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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Sopher’s New Coaching Style Ignites Boys Varsity Soccer Team

The Boys Varsity Soccer team huddles before a home game. Upper School Mathematics teacher Andrew Sopher’s unique coaching style has contributed to their undefeated record during the fall 2022 season. (Derin Kirtman/International Dateline)

Upper School Math teacher Andrew Sopher, now in his fourth year of coaching soccer at WIS, has made an imprint on the school’s soccer program.

Since becoming head coach of the Boys Varsity and Junior Varsity (JV) Soccer teams this year, as opposed to an assistant, Sopher has a clear vision of what he wants from his players. “[I want] someone coachable, who’s willing to put the work in day in and day out, and somebody who’s respectful on and off the field to [their] teammates,” he said.

Sopher began emphasizing the importance of hard work the minute the final whistle blew at the end of WIS’s season last fall by setting up an after-school weight program for athletes. With many varsity and JV players working out multiple times a week during the off-season, Coach Sopher thinks this will make WIS more competitive in matches. “As the season goes on, there’s physicality in the varsity games,” he said. “The stronger we are individually, the more possession we can keep, which can lead to more fouls drawn.”

This change is one that Sopher hopes to build on over the next few years. “If players are lifting all season, they’ll be perhaps in better shape when they come in for tryouts in the fall,” he said. “The biggest thing is continuing to build the weight training program [and] getting more players to buy into it so that they can improve their physicality.”

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Another of Sopher’s new initiatives is the implementation of a 3-5-2 formation, as opposed to a traditional 4-3-3. The 3-5-2 employs three central defenders with five midfielders above them and two attackers leading the line. “The main reason is we have a plethora of good midfielders who can run the game,” he said. “The idea would be that our wing backs are getting forward [and are] able to play in a wide space. The width of a 3-5-2 gives us an opportunity to switch the ball, stretch the defense out and get in behind.”

Coach Sopher has also utilized statistics to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses. “[The most important statistics are] pass completion and shots on target, and then shots on target also for the other team,” he said. “It shows us how well we’re competing defensively, how many chances we’re creating and how precise and consistent we are with keeping possession of the ball.”

Sopher also believes rewatching filmed moments from the games is vital. “[It has] helped this year’s team see the mistakes visually and not just reading statistics on paper,” he said. As the season approaches the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference (PVAC) and District of Columbia State Athletics Association (DCSAA) championships, Coach Sopher hopes that his efforts will pay off.

One of his plans for states is to create a roster of between 25 and 30 players, which he believes will be essential for the team’s success. “When it comes time for a state tournament, or even the PVAC tournament, for that matter, it’s crucial to have at least three players in every position… even if they aren’t given a chance to play,” he said. “For me to have the best team to win, I need to have as many players who are able to play in each position because each player brings a little bit of difference.”

This constant rotation of the roster is another important factor in the team’s philosophy this season. “When the JV season ends in mid-October, there will probably be between three and five players from JV who will move up,” he said. “It’ll create more competition with varsity, it’ll add depth to our lineup and it’ll offer more variety [to] what our team can offer.”

Looking to the future, Sopher hopes to continue strengthening WIS’s soccer program. His main goals “would be for individual players to improve, which means the team will improve, and by the end of the season, the team has an outcome that is most suitable for them.”

By Kas Salehi and Leonardo Sarzi Braga

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About the Contributors
Leonardo Sarzi Braga
Leonardo Sarzi Braga, Multimedia Publications Editor
Kas Salehi
Kas Salehi, Sports Editor
Hi, I’m Kas. I’m a junior and this is my second year as the Sports Editor at Dateline. I have been writing for three years and I enjoy writing about personal stories and profiles within sports. Outside of Dateline I enjoy playing tennis and the guitar. 

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