Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
Keven Moldenhauer will step down from the head coach position of the D.C. Current and return to the field for the 2016 season. Will Smolinski will take over as the team’s head coach.
After two full-time seasons as head coach of the Current, including an MLU Championship title, Keven Moldenhauer will dust off the cleats and play for the team this upcoming season.
“I was a little surprised,” said Will Smolinski when hearing the news Moldenhaurer would not be coaching in 2016. “Keven is a solid player and has shown he can still play at this level. When I talked to him, all his reasons for wanting to ‘lace em up’ made a lot of sense. So my first real thought was about how we integrate him back as a player. This transition is more than just him playing, Keven has been the backbone of this team for three seasons”
Since the formation of the Current in 2013, the squad has been under the leadership of Moldenhauer. In the inaugural season of the MLU, he worked as one of the multiple player-coaches in the league. On the coaching side he led the team to a 4-6 regular season record, which in turn gave the team a playoff berth, resulting in D.C. losing to the undefeated MLU Champion Boston Whitecaps. As a player he contributed to the stat sheet with 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists), while throwing a staggering 95.3 completion percentage on the year.
In the following season, the league tried to move away from the player-coach approach and with that, Moldenhauer elected to move into the role as Head Coach.
“Being a player-coach was very difficult. I felt that I was not able to give 100% to either position,” said Moldenhauer. “If I were to coach I would want to be able to devote all my energy to game planning, strategy, and player management. As a player, I need to commit 100% of my energy to being a positive teammate, training, and running the offensive system and defensive schemes.”
With his full attention focused on coaching, he coached the team to the second-best record in Major League Ultimate history at 9-1 and then the Eastern Conference Championship along with the MLU Championship.
In 2015, the team finished 5-5 and missed the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Combined over the three seasons, Moldenhauer has compiled a 20-13 record, including a 2-1 record in the postseason, and 1-0 in cross-division play.
After all of his success as a coach, what was Moldenhauer’s reason for making the change?
“Simple answer. I miss playing.”
After helping lead the Buzz of Salisbury State University (now Salisbury University) to back-to-back appearances at College Nationals (’99-’00), Moldenhauer played on the club level with Pike, Electric Pig, and currently with the elite club team, Truck Stop. In his experience he has competed at Club Nationals for 11 straight years, as well as competing at WFDF World Ultimate Championships. When he steps on the field in 2016 he will bring nearly 20 years of experience to the Current roster.
“Keven doesn’t make mistakes with the disc in his hand and can keep the disc away from whoever he is defending. Speed and athleticism wise, he still has it,” said coach Smolinski. “One of the things we were missing last year was leadership from the player level. Keven is going to fit great into some of the new roles we have created, as well as lead by example. If there is one thing that Keven is, it is passionate. It is going to be great having him fired up and leading the charge on the field”
While Moldenhauer has skill-sets for both the offense and the defense, a majority of his time on the field in 2013 was on the O-line. In the 106 points he played, 91% of those were playing offense. With the Current’s offense missing two key pieces this upcoming season, expect his playing time to be on the team’s O-line.
Yet transitions between coaches is normally an obstacle that teams have to overcome, fortunately for the Current Smolinski has been an assistant coach/ defensive head coach for the past three seasons.
“Will and Keven provided the most balanced approach to coaching I have had the pleasure to experience. Keven is fiercely passionate about the game and about competition in general; Will is incredibly methodical in his approach to strategy and extremely mindful of the personalities of his players. It will be hard to replace the fire and motivation that Keven brought to every practice and every game as a coach. I know he will still bring those assets to practice as a player,” said three-year veteran Brent Bellinger. “The team will simply have to adjust to Keven’s voice coming from a position of an established vet; meanwhile, I am confident that Will will continue to guide the team with sound strategy, a focus on player development, and watchful eye on the care and feeding (so to speak) of his players”
With Smolinski taking over the reins of the team, he is hoping to transition the Current into a new identity with a focus on player development.
“Player development should be the focus of any team that wants to be near the top every year, and so far no pro-teams have done anything to really use that,” said Smolinksi. “Boston and Seattle, who both made huge comebacks after losing a bunch of guys, both made the Championship game because their communities are full of talent. D.C.’s is as well, but we need to give those players more opportunities to play at a higher level, getting reps against bigger, faster, and taller opponents.”
Smolinksi quoted the capitol area’s up and coming club teams as sources of new professional talent.
“Med Men had a great year this year. Floodwall has a ton of under-developed talent on it. John Doe had lots of flashed of brilliance. Run time, AG, Ants…. All have players that can play well. Some of those players can play at this level.”
This move will mark a momentous change for the team and the team’s structure. After the Current missed the playoffs for the first time this past season, the leadership of the squad is stressing that it is not going to be a rebuilding year. Despite a number of Current veterans opting for a change of scenery in 2016, Smolinski is very confident that the DC will once again be fighting for the MLU title.
“Everybody’s initial reaction to those guys leaving is wrong. The offense won’t implode,” said Smolinski. “(Philadelphia’s) Jake Rainwater isn’t going to always be open now. We have other guys that can do those things, it’s just going to look different and it will be different players completing or blocking passes. Specifically, our offense will have to be tailored to the players skill sets who are stepping up and getting more touches. It will have different speeds, not just ‘full throttle’. Defensively, we are going to have to see how our athleticism stacks up and work from there. Defense is always about match ups and adjustments during the game; you will continue to see us focused on those.”