COLUMBIA — As the boy kicks the soccer ball low and hard into the goal, parents can see the coach sprinting onto the field. He shouts joyfully and gives the player a huge bear hug as if he just won the World Cup, yet this is just an 11-year-old boys’ soccer practice.
“It is great when you see the transition these young guys make,” Greg Kayser said. “I just get so excited when they do things right and it pays off.”
Kayser, head coach of the Columbia Pride Under-11 boys soccer team and assistant coach for the Columbia College men’s soccer team, is known for his passion and intensity. He played with this same enthusiasm just last year for the Cougars, his final year of eligibility, and is now trying to relay his passion into coaching. Kayser, at 22, is pursuing his dream of coaching and doing it the same way he played.
“We used to call him ‘Psycho’,” Kayser’s high school coach Terry Michler said, “because he played with so much intensity and aggressiveness that we had to calm him down.”
Kayser works to instill the same fearless and relentless attitude into the players on his youth team. He gives the boys powerful high-fives after each score and shouts encouragement every time his players race back and frantically defend their goal.
“He played with such passion and intensity,” Columbia College head coach John Klein said, “that those who he is coaching will follow him and do the same.”
Kayser, a senior at Columbia College, is trying to discover what it takes to be a collegiate coach by working on Klein’s staff. He is learning all the behind-the-scenes work by doing the little things.
“I line the field with cones for drills, take care of the uniforms, and help set up for the game preparations,” Kayser said. “You don’t realize all the stuff that goes into running a program until you actually do it.”
His experiences this season have given Kayser a new way of looking at the game. He observes drills during practices, looking for good foot work instead of which player does it the fastest. He will sit and listen to Klein talk about attacking techniques, free kick formations and defensive alignments. The mental aspects of coaching are something Kayser, as a player, never gave much thought to.
“Greg has had good training and a good background for coaching,” Michler said, “because of all the good coaches he has played under. He has a good understanding of the game.”
Scouting, recruiting, practicing, conditioning players, forming game plans and attending to public relations tasks takes a lot of time and dedication. Plus, on most college or high school teams, these things are done by only one or two coaches.
“I never realized how much thought and time Coach Klein puts into this team until I became a coach,” Kayser said.
For Columbia College, Kayser has a different role as coach than he does with his under-11 club team. Kayser is a listener, often times talking to players who are struggling or in need of someone to communicate with.
“I try to be there for the guys,” Kayser said. “I give advice and my past experiences really help with my understanding of their problems.”
Earlier in the season, one of the players for the Cougars was dealing with injuries and having a rough time coping. Kayser talked with him often and helped keep his spirits high during his rehabilitation, enabling the player to stay upbeat during the tough time.
“He just needed someone to listen,” Kayser said. “So I just kept talking with him and helping him stay focused on getting better.”
Kayser’s role as a coach for the Cougars has grown with the progression of the season. He plans to help Klein scout upcoming opponents by traveling to the opponent’s games and hopes to join Klein on the recruiting trail. Yet he still continues to try and keep the team morale up.
“The season has had its ups and downs,” Kayser said. “But I have learned a lot by just listening, and now I am able to contribute more.”
Left for Kayser is gaining experience and developing his coaching skills.
“Greg understands now the tactical part of the game,” Klein said, “but he still has that fire to push his team to play hard, aggressive, and physical.”
Kayser will graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and marketing. He plans to pursue his aspirations of being a collegiate coach after graduation, whether that means being an assistant again, landing a head coaching position somewhere or coaching a competitive youth team.
“If I ended up getting a job outside of coaching, I will still find some team to coach,” Kayser said. “I love coaching and will never stop.”