New Evergreen boys soccer coach David Skoczyn is going back to where he started nearly 25 years ago, taking over a program with the aspirations of building a winning culture.
Skoczyn, 57, has coached soccer — whether it be at the club level, as a varsity coach or an assistant — since he was 30 years old. It’s those decades of experience that make him the right man for the job, according to Skoczyn and first-year Evergreen athletic director Derick Stoup.
“Dave stood out due to his wealth of knowledge, and years experience,” explained Stoup on the hiring of Skoczyn. “Dave has coached at the highest levels, and is exactly where I hope to see our program grow to.”
Although he contemplated retirement, Skoczyn wanted one more chance at leading a program. “This seems like a good opportunity for me,” he admitted. “I know some of the boys out that way; I know a lot of people from out that way. It’s just a nice small town kind of community group. And now that Derick has taken over (as AD), he’s been fantastic with just getting me up to snuff.”
Skoczyn’s head coaching career started in a similar fashion. He began by taking over the boys program at Celina ahead of the 1995-96 school year, and coached for approximately five years.
Playing 16-game regular seasons, the Bulldogs averaged 11-12 wins every season after the first that Skoczyn was in charge. He only quit coaching at Celina when his son started high school, as he preferred to be in the bleachers for those years.
The family then moved back up to the Toledo area — where Skoczyn is originally from — when his son David began college. He made stops at Cardinal Stritch, where he served as head coach and his son his assistant, then Notre Dame Academy (NDA) where the elder Skoczyn was assistant head coach.
He created a winning culture at Stritch. His last season there the Cardinals went 13-4, defeating every team in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference not named Ottawa Hills.
Skoczyn then got the call from longtime friend Chip Smith, whom he coached during his Celina years, who had just been tabbed as coach of the girls at NDA. “We always said we wanted to coach together,” Skoczyn said.
Together they took the program to places they had never been. Most notably, a trip to the Division I final four in 2016.
That experience, and others throughout Skoczyn’s lengthy coaching career, have helped prepare him for the position he has now.
In fact, good preparation tactics are something he believes in strongly, and hopes they rub off on the boys at Evergreen.
“I still think you have to have a respect for, number one the game and how you learn from it,” he said. “I’m always taking notes; I’m always trying to find something that will make us better, tomorrow. And I think when you have that mentality of ‘ok this was today, how do I get better tomorrow…how do I make the team better tomorrow? I think that’s really the key to what you have to bring when you come into a program that only has a year under its belt.”
Working hard will be emphasized to his new team.
“I want to be in as good a shape as I can get the boys. Work our butts off,” said Skoczyn. “If I’ve got a kid that can only play for 10 minutes, but he comes off huffing and puffing and gave me 10 great minutes. I just need to figure out how to get him 15, and then 20, and so on.”
Another focus will be raising the boys’ knowledge of the game in general — something prioritized by various English coaches he’s worked with.
“I want kids that want to raise their soccer IQ. People don’t talk I think enough about that,” he said.
And lastly, although it may seem obvious, he wants his team to be competitive. “I just want to be competitive all the time,” noted Skoczyn. “There are gonna be times when we’re not gonna win a game. I get it. I’ve done this long enough to know, you’re not gonna win every game.”
Skoczyn wants the boys to take baby steps, focusing on improvement every day.
And ultimately, he hopes that when his time is up at Evergreen, a strong foundation is there that will carry the program into the future.
“In talking to the administration there, yeah winning is great, but how do we make this so it’s longterm thing. And it’s not just a two or three year deal, then the whole program falls apart,” Skoczyn explained. “How do we keep kids interested and wanting to come out and play soccer?”
Stoup believes Skoczyn will get the program pointed in the right direction.
“Dave is knowledgeable, a leader and charismatic,” said the Evergreen AD. “He will be able to get our athletes to buy into his system, and the positive results will be rewarding for many years to come.”
Skoczyn is not offering any lofty expectations for achievements he’d like his boys to obtain — particularly as it relates to the Northwest Ohio Athletic League. Moreover, he feels advancing farther in the tournament is more important than winning a league title.
“Because that’s what gets you noticed. That’s what (puts you) on the map,” he said.
As it relates to the NWOAL, Skoczyn says Evergreen can gain a bevy of knowledge from the teams at the top of the league. With programs like Archbold who has won or shared the league title five years in a row, Bryan who has three league titles to its name, and Liberty Center who has had recent success, much can be learned.
“There’s gonna be bumps, certainly with a second-year program. We play some really good teams,” said Skoczyn. “Archbold’s always really good and Liberty Center’s been quality. We added some other teams to our schedule this year. We are trying to play better soccer. A big key is, how do you learn from, maybe sometimes another team. I think that’s always really important.”
Evergreen began in-person workouts last week. Also of note, Skoczyn has yet to hire an assistant. He is looking to get that position filled as soon as possible, preferably by a younger coach who is hungry to learn the ins and outs of the game.