Two brains acting as one body is the co-head coach approach this season
Rob McCaffrey and Astrid Baecker have taken over as the University of Regina Women’s Soccer Program Co-Head Coaches (Interim) following the announcement that Bob Maltman, Head Coach for 14 years, has stepped down. In an interview with the Carillon via email, McCaffrey and Baecker wrote on memories with Maltman, how to foster academic success in student-athletes, and the direction they’ll be taking the team in this season.
How long (or how many seasons) have you spent coaching with Bob Maltman?
Baecker: “I spent a few seasons as Bob Maltman’s Assistant Coach with the U12 Sask Soccer South Program in the early ‘00s and joined Coach Maltman’s U of R Coaching Staff in 2016.”
McCaffrey: “I joined the Cougar soccer program in the fall of 2013. I was initially appointed as the goalkeeping coach but was appointed assistant coach once Sebastian Harenberg (former assistant) left the program in 2015.”
Maltman was kept on as head coach for 14 years and had a fairly successful run; are there any specific accomplishments or events you’ll remember him for in the future?
Baecker: “As an alumna of the program it was a proud moment when the 2012 team defeated U of S in the post season to advance to the Canada West Final Four. It was also fantastic that he was named Canada West Coach of the Year that same season.”
McCaffrey: “The true accomplishments come from the long-lasting relationships we have built with the student athletes, and to see them go on and become amazing leaders in our communities. I know Bob has stayed in touch with many of the former soccer players, and something I appreciate is how he has played a critical role in each of their developments as athletes and as people. I will also hold near and dear to my heart the friendships/relationship that we have fostered and grown over these eight years. The countless late night hotel tactical sessions to the witty banter and support.”
The academic standing of student-athletes on this team has consistently been noteworthy, and Maltman’s approach has been credited for it in the past. Can you explain what his approach to academics was and how he supported the student-athletes he coached in their academics?
McCaffrey: “This is a difficult question to address as the academic support portion has largely been a role I have taken on, but I do credit Bob with the support and the encouragement to initiate this process. As a former adult educator, Bob really values the holistic approach that our student-athletes employed. We not only had one of the highest academic averages on campus and often the highest percentage of Academic All-Canadians, but […] we also instituted a study hall where first year student athletes meet with myself weekly to prepare for papers/exams and develop study habits. We have set up study rooms when on the road. Our team is often in the student-athlete study hall and our academic successes are ingrained in our team culture. This has been a process we have had to work hard at, but Bob has provided the oversight and the encouragement to progress this portion to the effect that in the past eight years, our team academic average has improved over twelve per cent.”
Baecker: “Coach Maltman always made himself available for student athletes to ask him about academics and he was always genuinely interested in their academic success. He was often found walking up and down the aisles of the bus on road trips checking on what everyone was reading or what assignment they were working on. He was always willing to proofread a paper and offer suggestions for improvements.”
Which aspects of Maltman’s coaching strategies do you plan on continuing after his departure, and are there any new ideas that the both of you are planning on implementing?
McCaffrey: “We are very excited to reconnect with the local soccer community and strengthen those relationships. We are very happy to be able to move forward with the Junior Cougar program where we can support soccer athletes of various ages in and around our community. We feel this opportunity will improve the local athletes, provide needed support, and improve our chances at recruiting and keeping local talent. In terms of programs that we are continuing from Bob, we will not only continue but extend the community engagement work and the focal point of being a program that follows the University’s mantra of ‘as one who serves.’”
Are you two planning to split up the duties of head coach between you (and if so, how), or will you be working together in most aspects going forward?
McCaffrey: “The way we have positioned it is that we have two brains but are acting as one body in a collective approach that will aid in this transition period and enable us the best opportunity to be successful on and off the pitch this fall.”
Baecker: “A collaborative approach will be taken when addressing the duties of Head Coach. It’s an opportunity to move the program forward through this transition period in the most effective way possible for the players and the program.”
How have the student-athletes reacted to Maltman’s announcement?
Baecker: “There was a fair bit of shock and surprise when Coach Maltman made his announcement.”
McCaffrey: “Knowing Bob and how important family is I know the decision was right for him, but after putting in so much time/energy to help lead the team through a tough phase with COVID and losing last season it took everyone back when he announced it. That said, the girls have been fantastic and are eager to move forward […] This year we have 28 players on the roster and 17 of those are first year student-athletes so the group is young and eager.”
When is your first game of the season? How are you feeling about the upcoming season with the team you have currently?
McCaffrey: “Training camp will begin on August 5 with orientation – we quickly get into classroom and on-field sessions after testing. We have extended our training camp to ensure our athletes are returned to sport in a safe manner, especially after being off for nearly two years. Training camp will have daily sessions, and multiple days of two and even three sessions a day. We are heading to Lethbridge to play the U of L and Lethbridge College in preseason at the end of August (27-28-29) and will be hosting Brandon University on September long weekend here in Regina at the U of R turf (September 4-5). Our regular season begins the following weekend away in Winnipeg where we play the University of Manitoba Bisons in back-to-back games before hosting our home opener vs University of Winnipeg on Sept 18 and 19 (noon at the U of R turf) both games.”
Baecker: “This is an exciting group of players that I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with. There is a great depth of talent and youth that will not only make this group exciting to work with this year but will be a fun challenge moving forward.”