It takes a coach with some real perspective not to decry a four-spot drop in the polls, any polls, after a successful week.
The Pima men’s soccer team didn’t fall off a cliff last week in its two season-opening contests. A 4-2 win over South Mountain Community College put them at 1-0, and the Aztecs followed that up with a respectable draw on a night with terrible weather on the road at Phoenix College.
And for that, that 1-0-1 start, they dropped from No. 7 to No. 11 in the NJCAA rankings.
Head coach Dave Cosgrove has seen enough over his nearly two decades at the helm of the Aztecs that this doesn’t surprise him, and he joined the Daily Star to talk about Pima’s start, its foundation and its future.
It’s absurd in the first place to have teams ranked without playing games first, but does it bother you to drop four spots in the polls after a good week?
A: “It is par for the course. Our preseason ranking was based completely — and they have to — on how you did before and the reputation you have. We get in the top 15 every year because we’re there every year. Our conference, there’s three or four in the top 25 alone. The problem is, they go strictly by record. Any time you actually get a blemish, you’re gonna drop. They can’t sit there and see who played. I knew we would drop.”
You’ve been successful at Pima for so long; is there a recipe for success, a blueprint you follow?
A: “I do have a blueprint. One, I surround myself with really good assistants, people who are qualified to be head coaches, and sharing the responsibility with them and trusting them, that has always been a staple for the program.
“Two is even with the way Pima has operated financially the last few years, the school and AD give us every chance to be successful. We’re playing at Kino (North Stadium), which is the best JC facility in the country; I mean, (in) March, April, guys who make $20 million are playing on it. And the other little thing Pima offers, is the AD goes above and beyond to make sure we get everything we need. We have the best training staff in the conference if not country. They’re getting almost professional-level athletics treatment every day. The upgrades in the program coincides with fact we’ve won the region two of the last four years. We’re just more healthy going into playoffs.
“But the biggest thing is myself and the coaches are very connected in the soccer community. Coaching 20 years here, I’ve done high school, I run Tucson Soccer Academy, I’ve been working with these kids and tracking these kids for 10 years. We have every kid in the city ID’d and followed. Some of these kids worked with us since they were 9 years old. Very seldom are we surprised by a local kid who doesn’t perform, or performs better than expected.”
That sounds like such a huge advantage, being able to establish that trust, being able to convince kids to perhaps ignore bigger offers…
A: “I would say that’s the backbone of what we created. Last year’s roster, we had three or four kids who should’ve been playing D-1, and some of them are now. The reason they came to Pima, to be quite honest is financial. Scholarships and athletic aid are making it easy at Pima. In soccer, a really good offer is hard to find — there’s just not that much money, even if they get a place like an Oregon State or UNLV. It costs 30,000 or 40,000 a year, and a good offer is half it.
“In two years, they have more opportunities, or better. And it’s the relationships that have been established; the parents and kids, I’m very connected to. Between experience with those kids or the fact I’ve been doing it so long, people entrust us to do the right thing with their kid.”
With all that access local talent, do you try to play a more veteran lineup and have players come along slowly?
A: “I like to have sophomores and we do try to keep most around. I can’t say we return every player, but it makes a big difference in terms of the expectations and training. When the kids roll into preseason and we do two-a-days, most kids, unless they’ve been exposed to high level coaching, just aren’t physically and mentally ready for it.”