Soccer standouts prepare for '09 season in semi-pros
There is an old adage that coaches preach to players in hopes of cultivating an insatiable work ethic during summer break: championships are made in the offseason. This summer, four Shorter College men’s soccer players took that philosophy to the next level – literally.
On the heels of helping the Hawks claim the program’s first SSAC regular season title last fall, four Hawks – Mark Beattie, John Calderwood, Kyle Segebart and Sebastian Stihler – spent their time away from Rome playing for semi-professional clubs across the country.
Segebart and Stihler played in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League (PDL), while rising seniors Beattie and Calderwood honed their skills in the National Premier Soccer League.
Many top NCAA Division I, II and III players, as well as leading NAIA student-athletes and former professionals, compete in the development leagues, creating an ideal setting in which to polish fundamentals and learn new tricks of the trade.
“Playing over the summer helps to prepare your mind and body for the fall season,” said Segebart, who spent his fourth season in the league playing for the Cincinnati Kings of the PDL. “Everyone is talented, and you can really improve your own game by playing against a different level of competition in training and in games.”
“It is a great way for me to improve my fitness and performance level,” said Beattie, the Hawks’ team captain and a member of Chattanooga FC of the NPSL along with Shorter assistant Ciaran Traquair. “I get more experience, get to play with older players and get to perform under more pressure with the great fan support.”
From daily training sessions to the actual matches, playing in the PDL or NPSL allows collegiate athletes to experience a true, professional atmosphere. Club coaches are often the best of the best – current Division I coaches or former professional managers that give players valuable tips for success both on and off the pitch. Added perks sweeten the experience for the amateurs that still have college eligibility.
“It’s great because you don’t have to worry about studies,” Segebart said. “It’s all soccer all the time.”
Stihler, the Hawks’ starting center back, points out another benefit to playing for his summer club, Forest City London based out of Ontario, Canada.
“The set up is amazing here,” said Stihler, who started games for FC London this summer. “The coaches are great. We train and play everyday, and I get to travel and see many different places.”
Segebart says that playing with professional athletes gives him a different perspective, one that will come in handy in Rome.
“It’s always a plus playing with pro guys to see how they prepare and take on everyday challenges,” said Segebart. “It’s a bonus to know what it requires to get yourself and your team to the next level. The professionalism I have seen is something I plan to bring to Shorter. I have seen the concentration level and maturity it takes in order to carry ourselves the right way and maximize our potential.”
Segebart hopes that he can translate his individual progress in Cincinnati into wins for the Hawks in 2009. “We expect nothing less than a trip to California [where the NAIA National Championship is held],” said Segebart. “We want to get to the next level.”