Hanscom personnel coach soccer team to victory

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Foster
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Winners, champions and defenders of freedom -- all of these titles can be used to describe this year's All-Air Force Men's Soccer Team.
The team triumphed in the championship round of the 2011 Armed Forces Soccer Championship held at Fort Eustis, Va., Oct. 19 through 24. Air Force team members traveled from all over the world to train, compete and eventually bring home the gold with a 1-0 victory over Navy.

Of course, behind every good team is a good coach and behind this particular team was head coach Maj. Derrick Weyand, 66th Security Forces Squadron commander.

To say Weyand enjoys soccer would be an understatement. He fell in love with the sport from the moment he started kicking around the ball with his dad, and he started playing organized soccer at age three.

He played while growing up and continued at the base level after he joined the Air Force 14 years ago, and only stopped playing after he suffered an injury in 2007. He then turned his focus to the next best thing: coaching.

The interest in coaching actually started back in 2004 when Weyand worked with the Air Force level rugby coach and learned through him how many different athletic opportunities were available to Air Force members.

"The sports programs are designed to get highly fit, self-motivated and dedicated people to join the military," Weyand said. "If you told me I could join the Air Force and still play a high level of soccer while representing the Air Force, that's motivation to join."

After missing out on the 2009 assistant coaching position due to a last minute deployment to Iraq, Weyand assisted the team in 2010 and was selected as head coach for the 2011 season. His enthusiasm for soccer and the Air Force is evident when he talks about the sport.

"Coaching is a passion and being an officer in the United States Air Force is a true honor," Weyand said. "I get to serve my country 365 days of the year, and I cherish every moment of it."

The head of Hanscom's security forces squadron doesn't take the job of commander or coach lightly.

"As a commander I get to lead men and women here at Hanscom, but one of the great things about coaching the Air Force soccer team is I get to lead 18 individuals whether they are a pilot, weatherman, SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] instructor, maintenance troop, PA [Public Affairs] officer or academy instructor," he said. "That's the best part because I get to take all these people from different backgrounds and make them into a cohesive unit and do something amazing and better than the other services."

The selection process for the team was long and grueling for both players and coaches. Weyand, along with assistant coach Master Sgt. Raul Martinez, Electronic Systems Center commander's enlisted aide, searched through 71 applications and scouted players at the Defenders Cup tournament held in San Antonio over Labor Day weekend.

Forty-one total players were selected to attend tryouts at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

"Seeing the players we had out there day one, before we even strapped on cleats, I felt pretty confident," Martinez said. "With the core group we had out there I knew we'd have a great team"

Weyand said that although he felt confident, no one ever knows if the team's chemistry will work.

Over the next 18 days the coaches worked nonstop with the players to perfect their skills as they fought for a place on the final roster.

Ten players were cut in the first 48 hours and four more cuts would follow over the next two and a half weeks. Only 18 players could be on the team by game time and that made for tough training and a lot of disappointment.

The players scrimmaged against some of the best teams from the local area to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses and to assess how they played together as a team.

"We had talent but I think how well we played against the local teams helped." Martinez said.

The tournament was played round robin with Air Force playing the Marines, Navy and Army to determine who would play who in the semifinals.

Air Force advanced to the finals after beating Army 2-1.

Going into the final game, the Air Force team was the underdog, but Martinez said they knew they had the talent, and their strategy helped win the tournament.

"The Navy went undefeated into the finals and they were the best team in the tournament until then, when the game actually matters," he said. "The games leading up to it don't mean a thing at that point."

When asked what moment he knew the trophy was going home with them, Weyand replied, "Once we figured out the team chemistry, we just knew it."

Weyand and Martinez are now back at Hanscom going about their day-to-day lives, but the experience and the people they met during the Armed Forces Soccer Championship will not easily be forgotten.

"Now I have an addition to my military family and that's my soccer military family," said Weyand. "We've got a very special bond that's priceless and I'll never let those guys down whenever they need me."

Both coaches hope to be a part of the team next year, but with the military there's no telling if that will be possible.

"To say the Air Force is the best at Armed Forces soccer for the next 12 months and I'm the coach; it's the best feeling in the world. I could retire tomorrow knowing the Air Force is on top."

The final results for 2012 Armed Forces Soccer Championship Tournament: Air Force first place, gold; Navy second place, silver; Army, third place; and the Marines, fourth place.