| March 24, 2018

Soccer: Championship Mentality

April 21, 2016

He may not have known it then, but Idaho women’s soccer head coach Derek Pittman began his training as a coach during his childhood.

As a young goalkeeper growing up in Oklahoma, his upbringing provided a chance for the coach to form a new vantage point.

“A lot of coaches wanted me to be a coach on the field,” Pittman said. “In the goalkeeper position, you have a chance to see and direct in a different perspective.”

Pittman said the outlook he gained at the position has shaped how he coaches today.

“You have to understand all of the moving parts,” Pittman said. “I was very fortunate to have good mentors, good coaches.”

The Idaho head coach was working in retail sales when he was offered his first coaching job in 1999.

“I picked up two youth boys teams in the Little Rock area and had some relative success with that,” Pittman said. “Then I got the opportunity to go back to the University of Tulsa, my alma mater, to be the graduate assistant coach for the men’s program in 2001.”

Pittman majored in business at Tulsa, and said he did not plan on coaching.

“Honestly, even out of college, I wasn’t really sure was I was going to do,” Pittman said. “I was working out of college and just trying to make ends meet. Then I started club coaching and totally loved it. From then on I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Pittman chose to leave Tulsa for England to play professionally with Sheffield United and Burnley Football Club.

“(Soccer) is something they very much live and breathe over there,” Pittman said. “To be immersed in that environment for me … was a tremendous experience. It really fueled the fire for my love of the game.”

Pittman said he was inspired to take the opportunity from one of his junior high coaches who played in England.

When his time with professional football had ended, Pittman returned to the United States and accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas State. Three years later, he accepted a position as the associate head coach at Gonzaga.

“I did that for four years,” Pittman said. “Then after that I was ready to be a head coach again.”

Pittman said he jumped at the opportunity to join the Vandals in 2014.

“We’ve had a lot of really good, talented players, but we needed to get them all on the same page,” Pittman said. “They needed some direction, they needed some guidance.”

Pittman said his first year with the program was a true transition year. The head coach realigned the team’s vision in defensive and attacking schemes.

Pittman said this year’s team is a different story.

“The competitiveness in training is very high,” Pittman said. “That’s something we expect of our players on a daily basis. Once they sunk their teeth into what we were trying to do, they’re the ones that have absolutely run with it. They deserve all the credit.”

Senior midfielder Alyssa Lloyd said she was unsure about connecting with a new coach only one year into her college career.

“A lot of us freshmen were like ‘Oh my gosh, do we want to stay here?’” Lloyd said. “When he came in, seeing what he brought to the program made us want to stay. He came in with expectations and wasn’t going to let anything slide.”

Lloyd said she enjoys working with a coach who has high expectations of the program.

“He expects a lot out of us which I think is awesome,” Lloyd said. “He’s very intense and gets us going.”

Pittman said he believes his staff has finally found the right formula for the Vandals. Idaho won the Big Sky regular season title with a 9-0-1 record in conference play. The team missed the conference postseason tournament after falling in the championship to Northern Colorado in penalty kicks.

Pittman said his focus this year is on the defensive strategies for the team.

“Defense will always come first for us,” Pittman said. “As a former goalkeeper, that’s where my mindset tends to go.”

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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