Getting to Know Niki Brooks

Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics
         
Release: September 20, 2011
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Niki Brooks is in her first season as assistant coach with the Phoenix.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Niki Brooks, first year assistant coach for Trevor Warren's Green Bay women's soccer team, brings a lot to the field. Her journey to Green Bay began in Portland, Oregon where she was goalkeeper for the Portland State Vikings.

Brooks played four seasons at Portland State (2002-05), where she led the school to the 2004 Big Sky regular season conference title. She recorded seven shutouts in 2004, which ranks seventh in Big Sky history. At the end of her career, she ranked third all-time in shutouts, goals-against average, saves and saves per game. In all, Brooks played in 44 games, starting 39 times.

"Portland State was the number one turnaround team in the nation my freshman year," said Brooks. "We went from a team that won one game to a team that makes it to the conference tournament and lost in the finals."

Last year, Brooks was assistant coach for the Idaho Vandals. The Vandals set school records in wins and conference wins in 2010, while qualifying for their first-ever conference tournament.

As she continues her first season on the sidelines of Aldo Santaga Stadium, Brooks sees a lot of positives for the future of Phoenix soccer.

"This team is setting the foundation," said Brooks. "They want to succeed, not just as soccer players, but as students as well. They want to have that competitive nature, in the classroom as well as on the field."

Brooks, who serves as the goalkeeper coach for the Phoenix, also has a lot of praise for this season's goalies.

"What makes Maddie [Drusch], and the rest of our goalkeepers (Jennifer Sturchio and Katy Pilarzyk), so successful are those physical aspects of the game that you want to throw your body at the ball," said Brooks. "All three of them have that competitive edge that I love in goalkeepers and it makes me being here that much more exciting."

So far this season, Drusch ranks first in the Horizon League in saves and is quickly approaching school records in saves and shutouts.

GreenBayPhoenix.com recently caught up with Brooks to learn more about the first-year assistant.

What made you want to be a women's soccer coach?
"Soccer is more than just a game. It teaches life skills, getting them out and letting them run around and being active instead of sitting in front of the computer tweeting or playing on Facebook. It gets them outside, communicating, and being competitive, and being passionate about something."

How did playing at Portland State prepare you for being a coach in Division I?
"Portland State has helped me pretty well in coming into a new program that's kind of on the verge of doing good things, wanting to do great things. We were the number one turnaround in the nation my freshman year, so going from a team that won one game to a team that makes it to the conference tournament and loses in the finals, kind of helped me help a team that wants to get success."

Why did you choose Green Bay as a place to coach?
"I feel this program is at that point where I started in my career. The kids that are here are ready to work and have seen the downside and are ready for the upside. They're ready to start battling and want to be in it."

What is your role on the team?
"My role on the team is kind of the in between, the go between, between Trevor and the players. The players themselves control their own destiny by showing up to practice and being there, but that little go between, "hey I'm having an off day can I chat with you about it." I can relate to the players a little bit better, and then just coaching the game of soccer."

What do you look for in a prospective player?
"I look for a player that is hungry, someone who can read the game, but is hungry enough to want the ball. They may lose it, but they're going to fight 100 percent to get it back, someone who has that competitive spirit."

What makes goalkeeper Maddie Drusch so successful?
"What makes Maddie and the rest of our goalkeepers so successful is that physical aspect of the game that you want to throw your body at the ball. Goalkeepers are a little weird, I'll accept it, I'm a little weird, but to be able to throw your whole entire body at someone who's running at you, and somebody who's ready to kick a 90 mile per hour ball at your face and still get up and try it again. That's the perspective that all our goalkeepers have, not just Maddie but even Katy (Pilarzyk) as a freshman coming in and Jennifer (Sturchio) as a junior, who's been here the whole time. All three of them have that competitive edge that I love in goalkeepers and it makes me being here that much more exciting."

Have you seen a difference in how Maddie's been approaching the game?
"Maddie's just an even keeled kid whether she's playing a game against 10-year-olds or whether she's trying out for the national team. I feel that Maddie will show up no matter what."

What do you see as the future of Green Bay Soccer?
"This team and all the rest of the teams that are coming in, this team is setting the foundation. Wanting to succeed, not just as soccer players, but as students as well. They want to have that competitive nature, in the classroom as well as on the field."

What have you learned from Coach Warren about coaching style?
"I learned to be more crafty, to not just be that team that's going to dump the ball over the net, the run and gun style of play. It's getting the ball on the floor and playing pretty soccer and sinking the ball in the back of the net. Getting there and just having that movement off the ball. What I really like about his style of coaching is, let's get the ball and let's play soccer, not just play kickball. We are soccer players, you should be able to control the ball."

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