Defensive mentality key for Baylor soccer

Senior defender Kylie Ross clears the ball from Bear territory on Sept. 17 at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field against Jackson State. The Bears won 7-0. Photo Credit: Jessica Hubble | Lariat Photographer

Longtime University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant once said, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” Although that quote transcends football and is applicable to all sports. Defense wins championships. This has been a key focal point of the 2016 Baylor soccer team, according to head coach Paul Jobson.

How has Baylor developed and implemented this defensive strategy? It begins with communication from the coaching staff. For the 2016 Baylor soccer team, that means Jobson and assistant coach Chuck Codd.

“No successful team, they don’t do well unless they’re on the same page,” Codd said. “I’m on Paul’s [Jobson] page as far as what we’re doing. I’m an assistant coach, and I follow the rules of the head coach. He sets the philosophy.”

Codd, who is in his ninth season as a member of the Baylor soccer coaching staff, is well-versed in the Jobson’s philosophy, having played in a similar system at North Carolina State University as well as coaching with Jobson while he was at Northern Illinois University. The two have developed a chemistry and philosophy that worked for the Huskies and have turned Baylor into an elite NCAA defensive program.

“I’ve known Chuck for a really long time. [Assistant coach] Marci [Jobson] has known him since she was fourteen years old. We have a total trust factor with Chuck,” Jobson said. “His knowledge of the game and experience as a player and as a coach is very valuable.”

Thus far, Baylor has been suffocating opponents defensively, forcing turnovers that have led to goals, as well as completely controlling ball possession. Baylor is outscoring their opponents 24-8, outshooting them 198-76, an average of just over five and a half shots per game. Their goals against average (number of goals allowed per contest) is .595 and good for 21st best in the country. Baylor’s defensive commitment has been unwavering and serves as a testament to the work Jobson and Codd have done. Their work goes well beyond strategizing. It has involved getting the players to buy into the philosophy and implementing it on the field.

“A lot of it has to do with mentality. It all begins with an ‘over my dead body’ mentality in terms of giving up goals,” Codd said. “We try to take the ball away out on the field. We defend the whole field and make it as difficult as possible for the other team to score.”

This year’s team has been more than up to the challenge to match some of the defensive efforts of past Baylor teams. Much of that has been due to the experience and ability of this year’s team.

“In the back line, we have a lot of girls with a lot of ability, with experience, and they’ve been tested in their times here, and that goes a long way. They’re fully committed to what they do,” Codd said. “They’ve got the experience, which is key. They’ve got the ability, athleticism and the soccer ability to compete against the best players in the country.”

This defensive mentality is not just something that applies to the defenders and the goalkeeper. It begins at the top with the coaching staff and trickles down the line to all 11 players on the field at once.

“The reality is we have 11 people defending, so it starts on the front line, and they’re doing a good job as well,” Codd said.

The quality that stands out the most among this team is not something that is going to show up on the scoreboard. It is not about how many saves they make or goals they score. It is something that cannot be taught but can be developed and nurtured. This is character and heart and the Baylor soccer team, Codd said.

“Not only does he know talent, but he is also great at developing talent he already is working with,” assistant coach Marci Jobson said on Baylor’s official athletic website. “Chuck has a magnetic personality, and his players love to play for him.”

One of those players that has been able to benefit from Codd’s coaching and personality over four years is senior defender Emory Cason.

“He’s great. He’s really positive when he needs to be,” Cason said. “He’s always on you about the things he knows you can do, and he’s always expecting the most of you.”

Through those high expectations comes an equally high expectation of hard and relentless work on the field.

“We do a lot of repetition and work on some of our key points all the time. There is never really a time of rest,” Cason said. “We’re always chipping away at things we need to work on. We always have to be mentally sharp.”

The Bears will look to build off of and continue their defensive success today as Baylor travels to Norman, Okla., to take on the Sooners. The match will start at 7 p.m.