LU Moment: Nathan Kogut on moving the goalposts | S4 Ep. 44


Shelbe Rodriguez 0:00
Welcome to the LU moment, where we showcase all the great events, activities, programs and people right here at Lamar University. I'm Shelby Rodriguez, Public Affairs Manager, here at LU. You guys, guess what? I want to welcome you back to this week's episode of the LU moment. Listen, I have a very special guest with me today. Nathan Kogut, head soccer coach here at Lamar University. Coach Kogut joined the Cardinal family back in April of this year. He has 20 years of experience coaching and we got him here right with us. And he's leading our Cards into the best season in program history. Right. Welcome, coach, to the Moment. Thank you, Shelby for having me. All right. Let's start simple. Give our audience a little bit of background. Twenty years, give us some background, how did you get into this?

Nathan Kogut 0:43
This is about the only thing that I'm good at. So I started as a club coach, and just kind of stuck with it. I was a fairly good soccer player. But I won't say that I was the best. Yeah, I wanted there to be a future in soccer and athletics. But I my athletic ability wasn't going to take me there. And so I grew up the the son of two people in higher academics. Yeah. And so it sort of just worked itself out. I was I continued to coach through college, and yes, something that stuck with me. As I worked for Alabama softball, when I was getting my master's, I had to do an internship. And they were one of the people that I had internship with. Yeah. And we won a national championship. The year that I worked for them. Yeah. But I was already working for the soccer program. I got to interact with that coaching staff and the way they did things, yeah, in that group of players, and that's just okay, this is what I want to do. I was doing sports info. I was doing stats. Yeah. And it was, I want to be a college soccer coach kind of thing just clicked, you're in that moment. So I vividly remember the phone calls to my parents where it was, guys, I have just completed my master's. We've done a lot of years of out of state tuition. And I want to be a college soccer coach. So from there, it was just needing somebody to let it you know, crack the door a little bit for me. And I had to do the rest and crack that door, Rhodes College campus. So I started at the Division Three level and worked my way up to Division Two, back to Division Three. Yeah. I loved my time there. Like, I think that everybody should have to coach in one of those two levels. Yeah, just provide a little bit of perspective. Yeah, for sure. And then Texas A&M called, and I grew up in College Station. So when they called and asked me to come home, it was a very easy decision. Yeah. And, you know, four years later, here I am at Lamar.

Shelbe Rodriguez 2:49
That's right. That's right. And so why did you choose to come over here to the nest?

Nathan Kogut 2:55
My family is important, and a very big piece was, it's my family being able to come to games has been huge, something that they didn't have, for a very long time in my career, I always would have to call them. And I call them after every game that they don't get to see. Yeah, but now they get to see a lot. And I just got to spend the last four years giving them tickets, so they could come see home games. Yeah. And they could watch them on TV. And yeah, it's just one of those things where it being able to have my family close, selfishly, was really important. And then for the next phase of my career, I wanted to be at a place that the expectation was to win—that you want to win championships. Yeah, they're gonna provide you that opportunity. And, you know, combine all those things when I would visit Beaumont. Yeah, I remember what Beaumont was 15 years ago, that I've come back recently, and seeing how much it has grown. And how much Lamar has grown. I mean, it's night and day. And it's a very, very, very easy decision.

Shelbe Rodriguez 4:06
I love that answer. It was an easy decision. Man, speaking of winning, we've had a successful season so far, coach, and so let's talk a little bit about the season. Right? What kind of tipped you off that this will be a successful winning season?

Nathan Kogut 4:20
I don't really know if it was our exhibition game against HCU in a previously scheduled exhibition before we came back to the Southland. And we were not very good. And we started a few days later than everybody, due to the way our schedule played out. Preseason. And so I try not to take it as like a sign. Right. It was one of those that we just were preaching our process with our girls and what we were going through. Yeah, and to be fair, we played Houston, our opening game on a Sunday and Friday night's training session was the best practice we had had all preseason, and I remember going home and telling my family that I have hope. Yeah, it was very even keeled throughout the whole process. And it was, I feel really good. And we scored 10 minutes into that game. And it was okay. This is a good group in the 10 days that we've had that we got to train after the exhibition, how much they absorbed, how much better they got, you started seeing the relationship start to form. At halftime, we were like, this is a really good team. And I think that was when we were okay. There's something here. And then, you know, we just focus on the next game and the next game and the next game, to the point where you just kind of forget what's going on. The record doesn't matter. Yeah. And, ah, they just kept performing. So we've obviously struggled coming off of this weekend, but I don't think until this weekend, they brought their own known hype. And I think that we've been humbled a little bit, and I still think it's gonna be a really special year.

Shelbe Rodriguez 6:01
Yeah, I think so as well. And you talk about the roster a little bit — how do you measure success with this with this roster with this team?

Nathan Kogut 6:10
I would say that it's, you know, it's a learning process every year. Are we retaining our kids? Do we keep this roster intact? Are they happy? Are we graduating them? I mean, to me, that's the biggest indicator of success. I mean, obviously, you can get wins and losses. And that's why we do it. But yeah, the measure of success with this roster is going to be a few years from now, when they start getting married and they have kids and you start getting the invitations and the announcements. Oh, yeah. That's, you know, kind of my favorite part of being able to do what we do is we get them as 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, when you start that recruiting relationship, and then they leave as young women and then are adults. Yeah. And we get to be a part of that. So that's really big picture. I mean, it's looking at from 30,000 feet. But this is a group that has shown that they can win a conference championship. Yeah. And it's a group that expects to win one. So I would say that, as long as we're in the running for it, it's successful. And right now, we are performing well enough to win a conference championship. We just have to finish the deal.

Shelbe Rodriguez 7:15
Finish the deal. So what's the gist? Up until a few days ago, we were undefeated? Right? What's the spirit like in the locker room right now?

Nathan Kogut 7:23
I think, half of it is humbled. I would think that we've had a say in the last couple of weeks of, "Don't eat the cheese." You know, don't buy your own. Yeah, I think at times, we got a little unbalanced. I liked the fact that yesterday when we drew, we knew that we were the better team, and we let them hang around a bit too much. And there was a level of disappointment in our performance; we performed in a vacuum really well, yeah. But because of the way that our standard has been set, they knew they didn't hit it. And it wasn't because we didn't win. It was that they knew that we let a team off the hook, and we didn't perform at our best. And I feel like that's a really big piece of what we're building. I like the fact that we got a point in conference play. But we were disappointed in our performance. And it was actually pretty good. If you take 10 steps back. But that's just the standard they've created for themselves. And it was nice to see them feel a little pain, you know? Yeah, a little bit heavier result this weekend.

Shelbe Rodriguez 8:33
Yeah. And so what do you think are some of the benefits besides being extremely, overly humble? What do you think are some of those strengths that our team possess right now for the rest of the season?

Nathan Kogut 8:43
They're just a fun group. I think that within every team, you've got little groups and people that can interact, we have a lot of people that can connect. So within a group, obviously, you have your little subsets of groups. But we have people that can float a lot through those groups. And we have a lot of connectors. And that's a really fun group. I mean, yesterday morning, I came in to do film, and there's always music going on in the locker room. But you're coming off with a loss. Yeah. They were humbled. But yeah, their interactions with each other — I mean, they were dancing. It was salsa dancing. And it was as loud a locker room as I'd been in, considering it was pregame. It was as fun a locker room as I've been in. That's a really big deal. And I think we have some maturity. I don't want to say we're the most mature team. We have some good leaders. Yeah, I think that that's really really cool to see is some of these girls that were really unsure of themselves in April. Yeah, when I got here some of our new transfers were a little unsure of themselves when they got here in August and they're starting to take hold in understand their role and providing some leadership — that's that's been pretty cool to see.

Shelbe Rodriguez 9:57
Yeah, it sounds like, I know you talk about big picture right? We call that a Carter move, you talk about big picture. And you know, once these students move on, but it seems like you kind of have a mentorship type of arm to it, you know, you're not just coaching, go out there and do the play where you're like, look, are you alright? We have camaraderie. We're coming together, we remain humble, we build each other up. That's teamwork. So I'd love to see it. And so what do you think is the hardest part about coaching this team here at all?

Nathan Kogut 10:23
There are so many good kids. Not everybody can play. We have a really deep team. And I will admit, there are times where I get I create a little doubt in myself. And I don't I think that we are deep. And I think that that's a good thing. And it's a bad thing, because we we have some really, really good kids that aren't playing 90 minutes. And I think that's a strength. You know, we get into the second half of conference season when people have all the film they need on you. But yeah, throw someone off the bench for 30 to 40 minutes that they just haven't seen yet and that is a really big deal. And that's a game changer. You know, and I think that because of how deep we are, we've, knock on wood, eliminated a lot of our injury bug issues that yes, the program has had (injuries). But that's the toughest part is that, you know, you've got talented kids. Yeah, good enough to play division one soccer, and there's just so much talent, you know, they have to trust that process. And as an 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kid, it's tough to see the forest through the trees. It was that process, I'm sure. But I think you can say that about a lot of things as a college kid. But it's very tough. And that, to me, that's been the hardest part.

Shelbe Rodriguez 11:31
For sure. Let's talk a little bit about the coaching staff. I'm sure you have a great coaching staff to help you along. Can you talk a little bit about what they bring to the table and helping you get through the rest of the season and even into next?

Nathan Kogut 11:51
Sure. So Kurt Albrecht is one of our assistants. He's a dad, so he's married with a cat. So that's just a different perspective, because I think we have a relatively young staff. So I'm only 36, Kurt's 36. Yeah. And Brian is 28. And then RGA has just graduated. So Our staff is young-ish; we don't have any gray hair. But having that dad, having that someone who has to go home at night and provide for his family — I think that's a really big deal. You know, he brings his son around training. And I think it's important that people know that he's got that family. And that's really, really important. But he has been a head coach for almost a decade. And I used to work for him a few years ago. So I was his assistant. And he was a great boss. He was someone I took a lot from, but he has a very good soccer mind. And he's a really good person. And it was really important that when I got this job that I hired people who are going to have been in my chair before. The coaching in the game is easy. Yeah, that's the reward for your week of work. But people have done all of that stuff before, so Kurt does a really good job of that. He usually takes our backline and incorporates the goalkeepers into him. And we haven't given up very many goals this year, which has allowed us to be successful. And then Colton Bryant is young, but he's our recruiting coordinator. He relates to the kids really well. Super energetic. I don't think he's ever met a stranger. And our recruiting efforts have skyrocketed. I mean, we are a young, hungry staff, we are embracing the fact that LU has a lot to offer. And the amount of club coaches that have come back and said they just didn't know this about us — they know that Lamar offered this, they knew we were good soccer players, but maybe there wasn't an emphasis on some of the things that Lamar has. Yeah. And we've kind of embraced it while still maintaining some of the things that set the soccer program apart. Yeah, the last few years have really helped our staff out. I mean, there are a lot of kids, you know, that have reached out to us saying that coaches weren't taking our phone calls. They weren't sending kids our way. And they are now because we're listening and receptive. And we're still able to bring in some of those really, really talented kids. Yeah, Lamar has pulled in (talent) over the last few years.

Yeah, I think we're bringing in some awesome talent, but we're also pushing out awesome talent, right? We've had some some players go overseas and internationally and play professionally. So yeah, it's a good program overall.

We're going to continue to be able to do that. We have three straight road games and then we finish at home Oct. 28. Against Nichols.

Shelbe Rodriguez 14:50
All right. I'm looking forward to it. You ready, coach? I am always ready. Well, I want to thank you for joining me on the moment this week. Thank you for taking taking the time to meet with me. This is Shelbe Rodriguez, Public Affairs Manager here at LU — the pride of Southeast Texas

Transcribed by