By Mark Carlson, Special to Seminoles.com
Now is the time to celebrate Florida State women’s soccer.
It’s the time to smile and brag about a program that is entering just its 20th season as a varsity sport on the Tallahassee campus—a small contrast in time compared to other major soccer programs across the country. And Garnet and Gold fans can sing loudly the accomplishments of Mark Krikorian, who enters his 10th season as head coach when the Seminoles open their season Friday, August 22 at 7 pm in a home match against Portland.
Consider these facts…
· In the first 19 seasons, FloridaState has appeared in seven College Cups—soccer’s version of the basketball Final Four. Those trips span the last 11 years and are the second most nationally in that span.
· Two of those teams advanced to the finals last year as FSU suffered a heart breaking loss falling 1-0 in overtime to UCLA.
· Since 2000, the Seminoles have been invited to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, played in 12 Sweet 16’s and advanced to the quarterfinal round nine years in a row—the nation’s longest active streak.
· In the Atlantic Coast Conference which most observers consider the premier league in the country for Women’s Soccer, Florida State has snared two league championships (2011 and 2013) and finished as the regular season champion two more times (2009 and 2012). Only two other schools in the ACC have won multiple conference championships.
· Individual awards are also plentiful. The last 11 years have produced 17 All-American selections for 14 different athletes. The Seminoles can boast four Honda Award finalists, three Capital One Academic All-Americans, two national Freshmen of the Year award winners and a MAC Hermann Trophy winner.
It is easy to borrow a line from a recent PGA Tour public service announcement which carried the tag line “These Guys are Good.”
Substitute the word “Ladies” for guys and it easily describes the talented rosters of Florida State soccer since it opened the first season back in 1995 with a 4-0 loss to rival Florida.
Krikorian, however, does not want the program’s success on the field to overshadow the accomplishments away from the pitch.
“Our program is about more than just wins and losses,” he says. “Our players accomplish a lot off the field, too. Academics and what we do in the community are also important. Our players understand they have an obligation to give back to the community.”
The foundation for the Seminoles’ program was built by the first head coach Heather Kerby-Nelson and later Patrick Baker, who was in charge for six years prior to Krikorian’s arrival. Krikorian and his staff have built on that foundation in a manner that has been recognized at all levels.
“Mark and his staff have brought the program to an elite level,” says Cindy Schofield, FSU’s first two-time All-ACC honoree in school history, who was recruited by Baker. “He has established an environment that the best players want to play for Florida State. The environment in Tallahassee is almost perfect for a student-athlete, not just soccer but all sports.”
Kassey Kallman, who completed her eligibility last year and was just the second Seminole to earn Capital One Academic All-American distinction, elaborates more on Schofield’s analysis of the program.
“I don’t think I could have picked a better school for me,” Kallman said. “It was everything Mark told me it would be in the recruiting process. He challenged me to be successful on and off the field. I respect his professionalism. I sometimes wish I had four more years in Tallahassee but being at Florida State prepared me for the pro league (she presently plays for FC Kansas City in the National Women’s Soccer League).”
Krikorian does not limit his recruiting base. This year’s roster is dotted with players from seven different countries. Outside the United States the roster has players from England, Iceland, Ireland, Finland, Japan and Germany. The roster also includes a player from Tallahassee and another from Panama City. Others hail from California, Arizona, Oregon and New Jersey.
“Soccer is a world game,” Krikorian says. “I don’t care if the players are from Tallahassee, Thomasville (GA) or Helsinki. If she can play at this level and is a good person, I want her as part of the Florida State program.”
A look at Krikorian’s passport shows his commitment to the global game. In the last few months he has watched players in France, Finland and Costa Rica.
“I have the best job in the country,” Krikorian says. “The administration has been just great for the program and is very supportive.”
Krikorian does not limit his knowledge of FSU to just his program. Staffers are quick to tell stories about how he finds time in the spring to visit the baseball press box and later can be seen on the football practice fields watching RickTrickett coach the offensive line or OdellHaggins tutor the defensive line. He is a huge supporter of Jimbo Fisher and the football program and an admirer of baseball head coach Mike Martin and former head football coach Bobby Bowden. His office contains a signed football from Bowden plus two hand written letters supporting the soccer program.
“My wife and I were in Pasadena for the national championship game this past January,” Krikorian says. “I am a big time fan of college football and what Jimbo has accomplished. Those 85,000 fans that are in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturdays support the soccer program and all the other sports with the money they generate.
“All coaches should have the opportunity to visit Coach Bowden and Coach Martin. They are legends and their accomplishments on and off the field will never be duplicated.”
Krikorian taught for seven years at the high school level after graduating from tiny St. Anselm College in 1983. That teaching has carried over into coaching. He does not solely rely on his players’ athletic ability. He emphasizes the mental aspect and constantly pushes team concepts.
Prior to each season, every player and staff member is required to read “THE FIVE DYSFUNCTIONS OF A TEAM” written by Patrick Lencioni. The five concepts outlines by Lencioni include…
Absence of Trust
Fear of Conflict
Lack of Commitment
Avoidance of Accountability
Inattention to Results
The book encompasses more than just required reading. Krikorian sets aside practice time in the pre-season for discussion among all involved in the Seminole program about the five concepts. And it isn’t the coaches or staff members who lead the discussion. No, that assignment belongs to the players and Krikorian emphasizes it’s one of the best ways he has discovered for team bonding.
“Conflict is good and bad and can come in many different ways,” Krikorian says. “I want everyone involved in our program to understand that and the other aspects of team.”
The health of the team is measured in ways previously unheard of. Players undergo vision tests early in the season to determine how quickly they can process information from their eyes to their brain. GPS devices are used to measure speed, breathing and heart rates.
All of the new age technology is utilized to achieve one goal—a national championship. Krikorian has experienced the joy of winning a national title. He coached Division II Franklin Pierce to titles in 1994 and 1995.
He states unequivocally that his goal for FloridaState is to win the national championship.
“I’m not satisfied to just play in the College Cup,” Krikorian says. “The difference between gold and silver is huge. I’ve experienced both.”
Wouldn’t it be a perfect anniversary present for the Seminole program and Krikorian to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program and his 10th year as head coach to accomplish that goal this fall?
Celebrating 20 Years
In conjunction with celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014, the Florida State soccer team will countdown the 20 top moments over the last 19 seasons. Join the Seminoles throughout the fall on Seminoles.com and through their social media outlets as the program takes a look back in history to honor this momentous occasion by unveiling the top 20 moments.