COAL CITY – It’s fairly safe to say that things will not be business as usual for the Coal City soccer team Thursday when it opens at home against Serena. Back under the guidance of coach Todd Painter for the first time since 2003, the Coalers are about to experience what can only be described as defibrillator pads.
“I’m going to change some things up,” Painter said. “It may ruffle some feathers, but I’ve been saying that when things are down, you have to change things up.”
One of those things may be to move players around – including returning goaltender Chase Mincey.
“During camp a couple of weeks back, I had Chase Mincey tell me that he plays goal. I got the chance to watch him for the first time,” Painter said. “Then later on I was watching the team do drills in the field and, to be honest, I really liked what I saw in the field.
“So, I asked him how long he got on the field and he said ‘Not very.’ That’s when I told him he needed to be comfortable with the fact that he’s probably not going to be in the goal all of the time. Because I saw something I liked and want to see him in the field.”
It doesn’t mean Mincey lost his job in goal. It simply means that fans of Coal City can expect the unexpected this year as Painter rips up the kitchen sink and throws it onto the field.
“It’s always good to try new things,” senior Andrew Elledge said. “I know the guys want to do that, specifically the kids on defense who want to get the chance to prove themselves on offense. I think it’s good for people to be able to play multiple positions.”
If nothing else, that kind of thing changes the culture and attitude right away.
“I definitely think attitude is a big thing. It’s something I think we lacked last year,” Elledge said. “But a lot of it is skill sets that we haven’t been taught from an early age. So, it’s going to take a couple of years to build the program back up to what it was a while ago. But we want to build our skills set and our attitude and move toward a winning season.”
Right from the start, Painter said he had reason to feel optimistic about the coming season.
“So far, I’ve been very pleased. They seem to be eager and they are very attentive,” Painter said. “Here we are the first day of practice and the kids are 45 minutes early. They want to be here. They want to help out, and I think they are eager to turn this thing around.”
“I’m kind of excited about the season. The upcoming juniors have a really good class, and I’m excited to work with them,” Elledge said. “Though the seniors look good, too. I’m happy that we’re finally getting there. I think we’ll have a good shot, especially on offense to build something that we really haven’t had.”
And the Coal City defense this year?
“Our defense is really strong but it seems that the offense has had trouble finishing,” Elledge said. “We can have a good offense. I think this year’s team is going to be one that takes better shots and will work the ball better.”
In addition to a change in culture and attitude, part of the reason for the drop off in Coal City’s record in the last couple of years is the schedule has simply gotten stronger.
“Wilmington had joined when I was finishing up and they have obviously grown and gotten stronger,” Painter said. “All of the area programs have grown and gotten stronger, so it has become more competitive, too.
“But to me, anybody can beat anyone. If you take a team and build them up to be ready for the game, you don’t know what can happen until its over. You can take a weaker team, either down in numbers or in skill, and if you mentally prepare yourselves, you can hang in there.”
Which is what the Coalers are striving to do this fall.
“In the past several years, we’ve never had more than six wins in a season, so it would be nice to win more than six games. Also, we like to beat Wilmington and Braidwood,” Elledge said.
“Beat our biggest competitors, that would be huge for us. Of course, the goal is always to advance past the regional, but right now I think our main focus should be beating teams like Wilmington and Braidwood and getting past that six-win barrier and keep building.”