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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series with the new Sheridan College soccer coaches. Look for part two with women’s coach Stefan Skillman next week. The first season for Sheridan College soccer will be this fall.
SHERIDAN — It’s a big task, starting a new program, but Austin Albers seems up to it.
Growing up in Spearfish, S.D., soccer was his love from the age of four. He started all four years for his high school team, making All-State as a junior and senior. A scorer first, he led the team in goals and assists from his sophomore year on.
Even in describing his coaching philosophy, he admitted, it’s offensive: “I was always kind of a selfish goal-scorer type as a player, so my philosophy was, the best defense is a good offense, outscore the other team,” he said, smiling. “But, at the college level, in this region, you have to be solid at the back. My main focus there is we need to recruit a solid back line, you can always find midfielders that are high quality, and then go out and get some kids that can put some balls in the net.”
Albers has been tapped to lead the first season for Sheridan College men’s soccer this fall, and for that reason an exciting, fast-paced, perhaps even risky mindset may not be all-bad when trying to bring attention to a new program for prospective players and fans alike.
Even without that, interest in the program has been huge.
Albers has set up a Soccer Preview Day for Sunday, April 28 at the college to survey the masses. When he was hired, the emails had already piled up from interested local players that included anything from a high school player, former player who missed the game, or a JUCO player interested in a transfer.
“I had about 60 emails,” he said. “Since we don’t have a team, my goal is to bring all those who are interested out on the same day, so I can see how well they play together, evaluate them and rank them, and then start making offers based on those rankings.”
Albers is no stranger to the decision-making gauntlet of a post-high school kid. His prolific soccer career ended after his freshman season with Western Nebraska, where he played for their current coach and in SC’s Region IX conference. He led the team in goals playing right back, tying the school record, one that has since been broken.
A summer soccer knee injury forced him out of the game. He transferred, coaching volleyball at Black Hills State University where he graduated with his bachelor’s in exercise management in May 2012. Sheridan College brought him on as an assistant volleyball coach until he was hired as soccer coach.
“I am excited,” Albers said of his return to soccer. “I’m excited to be outside, to be out there on the field. I’ve been working with women for the last four years, so it will be a whole new dynamic to run the men’s side of things.”
While at first he wasn’t aware of the huge presence of the game in Wyoming, after attending a few games across the state this spring, he’s definitely impressed.
“The response from the local community, Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette, even down into Cheyenne, and further out has just been great,” he said. “Coaches working to get their kids up here, trying to help us getting started from a high school coach standpoint helps us out a lot.”
Recruiting-wise, as the college admitted when announcing the new programs in January and hiring coaches in late March, they’re a bit behind.
Clearly, the issue won’t be filling a team. Instead the challenge lies in sifting through the plethora of players to find the right team.
“The first thing I did when I got the job is I went after kids that I knew were out there,” Albers explained. “I’m also allowed four international scholarships, my goal is to go out and fill those four, bring some quality players from overseas to help out the local talent, kind of put a cool combination of players out there from all over the place.”
Sheridan College joins the Region IX conference, made up of seven teams including Western Nebraska. Laramie Community College was last fall’s top team as they posted an 11-0-1 mark, finishing 13-4-1 overall.
Albers is confident that the Generals can compete from day one.
“That’s my hope and that’s my main goal,” he said. “Going out and finding the best talent out there, trying not to settle. I know it’s late in the season and we’ve got to get all of these players. My main goal is to find talent, and put in the work so that we can be a competitive program the first year.”
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