“The thing I’m happy with is the cooperation so far, particularly walking into the situation so late, walking into a situation where no one knew what was going on and having them responding to what I’m asking them to do,” said Holcombe. “Right now what this team says they want to accomplish [is]… to get back to the conference final and they want to win it and they want to move on to nationals. My job now is to facilitate that. My job is to give them the tools, the information, the organization to get them there.”
He may get them there because he may be a new face around these parts, he certainly isn’t new to the world of soccer and he’s definitely well versed in coaching it. Holcombe has the experience, accolades and eye for talent that makes him an ideal and welcomed coach for the team.
Holcombe’s 15-year career in coaching high school, college and club soccer and even the Olympic development program has taken him to places such as Manchester Community College and Wesleyan University, both in Connecticut, where he worked as an assistant coach at the schools and a head coach for the woman’s team at the latter. He served as the assistant and then interim head coach of Post University’s division II men’s team in Waterbury, Conn., before heading off to Parish Hill high school’s girls’ varsity program.
Holcombe hails from Connecticut. Prior to assuming his position at PSU Hazleton, Holcombe coached the woman’s soccer team at Southern Vermont College. With every new school and every new team comes a new experience, because Holcombe says he coaches every squad differently depending on how he approaches their situation.
“Coaching is a mercenary profession. You’re always gonna have that one job that you really want but you always have to go to the next one. There could be the job that you love more than any other but for whatever reason it doesn’t work out and you have to move on. So you have to really let it go and take on the next one as the be all end all of your career,” Holocombe explained.
Holcombe has had his ups and downs throughout his tenure as a coach and has faced his share of challenges throughout his years, particularly at Parish Hill where he took a team with two wins in two years and improved their record to a four win season, a huge step by their standards before turning that step into a huge leap the following season.
“The last two years I was there we switched to a different conference. The conference we were in was pretty good. To get us four wins was a good thing. When we switched to a new conference, we played 24 conference games in two years. We won all 24, we won back to back championships and we only gave up one goal in all of those games. [T]here was a lot of improvement because the girls in the team bought into what I was doing, the way I did things, bought into the work that was required, and they did it and it paid off for them.”
That same kind of success could be awaiting the men’s soccer team if they’re willing to make the purchase and buy into what Coach Holcombe tries to do with the team in preparation for the upcoming season. Sure, the Parish Hill and Hazleton teams are separated by gender and age, but the will to win and be successful is the same for any competitor at any level as is the hunger and the drive to be best and to stand above the rest as champions once the season is all said and done.
Before the season gets underway, there are steps that have to be taken such as ensuring the returning players, freshman and transfer students build a rapport and the chemistry is evident on the field. When the season kicks off on Sept. 7th in an away game at Penn State Scranton, Hazleton’s men’s team will no doubt be ready to show everyone just how serious and determined they are to make this the season to remember. Holcombe, however, says not even the first game takes priority over the few practice sessions he has had with the team before the season starts.
“If we start looking all the way at the end of the season and saying: ‘Oh, well this is where we have to be,’ there’s a good chance we’re gonna neglect the little things we need to take care of for that first game. And if we start looking past the game that’s next on the schedule there’s a good chance that we’re gonna let things slide. We have to concentrate on what’s in front of us. Like for now I don’t even want them thinking about Scranton, I don’t want them thinking about conference finals, I want them concentrating on this practice right now: What are we working on? How do we improve?”
Improving for Holcombe involves understanding the types of people and personalities that have to be dealt with from the naturals, to those who need a bit of work to get where they need to be and from the people dedicated to the team and to the cause and those that have to be prodded in the right direction. He sees good things in the team and in their future if they apply everything that he’s taught them.
“They have the will; I see the will in them right now to get there. The vast majority of them have the tools, and with any kind of tool it’s always a matter of sharpening it, to make it the best tool as possible and they’re already doing the work and I can’t ask for them to do anything more than that.”