The latest guest on New England Soccer Journal’s “The Goal” podcast guided a New England Division 3 men’s soccer program to a historic season last fall.
Connecticut College head coach Reuben Burk joined the podcast with host Matt Langone for a compelling discussion that dove deeper into the Camels’ run to their first-ever national championship in 2021, how the program got to that point, the Division 3 pathway, and how Burk goes about trying to land recruits in a competitive league and region.
Burk’s Connecticut College side defeated NESCAC rival Amherst in the national championship game in a dramatic penalty kick shootout on Dec. 4 in Greensboro, N.C.. A native of Westford, Mass., he played at Hobart College, before graduating from the school in 2013. The 2022 campaign will mark his fourth season at the helm for Connecticut College, where he has posted a career record of 33-8-4, which included a pandemic-influenced 2020 season.
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Here are some highlights from our discussion with Burk in the latest episode of “The Goal”:
On the team’s mindset entering the national championship game:
Burk: “As a program, we had never been there before, so we kind of wanted to soak it in and enjoy the moment and enjoy each other’s company while being there. But, yeah, the game in itself was a huge rollercoaster.”
On the emotions of winning the national title:
Burk: “It was surreal. You know, that’s probably the best way to describe it. I don’t think anyone slept. We probably got back to the hotel at 11:00 p.m. Our flight — I think we were at 6:30 or 7 a.m. on Sunday, and we left for the airport around 4 a.m. The guys were just on cloud nine.”
On Connecticut College’s development as a program:
Burk: “Many, many, many years of sustained hard work, resilience, belief and if you want a one word answer — culture.”
On his recruiting methods:
Burk: “I try to turn over every rock, whether it’s high school soccer, or MLS NEXT, or ECNL, or nationally. You try to look through as many avenues as possible. And I think if you work hard enough, if you extend yourself far enough, you’ll have different enough options, where you’re not constantly battling the other NESCAC schools for the same recruit.”
On the challenge of defending the national championship in 2022:
Burk: “It’s definitely going to bring new challenges, for sure. I think one thing that we always talk about as a team is never too high, never too low.”