If Mary Whisler has learned one thing in her few years as a soccer coach, it’s that determination counts.
Whisler, who is in her third season as head women’s soccer coach at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, knows that her team may not always be the most talented on the field.
But Whisler, a 2005 Elkhart Central High School graduate, expects them to be driven.
“I only expect them to try,” says Whisler, 26. “If I have effort, I can work with effort.”
The effort at Owens has led to plenty of success since Whisler took the job. Going into a match Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Delta State, the 2013 Express are 13-2 with 11 straight victories.
In two-plus seasons since the program began at the two-year school, Whisler-coached teams are a combined 38-12-3. The 2012 Express went 13-2-3, including 10-0-2 in National Junior College Athletic Association Region XII play, which helped them earn the No. 1 seed in the region tournament. Owens’ season ended with a 1-0 loss to Muskegon CC in the semifinals.
In 2013, Owens will finish no worse than the No. 2 seed in the region and will host the four-team region tournament. The winner moves on to the NJCAA national finals in Melbourne, Fla.
Whisler has recruited players to Owens mostly from the Toledo area and helped instill a competitive drive.
“I find a group of kids who will compete,” says Whisler. “I believe in them. Kids play hard for a coach that respects them. I have a group of kids that really buy into that. I’ve been real lucky.”
Whisler learned these ideals while playing for then-head coach Eric Jantzen at Elkhart Central and then-head coach Ken Nuber at the University of Saint Francis. Jantzen is now coaching for the Elkhart Flames and Nuber is director of coaching for the Junior Irish — both clubs where Whisler was a player.
“I’m so blessed with where I played high school and college,” said Whisler, who graduated as Central’s all-time points leader and was a three-time all-conference performer at USF. “They may not know it, but I model so much after what (Jantzen and Nuber) did. Any success I’ve had at this age is because of the family, friends and every coach I played for or with.”
Whisler was an assistant at the University of Findlay (Ohio) from 2009-11. At Findlay, she helped lead the program to an overall 14-18-5 record. Whisler’s responsibilities also included recruiting, training and assessing talent.
She sees positives and negatives to coaching at a two-year school.
“On the plus side, I can help get the players to the next level,” says Whisler. “On the down side, I lose players after a year or two.”
A full-time coach, Whisler also coaches U11 and U16 travel teams. Like her college team, she wants to keep her players organized, prepared and motivated.
“These are the best years of life,” says Whisler.