STEVENS: Leadership a Key for UNM's 2009 Soccer Season
Aug. 6, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
No regrets. If you had to squeeze the University of New Mexico Lobos men's soccer team's goal for the 2009 season into two words, that short phrase would get the message across.
But in order to have no regrets, these Lobos have to do things at a high level and do it every minute of the season -- in games, on the practice field, in the weight room, and in the classroom.
A season of no regrets doesn't come easy and it can`t just be powerless words. It requires an intense work ethic, an intense focus, a player-driven push for excellence. It also requires a handful of committed leaders.
"Looking back at the end of this season, I want to be able to honestly say I did everything I could to help the team in leadership on the field and off the field," said senior Simon Ejdemyr. "Our seniors realize we have one chance left, one shot, one season, and we want to do everything right."
Said Lobo coach Jeremy Fishbein: "We have nine guys who are entering their fourth year of college competition. We have great leadership. I don't think we've had this type of leadership the past three years.
"There is a stronger commitment to results, but also a commitment to doing things right. We believe if you do things right, good things happen."
The Lobos soccer team under Fishbein has been outstanding each season. However, there is a bit of a make-up-for-last-year attitude within this group of Lobos.
They weren't happy with their 11-6-2 record in 2008. They weren't happy with a second-place finish in the Mountain Pacific Soccer Federation (MPSF). They weren't happy with not making the NCAA playoffs.
Old wounds often are best forgotten, but old wounds also can ache and motivate.
"We were extremely disappointed with last season, but it provided a great learning experience for the program," said Ejdemyr. "It highlighted how important leadership is. Nothing like that will ever happen again."
Leadership always is important, but if you glance at the Lobos' rugged 2009 schedule, that importance is amplified. Soccer also requires a strong player-driven element because the nature of the free-flowing game limits a coaches' control and management. Fishbein says he expects player-driven leadership from the get-go.
"We talk to them about the importance of leadership and the upperclassmen have bought into that need and have accepted that responsibility," he said.
"Our seniors are incredibly talented players and they are taking ownership in this season to make sure they go out the right way. They are setting the tone. Simon is a guy that everyone unanimously looks at as a leader, but he's not alone out there. These guys are all committed."
Ejdemyr, a 6-foot-5 defender, is a commanding presence as a Lobo leader in all aspects of the student-athlete profile. He is an All-MPSF defender and an academic All-American. He also is 23 and more than willing to accept the responsibilities and demands of leadership.
"I think (leadership) comes natural to me, but I`m also conscience of trying to be a leader because I don`t think the team had the leadership it needed in the past," he said.
"We all recognize that need. But leadership won`t be a problem this season. We have nine guys who have been here four years and they are all like seniors in their attitude.
"We know the type of season we want and we are willing to do the things to make that happen. Our commitment isn't just something we talk about. It's something we do in every team activity and something we will carry onto the practice field and the games. We plan to have passion about everything we do this season."