In sports, coaches are regarded as one of the most important pieces in assembling a championship-calibre squad.
The person put in charge of a group of young men or women can greatly influence the productivity of a team and ultimately affect what the group can achieve.
But what is the most important part of a coach’s job?
Is it the X’s and O’s, the in-game adjustments, or player management?
Yes, strategy is important, and minor tweaks during a match can change the outcome, but it is player management that can have the greatest overall impact on a team’s performance.
For evidence of this, look no further than McMaster’s men’s soccer team and the player-coach relationship between head coach Dino Perri and goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo.
Perri is a former goalkeeper himself whose playing career earned him a spot in the Brock University Athletic Hall of Fame and an opportunity with the Canadian Professional Soccer League.
Meanwhile, Cavalluzzo is a second-year engineering student with a strong background preceding his time with McMaster, which includes playing at a national level and spending time with the Toronto F.C. Academy club.
The opportunity for Cavalluzzo to play under an experienced keeper as coach like Perri played a major role in his decision to join the Marauder’s men’s team in 2010.
“I’ve trained with [Coach Perri] before, he trained me when I was a lot younger and I knew what I was getting when I came here,” Cavalluzzo said when asked about how the Marauder’s coach influenced his university choice.
Although Perri says that in years past he has shied away from focusing much on the keepers, he spoke highly of his coaching staff that has allowed him to work more with Cavalluzzo this year.
“I’ve started to take a more active role with [Angelo]… A stronger relationship is something that he welcomed and he wanted.”
The growing relationship has had a positive impact on Cavalluzzo’s 2012 season, as he’s only allowed eight goals through nine games, good for third in the OUA East.
But the statistical performance is not the only area in which the young keeper has grown, as he has began to emerge as a leader for a team trying to defend it’s OUA Championship.
Perri praised the confidence of the keeper and explained what Cavalluzzo brings to the team on game day: “When you have that much strength at the back, it just brings out so much confidence from the players in front of him. It allows them to do so much more because they aren’t hesitant of who is playing behind them”.
With McMaster’s style of play, the offensive attack begins with the keeper and there are few better players to fit that role than Cavalluzzo, not only in the OUA but the CIS, in Perri’s opinion.
Cavulluzzo also credited Perri’s experience with teaching him how to communicate with his team to draw the best from his teammates.
“Getting what Coach wants the team to do starts with me. Having him being a keeper helps a lot with being able to get that message out and I have to tell the team what to do.”
Leadership is an important part of soccer since the intensity level of a game can skyrocket on a whim.
But Cavulluzzo is a calming presence for the Mac squad – a role that the keeper has both acknowledged and embraced.
“I feel very comfortable in a leader role. I’ve been playing soccer for a long time and it’s fun for me to be in the leadership role.”
With such a unique player-coach relationship growing on the Ron Joyce Stadium soccer field, it’s hard to be anything but optimistic for not only the near future of the team, but also the long-term success of the program.
In the words of Perri, a keeper can often win or lose you a game and with Cavulluzzo at the helm, McMaster should expect to continue chalking up the victories.