Will Rafters Preseason Changes Still Amount to Success?
In two years of the Rafters, the franchise has been wildly successful even in the midst of ownership changes as well as your usual roster turnover. One thing that has remained constant in this Shreveport team, has been Coach Greg Palmer. But after 3 cup wins and two strong playoff appearances the Cranleigh native decided to step down as the Rafters coach. Coach Palmer went into detail about how his career trajectory led him to move on from such a positive experience for both him and the City of Shreveport.

“The last two years have been great and we’ve had some really great success on and off the field. When I took the job, the target was to stay and be there for the next year after the first, and we managed to do that with flying colors. I think after making the finals last year it was an exciting time for me and it was an accomplishment that I really didn’t think I would make in the first two years of being here. We did that unexpectedly some people would think, especially seeing the first half of the season. But, this was a good thing because it showed myself as a coach and leader that I could pull together a group of people on the bigger stage and be successful. Going into this season, Montgomery and I had some conversations on where the club was going and we both saw a good vision-we were on the same page. But I really think for me, where I am professionally in terms of development, it was time for me to step down and pursue something different,” said Coach Palmer.

When asked about his experience as a Coach in the NPSL, Coach Palmer says how the NPSL has helped increased exposure for talented individuals who may be passed by the usual system.

“If you look at the league right now, the NPSL is one of the better ones. It’s a shame that it can’t be like one of the bigger leagues right now- where they can play throughout the course of the year and be successful that way. However, the opportunity that players get being part of an NPSL team is you get the showcase once a year where all those MLS coaches come and watch. In the presence of those coaches and scouts, you’re able to display your skills on that stage and try for a contract. And that in itself is worth playing for in the NPSL. As you can see, if you look at the stats of players that have left the NPSL and now play in professional leagues– whether here in the US or in Europe, it’s a lot. The majority of the players are comprised of division one, two, and three programs and even NAIA. This is just another avenue for them to get to where they want to go instead of maybe going through the MLS draft. Realistically, it’s understood you’re probably not going to get into that draft unless you’re a really good division one player. If you didn’t quite make division one soccer, you still have a good chance to be seen and become a professional, even after those college years.”

“There’s been so much that I’ve been able to learn from Coaching this team, even having already coached teams at the same level in Europe. The main thing that I’ve learned is being able to be a leader where some players are not on a salary- how do you get those people with different thoughts, ideas, and opinions of the game- onto one page and moving in the right direction. So, in a way that was a learning curve. But working a full-time job while trying to get a semi pro team successful, there’s a lot of things you have to do to get people to buy into the vision…The local support was absolutely fantastic- whether it was families, friends, business owners—everyone got on board with this team. And all those different parts made me a better person, first and better soccer coach, second,” said Coach Greg.

The search for what would be the Rafters’ second Coach led owner Montgomery Cole to someone who has just recently tapped in to the heart beat of soccer in SBC. It might not be possible to meet someone who is more of a student of the game than LSUS Coach and newly touted Rafters FC Coach Phillip Bohn. Coach Phillip talked about how his 12-years’ experience led to now coaching an NPSL team in North Louisiana.

“Originally from Minnesota, I came here from Kansas Wesleyan to start the program at LSUS- I’ve always wanted to be able to start a program. This has been really comfortable for my family because it’s a similar type city that my wife is from,” said Coach Phillip.

“As far as the Rafters, I went to pretty much all of their games last summer. I got a feel for the team and Greg had asked me to help out in some capacity this summer. I was a little bit around the team already with tryouts and things of that nature. And any coach, simply likes to coach. Whether it be college, club, high school, or semi-pro– it was interesting to help with a team in a different capacity. Then when Greg decided to move on, Monty approached me about taking over as the coach- see if I could continue the trend in the right direction. There’s been a lot of positive momentum on the team that he wanted to keep going.”

When it comes to taking over the team, Coach Phillip’s approach will be predicated upon continuity and turning last season’s expert observations into small improvements.

“When you take over a team that you know almost nothing, you have to figure those things out. However, I was able to be around all summer, so I was able to get a feel for some of the guys that plan to be back. I also was able to see what they did well and see what some of the limitations might have been individually and as a team. Sitting and watching you have a lot of opinions- so I think that helps in a way. As of right now, we have an open tryout March 25th at LSUS for another opportunity to continue building this year’s team. But the bar has been set pretty high because the club been very successful.”

Coach Phillip opened up about his tactics, as well and the most important things when it comes finding what works for any given team.

“You coach to what you believe in the most. However, you have to be open minded to adjust to what you have as well. For me, it’s usually a variation of a 4-3-3 in more of a possession style. But with that being said, I try to build a blue-collar mentality. So, if we wanted to play pretty, we can hang with the best of them, but if this turns into a grinder game where we have to roll up our sleeves and win an ugly one, we’re fully capable of doing that.”

“Anybody that coaches soccer passionately, it’s a little easier to get behind and support that guy or that team. And you take a little bit from everybody, but as a coach myself, someone I’m impressed with is Pep Guardiola. His ability to go to different cultures and leagues and instill the same philosophy is impressive. He did it with Barcelona’s B and then A team. Then he takes to the German league and gets them to play a beautiful style. And now he’s gone to England where people said he couldn’t do it. It shows that you’re only going to be good as your ability to have a good philosophy, get people that believe in and connect with what you’re trying to do.”

The professionalism of past and present of this Shreveport club is what’s kept that success constant, despite variables. With the season starting April 18th, the Blue and Gold Loyal can expect nothing less than yet another year of constant progression.

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