By Melissa Wronzberg
A year ago, he was on the field, helping lead the Rams to a third-place finish. Now, Markus Molder studies video; pausing and playing clips from the last game, picking out important parts of the game to show the players.
When Molder isn’t working towards finishing his arts and contemporary studies degree, he is helping the Ryerson men’s soccer team as their video co-ordinator, after joining associate coach Filip Prostran’s staff as an assistant.
“Coaching is amazing and sometimes I think I like it more than playing,” said Molder. “It’s a special feeling you get when your advice results in a player’s success – it’s like you’re still scoring the goals when your work with the team helps them win.”
Molder, who played for the Rams from 2008 to 2013, finished his fifth year last season, topping off his career by being just the second Ryerson athlete to ever be named to the Candian Interuniversity (CIS) All-Canadian second team. Molder was also an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East all-star on three separate occasions.
On the women’s side, another former Rams all-star was added to the coaching staff.
Tessa Dimitrakopoulos, who scored 27 of her 32 OUA goals in three years with Ryerson – the most in program history —worked with bench boss Kevin Souter as an assistant coach in a striker-assistant role this past season. Dimitrakopoulos, who has coached for the past seven years, started with summer camps and worked her way up to become the head coach of Unionville’s under-10 girls team.
Molder, who also coached an under-14 boy team in North York, says he tries to blend in, even in his new role.
“These are guys that I went out with at night and did the weirdest stuff with,” Molder said. “Now I’ve come into a role where I’m telling them what’s up. Knowing this, I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I have no intention of acting like I’m above them.”
The team sees that he isn’t trying to act above them and respect him and look forward to hearing his advice.
“He has been great with working with anyone and everyone on whatever technical or tactical aspects [that] require work,” said former teammate, and now one of Molder’s pupils, Jacob O’Connor.
Not only is Molder valuable because he connects with the players, but because he has come through the program, had success on the field, and is able to show the players what they can accomplish with the opportunities they are being given by Ryerson.
“Because he’s such a high-level [player] everything we’re teaching, he’s the first to say ‘hey guys, I went through it, look at me,’ ” Rams athletic director and head coach Ivan Joseph said. “One of the advantages is [Molder] is still hip and cool. “When you’re bald, fat and grey, you’re on your way out. He knows how they are feeling and how their legs are feeling and when we need to push or need to back off.”
That relationship has translated to a historic season on the field this year for the men’s program. The No. 2 nationally-ranked Rams (12-0-2) went undefeated in the regular season for the first time ever, and after a dramatic 3-2 extra time victory over downtown rival University of Toronto in the quarterfinals, Ryerson will host the OUA Final Four at Birchmount stadium this weekend. The Rams face the Windsor Lancers on Saturday in the semifinals, where a win will give them a chance at Ryerson’s first OUA championship in any sport, and qualify them for the CIS national championship.
Though the women’s season was more of a building year – the Rams finished 3-11-2 and in seventh in the OUA East – Souter is hoping that the fact that Dimitrakopoulos is a very experienced player, who hasn’t played with any members of this current Rams team, that they will look up to her as a role model in the hopes of reaching the same success as the men’s squad.
“Tessa’s got a lot of experience within Ontario University Athletics and she also brings CIS national experience, having been there with Ottawa,” Souter said of Dimitrakopoulous’ final season with the Gee-Gees last fall, where she won an OUA title and reached the CIS semifinals. “She is a competitor, she’s a fighter and she’ll bring that element to our practice environment and to our games.”
While the two former Rams have finished their playing careers on high notes, Molder and Dimitrakopoulos look to continue their journeys by learning the game from a somewhat different angle as they begin the challenge of reaching their goals of becoming elite coaches.
Molder’s dream is to be the “best coach in the country” while Dimitrakopoulos would like to one day become a university bench boss herself.
“Anytime we have an alumnus who wants to come back and give to our program, that’s something that says about what a great experience they had when they were here.” Joseph said.