Sept. 14, 2019 — “Soccer is more like a jazz solo,” Siuslaw Soccer Coach Londi Tomaro said. “They’re just going off the cuff, just playing. They’re not following anything off the musical sheet. It’s kind of the same. You have a set idea of what you’re doing, but you have to make things work in that specific situation.”
Tomaro was talking about her approach to coaching the pilot soccer program at Siuslaw High School, which has won its first two games of the season.
“That was very, very exciting,” Tomaro said of the win. “We didn’t win any games last year, and it was really exciting to win.”
But more exciting for Tomaro was how the students played together on the team.
“When I put every substitute in, they made plays on the field and worked as a team with everybody else,” she said. “That was just really fantastic to see. They’re on the bench, they’re joking with each other, they’re cheering each other on. And then they get out there on the field and they’re making plays with everybody else.”
That speaks to Tomaro’s approach to coaching soccer, “especially because we’re building a program,” she said. “We’re not at a place where people are competing for slots on a team. Maybe down the road our program will be at that place. But that’s not where we are right now.”
Instead, Tomaro is focusing on building good players.
“Just because somebody who comes out is not a starter, or a power player right now, doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential with a little work,” she said. “I don’t want those kids to be discouraged and stop playing. It’s really important to me that they’re a team.”
The idea for the current Siuslaw team started last year after Tomaro approached the district. She had been on the board of the Siuslaw Youth Soccer Association (SYSA), which had seen large and growing enrollments over the last few years.
“Each season we have around 200 kids in the youth league,” she said, but the majority of the players were from elementary and middle school. The high school-aged players numbered 14, but they did not get a lot of chances to play.
“Because of OSAA rules, club teams cannot play high school teams, so it was difficult for us to find people for those kids to play,” Tomaro explained.
There were a few clubs, including one from Coos Bay. Sometimes the players would scrimmage against the adults.
“It was difficult,” she said. “In the spring, we sometimes had the Newport JV team. It wasn’t their association year, and a parent could bring a group of them down to play. So, then we decided it’s time to approach the school about getting a program in the school.”
Tomaro, her colleagues and players presented the idea of making a JV and varsity team to the district, pointing out how the kids enjoyed the program and how the club’s strong numbers showed a district program could be sustainable.
“And they said, ‘Okay, we’re willing to give it a try,’” Tomaro said.
She ended up being hired by the district to coach a pilot JV team, which is a boon to the players confidence.
“It says to them, ‘You’re in a real program. You’re the same as all the other athletes at the school.’
Tomaro’s coaching style stems from her own experiences with soccer, which she has been playing since she was eight years old.
“From the get go, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I played all through high school on the varsity squad. My college didn’t have a program, but I played on the club team and we were in Portland. I learned a lot playing with girls who were just better than me. And then I just kept playing as an adult because it’s a sport I really enjoy.”
Tomaro is a defender on the field, getting a thrill from making a good steal, taking the ball from someone and making a play up the field to her teammates. It’s the teamwork that’s the most important factor, said Tomaro.
“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “I play on the backline. I can do footwork in the backfield and get around people and pass it up the field, but if you get me in front of the goal? Sometimes I score, but I get tense and anxious. And I much prefer the person in the back, shutting things down and moving things up the field.”
And it’s that philosophy that is driving Tomaro’s approach to coaching the team. When reading up on soccer coaching styles, she realized that coaching soccer isn’t about the plays.
“When the game starts, the coaches have a lot less influence on what actually happens out there on the field,” she said. “We don’t call plays. We put the kids in position, but then it’s up to them to make things work on the field.”
Soccer abhors a micromanaging coach.
“If you’re waiting for me to see what’s happening on the field, and tell you where to go, you’re going to be too late,” Tomaro said. “You have to see what’s happening on the field and go where you need to go. And then you’ll be there at the right time.”
So instead of drafting strong plays, Tomaro works on building strong players.
“I think a large part of my job is training them to trust each other,” she said. “For them to be a team and enjoy each other, which leads to trusting each other on the field. That’s where our program will succeed. Soccer teams fall apart when a player doesn’t trust their teammates, and thinks they have to do their job for them. They’re then not in their own position to do their own job. They all play their spots, they do their jobs, they trust their teammates to do their job.
“That’s when it all works together.”
Siuslaw will be on the field Sept. 26, at Marist, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Siuslaw’s only home match will be Oct. 12, when the Viks host Waldport JV at Miller Park, beginning at 10 a.m.