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WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- It's not too surprising that Scott Shields, the women's soccer coach at Whitman College, places a heavy emphasis on defense. That's because Shields was an NAIA All-American defender during his own playing days on the men's soccer team at Whitman.
Shields has stressed defense from the start of his Missionary coaching career, which began in the fall of 1994.
"To build a team and a program with a strong foundation, you must build from the back with your defense," Shields said. "If a team only has one really good forward and a few good midfielders, it can still do well. But you need to have four solid defenders on the field at all times. If you have one weak link on defense, a smart opponent will find it and exploit it."
The key to good defensive play is the right mix of patience and aggressiveness, Shields said.
"A good defender doesn't want to step out too far too quickly because it puts you out of position to do anything defensively. Defenders must be very patient, very calm and aware of everything that is happening around them. At the same time they must be very physical and aggressive."
Good defense quickly translates into scoring opportunities for the offense, Shields noted. "It's difficult to create any offense unless you get possession of the ball and start beating people, one by one, in your backfield. What that does is give your offense a numbers advantage, and hopefully the offense will convert at least some of those opportunities into goals."
Shields, who graduated from Whitman in 1991 with a degree in sociology, served as team captain and stopper on defense in each of his first three seasons at Whitman. After earning all-Northwest Conference honors as a freshman and sophomore, he received honorable mention All-American recognition as a junior. His senior season was disrupted by injury.
Shields, a native of Richland, Wash., began playing soccer in a youth recreational league when he was five, and he competed on select teams from age 12 through 16. His high school instituted soccer as a varsity sport when he was a senior, and Shields served as captain on a team that captured conference and district titles in its first year of existence.
Shields, who has a master's degree in education, holds coaching certifications from both the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and the U.S. Soccer Federation. He has several years experience in coaching boys and girls soccer programs at Class AAA high schools in Richland and Pasco, Wash.
In addition to his coaching duties with women's soccer, Shields serves as Director of Soccer at Whitman, a role that includes overall administrative responsibility for the men's soccer program. He also is an assistant professor in the Department of Sport Studies, Recreation and Athletics.