Greg Musser has been around soccer for as long as he can remember.

He grew up in Michigan playing and later helped coach club teams before he came to Seymour in 2012 to coach the girls team at the high school.

“I love the freedom of it,” Musser said. “We try to tell them that we don’t have joysticks. We can’t control you all the time. You’ve got to figure this game out. One of the greatest things about it, you really find out whether you’ve prepared all week when you step on that line because I’m out of the equation.

“I can make some subs or try to do things on the fly, but for those girls stepping on the field, there’s no other way to put it, it’s a free-flowing game at that point. There’s no black, there’s no white; there’s just a lot of gray in the game, and I think that’s what makes it such a great sport.”

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Musser graduated in 2002 from Plymouth Canton, Michigan, a large school located between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

He played keeper on his soccer team and wrestled in high school, and he has continued coaching in both sports, as he also is assistant wrestling coach at Seymour High School.

“We were a pretty talented program up that way,” he said of the soccer team. “We were ranked in the state and in the nation year in and year out. We made some good runs, won some state titles, but not while I was there. I didn’t get a title, unfortunately.”

He graduated from Western Michigan University, where he played club soccer.

“We still traveled around and played Michigan State, Michigan, Toledo and Miami of Ohio,” Musser said. “We played everywhere. They had a national tournament. We had the competitiveness, but you didn’t have the rigor of the college practice and this and that.”

He said he looked for a teaching job in Michigan but couldn’t find one.

“(I) did a couple of long-term sub jobs and ended up writing mortgages for a couple of years and was coaching wrestling at my old high school,” he said.

He said he coached wrestling for five years.

“I filled out some applications, and I got a phone call from Seymour, and the rest is kind of history,” Musser said.

He helped coach boys club teams in Michigan and is his sixth season as head coach of the Seymour girls soccer team. He replaced Jessica Floyd.

“(Floyd) did some good things,” Musser said. “She made some runs into sectionals and had some talented teams. Coach Floyd did a great job of maintaining that program, keeping the girls active.”

He said when he arrived in Seymour, he had about a month to get ready for his coaching and teaching.

“It was my first soccer experience as far as a head coaching any type of soccer,” Musser said. “It was a learn-on-the-fly process. Coach Floyd had that team well organized, so it was kind of an easy takeover.”

Musser said it was a new experience coaching girls.

“I asked around, talked to a lot of people trying to figure out what the right approach was,” he said. “I had a lot of respect for everybody I was talking to, and everybody told me the same thing: ‘You treat them like athletes.’

“It doesn’t matter if they’re a boy, it doesn’t matter if they’re a girl, they’re an athlete, so treat them like that. I think that was the biggest advice I got, and that is what I’ve tried to do. ‘Here is what I expect,’ and I try to approach it that way.”

Musser said it’s nice to have assistant coaches that he can trust to give him good advice and coaching tips.

He and Bob Hartman have coached together for six years, while Ryan Chandler joined the coaching staff three years ago.

“It’s a smaller community, so there’s not a whole lot of people that have grown up with soccer in their lives for as long as I’ve had it,” Musser said. “To be able to find Bob Hartman and Ryan Chandler, who have had soccer in their lives for years upon years, was a good surprise for me, and it has helped tremendously to have those two on the staff.”

Musser, who teaches integrated chemistry and physics and earth science, said another key to having a winning program is to have a good feeder program. That is where the Seymour recreational league and the Cyclones teams come into play.

“We put in a lot of time, coach Chandler, coach Hartman and I, on the girls’ side and coach Chandler on the boys’ side, too, and I know Matt (Dennis) is doing the same thing on the boys’ side, too,” Musser said. “Making sure the girls see your face, know who you are and know what you’re all about so they can decide whether or not they want to play for you.

“You can kind of get a good idea of what their work habits are and their talent level so you can cater to that and build your program that way. I think it has helped tremendously getting our faces in there, and this year, we’re having a pretty successful year as far as our tenure here.”

When the Owls defeated Jennings County last week, it marked the first time Musser has reached double digits in wins for a season.

He said he has made changes in formations and style of play on a yearly basis.

“It all depends on the personnel we have coming back and coming in,” he said. “Year in and year out, we have to take a look at some scouting on some different teams, what type of results they’ve had, who their playmakers are, and if we need to adjust, we’ll adjust.

“Right now, as far as the regular season is kind of concerned, it’s more of an audition for sectional. For us, see what everybody’s about, let’s play them straight up before we try anything special, and if we need to make those adjustments when time comes for the sectional, we will, but I’m happy with where our team is and how we’re playing, so I don’t think there’s too many tweaks we need to make.”

He said the level of play has improved tremendously in the past six years at SHS.

“It’s like night and day,” Musser said. “Just even in our conference, we’ve had schools coming here the first couple years and ‘OK, that’s a win on our schedule.’ It’s not like that anymore. I’m stressed out before every single game because I know no matter what, the team is going to battle us, and we’re going to have to battle them, and I think that’s a testament to all the work we’ve put in here and the work that other clubs have been putting in during the offseason to get better in this area.”

Musser said he feels like he and Dennis have had a good relationship.

“I think for Matt and me, it has been a great partnership,” Musser said. “There are a lot of things he does very well that I’d be silly not to use. He’s a great technician when it comes to planning practices and the Xs and Os. I think at times, as far as relationships between players have been, I thought that was one of my strengths coming down here and helping him with that side of things and him helping me with the Xs and Os.

“Both him and I have a unique perspective. We both grew up as goalies, so we watch the game from a different aspect than the rest of the players and coaches. We see the game a little differently, and it’s always been a struggle for me at times to ‘How do I make them do what I want them to do’ in practice. By having Matt next door (their classrooms are next to one another), I can pop over and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m looking for,’ and he’ll pop something right out for me.

“I think it has been great having him next door to help me out. Whether he likes to admit it or not, I think I’ve helped him out as far as some of those relationships in kind of being a player’s coach and balancing philosophies.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.