Coach Profile: Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski

Jeff "Ziggy" Korytoski -- Cal Poly Men's Soccer Assistant Coach

Those that have played soccer know, and those that haven’t most likely can’t fathom, the amount of time that goes into being involved with the sport. Any soccer mom can tell you that her job is tough, but it’s often not known how much time goes into being involved with the inner-workings of the game. Being a soccer player is one thing; countless hours of drills (from minute foot work to full-field possession), countless drops of sweat and countless bruises, scrapes and injuries are elements that are expected of a dedicated player. But being a soccer coach is another thing entirely.

Media coverage highlights the successes and struggles of the elite soccer player, but what about the successes and struggles of the elite soccer coach? Not only are they involved in all the “coachy” stuff like tactical theory, speed, agility and fitness training, but they also have to have all the mental, physical and emotional discipline of any surgeon, engineer, pilot, or army general.

At a recent morning practice at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski, Assistant Coach of the Men’s Soccer team, was at the top of his coaching game. During a drill that emphasizes quick, one-touch possession, Korytoski frequently stopped the game to encourage his players to work on tighter passing, look to space for their open teammates, and be tighter on their mark. Some instances required harsher words and a louder tone, but it was evident that this man knew what he

Korytoski looks on from the sidelines of a drill emphasizing possesion at a morning practice on the Cal Poly turf fields.

was talking about and that he knew what he was doing. Though some of his players gave him attitude when he called offside or out-of-bounds, there was a reverent respect for this man that was hard to ignore, and an air of importance that was casual and unassuming, yet noticeable.

When many people think of coaching I’m sure the vision of the pudgy, baseball-cap-wearing youth soccer coach, hands flailing and epithets flying, comes to mind. However, coaching at the college and elite level is a profession, and these men and women take it very seriously. I mean, how could they not when soccer has been an integral part of the majority of their lives?

Korytoski’s background makes him a prime candidate for the position he occupies with the soccer program today. Born in Springfield, MA, he moved to Sonoma, CA, located just outside of San Francisco, and attended middle school and high school at the local public schools. Sports aptitude was a given since the age of five, and along with soccer he played baseball, basketball, golf and ran track.

Korytoski eventually moved up to the more competitive level of soccer play and played Central Midfielder and Sweeper for the Sonoma Heat. After graduation he attended Santa Rosa Junior College where he captained a successful team that qualified for the State tournament in two back-to-back seasons, at the end of which he received All-Far West honors for his level of play. Korytoski transferred to UNC Wilmington and played all 21 games of his junior season, quite an accomplishment for any soccer player at the college level. California welcomed him back to its soil in 1999 and after a stint with the U-23 Cal-North Player pool that took him all the way to the National Semifinals, he found himself in the coaching realm.

While his player resume is quite impressive and representative of a strong work ethic and love of the game, Korytoski’s coaching roots run just as deep. “I began coaching in college and have done so ever since”, he says. He began as Assistant Coach at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, California and led them to the North Coast Section (NCS) Final Four in 2000. His coaching stints have ranged across the country, from Penn State, to Ohio, back to Santa Rosa and finally here in San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly.

Korytoski, who’s favorite part of soccer is the “tactical matchups and pressure to win every game”, arrived in beautiful SLO County in 2007 and has been working alongside fellow assistant coach Ryan Hopkins and Head Coach Paul Holocher to make the men’s team a shining star on the Central Coast. He says his favorite part about coaching at Cal Poly is the atmosphere of the games. “The players are fantastic,” he says, “and I believe we have the best student body and community in the country.”  His most memorable soccer moment was the team’s 1-0 win in the 2008 NCAA Big West Tournament quarter-finals against rival UCLA. And even when the instances are not so successful, such as Poly’s loss to all-time rival UCSB on a goal that was scored when the official restarted the game without alerting the linesmen or the players, he remains positive about the pure joy of being involved with the sport. Of that game he says, “It was a sell-out crowd and a fanatastic atmosphere.”

One thing is for sure, Korytoski isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Coaching is in his blood and when he interacts with his players you can tell that his connection runs deeper than his job. It’s the spirit, drive and dedication that makes a coach an excellent one, and needless to say Korytoski exhibits those qualities time he steps onto the pitch.

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One response to this post.

  1. Grande Ziggy, best wishes from Antigua Guatemala.

    Reply

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