Even with a 2-7-1 conference record, the men’s soccer program still feels like it is trending upward.
by Conrad Engstrom
The men’s soccer team had nothing to play for in terms of stakes as the Royals were already out of the MIAC playoff hunt, but the men woke up early to shovel the snow off the Ona Orth field before their game against the University of St. Thomas.
After their 1-0 loss, they walked into the locker room with heads held high. The loss to the Tommies did not surprise MIAC soccer fans, since the Tommies finished with a perfect 10-0 record in MIAC play and the loss would finish the Royals tied for last in the MIAC. Nevertheless, the men’s soccer team ended the season proud about how it played and finished its 2017 season.
“I’m not here to win games,” men’s soccer coach Jeremy Iwaszkoweic said. “I am still super competitive and hate losing, but we are trying to redefine what success means and as followers of Jesus we are playing a different game than the world. The world looks at wins and losses and quantifies that as success. Being a coach at Bethel I think we are supposed to look at success differently.”
An outside observer might look at their season and call it failure, but Iwaszkoweic doesn’t. Frustration mounted this season for the men’s soccer team as the team lost nine one-goal games, including the 1-0 finale to St. Thomas. On a sunny day in September the Royals hosted St. John’s University at Ona Orth and held a 1-0 lead until a goal in the final minute of regulation tied it up. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, another example of how close the Royals were time and time again in the 2017 season. Iwaszkoweic does not yell at his players for losing the close games. Instead, as a former player, he shows empathy.
“We are all after continuous improvement and being our best selves in whatever context you are in,” Iwaszkoweic said. “It’s a process.”
When Coach Iwaszkoweic speaks about the process he is not speaking about just soccer – he is speaking about life. Iwaszkoweic graduated from Clemson University with a degree in business. He also played soccer for the Clemson Tigers from 1996-1999. When he heard about Bethel University and the seminary programs they offered he knew that was something he wanted. In 2006, he graduated from Bethel seminary with an MA in theology. His office has a bookshelf flooded with books.
“He cares more intentionally about who we become as people,” senior captain Josh Carlson said. “Obviously we want to win, but Coach wants to leave a better man of God more than anything else.”
The Friday before their 1-0 loss to the Tommies was the last practice of the year and the last practice for the careers of senior captains Kevin Hintz and Josh Carlson. That practice was the first time they remembered snow during practice. Fridays are jersey days for practice, so the team wore hockey jerseys in the October flurries. Following practice, Hintz and Carlson held back the tears in their eyes knowing the end was here. It would be the snow-flurried practice, not the 2-7-1 record, that would stick with them.
“Coach wants us to look more like Jesus when we leave,” Hintz said. “That’s what he sees as winning.”