Corey Brueggeman understands the importance of relationships.
The first-year Manchester University men’s soccer coach is mimicking one he knows well to develop a foundation and culture of success.
“(Former head men’s soccer coach) Dave Good is the best person I’ve ever met … none better,” he recently remarked. “That’s what a lot of people who’ve been around him and gotten to know him, his wife, Lois, and their family would say.
“I remember the first time I met him at a three-v-three tournament a friend of mine kind of dragged me to,” he added. “I’ll never forget, at that moment and in each ensuing visit whether it was during the recruiting process, being an athlete in his program and beyond, he was always right there with that big smile and greeted myself and my family. That’s the way it always was with Dave … so much of a positive influence. He’s been there for me asking if I’ve had a good day, offering advice … being a support system. Dave was always good at getting his teams and players thinking and motivated. He means so much to what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
No surprise that his successor looks to what his mentor taught him to resume the building process.
“Dave was always one who really felt that his faith went hand-in-hand with the work he did in connecting with the young men we had in the program,” Brueggeman noted. “That aspect showed with the many community projects we did and the Jamaica Jan Term trips.
“I’m coming from that same background,” he added. “My faith has helped me be more comfortable in dealing with others and with the individuals on the team as an assistant coach. Due to that and understanding past philosophies of the program, I’ve developed three areas where I want us to be successful. They deal with commitment to the team and Manchester University as a whole; character on and off the field; and work rate. We’ve had guys, in the past, be able to be successful on the field and struggle off it or vice versa. I feel, at this level, if you can work towards all three of those fronts, success will follow.”
His relationship with his former coach isn’t the only one that has brought Manchester University’s new coach to his current setting.
The story starts outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he excelled in basketball and soccer through his family and most importantly his older brother, Collin. “Collin had a lot of success in high school, on through college and even now as a club director in Cincinnati,” he reflected. “I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t involved with soccer. My mom and dad got me into it at a young age as Collin had done so before me. I saw his success and wanted to have a similar path.”
Starting as a former youth forward, whose club coach told him he “ran like a robot” at the position, he was moved to midfielder and never left the spot on the field. “I was very comfortable there … I liked to pull the strings,” Brueggeman reminisced. A career at Little Miami High School saw him successfully lead the Cincinnati area in both goals and assists which, in a way, followed the footsteps that Collin had laid down before him as one of the area’s top goalkeepers, and just missing out on all-state honors.
His road to Manchester College and University might never have formed, as after high school, he took a keen interest in Northern Kentucky and Bellarmine Universities. His brother even tried getting him to walk on at the University of Cincinnati, but then the above-mentioned three-v-three tourney occurred, and he found his way to North Manchester, Indiana.
After a collegiate career which featured two all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors and three years as a captain, he found himself in Columbus, Ohio, working for the Columbus Crew (now known as Columbus SC) of Major League Soccer. “(Manchester University exercise and science professor Dr. Ryan) Hedstrom played a big role in helping me get into my initial post-graduate role,” he said. “I didn’t know where I might be going as a senior in looking ahead to life after college, but he got me involved with the Crew through an internship. I literally drove to Columbus and back to work throughout the spring of my senior year … it was a seven-hour round trip.”
“I enjoyed the experience with the Crew,” he added. “It’s added to who I am. I did everything from being a game day plaza host to commentating on a mascot soccer match.”
During the time he was in Columbus, thoughts drifted back to North Manchester. “I had always told (former assistant coach Steve) Frizzo that if anything ever came open coaching-wise, I’d love to be considered for it,” he remembered. “I didn’t care what it was … camp, tryouts, anything. At Senior Day the year after I’d graduated, Dave and Steve said they wanted to speak with me and let me know that Steve would be moving on in his graduate school. I went through the interview process and had the opportunity to be back.”
For three years, Brueggeman was able to learn from his mentor, gleaning knowledge at every turn. In the spring of 2016, Good reached out, while Corey and his wife, Brittney, also a former Manchester College athlete, were on a mission trip in Chile. “When I saw the message that he wanted to talk when I got back, I knew something was up … you never really got those type of contacts from him when he knew you were away,” Brueggeman said. “We all thought he’d coach until he couldn’t. I was just excited to be at a place where I was comfortable with, too. He’d given me more opportunities in 2015, as I was able to get training sessions set, work on the recruiting schedules and so forth.
“Being honest, when we had that visit, I was upset,” he added. “I and so many of us wanted him to go out on top. It’s been frustrating lately not being able to compete at a high level. We’re both in a good place now, though.”
The first-year head coach won’t stop gathering information from all of his life’s relationships, either.
“I’m excited but also taking a step back,” Brueggeman admitted. “While I’ve had the chance to learn from some great people, I’ve also have had some bad coaches which have shaped my thoughts and philosophies. I’m going in cautious. To portray that, I think about trying to create lasting connections with the guys … whether in group or individual settings, on or off the field. I hope I can help better their experience at Manchester.
“I hope….Dave and Lois will continue to be there, as they always have,” he added. “I can’t wait for (new assistant coach Isaac) Beal to be here. I feel we will work together well on and off the field. I also have a strong support system at home with Britney … I don’t know if I ever would have gone forward with this process without her encouragement. I just know now I have a great opportunity to make an impact here, and I’m not going to waste it. My journey has allowed me to take many aspects of my soccer experiences and shape them into the coach I am today. I’m really, really excited to get going.”
Building more relationships and Manchester University men’s soccer … two ideals Brueggeman understands and is ready to move forward on.