Cal South’s DMCV Shark’s GU96/97, Looking for #3 National Championship
DMCV Shark’s GU96/97 coach Felicia Kappes is a nationally recognized in the world of youth soccer and a remarkable human being. Passionately dedicated to the beautiful game, Kappes is joyfully devoted to her players and their development. A coach who always goes several steps beyond, Kappes is a clearly one of the best youth soccer coaches in America. And, obviously – one of the top female coaches in the country.
Kappes has been coaching the DMCV Sharks, back-to-back 2013 and 2014 US Youth Soccer National Champions GU18 Elite team for six years and is leading them on their road back for a third time.
“Girls are just very excited and grateful to be able to compete one last time together on the national stage,” said Kappes. “We are looking forward to the challenges ahead of this very competitive tournament understanding people want to emphasize the fact we are two time defending champions. For us, we are focusing on enjoying every moment together, since this is the last time playing with each other and the DMCV Sharks.”
Kappes was honored as 2013 Cal South Competitive Coach of the Year and currently is the Director of the College and Elite programs for the DMCV Sharks Soccer Club.
As the coach of a highly successful team, Coach Felicia Kappes spoke with SoccerToday regarding her championship team; the DMCV Sharks Girls 96-97 Elite.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you describe yourself as a coach?
Felicia Kappes: It’s hard to describe myself as a coach … probably best to ask my players. If I had to say something I would say I am tough at times as I push the players to be the best they can be but fair. I am open and communicate constantly with my players, always looking out for their best interests with the priority always being placed on their development not only as a soccer player but also as a person. A “player’s coach”, the type of coach a player wants and enjoys playing for.
Diane Scavuzzo: How important is team chemistry? Does team chemistry make a difference on the field when you are down to the wire and want to win a competitive game?
Felicia Kappes: For me, I place an extreme amount of importance on team chemistry. It’s not something you can fake; it takes time to build it. No one individual is ever more important that the whole for our team. You can see when teams have that special bond. It absolutely helps them to overcome adversity and challenges on the field.
When things get tough, teams with real chemistry will support each other. These teams challenge each other; they push each other to be the best they can be and ultimately they stay positive and believe in each other.
I have always believed our unique team chemistry was a key factor in us winning our two National Championships.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you tell your players at half time? What did you say at the championship match in Vegas when your girls went 3-0 during the weekend’s tough competition to capture their third straight berth to the National Championships?
Felicia Kappes: At halftime, I usually focus on very specific information of what I am seeing in the game, the flow, the tendencies and formation, adjustments that need to be made, etc. However, I don’t give them too much information, I try to be specific and maybe narrow it down to 2-3 things I want to see us do. I always try and end with the positive things we are doing and want to continue to do.
In Vegas, we had a very specific task at hand, we knew we had to win all three games to capture our third straight berth to Nationals. With that in mind, we approached each game as a championship game. I told them we literally were focusing on one half at a time in each game. I constantly reiterated the fact we could not look past any opponent. I also reminded them to rely on their experience and their mental toughness since we did not have a long preparation period for this tournament. Finally, I said all of this great competition and challenges was only helping to prepare them for the next chapter in their soccer careers…collegiate soccer. My very last words before every game in Vegas was to enjoy this moment because this was all part of our final journey together.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you describe your team? What makes this team so special? What makes this team able to win so often?
Felicia Kappes: This team simply put, is extremely special. They embody all that is right in competitive youth soccer. They play this sport for all the right reasons and approach this game and their opponents with respect and sportsmanship. We have discussed all along the way that we are constantly learning valuable life lessons on and off the field. To see them grow up into incredible young woman from little girls who truly love being together has been a blessing for me and for the DMCV Sharks Club.
Diane Scavuzzo: Last year you were thrilled to win your second National Championship and be back-to-back champs – did you think you would be coming back for a third time?
Felicia Kappes: Coming into this year we of course wanted to defend our national championship but we all understood it was going to be a very challenging task given 6 extremely talented players graduated, several who became impact players as Freshman in college. However, we also knew we were left with an incredible core group of special players. The real beauty of this year has been seeing so many different players stepping up and excelling on the field, taking their personal player development to a higher level. The real question is are we deep enough to handle the grind of winning a 3rd Championship against some incredible competition in our age group. We always look forward to challenges and this is just another one to overcome.
Diane Scavuzzo: I know several of your players graduated last year and are now in college – how did you select your new players? How many did you add to the roster?
Felicia Kappes: After graduating 6 and having 2 long-term injuries we needed to add players not only who could play at this level but even more importantly had the right personalities and mindset for this team. I was fortunate to add 6 players, some from within our Sharks program and others who contacted me knowing we had some open rosters spots this season.
Diane Scavuzzo: How tough is it to compete for a third National Title? How well do you think your girls will do?
Felicia Kappes: I’m always asked how tough it is going to be going for a 3rd national title. It will be one of our hardest challenges yet given we have some very interesting dynamics ahead. I have 3 players leaving for college soccer in June so they won’t get to train with us all summer. I also want the girls to enjoy their senior year and last summer with their families before leaving for college so training will have to be more creative and perhaps more independent. Lastly, we have the biggest bulls-eye on our back as two-time National Champs. However, I always like to look at everything in a positive manner. We need to embrace who we are, our accomplishments and the goal to defend this title but yet need to always stay humble and thrive on simply enjoying the journey together, not place all the importance on winning. We are so fortunate to have won not only one but two National Championships so we have experience to draw from.
Everyone who knows me knows I am extremely competitive but they also know I care more about the players and their development on and off the field. This has always been about these young ladies being gifted student-athletes and preparing them for the next level. With all that said, I know this team will compete every minute of every game since this is their last journey together so I look forward to Oklahoma this summer.
Diane Scavuzzo: What have you learned from this road to possible third championship?
Felicia Kappes: That we are always still learning, developing and striving to push a bit more. I have often said these players inspire me to be the best coach I can be. As they train I must also continue to train and educate myself as a coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the moment when your team drenches you in water or Gatorade like?
Felicia Kappes: It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be drenched in water or Gatorade other than pure happiness. All the hard work of these players, the sacrifices, the challenges and adversity they had to overcome along the way, their development and growth…all of it is celebrated in that one moment.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your players’ parents like? How supportive are they? Do these parents also coach from the sidelines so many others?
Felicia Kappes: The parents on my team are extremely positive and supportive. Again, I have been blessed with incredible parents that have allowed us to create a very healthy dynamic on our sideline: they don’t coach, they support and believe in the goals I have outlined for this team and they support all the players, not only their own daughter. Every opportunity I get I thank them for being who they are….they have been an integral part of our success on and off the field and I love them for it.
Kappes holds a B License from the US Soccer Federation. A former collegiate player who was twice named a Division III All-American while at UC San Diego, Kappes’ team won the National Championship in 1989. Kappes also holds a Master of Science in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts. Now a youth soccer coach, Kappes has coached at UCSD, SDSU and UMASS. While she was assistant coach to Jim Rudy, UMASS reached the quarter finals of the NCAA Division I tournament.
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