Matt Corn has been present for some of the biggest moments in the annals of Polk County boys soccer.
He’s hoping to take part in a few more memorable times in the years ahead.
Corn, a 2002 Polk County graduate, is returning to his roots and taking over the Wolverine program as its head coach. Corn has already been working with Polk County players this summer in advance of the start of fall practice on August 1.
The most valuable player in Polk County’s 2001 state championship victory and a volunteer assistant coach with the 2003 state champs, Corn admits returning to his alma mater is “surreal.” But he is eagerly anticipating the opportunity.
“If you would have told me when I was going to high school here that I would come back and coach, I probably would have told you that you’re out of your mind,” he said. “But, honestly, I’m excited.
“I’m a little nervous, too. It’s a pretty big step. It’s just one of those things where I had to do it. I had a bunch of parents that I coached some of their kids reach out to me and ask me if I was interested in the job. And, for the longest time, I said no, because I didn’t think it’d work out with my current job.
“After about five parents reached out to me over about five months, I thought, maybe I’m called to do this. Then I spoke to my wife and she was like, oh, I thought you were supposed to do this from the very beginning, so go after it. So that’s what I’m doing.”
Corn has known for quite some time that he wanted to give something back to Polk County’s soccer community. He took a first step in that direction last year, starting a teaching and training program for local youth where he sought to offer instruction without the usual high expenses of club soccer.
“The whole idea was for me to be able to give back to the community that helped raise me,” he said. “So I basically had two teams and, every weekend, they played against each other. I trained them exactly the same way, just trying to teach the fundamentals. Sometimes, it was just coaching out some of the bad fundamentals that had been taught to them.”
For the Wolverine program, Corn’s preference would be to see Polk County playing the Dutch style of soccer called Total Football. In that approach, any player on the field can potentially step into any other position on the field save for the goalkeeper role. But Corn also knows he must shape his coaching approach to fit the skills of those on his rosters.
“The most important thing is trying not to turn the players into something they’re not,” he said. “I want them to use those skills that they have. But I think the most important thing with soccer is more about the IQ, the understanding of the game and where to be in places in certain situations. that’s kind of what I’m gonna try to do.”
A key facet of Corn’s long-term vision for Polk County soccer is to develop successful players both on and off the field. He hopes to build a program rich in community support and involvement, and doing so means building a team worthy of that backing. That is chief among his goals.
“I’m extremely competitive. Honestly, I don’t like to lose. I don’t know many people that do,” he said. “But I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned through the experiences I had when I was younger and now as an adult is that it’s not always about winning.
“If you’re able to go out there and say, you know, I gave everything, I left it all on the pitch, on the field, that’s more important because that means that you did everything you could. I really want to have that in the students and the players that I coach. If you’re able to give everything, if you can literally walk off the field and say that’s all I could give, that’s more important to me than statistics. That’s what I’m striving for.
“I know that everybody else wants to see the wins, and if that comes along with it, that’s great. But we’ve got to be realistic and know that it’s gonna take time.”
Another former Wolverine, Jason Picher, will assist Corn, with Steve Martinez helping as well. All are scheduled to make their debut on August 17 when Polk County hosts West Henderson in its season opener and begins its quest to rebound from last season’s 3-13-1 mark.
“I am extremely passionate about this sport and about trying to develop the kids,” Corn said. “Not only to be better players, but soccer is a really good sport to teach people how to be kind individuals and just rely on others and use that teamwork, because it is truly a team sport.
“I know that we’re going to go through bumps in the road, but I hope everybody knows that I am out here giving it everything that I have, and that’s all I can give.”