be happy,” he said. “Learning is hard. It can be painful. But it will lead to bigger and better things.” If Simmons can extend that attitude to next season, OSU will indeed see bigger and better things.


Simmons’ coaching career began 19 years ago on the field at Concordia University. As a former soccer player, Simmons knew the game first-hand but was looking at a career in business, not sports. He graduated from Concordia in 1990 with a degree in business administration. “I was going to be that corporate one-two trader,” he said. When a position opened up at his alma mater for an assistant coach with the men’s soccer team, Simmons traded in business for sports. He coached his team for four years.


The game beckoned Simmons for more, so when he was accepted into a master’s program in physical education at Gonzaga University, he joined the men’s soccer team as an assistant coach his first year. Simmons landed his first head coaching position at nearby Whitworth College while continuing his studies at Gonzaga. If there was any question of Simmons’ ability to a coach, it was answered at Whitworth with a 9-8-2 season and a Northwest Conference Coach of the Year award.


Simmons went on to coach both men’s and women’s soccer at Linfield College for five successful years before he first donned the orange colors of the OSU Beavers in 2001 as an assistant coach under the leadership of Dana Taylor. In 2002, OSU landed its first slot in the NCAA College Cup.


Another Strategy, Another Field


If Simmons was ready for a challenge at this stage in his career, he found it with the Huskies of Northern Illinois University. The climate, the population and the team were the most diverse of Simmons’ career. “Chicago has 10 million people,” he said. “It is huge. For soccer there are five divisions. In Chicago, there are eight divisions in the city alone.” While Simmons got used to the larger population base, he realized the region’s vast differences could be utilized for soccer. “There was a lot of diversity,” he said. “There were more Polish people in Chicago than there are in Warsaw. Then there are the farmers. It’s quite different.”


The Huskies were falling behind with graduations and injuries when Simmons arrived for the 2003 season. He took a different approach based on the dynamics of the team and a keen sense for creating a solid force on the field. “It makes for a challenge to put the right positions together for a team,” Simmons said. He answered that challenge by posting six freshman in the line-up. By the next year, the Huskies earned the second-best turnaround for a men’s soccer program and Simmons earned the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year.


In two more years, Simmons took his team to a stunning 9-0-0 record. The Huskies advanced to the second round of the NCAA College Cup in 2006 and Simmons would again be recognized for his leadership, this time as the Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year. He continued coaching the team for two more strong seasons to mark one of the best five-year records in the school’s history. But something about the Pacific Northwest beckoned him back. “The Pacific Northwest is a unique region of the country,” said Simmons.


Coming Home


With family in the Willamette Valley and an opening for head coach at OSU, Simmons took the chance and applied for the position earlier this year. He arrived in Corvallis in June to take on the duties as head coach of the Beavers’ men’s soccer team. He returned with a vision that is coming together on the field. “My vision is that everybody is on the same page,” said Simmons. “Here, everybody knows their role so they can be more comfortable and confident. Then, they can be more confident and ambitious.”


This season’s team reached farther and broader with a vision that places OSU on the road toward a winning future. Simmons continues to take what he’s learned along each stage of his career and use that knowledge and experience to nurture his team. “Every group is different, just like people,” he said. “I’ve been influenced by cultures and backgrounds. It’s been a wonderful experience.”


For a man who grew up in Alaska and thought of a future in business, Simmons describes his professional career as “quite a journey.” Simmons is looking forward to taking the journey forward with the talent of the OSU roster into the 2010 season.


December 10, 2009

© 2009, Foreign Interest

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