With the Longhorns recently starting their spring practices, UT women's soccer head coach Chris Petrucelli took the time to talk with TexasSports.com about the importance of the off-season to his team and what he is looking forward to in the upcoming 2006 campaign.
Why is spring practice so important to the soccer program? "We have the shortest preseason of any sport in the NCAA. It's important for the freshmen because it's really the first chance they get to prove themselves physically. Our freshmen arrive in August and two weeks later, the season begins, so they don't ever really get a chance to practice like this during the fall. For everyone else, it's the time of year they get to improve their technical abilities with the ball. It's essentially our preseason even though it's a long way off from when our season begins."
What is your approach to practice in the off-season and how is it different than fall practice? "The spring season for us is a time to work on improving individual players and we're really not as concerned with how we play as a team. The fall is the opposite of that. We focus on what the team needs to do to be successful and there isn't as much time to work on individual skills."
What are some goals you have for your team during the spring and looking ahead to the upcoming season? "For the spring, we want to make all of our players better at heading the ball so we dominate space in the air better. We also want to make them better at keeping possession of the ball when it's on the ground. My hope is that both of these will roll into the fall. Being better with the ball on the ground and better in the air will definitely be important for us next season."
Are there certain things that you focus on more in the off-season? "In addition to working on improving individual skills, we push the players hard since we're not as concerned about having them well rested and able to have peak performances during games. We're not afraid to push them physically in the spring a compared to the fall, when we have to spend a lot of time recovering from games."
Is there anything specific you are hoping to improve with almost your full starting lineup returning? "I think we're going to be a lot better and stingier defensively. Just having an extra year of experience will make a big difference for us after starting so many freshmen last year. The biggest jump we see in players is between their freshman and sophomore year. It is an obvious result of having the spring to practice."
What are you hoping to achieve next season? "I think we go into every season with wanting to win the National Championship. We talk a lot as a team about winning championships, be it conference or any other championship we can win. That's always our goal and it should always be the goal of our program."
Is there anything special you do as a coach to keep your players motivated in the off-season? "Our training is more playing than anything. Still, we try to add in some drills once a week in order to break it up and keep their skills sharp."