LAFAYETTE — Jonathan Walsh used the firing of a famed championship-winning coach to light a fire underneath his team.
Heading into the second day of the Louisiana Showcase of Soccer in Lake Charles back in December, Teurlings Catholic was looking for answers. The Rebels had just been outscored 6-0 in two games the day before at the tournament, which dropped the team’s season record to a disappointing 1-9-2.
Walsh knew something needed to be done.
So the second-year Rebels coach, looked to what had just happened to Jose Mourinho, the coach of the Chelsea soccer club from the English Premier League. Despite having won the league title the season before, Mourinho’s team had started the 2015-16 season poorly and he was fired.
“On the way to the game, his firing got me thinking,” Walsh said. “I talked to the boys before the game. I brought up Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. I said last year they won the title. This year they are terrible, and the coach just got fired. It is the same team, same coach and same players. So it’s not like the coach forgot to coach or the players forgot how to play, so what is the difference?”
“One of our players said ‘attitude,’” Walsh added. “I said that is exactly what the problem is: They aren’t playing for their coach.”
Walsh and his team continued to discuss that firing, and what this year’s Teurlings needed to do, with Walsh challenging his boys to rise up.
Teurlings Catholic went out and defeated Leesville 3-2 to help turn the tide of the season. Entering Wednesday’s District 4-III game at Opelousas High, TC was 8-10-2 and has climbed to No. 7 in the latest Division III power rankings.
“He put things into a perspective,” senior Brayden Blanchard said.
“What we do on the field, what our record is and how we play is ours. He is our coach, but we are the ones that are on the field. He put the ball in our court.
“It made me realize that the only thing that can pick us up is ourselves. The last thing I wanted is the blame to fall on the man who wanted more success for us than we did. We all started to mesh and playing for each other from that moment on.”
When Walsh took over two seasons ago, the former Ruston coach never imagined that he would have to use a coach’s firing to help his team turn the corner. He had won a pair of district titles at Ruston, a program where there wasn’t much soccer tradition, and was taking over one that had multiple state championships.
In hindsight, Walsh admitted he underestimated the challenges he was about to face.
“I was bit naïve to be honest,” Walsh said. “I came in and saw the roster of players and thought to myself that I never had this assortment of talent. I was like we are just going to show up, and we are going to pound people. I learned real quickly that wasn’t the case.”
Teurlings struggled during the 2014-15 regular season going 6-16-1 but did earn a berth in the Division II playoffs.
Teurlings beat Loyola Prep 4-0 in the opening round before falling to St. Michael Archangel in the second round.
The Rebels started slow again this year but it wasn’t due to Walsh’s attempts at connecting with his players. Last season he promised to get the school’s logo etched into the back of his head if they won their first game, which he did. He also made it a point to get new warmup gear for the team and even created the team crest.
Those gestures have made an impact.
“I really loved that about coach,” Blanchard said. “He’s been looking for a way to connect with us. I really liked all of his ideas. Coach is allowing us to find our own identity. New warmups, new uniforms, new bags and of course the crest. We all want to work for coach. I felt like he brought the passion back into the program.”
Walsh, though, gives credit to his team’s turnaround not on the European coach who got fired that inspired a pregame speech but to his players.
“It’s been the players,” Walsh said. “They have made the difference. Their ability to play the game that they know how to play is the difference. And for me to keep my mouth shut on the sidelines and letting them just play.”