By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
It was announced July 18 that former Creighton goalkeeper Brian Holt agreed to join the UNO soccer staff as goalkeeper’s coach for 2012. Holt is currently finishing up his first professional soccer season with the United Soccer League’s Harrisburg City Islanders and will be in Omaha in late August.
The Maverick coaching staff will now consist of Head Coach Jason Mims, assistant Tim Walters and Holt. UNO’s second season of men’s soccer kicks off with an exhibition against Iowa Western Community College on August 11. The regular season begins against Bellevue University at home on August 26.
“I’ve known him and his family for quite some time now,” Head Coach Jason Mims said about the hiring of Holt. It’s a relationship that has gone on for quite some time.
“I think I started coaching Brian when he was 13 or so…and coached him all the way up until I left Creighton, up until his junior year.”
Between club soccer and Holt’s career at Creighton, Mims and Holt have been affiliated for almost 10 years.
Holt will join the Mavs as one of the most decorated Creighton Bluejays ever. In his senior season, Holt was the recipient of almost 20 individual awards.
Holt received the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for men’s soccer, was a National Soccer Coaches of America Association First-Team selection, a College Soccer News All-America First-Team selection, the Missouri Valley Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, a three time MVC Defensive Player of the Week and numerous other selections.
“He definitely had to work at it,” Mims said about Holt becoming the accomplished goalkeeper he is. “He changed his whole nutrition, he changed his work ethic…he did a very good job of all the stuff off the field that makes those type of players special.”
In 2011 Holt and the Bluejays participated in the College Cup, the final four of college soccer. Creighton was eliminated in a shootout against Charlotte in the semifinals.
But without Holt, it’s doubtful the Bluejays would have gotten that far. Holt set an NCAA record for goals against average, only surrendering 0.207 goals per game.
He also led the NCAA with a 92.3 save percentage and 17 shutouts. In his career, Holt had 44 shutouts, another NCAA record, and averaged just 0.62 goals against. That mark is a school and MVC record.
In Holt the Mavs have the benefit of getting a coach with experience at the highest levels of competition. As beneficial as that may be, Holt’s journey just to earn his starting spot in the Creighton net might be even more valuable
“He’s a great story,” Mims said. “It shows all these college kids that if you set your goals out there and you work hard enough, you can obtain them; nothing is unrealistic.”
Holt had to earn everything he got in his career. After being overlooked by most college teams, he arrived on campus and had to earn his spot.
Creighton had a senior starter in goal and four other goalkeepers, including Holt, on the roster. Because all the other keepers were freshman, the coaching staff told the four that they had no backup. Someone would have to emerge from pack and grab the spot.
Mims says that conversation seemed to focus Holt and eventually he forced the coaching staff to give him the job.
“Not that he didn’t work hard before but being the hardest worker on the team,” Mims said. “Not just being held to the fitness requirements of goalkeepers but he wanted to be one of the more fit players on the team.”
Soccer players run upwards of a few miles each match. For keepers it’s quite a bit different. The players in net often train for strength and quickness to be able to react to shots in split seconds.
Mims said that Holt had that quality but also pushed himself to be as fit or fitter than his teammates.
“Brian took that to another level. Brian wanted to become the fit player including all the field players because he’s very competitive,” Mims said.
“Once he started changing nutrition and working the way he did and lifting on his own and running on his own outside the required times he changed completely. I think that gave him the confidence, and the next year he ended up being the starting goalie as a redshirt freshman and the rest is history.”
But just because Holt is beginning his coaching career at UNO, that doesn’t mean he’s putting his playing career on hold. Mims says that Holt is on a seasonal contract with the United Soccer League, has an eye on Major League Soccer and maybe even a career in Europe.
Holt’s first priority will always be with his own individual goals. But Mims is glad to have him on his staff regardless of how short or long of a stay it might be.
“Brian is very competitive, he’s very high character, [he’s] very honest, [he’s] very disciplined,” Mims said. “He’s the kind of kid that’s working hard when coaches aren’t there and coaches aren’t looking and teammates aren’t looking.”
“Brian has this inner self discipline that many guys don’t have. I think that you can pick that up, it’s not something you’re necessarily born with. He’s a good story for our guys.”