5 questions with Varsity I Director Lee Zerrusen as Bret Bielema begins to turn into extra conversant in Illini soccer alums:
New Illinois soccer coach Bret Bielema and athletic director Josh Whitman had been a part of a Zoom name to introduce Bielema to Illini soccer alumni final month. How did that come about?
“Every time we discovered that there was going to be a change in management of the soccer program, you form of begin planning then and there for what the brand new rent’s first few weeks are going to seem like and which teams he must contact and get in entrance of.
“Going by way of that, our former soccer letterwinner group was a kind of essential teams. We’re actually fortunate to have a former student-athlete, former soccer participant, as athletic director as a result of he helps it. He understands what that group means to this program.
“Earlier than we even made this rent, we had been placing these teams collectively. The COVID world, it’s simple to get individuals in a Zoom. … When Coach (Bielema) was employed, he was wanting to do it. It was thrilling to see how keen he was to speak to that group and actually place significance on it, as a result of that’s what they’re searching for.”
What impression did Bielema depart on the Zoom name?
“I simply assume there was an vitality. He’s a former Large Ten soccer participant (at Iowa), so he will get what it’s prefer to be a student-athlete on this convention and what it takes athletically and academically to succeed. I simply assume he introduced an ideal private contact to issues.
“He form of opened the curtain just a little bit extra with this group than he usually would, as a result of I believe he confirmed an ideal understanding that these guys have been by way of it. They put numerous effort into this program, they usually wish to see it succeed. So I believe having the ability to go in-depth and be private with these guys — there’s guys that he coached in opposition to (and) performed in opposition to on there, and he remembered them, known as them out.
“It’s actually cool to see simply how he interacted with guys from completely different eras.”
You point out completely different eras — how far again did the alumni go on this name?
“Properly, Dick Butkus was on the decision, which is thrilling to see. Every time you may get Dick on a Zoom name, I believe that’s a fairly uncommon and thrilling factor for a program.
“However we had guys from the ’60s. I don’t know if I noticed from the ’50s on there, however ’60s all the best way as much as individuals who graduated not too long ago.”
Had been there any feedback or interactions that particularly stood out?
“We had nice engagement from our alumni group. We had Kurt Kittner, Dana Howard asking questions. Simply to see how (Bielema) engaged with them and callbacks to both teaching in opposition to them or taking part in in opposition to these guys (was cool). However I believe what stood out most to me, that group, their largest query … is how can we assist and what can we do? And Coach had a solution for it. I believe that’s essential.
“He not solely had a solution, however he had some vitality to it and was excited that this group wished to be with him and understood that. I believe he mentioned, ‘If we’re all not pushing in the identical path, that’s going to make this rather a lot tougher.’ Simply him being keen to hear and perceive what these guys know, as a result of they know Illinois higher than he does at this level, I believe that’s what actually stood out to me.”
What expectations do you will have for Bielema’s first season in cost?
“That is in all probability me speaking as a fan. I grew up in Teutopolis, simply an hour south of Champaign, an Illini fan my complete life. I believe he’s going to convey numerous toughness and vitality to this system.
“That’s what I anticipate: We’re going to have a tricky Large Ten program on the sector as he retains getting his gamers in and his programs in place.”
Colin Likas covers Illinois soccer and highschool sports activities at The Information-Gazette. He may be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.