Junior goalkeeper Bobby Edwards returns to share his thoughts on his new school, Monmouth University. Click here to read his previous entries.
How did you spend the summer getting prepared for the season?
As was the case the previous two years, I spent my summer with the U-23 New York Red Bulls PDL team. I’ve spoken previously about the high level of professionalism I’ve experienced there and the honor it has been to play on this team, so I’ll likely be repeating myself here. The team finished as the PDL regular season champions and that is a testament to the quality of players assembled and the standards set for the practices. Coach Rob Elliott repeatedly emphasized the need for us to push ourselves at each session to reach our top form. The message I took away was that in order to play at the professional level a player must acquire the habit of consistency. It is not good enough to have flashes of excellence; a player must be locked in consistently in practice in a way that will carry over to match day.
It is this commitment to consistency that I hope to bring with me to this fall’s college season. The season moves quickly with generally two games a week and it’s over before you know it. So there is no room for dips in performance.
In addition to my time with Red Bull, I made frequent trips to the Monmouth campus to train with my teammates who live in the New Jersey area. Many of the incoming freshmen and my fellow transfers took part in these training sessions. So we got a good jump on the team building that is critical for a good season.
What’s the goal for this fall to be able to look back and say this was a successful season?
Monmouth has a strong tradition of competing in the MAAC, having won nine conference championships. Our goal this year is to win the tenth. I think I can confidently say all of us would consider anything else to be a disappointment. One of the things I’ve learned here in my time at Monmouth is that mediocrity is not acceptable. We push ourselves and one another to give our best effort. There is a genuine belief among the guys that not only do we have a team capable of winning the MAAC, we also have the potential to make a deep NCAA tourney run as well. Everyone from the seniors down to the freshmen are buying into the program, and each week we are playing with more and more confidence.
Goalkeepers are typically looked at as a leader of a team, whether it’s with the captain’s armband or being the one who organizes the team out of the back. How have you handled transferring to a new team but also leading your team as a goalkeeper?
As a transfer, I was fortunate to arrive on campus last year at the start of the second semester. The spring season, while fundamental for team’s development, is much more lax when compared to the fall season. So this gave me a more relaxed atmosphere to adjust to my new environment and begin to establish the kind of friendships that make for great team chemistry. Our summer sessions built on this as well. I also had the advantage of having known four of my teammates from playing with them at St. Benedict’s Prep, which has its own strong tradition of soccer. So as we began preseason, I didn’t really feel like a newcomer – I felt like one of the guys.
We are fortunate at Monmouth to have midfielder Colin Stripling as our captain who, because of a redshirt, is beginning his fifth season as a part of this team. Colin commands the respect of the entire team. But his leadership goes beyond that: he has a gift for creating a sense of family among the team. He knows the balance between a commitment to working as hard as we possibly can while at the same time enjoying one another’s company. So in seeking to be a leader on the team myself, I’ve been fortunate to take my cues from Colin’s example.
As a keeper, I work most closely with my backline and in this regard, I have been really fortunate to have the four guys who are playing in front of me. Out of my entire career, I’ve never felt more confident in my back four. Each one of them are not only extremely talented, but they have a commitment to work rate that isn’t rivaled anywhere. Luke Bromley, Joey Gudzak, Mike Luke, and Andy Martinez have made my job easy, not only by making clutch plays but also through constant communication. Often, goalkeepers are constantly shouting at their back line, when in reality there needs to be a flow of communication between all parts of the unit. This is where we excel - all four guys have bought into this principle.
What’s something off the field that you’ve enjoyed about Monmouth University?
Like I said in my last journal, I’ve been in a happier state of mind since transferring. I really couldn’t wait for preseason to begin. Off the field, I find myself truly enjoying the people I’ve met at Monmouth. I’ve heard it said, “You can take the kid out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the kid.” That would probably describe it the best. To me, Monmouth just feels like home. The word family is often tossed around in a lot of team environments, but I truly see my team as family.
And you can’t beat being close to the Jersey Shore. It’s just a short walk from the campus to the beach and after a tough workout in preseason, nothing quite beats jumping in the ocean. Goalkeeping is also extremely mentally draining at times, so sometimes it’s needed to walk down to the beach, regroup and find a sense of calmness.