Club soccer coach, player model for all

By Brian Klein

Before its soccer match against the University of Illinois at Springfield’s club team last season, first-year coach and fourth-year player Dan Malloy took to the chalkboard and listed the four things his team needed to do to ensure success. Score. Shut out. Win. All of the above.

It was a joke. And it wasn’t.

With a mix of light-hearted and serious motives, Malloy’s game plan proved effective as the team went on to beat UIS 2-0.

“It’s definitely serious,” the defender and first-year graduate student said. “These are the things we strive for.”

Now in his second year as coach, Malloy still uses the simplistic Four Keys in his pre-game talks.

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As a player and coach for Illinois’ men’s club soccer team, Malloy has responsibilities beyond the pre-game pep talk. As coach, Malloy runs team practices and assumes basic managerial roles.

“It fits into my personality very well, to be able to manage people, to coach people, and to assume those responsibilities,” said Malloy, who considers himself a passionate and vocal leader.

The club (21-0-1) practices three to four times a week and plays its games on weekends, usually using Fridays to travel.

“I have to basically prepare in my mind what we’re going to do, what drills we’re going to run, [and] what we need to work on from last weekend’s game,” Malloy said about running practice.

Malloy said coaching the team, as opposed to just playing for it, does not take much time out of his schedule. The added responsibilities are “more of a mental thing than anything,” he said. Along with planning practices, he has to worry about starting lineups and substitutions. While these responsibilities do not keep him on the field longer than anyone else, they do keep him busy.

“He has good time-management skills,” said sweeper and fifth-year player Kenny Guevara. “To juggle all that stuff, he’s got to be on top of it.”

Malloy said one of the most difficult things that is required of him is trying to manage substitutions while playing in a game.

“I’m on the field at the same time that I’m trying to get people in and out,” Malloy said. “I have to play, as well as think about who’s tired, who’s playing well and who’s not. I have to try to manage that all in my mind.”

Managing substitutions means dividing playing time among a roster of 24 players. Inevitably, not everyone on the team who wants to play will receive the time they think they deserve.

“Everyone wants to play,” Malloy said. “Sometimes the guy you might not put in might be one of your good friends.”

While a player may not be satisfied with the amount of playing time he gets, it rarely becomes a problem for the coach. When a player has taken issue with a decision Malloy made in the past, he has done it with respect. Even though he is only a few years older than his youngest teammates, Malloy said there have been no challenges to his authority.

“The respect is there,” the second-year coach said. “When I say something, it’s done.”

While he ultimately has the final say in matters, Malloy often confers with other seniors on the team. Guevara said that he and a core group of seniors set precedent at practice, leading their younger teammates by example. The seniors on the team usually set the standard for expected behavior and will generally resolve any issue a teammate might have.

Malloy, who described himself as blunt and vocal, will address a teammate’s behavior if he needs to. He said it’s important to approach every player the same way.

“I think being honest and upfront with every player on the team is the best way to deal with it,” Malloy said. That means he has to treat guys he has played with for years, like Guevara and senior midfielder Rickie Partyka, the same way as freshman teammates.

Malloy points to the program’s tradition of success as a reason for the high level of respect and cooperation among the team. Malloy said that the history of the team helps cultivate an expected behavior.

“A lot of the things we do keep with tradition,” said Partyka.

One of those traditions is winning. The club finished the 2004 season undefeated and has not lost a game yet this fall. After finishing its regular season and posting an undefeated weekend at Regionals, the team qualified for this year’s Nationals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., held Nov. 15-17.

“We want to win and the only way to do that is to have organization,” Malloy said.

Partyka, Malloy’s assistant coach, said that coaches normally use what they learn through playing from their predecessors. Malloy is no different. He uses what he has picked up from his years as just a player on the squad and relies on the team principles that have been cultivated over the years.

“It’s a pretty easy job for the most part,” he said.

Both to give himself a rest from the responsibilities and allow someone else the chance to act as coach, Malloy let Partyka run practice for a week earlier in the season. Partyka said it ended up being a lot of extra work.

“To be honest, I don’t know how he does it,” said Partyka.