Last year, he was in the pros. This year, he’s on the Ryerson men’s soccer team working as a player and a coach. How did that happen? Sean Tepper reports
Being a head coach is stressful: organizing practices, preparing game plans, managing players’ personalities — it’s a lot to handle. Now imagine having all the responsibilities of a university head coach in addition to being the athletic director of an up-and-coming university program that is in the midst of a massive expansion.
Now that’s quite the juggling act, one that athletics director and head soccer coach Ivan Joseph has to deal with on a daily basis, and it simply cannot continue.
Enter Kevin Souter.
The 26-year-old Scotsman is easily the most experienced, accomplished, and oldest member of the Ryerson men’s soccer team. What makes Souter the most intriguing player on the Ram’s roster is not the fact that Ivan Joseph coached him at Graceland University, but that he’s being groomed to take over for Joseph as head coach of the team as early as next year.
“I’m not sure if there is any other [player- coach] in Canada,” said Joseph with a laugh.
There has always been a fine line between coach and player, but that line has been muddled for Souter, playing as a midfielder and acting as an assistant coach at the same time.
“I am coming in a position where I want to learn as much as I can to eventually become a head coach,” explained Souter. “At this point it’s a good blend because being on the field you can see the guys, how they are moving, where their fitness levels are at and where they should be in relation to [where you want them to be].”
Souter is a good candidate for the player- coach role because he knows what Joseph is trying to build. He came to America by way of Scotland in 2005 and became a second-team All-American en route to an NAIA national championship. In 2008, he turned pro and played Major League Soccer (MLS) for a few years.
“Ivan has a proven method for success and he’s trying to bring that here. We share similar values so he knows the team will be in good hands,” said Souter.
In May 2008, the Kansas City Wizards signed Souter and he made his MLS debut against David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy. After playing in Kansas City for two years, Souter was waived by the Wizards during the 2010 pre-season.
“My time [in Kansas City] was good and bad. I was hampered by injuries and never really recovered,” explained Souter. “I was kind of forced out. They came in with new ideas and I didn’t really fit in.”
Souter was claimed off of waivers by the Seattle Sounders, but never signed a contract with them because their front office was targeting other international players.
“I was a little disheartened,” admitted Souter. “Ivan has always been a good friend. I talked to him one day and he [told] me that if you don’t plan on pursuing soccer then there will always be a position [at Ryerson] for you.”
When Souter first came to Ryerson, he said that it was strictly as a coach. That all changed during a pre-season game, when the Rams squared off against the University of Saskatchewan. Ryerson was down a few players, and needed Souter to play as a midfielder in order to have enough players.
“It kind of ignited the spark a little bit,” he said. He now takes three classes through the Chang School to maintain his eligibility.
Joseph hopes Souter can teach his players a thing or two by playing with them.
“I think that we have several players on the team that can kick a ball harder than Kevin, that have a better first touch than Kevin and that are faster than Kevin. What we don’t have is a player that has a work ethic like Kevin, that is as fit as Kevin and is as passionate about training and preparing as Kevin,” said Joseph.
Right now, the plan is for Souter to be head coach for the 2011 season with Joseph staying on as an assistant until 2012.
“I have a lot of experience but I still have a lot to learn,” he admits. “[But] I think Ryerson has the potential to become one of the best teams in the [conference].”
Photo: Marta Iwanek