Live Chat With Jayhawk Soccer Coach Mark Francis

Jayhawks Soccer Coach Mark Francis Chat Transcript

Coach stopped by on September 30 to chat with fans.

Head coach Mark Francis is in his sixth season at the helm of the Kansas soccer program and has already reshaped the Jayhawks into a nationally recognized contender. Last season, Francis guided the Jayhawks to a school-record 18-6-1 mark and the program’s first ever Sweet 16 appearance. This season, the Jayhawks set a school-record for the best start to a season, going 6-0 and have moved into the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time in school history. This week Coach Francis took some time to answer your questions.

Moderator: Coach Francis is here now and ready to take some of your questions. Fire away!
John (Wichita, Kan.): Coach, What do you think this year’s team has that might allow them to advance further than last season?
Mark Francis: “I think we’re deeper, and we have more talent. Defensively, we are a lot more organized, so it is making it a lot tougher for people to score on us. I think those two things are the two big ones.”
Bill (Topeka, Kan.): Coach- I never miss a home game. I was just wondering what plans might be in the works to upgrade the facilities at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex and what do you want to see done?
Mark Francis: “I’m not sure what is in the works right now. I would like to have a better surface, one with better drainage, lights, restrooms, and permanent stands.”
Sara (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Coach- What have the seven seniors meant to the program and to you?
Mark Francis: “This senior class has been the most successful class that we have had. They’ve won more games, and been in more NCAA games than any other class that we have had, so I think they’ve obviously are a big influence on the field. Off the field, they really set the tone for the team’s expectations. They have just set the bar a little bit higher.”
Daniel (Kansas City, Kan.): Coach Francis- How important will this recruiting class be this year with the graduation of so many seniors? Also, have you noticed a change for the better in the type of players you are getting to recruit with this recent success?
Mark Francis: “This class is going to be very important. We’re obviously losing a very good group, but we’ve got six commitments right now and we’re still looking for a couple of others. The group coming in is a really good class; possibly could be the best class we have had. They are going to be young, but as far as the talent goes, the talent is definitely there.”
Sandy (Eudora, Kan.): How important has Meghan Miller been to the team?
Mark Francis: “Meghan has done a great job – our whole defense has played well. You give up four goals in eleven games, that’s not very many, but a lot of that is due to the defense. But even if the other team does get an opportunity, Meghan has come out with some big saves – she’s been huge.”
Kim (Overland Park, Kan.): How did it feel bringing the Jayhawks to their first ever Sweet 16 appearance?
Mark Francis: “It was a great experience getting to that point; playing UCLA and playing them very close. We were in the game and had opportunities, I think it was a good indication to our team that we’ve made huge strides and we’re capable of beating anybody if we play well on that day.”

Terrence (Mission, Kan.): Coach,

First off, I think you are doing a great job at KU. I was wondering why you deciding to go into coaching after your professional career?

Mark Francis: “I know I couldn’t keep playing forever, so I figured the next best thing was to coach. I enjoy coaching. I enjoy working with the players, trying to get everybody on the same page, and everybody trying to improve individually and as a group.”
D’Andre (Lawrence, Kan.): Why do you think soccer is becoming so popular among girls, when it really was not that popular 10, or even 5 years ago?
Mark Francis: “For one thing, it’s great exercise. For the young kids, parents want their kids playing soccer, maybe as opposed to some of the other sports because there is a lot of running involved. The other thing is size. Some sports, like basketball and volleyball, how tall you are is a big indication of how well you can do at a higher level. In soccer, size really doesn’t matter. Speed, obviously is important, but as far as how tall you are, it really doesn’t make any difference. It’s a pretty even playing field – if you have the technical ability and work hard at your game, you can do better at it and be successful regardless of how tall you are. I think it opens opportunities for kids in a sport that maybe they wouldn’t have in other sports.”
Paisley (Bentonville, Ark.): Do you pay any attention to the weekly rankings?
Mark Francis: “Not really. I mean, I pay attention to it, and make sure that Donna (Holyman) has that information to send out to our recruits, but as far as the team, I don’t even tell the team. They look it up for themselves, they know, but we don’t talk about it as a group.”
Calvin (Lubbock, Texas): Coach Francis-I was in town to watch the football game and I stopped by to watch the KU-Nebraska soccer game. I was very impressed with your school’s support and spirit for soccer. Congratulations on building a successful program.I was particularly impressed with defender Afton Sauer. She is a first-class defender who seemed to keep your team in control despite being down 1-0 to the Huskers. What do you expect from her in her future as a Jayhawk?
Mark Francis: “Afton has done a great job coming in and settling in to playing at this level so quickly. We knew Afton was good, but I didn’t expect her to come in and do so, well so quickly – she’s been very consistent. And obviously, Stacy (Leeper) graduates out of the middle of the defense, so Afton’s going to be kind of a leader out there next year.”

Dave (Shawnee Mission, Kan.): Coach Francis, congratulations to you and the ladies on a the start to the season. Keep it up all the way thru the NCAAs!

What can we do as alumni/fans in general to help you in your role as KU Soccer Head Coach?

Mark Francis: “Find someone to donate a lot of money to build us a facility.”
John (Mobile, Ala.): Coach Francis,As you know momentum is the hardest thing to gain and the quickest thing to lose, how do you instill this in your team?
Mark Francis: “It’s true. Momentum is important. I think if you have momentum you want to do whatever you can do to continue it, so you probably don’t make as many changes as you would, positionally or personnel wise. If you don’t have momentum, you need to change things to try and get it. So maybe you have to change the personnel, or the formation that you’re playing because the other team has more momentum because you’re not getting the job done somewhere … You hope your team has momentum; if they have it, there is not really any special trait, you just have to try to keep that going and make as few changes as you can.”
Eric (Lawrence, Kan.): Does the large number of freshman on the team make coaching more of a chalenge?
Mark Francis: “You have to be a little more patient with them because they’re going to make mistakes that the other guys won’t make, or you hope the other guys won’t make because they should already know. Sometimes, some of the freshmen take a little bit longer, and you have to tell them more times than some others. So you have to be more patient with them because the speed of the game is much quicker, and they’re still making that adjustment. Sometimes making that adjustment means playing at a different position than they have played before.”
Susie (Olathe, Kan.): How much time do you spend scouting at the local high schools in the spring?? Are you only looking at seniors?
Mark Francis: “When high school season is going on we’re out at two or three games a week. We’re looking at good players. Actually, in high school season we’re not looking at seniors, because we’re already done with recruiting the seniors by then, because high school season starts in March. We’re mostly looking at freshman, sophomores, and juniors; last year some of the best players I saw were freshman and sophomores. It helps us to get an early look at who the better players are coming up the next few years.”
Keith (Lawrence, Kan.): Coach, I noticed that you are approaching your 100th career win. How much importance will you place on that milestone?
Mark Francis: “Why am I getting close to that?”
Mark Francis: “It’s a nice milestone to reach. That took me nine years. You look at it and that’s an average of eleven wins a year – that’s actually not that good. You should be winning more than eleven games a year ; so it’s probably taken me too long to get to 100. Hopefully the next 100 won’t take me that long.”
Mark Francis: “Thanks for all the questions everybody, I hope to see you guys out at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex this weekend.”