WORTHINGTON -- Building a brand new athletics program is a journey full of unexpected twists and turns. Luckily, the first-year Minnesota West men's and women's club soccer teams have two head coaches with program building experience at the helm.
Men's soccer head coach Kris Babler has started high school track and basketball programs, while women's coach John Gossom started a baseball program in the Czech Republic.
"I'm excited to dig into this with John and build a fun program here," said Babler, who will also be the Blue Jays head men's basketball coach.
Despite their experience in program building, the coaches can't do it alone. Babler says he needs the support of the community to make the Blue Jays club soccer teams successful. And he needs players.
The coaches have been active in recruiting players for the team. Babler said he has spoken with several players from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and even has one planning to come up from Florida.
The team is far from complete, however, and an information meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 3 p.m. in the Minnesota West administrative building for both teams. Getting as many local players as possible is important to Babler, and he encourages anybody from the Worthington area with soccer playing experience to attend the meeting.
Players must be enrolled in at least six credits at Minnesota West to be eligible to play.
"When you don't have scholarships, you don't even know for sure what you've got until folks are on campus, attending classes," Babler said. "That's the reality at the junior college, Division 3 level. Without that monetary incentive, it's always on our student athletes to make the decision that they want to be here and be committed to the cause."
Being a club team, without a conference schedule to fill the bulk of the season, finding teams to play has been a struggle.
"Our biggest challenge right now is building a schedule," Babler said. "Because when the decision was made, a lot of area programs had their schedules locked in already."
Despite the lack of teams with open dates, the schedules for both the men's and women's teams are about half done at this point.
"We're kinda building this plane as its going down the runway," Babler said.
The schedules are filled with matchups with other club teams and four-year school junior varsity teams. With many local teams having their schedule locked, the Blue Jays will have a bit more travel than a standard program, including a trip up to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. The men's team does have a showdown with nearby Riverland Community College scheduled.
"We're really focusing on building a competitive schedule but also keeping things realistic," Babler said. "This is a first-year program. We want this to be a great experience for our student-athletes."
The schedule may settle down before too long, if everything goes according to plan. The teams hope to transition into official members of the National Junior College Athletic Association in the next couple of years.
"The schedule's probably going to look very different in two years than it does today," Babler said. "And that's a good thing."