CLEARFIELD — First-year Clearfield High School boys soccer coach Jim Finn recognized early on while watching from afar last season the Falcons lacked direction and discipline.
Believing he could instill those attributes into the program, Finn made it known he thought he could help. Now, he’s getting an opportunity to prove it.
“I came to a couple games last year; thought I could really help out the soccer program, and if they were looking for another coach come that following year, I was going to throw my hat in the ring,” Finn said.
As it turned out, Clearfield was looking for a new coach following the departure of Chuck Miller, who decided his work and family responsibilities made coaching too difficult. Not long after, Finn was called in for an interview. Two weeks later, he was offered the position.
“His resume stood out from everybody else’s,” Athletic Director Curtis Hulse said. “We were really impressed.”
Finn’s background includes playing soccer at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, as well as high-school coaching.
Finn grew up in the small town of Hinckley, Ohio, just a little over 20 miles south of Cleveland. He graduated from Brunswick High School before going on to study and play at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. He played all four years and three times received All-North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) honors, including first-team honors in 1992 and 1994. He also received All-NCAA honors as well as the Dick Gauthier Award, given to the Most Valuable Player of the yearly Fred Myers Invitational.
During his senior year, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Cleveland Crunch of the National Professional Soccer League. Throughout his three-year professional career, he also spent time with the Pittsburgh Stingers and the Cleveland Whitecaps.
Finn also developed coaching experience as an assistant coach for the Strongsville High School boys soccer team in Strongsville, Ohio, spending three years with the team and helping guide it to the school’s first boys state championship in any sport in 1997.
Three years ago, Finn moved his family to Utah following the acquisition of the company he works for, BioExpress, which is headquartered in Kaysville.
A year ago, the vice president of operations at that company, who has two kids enrolled at Clearfield, invited him to a soccer game.
“He knows my background, he knows I played professionally and said, ‘Hey, come out and tell me what my kids need to work on,’” Finn said. “I came for the first game and I said if this coach doesn’t last next year, let me know. I came out to another game and he heard through the grapevine that the coach potentially wasn’t going to come back. I said, ‘By all means. If you need me to put a soccer resume together, I’m all for it. I’ll do it.’”
In June, Finn was hired as the new soccer coach.
Finn sees a lot of potential with the talent at Clearfield, but that consistent success will require some fundamental changes.
“There’s a good group of kids here,” Finn said. “They just fundamentally need to be motivated. They need to know where they need to be on the field at all times.
“And discipline – there’s a discipline (to soccer). This field is very large and so the more they can understand where they need to be and it’s not just running around and chasing a soccer ball, we’ll be a better team for it.”
Motivation can be difficult to inject, but Finn believes it comes from leadership.
“I think motivation comes from direction,” Finn said. “If you know what you need to do and you tell them, ‘Hey, this is going to be the result of you doing that. Just that.’ You’ll get kids to be motivated.
“You have to get them to buy into your technique. I’m fortunate enough where I’m young enough that I can still play on the field with them, and I think it helps for them to see me doing what I’m saying and then them following what I’m saying. From there, the motivation comes. You earn their respect that way and they learn from it and they’re better people from it.”
Despite just a few games, Finn sees his philosophy already starting to take hold.
“When kids come up to you either during practice or during the game and say, “Coach, what do I need to work on?’ That tells you that they want to learn. They want to get better,” Finn said. “If kids didn’t care – wanted to blow you off and go through the motions – they wouldn’t ask those questions. They wouldn’t constantly raise their hands and say, ‘See, Coach, I followed what you said.’ That tells me that they’re buying into my plan, my scheme.”
According to 18-year-old senior Nathan Lee, individual egos are slowly being broken down.
“Our egos were up here and now they’re bringing (them) down here,” Lee said. “I just think we’re going to be more successful now because before we were just all separate individuals instead of a team.”
It’s been a long time since the Clearfield boys soccer program tasted consistent success, and Finn isn’t naïve enough to think everything can be changed overnight. But he knows it’s possible.
“You change a culture like this like I guess the alcoholics,” Finn said. “It’s one day at a time. I mean that sincerely. You first have to get the kids to buy into the program… and then when they start to see positive results from that scheme – that tactical thing that you want to do with them – then you just continue to add onto it.”