Coaching one of the most recognizable and respected sports club in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the St. Lawrence Laurentians, is a position that has always been scrutinized. Here’s 20 questions I’ve asked the Laurentians’ Head Coach Derek Strang, and his responses:
1. What is your full name and where were you born and raised?
Derek William Strang and I was born and raised in Lawn.
2. What is your occupation?
Physical Education Teacher at John Burke High School in Grand Bank.
4. What was your greatest accomplishment as a player?
My greatest accomplishment as a player would be our bronze medal win at the Nationals in 1999. No one expected us to do well, but we won the bronze and deserved it. It was also in this tournament I played my last game ever, due to a career ending injury.
5. What was your greatest disappointment as a player?
Following 1999, that next spring (2000) was when I got injured. There were a lot of tough times after that. But in 2002 when I had to watch a lot of my buddies and teammates step out in St. John’s in the final of the National Challenge Cup, that was an extremely tough.
6. What is your personal motto that you coach by?
I coach by trying to instil into my players, intelligence and hard work at both ends of the ball.
7. Name the top 3 players you played with.
Very tough question but, the top three players I have played with include (in no order): Dr. Paul Slaney, Richard Kelly and Leonard ‘Bruddy’ Edwards.
8. Name the top 3 players you played against.
The top three players I played against are: Dr. Paul Slaney, Bob Spearns and Harry Kelly.
9. What's one thing related to soccer that bugs you?
The hard time players sometimes get, albeit from a small group, for giving up their lives to a team and a game. A lot of times they don’t get the respect they deserve for doing this. Thankfully, most realize and respect the dedication required and give their full support, even though they may not be always be happy with things.
10. As a coach, what are your best qualities?
I hate these types of questions! I think my best quality is my ability to analyze our game, recognize our weaknesses, and to find ways in practice to work on and improve upon these weaknesses.
11. As a coach, what are your worst qualities?
My worst quality is, even though I am mostly calm on the bench, I can get a little upset from time to time.
12. Name the toughest soccer player you ever played against in the province?
I really can’t answer the toughest soccer player that I ever played against. However, the toughest player I was ever up against and luckily enough that only occurred in practice was my Lawn teammate, Rod Roul.
13. What is the most vivid dream you've ever had when it comes to soccer?
Stepping out on the field in St. John's in October of 2002. But I never get to see how it ends!
14. What is your most treasured soccer award?
My two National bronze medals; one for playing and one for coaching.
15. Who’s one Challenge Cup soccer player that is presently playing for another club that you'd love to add to strengthen your team?
I wouldn’t want to do an injustice to our players by naming someone I would like to have. I am very happy with my team.
16. If you were president of the NLSA what's one thing you would change?
I would give more money (or all of it) from the final weekend to the winning team, whoever it is, to help alleviate the cost of travelling to Nationals.
17. The Laurentians of 2008 are off to a relatively slow start, and this being the season that Newfoundland is to host the nationals’ expectations are very high. What do you think has caused this slow beginning?
We have definitely had a slow start due to a number of reasons. First of all, fitness; there is no substitute for it as it allows players to do the things they want to do. Unfortunately, we didn’t start the season as fit as we should have. That is a factor of not being together. However, it is improving but not to where it should be yet, and this has caused us to lose a lot of points late in games. I have total confidence in the team as we have too many proven goal scorers for it not to. However, finishing and fitness will be a focus in early July when we start to get together more regularly.
18. After 2008, what’s in store for Derek Strang?
As for next year, it is something that will be decided in the Fall/Winter in discussion with my family, who are always very supportive. I will definitely be involved on some level but at what level I am not sure. Maybe coaching a U-4 team!
19. Since you started coaching back a few years ago, it’s a fact the majority of your team’s players are not living in St. Lawrence and as a former coach I know this is not an easy task to deal with. Do you feel you can honestly coach when you are not there training and practicing your players on a regular basis?
I guess that is a question you’d have to ask the team. Are you getting better? They know the true answer to that! But there is no doubt, coaching the Laurentians is a tough task, especially now that we are spread out so much.
20. What do you feel the future holds for Challenge Cup Soccer on the Burin Peninsula?
Soccer on the Burin Peninsula, and I am speaking strictly about Challenge Cup, I think has a future, although one that is far different than anyone would have conceived 10 years ago. I think we may always have only one team now and it will be made up of players from around the peninsula, which is really what we have this year in St. Lawrence. The numbers are not in the communities themselves anymore to feed a top-level team. Because of this all associations need to really work together to ensure that top-level soccer survives.
I believe there is a future on the Burin Peninsula for two Challenge Cup teams. One team would be the St. Lawrence Laurentians, which will be made up of predominantly Laurentian players. In the past the only players that played with the Laurentians from outside were elite players. I feel, for the past few seasons, this is no longer the case. I feel a number of the outside players that are on the current Laurentians’ roster should have been filled by young Laurentians from within their own system.
The other team will be a team comprised of a number of players from various communities on the Burin Peninsula. Currently, the Burin Peninsula has a very active minor soccer program, with five clubs participating and a total enrolment of over 500 players.