Skillman takes the reins of a brand new women’s program at Sheridan College after having risen through coaching staffs at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and, most recently at NAIA Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D.
“Within those two years, my job was to be an assistant to the men’s and women’s coach,” he said. “So it kind of helped me understand the landscape of soccer in this part of the country, how it is almost like a small community; once you get in you kind of get to know everybody.”
As a player, Skillman was a goalie, eventually playing three years at Grace Bible before moving on to help the program as a coach to a No. 10 NCAA Division II ranking in 2011. A year later he moved to Dakota Wesleyan, where the team finished second in their conference and carried a second team All-Conference goalkeeper. He has coached high school girls and club girls teams along with collegiate men, and moving to Sheridan, he says that “small community” of soccer carries west into Wyoming.
Specifically, the sport has the same make-up and areas of emphasis.
“It’s new to me (Wyoming) but it relates a lot to South Dakota,” he said. “Not every college has soccer, but high schools are the main areas for where soccer gets pushed, and then you have your youth soccer associations that do younger kids soccer.
“Out here you’re going to have a good mix of kids from the area and then you’re going to have to bring in outside kids to fill the team,” he added.
He plans to set up a camp for Sheridan High School girls in August, to be run annually, to build the program’s relationship with the high school.
Plus, he’s already getting a head start on recruiting for next year, attending the Rushmore soccer club camp in Rapid City this week, and later this summer more camps at Montana State University-Billings and the University of Wyoming.
“For this year, recruiting is almost wrapped up,” Skillman said. “With about four spots left, we’re talking to a girl from Alaska and one from Arizona, and hopefully that will set us up well.”
He’s added five Sheridan girls who have graduated in the last three years from SHS, who will no doubt make things easier on a new coach in a new landscape.
Sheridan College will be the seventh team in the Region IX soccer conference this fall. Laramie County Community College and Otero Junior College each posted 9-1 league records last season, both ranked in the NJCAA top 25.
Laramie is the conference powerhouse and was a national championship returner last November, ranked No. 7 entering the tournament.
For Otero, who was 15-2 overall, it was their first season on the field, proving that immediate success isn’t out of the question.
“It will be a challenge,” Skillman admitted.
“I think we’re going to have to teach a lot but we’re going to just have to play aggressive and be physical. I’ve talked to a couple coaches in the area, and they’ve said that once you play your first game, it’s pretty much how everybody in the conference plays.
“Hopefully we can play a little bit differently and surprise some people.”