New coach has almost 16 years of experience, excited for first head coaching role
Forest Lake Area High School recently named Manny Cobo as the new girls varsity soccer coach, and the reason he said he saw the job as the right fit is similar to one of his main goals in mind: to grow excitement about girls soccer in the community.
“There’s just a great potential to grow the program,” Cobo said.
Cabo replaces Trent Holmes, who resigned after coaching the 2019-2022 seasons.
While Cobo said he knows they won’t have the attendance a football game features, he’s hoping they can attract more fans. Cobo also knows the participation numbers for soccer are lower in comparison to other schools, but he said he believes they can reach a point where the playing field is more level.
And he also pointed to recent success and improvement in Forest Lake sports, such as softball winning the state title and football’s historic season. The Rangers girls soccer team only has seven wins over the past three seasons.
“Why not soccer?” Cobo asked.
While the objective is to win games, Cobo said, it’s important to build a foundation from the ground up, especially the younger age groups. It’s about the process, he said, which will then turn into wins.
“I truly think that if we focus on the rec program, giving back to the community [and] growing the interest in the program, we can maybe get a few more players that would want to play,” Cobo said, “and who knows what kind of quality they’ll bring.”
There’s something different about Forest Lake, too, according to Cobo, who has seen it in the other sports programs in what feels like “one big community.”
“I haven’t felt that at other schools that I worked at,” Cobo said.
Coaching, career background
Cobo played varsity soccer for four years at Champlin Park High School, where he graduated, before playing one year collegiately at Crown College. He then stepped away from playing and received a business degree from North Hennepin Community College. He then went back to school where he earned a certificate in personal training at Lifetime Academy.
Cobo’s coaching career began at age 19 when he returned to Champlin Park High School. He now has almost 16 years of coaching experience on top of personal training at various places over that time. Cobo stepped away a year ago from his full-time position as assistant manager at Anytime Fitness, but he still does some personal training on the side.
Cobo coached at every level at Champlin Park High School over an eight-year period in addition to coaching club soccer there, during part of that time, too. He most recently was the girls junior varsity head coach at Anoka High School for a year. Cobo is coaching four to six days a week year-round – aside from the off weeks throughout the year – because he coaches two club teams through Manitou Football Club in White Bear Lake.
“Never ends,” Cobo laughs.
Now, after climbing up the ladders, he’s got his first head coaching position.
“It’s been my goal the past few years,” Cobo said. “So to finally get the opportunity, I’m very excited. That’s why I’m like chomping at the bit to get out there and just get working.”
First days, coaching philosophy
Cobo met part of the varsity team and some younger players in the program for the first time two weeks ago. He said it was good to meet them so they can have a face and not just a name attached to the new coach, and it was a time for them to ask any questions they had, such as,“What are different formations you like to play?”
“I let them know, ‘We can change formations many times throughout the game, it just depends on what we provide within the game, what the other team provides as well, within their concepts and their game model,’” Cobo said.
Cobo said he’s been watching film of games from the fall, so he knows what to implement and get a sense of his players and the team’s playing style last season, which he said will help him put the team in a position to succeed.
“A lot of the principles [Trent Holmes] put into the team are very similar to some of the principles that I want to put in place,” Cobo said, “but maybe some differences, especially once we start to progress the ball, it could look a lot different. But basically he laid a good foundation for what I would like to implement as well.”
Cobo said he also explained to them that there will be different structures utilized based on whether they’re in possession of the ball or not because there’s flexibility.
“Some principles will be laid out like ‘This is how we’re going to build, this is how we’re going to progress the ball,’ but it could change in terms of what the other team is providing [in a game],” Cobo said.
Cobo said one of the problems for the team last season was how they handled the ball in the final third of the field. That includes goal scoring, something he said will cause them to be creative within their system next season with the departure of senior Natalie Daniels, who led the Rangers in scoring last season.
“Creating numerical superiorities in the final third is my goal,” Cobo said. “If it’s on the left side, … how can we get more numbers over there to then be able to either advance that ball, or if it’s in the middle, how can we move it around, recycle the ball and then be able to penetrate it forward — so it’s just basically how can we manipulate the opponents.”
Cobo also said one of his philosophies is to build from the backline, a strength on the team, and utilize their goaltender to do so, too. Even though Cobo admitted the conference presents a challenge, he wants the team to have a mentality where they know they can compete with these teams.
Cobo told them if there wasn’t snow on the ground, they’d be on the field. But nonetheless, he said he’s excited to start planning for summer training.
“I told Mike [Hennen] on a scale of 1-10 – 11,” Cobo said. “I’m very excited to take over at a program like Forest Lake, and I just really want to grow the program there. Just creating awareness for girls soccer in the community.”
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