Wes Hart: Stepping in the right directionBy Caroline Gazzara | 08/20/2015 12:06am
Wes Hart stood out on the pitch, eyeing practice. At midfield, Hart could watch his players square off against each other without any issues.
In less than a month, Hart has watched his newfound team change at an impressive rate. The energy on the field is like no other. The fervor of excitement is something the players haven’t seen in years.
Minutes later, Hart runs into the throng of players practice to give hands-on advice. Alabama’s sole exhibition game against Vanderbilt exposed a lot of holes in the Crimson Tide’s defense, something Hart wants to fix. Hart doesn’t just yell out what needs to improvement from midfield, he demonstrates it for his girls.
As senior Abby Lutzenkirchen said, the team has more of a drive this year than in the past. The team captain witnessed the abrupt departure of the former coach, Todd Bramble, and although it was sudden, Hart’s leadership has steered the team in the right direction.
“I’ve felt like more of a family this year than I have in the past three years I’ve been here,” Lutzenkirchen said. “Coach Hart makes it known that he didn’t recruit us, but he believes in us. He believes in our strengths. He’ll tell us when we’re doing something wrong and he’s confident in how he tells you. He’ll praise you, but he’ll also tell you what you’re doing wrong, so he balances that out really, really well.”
After taking the helm of the Alabama soccer program in April, Hart has revitalized the once-struggling program. Although having only played one exhibition game this season, the Crimson Tide is already playing better soccer. Alabama kicks off its season opener Friday night at Memphis.
Hailing from Littleton, Colorado, Hart lives and breathes soccer. He has played soccer for most of his life, both in college at The University of Washington and on the professional level for the Colorado Rush. The amount of experience he brings to Alabama can only empower the team.
He can even relate to what the team has experienced over the past few months. As a college athlete, Hart experienced his head coach getting fired from the program shortly before his sophomore year. The incoming coach made it a point for Hart and his fellow teammates to know that they "weren’t his players." Having gone through that, Hart made it important to show his new team they were his players, even if he didn’t recruit them.
“The coach did exactly opposite of what I did [here], I think I learned from him,” Hart said. “He was more of the type that vocally spoke about how we weren’t his team and how he couldn’t wait to get his team in and his players in. … So for me, I remembered that. I wanted to come in here and embrace the players and let them know that they are my team.”
Hart is also a national championship-winning coach. As an assistant coach at Florida State University, Hart helped steer the program to win the 2014 national championship. He’s humble, though; he doesn’t want to take much of the credit for that win.
“I’ve said this to some of the girls, you know I’ve been a part of some conference championship teams and certainly try to draw off of those experiences but has been a part of national championship teams at the college level, at the youth level as both a coach and a player. So if I have a masters degree in championships then Wes has a Ph.D in championships,” assistant coach Jerrrod Roh said.
Trying to create a winning mentality and a positive culture, Hart wouldn’t expect anything from his team he himself couldn’t do. He’s hands-on for this reason: to show his team what they are capable of doing.
Now, after only a few weeks of training, Hart is ready for his season debut. Unsure of what to expect, he said he wanted to create the right culture and a winning mentality. He also said he wasn’t going to focus on winning a specific amount of games, he just wants to see what the next ten weeks have in store. Overall, Hart is excited.
“I think coaching for me is similar to when I was playing,” Hart said. “You can get the same nerves and the same excitement and I think that’s why I am involved in coaching is because I like that feeling. There’s more excitement than nerves but certainly there’s some nerves in there as well.”