After a successful first season of coaching the Cascades men’s soccer team, Tom Lowndes has been named the team’s head coach. Lowndes worked as interim coach for 2015, and led the team to a Canada West bronze medal victory — the second time in the team’s history.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Lowndes says. “We had a good season last year, so for me, it’s positive that we’ll get to come back and build on what we did last season, hopefully improve and get better in the off season now, and be ready to go when the fall comes.”
After joining UFV’s coaching staff as an assistant coach to Alan Errington, Lowndes took over the head position as an interim replacement, the announcement coming at Errington’s retirement dinner last summer. Following in the footsteps of the person responsible for building soccer at both a university and national level, Lowndes knew he had to pay attention to more responsibilities than ever before.
“I know we did well on the field and in the classroom, so I feel like I ticked all the boxes they were looking for,” he says. “I think they saw something in me and I’m happy that [athletics director] Steve Tuckwood’s giving me the opportunity … I’m ready to take it with both hands and build the program and see how far we can go.”
Tuckwood explained that Lowndes was chosen for the position over a number of other candidates.
“We had some strong candidates who applied, but Tom obviously did a great job last year with the squad, and he really showed us that he’s capable to be a full-time coach so we’re going to give him that opportunity,” he says. “He’s got a real passion for the game and he wants to learn. He knows he’s a young coach and he has a lot to learn on coaching, but he’s committed to do that.”
Part of Lowndes’ responsibilities as head coach includes recruiting athletes for the upcoming season, and with team captain Colton O’Neill having just finished his final year of eligibility, it won’t be an easy feat.
“That’s a big hole to fill,” Lowndes says. “[But] if we can bring in four or five quality players this year and four or five quality players next year then that gap won’t seem so big.”
Despite the big wishlist, Lowndes still expresses confidence in his current roster.
“We’re always looking for quality players,” he says, “but if someone told me today that we couldn’t sign anyone else, I’d be very happy with what we’ve got for next year.”
The 2016 season will officially get going in the late summer, but the team is beginning to train as of last month.
“We pushed it back a week so that the lads could get settled into their classes,” Lowndes says. “The next two or three weeks will mostly be in the gym, in the weight room. After reading break we’ll get outside, we’ll get on the field.”
Though he’s now earned the permanent tag, Lowndes doesn’t want to look at the next season with anything other than high expectations. Every season is an opportunity to prove something, to get closer to perfection.
“We fell one game short of that last year, so it’s not like we’re a million miles off, but we’re very close,” he says. “I think we just need to tweak a few things and be a bit more consistent throughout the regular season.”
Lowndes sees consistency as exactly what the team needs at this time.
“The biggest thing for [the team] is to get some level of consistency,” he says. “Some of the boys in their fourth and fifth year have gone through two head coaches, three assistant coaches, they’ve had three different home fields [recently] — so that’s a lot of change.”
“I think for them, having someone that they’ve been around for three years, that they know and obviously had some success with as well, is a positive thing.”
And Lowndes doesn’t look at his role as having earned a higher status, one above doing the hard, sometimes unpleasant work of looking at weaknesses and finding new ways to do things.
“I think an effective coach always looks back and assesses himself, and looks at what things went well but also what things we could change and do differently,” he says. “I don’t think you ever stop learning; you never stop wanting to get better. Same as the players want to get better every single day, I want to get better every single day. I think in order for us to have a successful program and do the things that we want to do, it’s important that I have the same desire and attitude that they do.”