On the Sidelines: Getting to Know Assistant Coach Jim Cofer

Aug. 14, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - UCF head men's soccer coach Bryan Cunningham has made two full-time additions to his staff since the end of the 2007 campaign, hiring assistant coaches Jim Cofer and James Prosser. Cofer, who joined the staff on March 17, 2008, will lead the recruiting efforts, coordinate field training, and direct the team's goalkeepers. Cofer has years of experience at all levels of soccer, including putting in time as the volunteer assistant goalkeeping coach with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. Before accepting the job at UCF, Cofer had a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Oregon State University, a Pacific 10 Conference member.

The goalkeeping specialist began his coaching career in Florida, where he worked with various club level teams and was the head coach of Mulberry High School. With Cofer back in the Sunshine State, the Athletic Communications office recently had a chance to sit down and learn more about the coach, his move to UCF, and his soccer experiences.

What about the opportunity to work at UCF made you pack your bags and move your family 3,054 miles (46 hours, 37 minutes according to MapQuest.com) across the United States?

"Well, it is two-fold. First of all, the opportunity to become a first assistant was important as well as to be in charge of the recruiting process. It gave me the opportunity to kind of start fresh with Bryan and the team he was trying to build. Secondly, it was an opportunity for me to get back to an area of the country where I think soccer has huge potential. There is a lot of growth still to be had.

Was there any bribery or pleading needed to convince the family?

"Things on the West Coast were very good for us as a family. We enjoyed the area, so yes, it took a little convincing, if you will. But for my children [seven-year old Jim and four-year old Jack], it was very simple. We told them we were going to Florida and they could be in the sun and the beach and we could go to Disney World from time to time. Plus, I am closer to family, significantly closer to family. Family is a big part of who we are, and when I say we I mean my wife and I and our children. The grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles are very involved in our every day life, and we got closer to our family with both of us being from the South."

How does it feel to have come full circle and be back in the Sunshine State where your coaching career began?

"That is a good question, I had not really thought of it that way as in coming back full circle, but it is true I did. I am seeing not just the players but families of players that I coached when they were 12-years old. They are now graduated from college and in the workforce. Everything does come back full circle. I was fortunate enough over Christmas right before taking the job to see a guy named Chris Paul who used to be the coach at Florida Southern. He has a son that I remember being three-years old who is now 17. It is interesting to look back on it that way. It is kind of nice, and I am looking forward to it."

How has the variety of experiences at all different levels of soccer helped shape your coaching style?

"From a different level standout, I think the biggest thing for me has not necessarily been the level that I have coached as much as the people I have been able to coach with at those various levels. At the youth level, the college level, and the professional level, I have met a variety of coaches, or mentors if you will, who have really shaped who I am, and who have shaped what I have become. I have made a lot of friends, both from a player's and coaches' standpoint, and the relationships that I have created at all of those levels have made me who I am."

Having worked in Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids, what are the differences between working with the professionals and working with the student-athletes?

"The first thing that comes to mind is the pure level of commitment that the student-athlete has to deal with. They not only have to deal with the soccer aspect of it, but also the academic aspect of it, the social aspect of it, whereas at the professional level all these guys have to do is play. Is the game harder and faster at that level? Sure it is. Is it more technical at that level? Absolutely, but these guys have so many other things in their lives to have to deal with. I would say from a soccer perspective being a student-athlete is harder because of the other things they have to struggle with."

You are heading in to your first season at UCF, but having started in March, what did you learn about Coach Cunningham and also some of the guys on the team in the spring season?

"I think with the players, the thing I was able to learn is that this group as a whole is so interested in learning and becoming better. They are like sponges. Anything you tell them they are at least going to try. If they are not able to implement or execute everything the first time, they are willing to try because they want so badly to become better players. I think with Coach Cunningham, the thing that I have found is that he is slightly different than a lot of head coaches in that he seeks the assistants' opinions and wants to talk through things. He makes sure we are a staff and not just a head coach with assistant coaches. He wants us to all be on the same page."

What are you most excited about heading into the season?

"With the youth on the team, there is so much potential that we do not know what is going to happen. We have such an influx of youth that anything could take shape. We also have really good senior leadership from our co-captains (Ryan Roushandel and Chris Ardaur) who are helping the team along, especially in the early going. They have been calling guys over the summer, making sure they are doing okay and sticking with their workouts, and that helps the young guys to adjust quickly when they arrive on campus, both on and off the field."

Cofer and the Knights, who started practice Wednesday morning, will waste little time in testing their ability to gel quickly on the field. UCF welcomes Rollins College to the UCF Soccer Complex Friday night at 7:00 p.m. in the first of three home exhibition games.

All home matches at the UCF Soccer Complex are free to the public this season. The Knights will have a total of seven games on their home field, including the home opener against Memphis on Saturday, September 20, at 7:00 p.m.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.