Thursday, February 2, 2023

Cutting grass, lining fields all part of Jeff Hosler's journey to ascension of MSU women's soccer

October 13, 2022
Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler addresses his team, photo courtesy of MSU Athletics and Maria Babcock.
Michigan State Head Coach Jeff Hosler addresses his team, photo courtesy of MSU Athletics and Maria Babcock. —
Photo by Courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications | The State News

Michigan State women’s soccer Head Coach Jeff Hosler was only hired a year and a half ago, yet he has done things for the program that fans have not seen in over a decade. 

In just an 18-month span, he has brought the program back to the national ranks for the first time since 2009, drew the largest home crowd in program history and has led MSU to its best start in conference play ever. 

MSU had just one win the season before Hosler took over. He believes that bringing a totally new style was key to such a massive turnaround. 

“They learned so much from the previous staff and they were so incredible in character building that pillar of family," Hosler said. "Bringing different tactics, different training ideas, different micro and macro cycles was really important. I think a lot of it was just bringing totally new ideas. Being realistic but setting expectations that were different than they had in the past. Believe in the group and we get them to believe in what we're trying to do.”

Before coming to MSU, Hosler already had a reputation as a winner. At Grand Valley State, he did things Laker soccer fans have never seen before. He posted the highest winning percentage of any coach in GVSU history and best winning percentage in all of NCAA soccer during his seven-year tenure. He also led the Lakers to three NCAA Championships, five NCAA title game appearances and he reached the Elite Eight in six seasons.

Before all of this though, he coached high school and club soccer in the Lansing area. From there, he then moved on to Alma, where he wore many different hats and learned to appreciate everyone from the top to the bottom of a program. 

“When you're a D3 head coach, you have so many roles above and beyond just coaching your sport," Hosler said. "I was working with men's basketball at one time, I was lining the fields on game day and sometimes cutting the grass. You did everything and I literally had our recruits on campus in the morning. You're sometimes an extension of the admissions office because you had to hit certain numbers every year and the people you brought in. You're cutting the field, lining the field, talking to some more recruits after a quick shower just to get back in time to coach club in order to make enough money to do all that. I think wearing all those different hats at Alma gave me a bigger appreciation for everyone.”

Even before seeing him in action at MSU, senior forward Lauren DeBeau knew that transferring in with him was the correct decision. 

“I knew what he was all about," DeBeau said. "He's a coach that pulls out the best in every player and coaches to everyone’s best abilities. He knows what we can be, and he gets that out of us. He believes in us more than I think we believe in ourselves.”

Players that he did not recruit out of high school also know that he knows how to win, and they believe that his coaching can bring out the best in them.

“Coach Hosler is a very, very honest coach and he knows how to get the best from you in every single situation," sophomore forward Jordyn Wickes said, who recently was the second MSU player this year to make the TopDrawerSoccer National Team of the Week. "He knows how to win. I mean, from the strategy to the pushing and motivating you. He knows how to win and it's a really cool thing to be able to see how he brings out the potential from every player and really utilizes that.”

Since he has been at MSU, Hosler has been a part of some big wins, but some of his favorite memories of his time here so far have come from watching his players develop.

“Seeing players turning corners," Hosler said. "The way Lauren DeBeau is playing this year, the way Wickes has turned the corner over the last couple of weeks. While it's been a grind for her it's I think it's more of those little things that really stand out to me when you see players turn a corner and take that next step in their growth."

“Obviously redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Kozal’s turnaround. What Ava Cook was able to accomplish in a year and now do professionally. The wins matter, but honestly, it's the memories. The ones that hold most true to me are the connections made to the players and seeing them round corners and hit milestones or benchmarks that maybe they didn't know they could fully achieve by doing that and be able to come back and continue to grow.”

While Hosler is not a fan of having set expectations, he thinks that East Lansing is a place where he can win championships.

“We need to set goals you can control," Hosler said. "I think a lot of times people get hung up on this idea of certain games you got to win, or a certain number of wins makes it deemed successful or winning a championship of some level.  

“In reality, proper goal setting is just about the things you will control and for us that's being the best we can every day, working to have peak performance and training, not just in match play. The more you can reach that peak performance and sustain those moments where you can repeat it. I think this is a place where you can win championships. I expect that we will win championships during our time here, but it's not something we set out as a goal or as a benchmark for us, because there are things we can't control over the course of this season.”

While he has already achieved a lot in his time here, Hosler knows now is no time to rest. 

“Michigan State soccer on the women's side is one that has a lot of potential," Hosler said. "I think it can be a sleeping giant in the national landscape, not just in the Big Ten. After a year and a half, to be where we are now is exciting, but there's still a lot more work to be done.”

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