Coach explains affects of decision

Thursday, Oct. 25, soccer coach Dusty Buell made the decision to not play the senior varsity players at their last regular-season game.

Q: How did your decision to sit the seniors last Thursday affect the regional game?

A: I think it breathed some new life into this program. We have had two separate weeks this year where we played three games a week. Soccer is not a game that was made to be playing that much, that often. Kids need time to rest and recuperate even when they are not injured, for injury prevention. This year’s schedule was very odd because of some conflicts with stadiums and other schools, we played on more Mondays this year than the past five years combined. Every season of every sport starts to get to a grind towards the end of the season. Some of the multi-sport athletes start peeking their head over the wall to the next sport, and a new beginning and new start. There is always more energy at practices the first week of the season than there is towards the end of the regular season. So it is our job as coaches to find ways to ensure that the same energy from day 1, is the same energy you get all the way through the season. I do feel that having a week to rest and enjoy themselves as students has made this playoff-like a new season, and they came out fired up and ready to play. I expect that same energy throughout this playoff run.

Q: Tell me how you feel about the decision.

A: Here’s the thing. If you want me to get real and candid about that decision, I went home after that game and felt like I got punched in the gut. There was an uneasiness about what just happened, that made me second guess myself because we had an opportunity to have a game between the #2 and #3 ranked teams in the state. But instead, it was an empty feeling. I called their coach and let him know what was coming and he let me know it was their Senior Night and he was going to play his best 11. So I respect his decision and the game went exactly how I thought it would. However, there were some positives, in that our younger guys got to see what one of the best teams in the state looked like. It is going to be those boys that I am going to lean on to lead this team in the coming years to advance this program. I think it will give our boys the added incentive to train hard between now and then, and they understand where they need to be if they want to take this program to the next level.

Q: If you could go back, would you do anything differently?

A: No. With what is one the line this week, there is no other choice in my mind. It is a very rare occurrence that our last game of the season is rather meaningless. It has never happened since I have been coach. We are always playing for something, a higher seed, a home playoff game, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But this year how things lined up, we already wrapped up the #1 seed in the State, and there was nothing to play for at that time. It could not have improved our standings or where we played. Couple that with what happened last year when we played them, I lost a starter to injury, and Trinity lost their two best players, both left the game with knee injuries, and ended up having to get surgery. They were not the same team after playing us last year when they advanced to state. Having those images burned into my head, was one of the most important reasons to sit some of my players. These boys have worked so hard, and have put together the best season in the history of Augusta Soccer, they brought this school its first league championship. For them to have the chance to not be able to play in the post-season is not something I could have or want to live with, over a meaningless game. The fans wanted to see it, the newspaper reporters wanted to see it, in my heart I wanted to see it. But there is no pressure too great that would ever make me change my mind in doing what I feel is best for my players and my team. I love them. That’s the bottom line, they trust me to do what is best for them and this team, and I make those decisions and I am prepared to live with the backlash and consequences because trust and respect is paramount to a coach over any win. They know I have their backs, now and forever.

Q: How did the decision affect your players?

A: For the most part it didn’t affect them in any way. If my players weren’t on board with the decision, it would not have happened. If my Seniors came to me and said they wanted to play that game straight up and were adamant about it, we would have had that conversation together as a unit. This wasn’t going to be something I dropped on them and closed the discussion. That is not who we are, we do not operate like that. We had discussions leading up to that week, we talked after we saw the results from around the league when we saw we couldn’t be caught. We made the decision together because that is what it means when we are a family. That’s what families do. And sometimes it is more than about saying you are a family, your decisions and your actions have to prove that to these guys. If there are underclassmen on the team that disagree with that decision, their minds might change as they become seniors and have some opportunity to truly learn the culture of this program. Those guys have 3 and 4 years to do something special in this program. For our Seniors, they have a matter of weeks left until their season, and for some of them, their careers are over. That finality can and will change opinions on decisions like these.