: Hello and welcome. This is the LCU Podcast, a podcast that brings you stories, insights and people from Lubbock Christian University. I'm your host, Nathan Karseno, and I'm happy to be with you for another episode. On this episode, we talked with first year head coach of the LCU Men's Soccer team, Collin Cone. He comes to LCU after having an illustrious career as a player and coach.
Coach Cone joins the staff after being instrumental in rebuilding Laterno University's men's soccer program as their head coach. We discussed his experience so far at LCU, what brought him here? And we even got to talk about his faith. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Head Coach Collin Cone.
Pleased to be joined here by our guest head coach of the men's soccer program here at LCU. Coach Collin Cone. Coach, thank you for being here today.
Collin Cone : Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.
Nathan Karseno : It's been a pleasure to witness what you've got going on so far in the season. We will get to kind of how the team has been playing in a bit, but to lay the groundwork real quick, you were hired in about early April. You did get to campus a little in the middle of August to start training before school started.
And then, as we are here now, about halfway through the season, getting ready for your first conference match later this week. So as a whole, how has the experience been like in Lubbock your first year?
Collin Cone : Oh, it's been awesome. I'll be honest. One of the one of the first things that drew me to to LCU in Lubbock was just the kindness of people when we got here and we interviewed here. And I was just really impressed. And so since since being here, that's been true. You know, people here are extremely kind, super helpful, good at their jobs.
And so obviously with recruiting that late in the year and things like, it took a lot of people to to bring the team together and through it through a lot of help from, you know, admissions and things like that. We were able to get a team together and and I think it's a good team and it's a good guy, a good base to get built to build off of and things like that.
And, you know, we've loved it. My wife's enjoying it. And obviously as a coach, you, you spend a lot of time away from home and so your wife has to enjoy the vacation as well. And the people and she's she's like in Lubbock and she likes the people here. She's made some good friends. And that just makes that makes coaching so much better.
Nathan Karseno : That's great to hear. And you mentioned kind of coming in late. It is so somewhat of a late hire in that point of the year because soccer starts so early in the semester. What was the training process like once you did get to campus and how were you able to do the best that you could to get yourself familiar with not only the city and the program and whatnot, but the players on your team?
Collin Cone : Yeah, immediately. The first thing was just obviously meeting with the team and getting to spend time together and, you know, let them know here's the plan going forward and trying to make sure that they buy into that. And then the next thing is obviously going and finding players that fit what we're trying to do. And within a system that, you know, I want to play and things like that.
And so it's been really good. The guys have adapted well and I'll be honest with you, like even the reality is that we want to play a certain way and I don't know that we're quite to the level right now that we need to be at to play. The way that I'd say as coach is probably want us to play.
So we're continuing to learn and grow and figure out, you know, what our identity is a little bit and we've made some changes this year just to get through the season and get get some points on the board and things like that. So but the guys are the guys are awesome. We responded really well.
Nathan Karseno : We did mention earlier how it's not only a new team for you, but it's also a new team compared to what we saw on the pitch last year for LCU, there's 24 new players to the squad. Those being true freshmen as well as transfers. What has the mentorship from the coaching standpoint been like with trying to get that team at Bonded and whatnot to create some team chemistry heading into the season?
Collin Cone : Yeah, that's a that's a big piece for me. I think that you can you can sometimes win games even. I think if you're just you're you're a tight team and you have each other's backs and you're willing to do some dirty work. So in the only way you're willing to do that, sometimes if you have good relationships with your teammates and you trust your coaches and you know, you trust your teammates as well.
So yeah, we've done a lot of little, little things. I guess one of the things we did during the obviously preseason first off is a is a time where you're you're together a lot and you're building those relationships and trust. But during pre-season we we had the Marine Corps come out and do like a workout with our guys and just talk about leadership and the idea that, you know, they take a group of a bunch of new guys, you know, bring them into to the basic or to whatever they're doing.
And they have to get them firing on all cylinders pretty quickly. And it's similar with soccer in terms of like how quickly you get going and having to bring all these new guys now into into a team and get them performing at a high level quickly is is tough and building that trust so you're willing to do the extra work in the dirty work and to cover for each other.
And so that that day was a lot of fun. It's a lot of hard work, but it was good. And then we also took the guys paintballing, which was a lot of fun. And I think sometimes those things just take the take walls down, you know, things that I'm too cool or whatever it takes kind of takes those things down a notch and it allows guys to open up and joke and laugh and have some fun.
And I'll be honest with you, the group is really, really close. It's it's actually been really impressive to see how how tight they are. You see them on campus walking around together. They they every time there's another sports team playing, they're always saying, hey, coach, can we go watch? Can we go support as a team which which is encouraging, you know, you want that.
And the more they spend time together, the more they do things together. They build that trust, that ultimately that family atmosphere. And they're willing to sometimes do some extra work to be able to to be successful because they care about their teammates.
Nathan Karseno : Well, it's one of the beauties of having such a small, close knit university of student body and that community aspect to support one another, especially as student athletes. Has that been a point of emphasis to you going in, or is that more of an idea from the players that they went to support one and one another as well as the other athletes here at LCU?
Collin Cone : Yeah, it's a mixture of both. I think to me it's a big deal. So everywhere I've ever been is has as that's been a big aspect I guess of my coaching philosophy is like performance matters, results matter, but at the end of the day, I, there's a bigger purpose to this whole thing. And, you know, ultimately that's that's hopefully that guys grow in their faith and have a relationship with Jesus.
But I think the only way you can have those conversations and you can do those things if you have trust and you build a relationship with your players. And so with that, a lot of the a lot of the guys, when I met with them early on, they said like one of the big things that they wanted to see going forward with the program was they wanted to they wanted to have a family atmosphere.
They really wanted player one to thirty you know, to be value, to be cared about. And that doesn't mean necessarily playing time, but what that means is, you know, that you see them, you you recognize them, you shake their hand, you talk to them, you know, you ask them how life is. And so we've been really intentional about that, I think, as a coaching staff.
And I think the result of that is, is also that the guys enjoy being together because they do feel valued. They don't just think they're, oh, I'm a sub or whatever. And it allows them it allows them to be able to, you know, enjoy each other and then and then obviously, like, they love supporting the other teams and there are a lot of fun I think, when they go to those games.
And so yeah, it's a great group.
Nathan Karseno : It's great to hear a little more about you personally. So I hear that you do have kind of a unique upbringing being born into a mission family overseas in Africa. What was that experience like growing up and living there?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I wouldn't change it for anything. Yeah, I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and my parents were missionaries there. They were actually working there as missionaries after my grandparents. So I'm actually a third generation missionary kid, lived there for for quite a while. And then when the war happened, ironically, my parents had actually kind of finished doing the church plant that they were doing there.
So when the war happened, we actually evacuated the country and ended up going to the Central African Republic, which is actually where my dad grew up and spent pretty much the rest of my my time until I graduated high school in the Central African Republic. But during that time, I attended school in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which is the country bordering the Central African Republic.
And so, yeah, I spent spend a lot of time in Africa. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I mean, it's where I learned to love soccer and, you know, started, started the passion for that and then ended up coming to the U.S. and playing here in the U.S. in college. And then when I got done playing was blessed to be able to to join the coaching staff at my alma mater up in Indiana and and then ended up coming down to Texas to do another school.
And then the Lord ended up bringing us here at LCU.
Nathan Karseno : So I know soccer is one of the most common and probably the most popular sport worldwide. What is the soccer culture like, especially particular to where you grew up and compared to what you've experienced now in the U.S.?
Collin Cone : Yeah, it's everything you know from from a young age. The little kids are are playing soccer. There's really not another sport. You know, they're playing barefoot out on the grass or on concrete or whatever. And, you know, sometimes balls are just made up of, you know, a bunch of plastic bags that they've bought together and tied in with rubber bands and turned it into a ball.
And yeah, it's everything. I mean, people, when the national team's playing, you know, the country shuts down and if they win, there's a holiday. And it's it's kind of ironic. You're, you know, you can sit anywhere almost in Africa. You could be at a restaurant. And, you know, all the TV channels come in at different times. So you'll hear like one part of the city screaming because there is a goal and you're like, Oh, man, I bet there's a goal coming.
And next thing you know, a minute later there's a goal. And yeah, it's it's everything in Africa and here in the U.S., I think the game's growing, which is really exciting. I mean, I think you see a small piece of that here in Lubbock with the Lubbock Matadors. I mean, they they had really good support and they're well coached.
And, you know, they have a lot of local players and guys especially, you know, from here at LCU. And then you've got guys coming from all over the country to play here. That good crowd attendance. I mean, that's an exciting thing for for the sport. And so it's growing and that's that's exciting to see.
Nathan Karseno : We've seen a couple LCU players take part in the inaugural season last year of the Lubbock Matadors. What have you seen from not only those players who've already participated in the semi-pro league, but do you expect any other players to represent the Matadors as well going forward? And what's that like watching your players compete still in the summer?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I think it's I think it's crucial that the guys play over the summer and and you want your guys playing over the summer because it sets them up well for pre-season and getting ready for, for, for a big college season that starts off really quick. Yeah, I hope, I hope some of our guys do play for the Matadors and I hope that we have some guys that play other places here in Texas and in neighboring states.
And I definitely think that we have some guys that can play at that level or in the U.S., too. And so hopefully we'll be able to get them place for for the summer, for sure.
Nathan Karseno : You alluded to it a minute ago, but you are actually a long lasting family member or a legacy, rather, of Grace College, your alma mater in Winona Lake, Indiana. Was that always a kind of a place that you had your eye on to pursue and then ultimately play and coach at the at the college level?
Collin Cone : Yeah. I mean, you know, you get done playing and I had a really good experience and I was blessed to have a really, a really good coach who I'd say was a transformational coach. Like, he, he, it wasn't just the transaction of you perform and you know, we're friends or we're good or anything like that. It was it was deeper than that.
And you know, from that experience and it being a good experience, when I got asked to go back and on the coaching staff as an assistant, it was, it was it was a huge blessing. I was teaching at the time, actually at a high school and I quickly realized I didn't really want to teach, I wanted to coach.
So being able to go back was, was a big deal. And luckily there was about a year and a half gap. So about two seasons where I wasn't a part of the program where I was teaching. And that allowed, you know, some of the guys that I played with to graduate. And that can be hard sometimes, you know, going back and coaching guys that you just played with but went back and and and had a great, great opportunity there to coach and be mentored by a great coach and the Lord just continue to open up opportunities other places.
And it was time for me to, to step out. At some point you have to become a head coach if you really want to be in this. I think in this business and do this and you just because there's just things you don't learn until you're sitting in the seat and you have to make the decisions and some hard decisions and and things like that.
So it was time to to get that experience. So stepped away. Yeah. Grace always had a had a place in my heart just because of what it gave me. But I'm I'm honestly super content and just super grateful to be where I'm at. And we're going to give it everything we got here.
Nathan Karseno : What is the opportunity to mentor young athletes or even young Christians? Young people as a coach mean to you?
Collin Cone : Everything. It's the whole purpose of of honestly, why why even do this? I think that, you know, winning and things like that are important. And I think if you asked our guys, I'm ultra competitive, I mean, even when we play ping pong in the locker room, I'm ultra competitive and I hate losing. But I do I do think there's a bigger purposes and a more important purpose than just winning.
And that's that's the hearts of our players. And one of the things I love about LCU is that, you know, you don't have to sign anything saying I'm a believer, a Christian, to go here. They'll take you out where you're at. And, you know, by the time you leave, you'll know who Jesus is and you'll have been exposed to Jesus and the hope is that, you know, you make a life changing decision.
That's ultimately probably the biggest decision of your life. And my big thing with that is I think that the way I live my life has the model, model that and then also through building relationships and trust, you're able to have those conversations that ultimately I think are probably the more, more important, you know, decisions and conversations that you can make.
And then one of the things we did this year, we Dean, who works over at the local church here, Greenlawn, he I had him join our staff after talking to him a couple of times and just said, Hey, would you be willing to, to be a part of our staff as a director of discipleship? You know, it has nothing to do with soccer.
Just be with the guys, talk to the guys, get a coffee with the guys, do a Bible study with the team here and there. And that's been awesome. I think that's that's a good thing. And it gives the guys somebody else to talk to and chat with when things are hard and even when things are going well. But we care about our players and their hearts and that's kind of the ultimate goal.
Nathan Karseno : There's so much diversity in the student body here at LCU in particular in the men's soccer program. There's representatives from around the world many, many different countries. What is the cultural diversity like in the locker room and how does that translate out onto the field?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I'll be very honest. I've coached at Grace, which had it had had a lot of international guys and American guys. And then I went to Laterno, where I was the head coach, which was mostly primarily American kids. And then coming here and going back, you know, to having a lot of international guys in the locker room. And I'll be honest, I absolutely love it.
I think it adds I think it adds a flavor to the locker room, a passion and excitement. And sometimes a lot of times like, you know, a maturity to the locker room. And it's kind of cool because if you can't if you've grown up here in the U.S. your whole life now, you come into that locker room, you're getting to experience a different culture and a different world without even leaving your country.
And I think that's a really unique aspect to our team. And one of the cool things is that you see, you know, in our team, you know, obviously you click with people from your country, you can speak the same language as you. But I think our guys do a really good job of not just hanging out with those guys like they they'll spend time with each other.
They'll talk to each other regardless of nationality, regardless of, you know, what language you speak. And I think that helps us on the field as well.
Nathan Karseno : One of the things that is an aspect of such cultural diversity is maybe upbringings and faith from a lot of your players. So how do you use faith and Christianity as a unifier for your team to get your team closer together?
Collin Cone : Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, yeah, guys grow up you on a lot of different you know, from they might come from a different religion or a different belief system or whatever. But at the end of the day, I think it's modeled by the coaches and God. And I always try and pick out guys on the team that I think probably have a genuine relationship with Jesus, that are willing to talk about it and say and speak up to that.
Because I think it's good for guys to, to, to see their peers, you know, talk about Jesus and that it's it's, you know, I think sometimes people can think of, you know, Christians not the cool thing or or whatever. And the reality is it's actually the coolest thing. And having guys that can sit in a locker room and they can say, Hey, I believe in Jesus, or they can pray in front of their team, or they can they can do those things.
Or when they see somebody doing something, maybe that they're like, Hey, that's not cool. You know, they can call them out. And it's out of a good, you know, the heart of the heart. The motivation of the heart is good. I think that, you know, I think that's important. And so they see it from me modeled. They see it from Dean modeled, you know what I mean, through our Bible studies as a team.
And then they're able to see us sometimes from their peers when they when they stand up and pray or they talk or whatever, share their testimony. And I think those things are are what I think that's what you have to do to be able to try and show like, Hey, this is what Jesus is all about. This is what He did for our hearts and for our lives.
And, you know, you go from there and then you're able to to have some really good conversations, sometimes behind closed doors. There are a lot more intentional and purposeful about Jesus and that type of stuff.
Nathan Karseno : Where we're at right now in this season, like we mentioned about halfway through the year, obviously there's going to be some type of adversity for any team in any season at any point of the year. And as we're right at the midpoint, what were some of the responses like so far earlier in the season to the adversity that your team has faced thus far?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I think, you know, I think early on we we we did well in our we won both of our exhibitions and they were against two good NAIA teams. And then we played Adams State and Fort Lewis and you know, Adams state game we got a really good result. And then Fort Lewis showed us something different cause they got a red card quite early in the game and ended up sitting back quite, quite a lot on us.
And it was hard for us to break them down, especially that early in the season. And we I think we all shot them substantially, but we just couldn't find the back of the net. And the guys the guys I think responded well from that, I mean, in training and things. And then we we hit the road for 11 days in Colorado, which was really, really tough, just living out of a hotel for for that many days and, you know, trying to find places to train and things like that, the altitude, everything.
So we got there and obviously we lost that first game and the guys bounced back against South Dakota mines in our second game and got a win and then played to two really top teams that I, you know, ones in the top 25. And I think the other one will be very soon here in the top 25 if they're not already.
And, you know, those were hard games to lose. And then you turn around and you come home and you you face off with OKC and then WT and then MSU and then you know, you have to face them again for the first three games of conference immediately. And that's, that's really tough. And you know, all three of those teams are nationally ranked right now and are all very well-coached and very good teams.
And so we you know, the guys the guys responded well because I think in that moment after Colorado and then losing that first game to O.C., who was a very good team and like I said, nationally ranked, but only won like one or two games last year. I think there were some questions happening, you know, like, who are we?
What are we good enough where? And we just challenged the guys and came up with a different system and a different way of playing and said, Hey, we just got to we got to figure this out. And the guys stepped up to the challenge and did well in practice and they got a huge result against W.T. and then they turned around and got a huge result against MSU.
In all honesty, they're ranked number four right now in the country. And, you know, so now we still have a couple a couple of weeks here that are going to we're going to really see, you know what I mean? Now we're on the road against W t on Saturday. Then we host OKC and then we go on the road again to MSU.
So some tough games ahead of us that'll really test us. But I think they can be good for us as well.
Nathan Karseno : Like you mentioned, two great showings for for the squad tying MSU, who was number four in the country and then before that, getting a win at home against WT in the rivalry. What kind of momentum is being built here as we lead into Saturday's match in Canyon, especially after those two big showings against worthy opponents?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I think the guy the guys I think are just they're gaining confidence, which I think is which is really important, obviously, especially in football. And the other thing I'd say is they they're learning and we talked about this actually after the MSU game is they're learning how to grind and they're learning how to do the hard work and they're learning how to defend and they're learning how to do some of the dirty work that a lot of players don't really want to do.
It's always fun to attack and it's always fun to score goals and things like that. But our team is really learning how to stay disciplined, work within a system defensively, and then looking, you know, looking to be able to get their opportunities on the other end of the field. So they're learning how to do these things. And I think it's important, especially as you go into a season and we talk about, you know, there's teams sometimes that peak too early and you want to peak, you know, in conferences and you want to be peaking.
And then when you hit that conference tournament, you want to peak and do really, really well. And, you know, you don't. I think some teams can get off to a really good start and then the momentum and when they finally hit those adversity moments. So you're talking about like we did in Colorado, you know, that they have to figure out something now.
And I think we've figured those things out, you know, and I'm glad we figured them out early before conference. And I hope that we can we can keep the ball rolling.
Nathan Karseno : Because it's such a new team. It may be hard to quite understand what any expectations are going into this year, but just looking back on last year's results, it's one of the best seasons in program history is the first time LCU reached the conference tournament championship match and they took on the Mustangs of MSU. What were kind of your expectations knowing so much successes?
Just last year for this program as you headed into this year?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I'm going to be honest. I don't really I don't really compare the team right now to last year's team. I just don't think that it does anything for me. We're a completely new team. We're a young team. We're figuring things out right now. And, you know, I think I think we could find ourselves in the same type of position as last year.
I think it's going to take hard work and it's going to take, you know, playing a different way and things like that. But that's okay. You know, with so many, so many new guys, you, you, there has to be a growth period and there has to be a time of learning and things like that. And I'm just glad that we have some really good leaders on the team and we have some guys that are are bought in and they're they're they how do I say they're guys that want to find solutions and find ways to win games and, you know, coaching guys like that is, is what you want as a coach.
You know, you want you want guys that don't just throw in the towel and it gets tough, but they keep going and yeah, LCU's had a had a good history, especially the last few years here. But like I said, we're a completely new team with so many new players that, you know, you got to rebuild and you got to get back up there.
And I think we will do that.
Nathan Karseno : One of the leaders from those previous teams, Jonathan Woods, you've brought on as a coach now after his graduation last year and being a team captain in such a mentor on the team as a player in recent years, what has it been like taking him under your wing now on the coaching side and how is he's still been able to influence the team.
Collin Cone : Yeah, he's Johno is ultimate is the ultimate competitor and he wants to he wants to be successful. And so he brings that passion to the team. And I think that he the way that he did things as a senior and as a junior, as a captain on the team, the guys highly respect him. And because of that, he's immediately demanded respect as a coach.
You know, sometimes we're short a player, so we'll throw him into a training session and things like that. And, you know, his team usually comes out winning and it's not because he's in the best shape that he ever was because he was in way better shape way back then. But he he finds a way to win. And I think the guys respect that a lot.
And, you know, they see his passion for the game. And he's a he's an excellent coach. And, you know, you want to work with people that make you better. And I think I think that he does that for me. And, you know, I think he's learned some of the things that the head coaches have to deal with. And I think the one day he'd be a great head coach.
And so it's it's been a pleasure working with them. And I'll be honest, we wouldn't be where we are without him.
Nathan Karseno : He is in a similar situation as you were back after your playing days graduating and then maybe you had a little more time before you jumped into coaching, but very soon after you joined the team on the coaching staff. How was his transition been like watching it from the outside, I know you've mentioned that it's almost been like a seamless transition just because he has so much familiarity with the program.
But how have you been able to see Jonno grow and transform from what he was as a player now to what he is as a coach?
Collin Cone : Yeah, he's he's meant to be a coach. It was a truly it was seamless. He's, you know, and he had that semester there where there wasn't a coach here and he was thrown into the fire a little bit. And, you know, he had to figure out, you know, how to lead and and how to be a coach and not a friend as much.
And, you know, he did that really, really well. So he I'll be honest with you, like he's done an incredible job. And I honestly, like, we wouldn't be where we are without him just because he he knows LCU so well. And for me, coming in new late, you know, he was able to explain things to me quickly. I could get answers a lot quicker just because, you know, he had been here and done that, you know, and he he's learned like I said, he's learning some of the things, you know, the the behind the scenes stuff that you deal with as a head coach, you know.
But, you know, those things comes with time. But the X's and the O's and the leader he is and things like that, it's it's is incredible, honestly. And he's way, way ahead of his time.
Nathan Karseno : Well, one thing you all know for sure is that the rivalry on the range is certainly a big flag on the schedule, and that is what we have coming up this weekend. And that's the first match in Lone Star conference play. What does it mean for the team to continue this upslope that we've been going through? And what does it mean to start conference play with a great showing?
Collin Cone : It's exciting. You know, we've played all three of the teams that we're about to face, including W.T. and obviously a big rivalry. But the guys, you know, like there's a good there buzzing in the locker room. You know, they want to they want to get after it. They want to play. They're excited to play. And that's what you want as a coach.
You want them to be wanting to play the best teams and wanting to not wanting easy games. They want games that are going to make them better and push them. And you feel good after you win. So that's what WT is for us. You know, it's a it's a very well coached program. Two very good coaches there that have done an awesome job.
And obviously they're in the top 25 and, you know, they have a rich, rich history and success pretty much in all their sports. So it's a it's an exciting thing and it's fun. It's going to be fun to go to their place and see how we do. And you always want to be tested. And I think this is this is a big test.
And we start out conference against, I think, some of the top teams in our conference. And, you know, hopefully we can get some good results out of these games and then carry it forward into the rest of the games.
Nathan Karseno : We're certainly excited and can't wait to see how the result is. This Saturday. And I really thank you for joining us here today. But one quick thing before we end off. What are you most excited about not only just to end this year, but to continue your reign here as the leader of this program?
Collin Cone : Yeah, I think there's, I think there's, um, I think there's a lot of opportunity and that's, that's, I think what, what's the most exciting to me? I think there's a lot of growth that we're going to see over the next few years. And I think that that the players that we're going to continue to bring in and the players that we have are going to are going to do a lot of things to make the campus proud, you know, not just on the field, but often as well.
And that's that's an exciting thing for me as a coach. And like I said, I think there's a lot of opportunity to continue to build this thing and build off what the previous coach had done here and were set up for success. And and so we need to do that. We're going to we're going to do that.
Nathan Karseno : We really appreciate your time, coach. Thank you for being here. And best of luck this Saturday.
Collin Cone : Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Nathan Karseno : This has been head coach Collin Cone for the men's soccer program. And thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed today's discussion, please share it with someone else so they can do the same and learn from one of LCU's newest leaders. Thank you for listening to this episode of the LCU podcast, and we'll see you in the next one.
outro : Thanks for listening to LCU's podcast. For more content like this, go to LCU.edu.