A bright sunny day in Fort Lauderdale, FL made for great conditions for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers pre-season game. Starting midfielder, Luke Blakely, was looking to make an impact on his new team. He’d previously played at the highest levels on the highest stages, such as the Antigua Barracudas and Antigua and Barbuda National Team.
He was a striker though and he was gearing towards the regular season. In the 42nd minute, right before halftime, something happened that would alter Blakely’s professional career. Someone came through Blakely and went in for a tackle. The other player landed on Blakely’s knee tearing his MCL and effectively ending his professional playing career. Although his playing career looked to be over, Blakely was about to enter a new realm of soccer that wasn’t too unfamilar to him.
“After the injury, I took some time off and went back to England and that’s when I picked up on coaching,” Blakely said.
The former CCAC All-Conference selection, headed a development program for the Football Association (FA) in England where he oversaw the development of teen programs, local high school programs, and other athletes.
From there he came back stateside and took an assistant coaching position at Springfield College. There he helped coach them to back to back conference titles and an appearance in the NCAA D3 National Tournament.
“Coaching has been a deep part of my family,” said Blakely. “My Dad is a collegiate coach and I’ve been around collegiate programs my whole life. The football development position was my first in depth full time role and it was a great transition from playing. I was able to focus on giving back and build my coaching career from there.”
Blakely was hired in mid-March to take over as Roosevelt’s new women’s soccer coach. He’s taking over a program that had their best season only two years ago but regressed a little in their last season. He’s looking to guide the Lakers to greatness and no one is more excited about Blakely’s hire than his new players. The current roster helped with the interviewing process while the school was looking for potential hires.
Junior Zoey Bezilla, a biology major, said Blakey’s resume speaks for itself. “His resume is very impressive and it stood out that he played at such a high level and that he knows so much about the game,” Bezilla said. “It’s really important that we have a coach who can handle the recruiting, budgeting, and everything else that comes with being a coach and I think he is the perfect candidate.”
Freshman criminal justice major Alexis Kane said Blakey’s coaching has affected the team already. “He’s very organized and has a step by step plan to help us win more games. He has a winning mindset and knows who and how he’s going to recruit,” Kane said.
Blakely is at a disadvantage recruiting wise for next season because of how late he was hired but says he is up for the challenge.
“It’s been tough, but I know a lot of coaches in the Chicago area and have been able to make connections,” said Blakely. “We’re really trying to boost our numbers and I’m confident that we’ll be able to get to a number that everyone is happy with.
Although Blakely has his hands full with an urgent recruiting process, he’s had a great first impression with his current squad. They’re coming off of their third spring practice session and have an idea of how he wants to proceed going forward.
“We’ve been fortunate to be able to get out on the training field. I’m impressed with the teams great character and their team chemistry. I’ve noticed that the group is really close together on and off the field and I’m excited to build off that,” Blakely said.
The team is excited about what Blakely has planned and has higher expectations than ever before.
“The expectations are set high and there is a lot of excitement about what’s to come,” said Bezilla. “Our training is going to be different than before. We’ll be consistently working on our fitness in ways we haven’t in the past. For the fall I’m expecting everyone to work hard and have a high level of respect for Coach Luke and the program he’s building.”
Kane said Blakely will help them win games. “He believes in us and because of that we’re going to have a team that believes in what we can do,” Kane said.
The women’s soccer team will get their fall campaign underway officially in early August and the buzz around the department is exciting.
“Coming in, my main focus is to build a foundation and get back to some of the previous form,” said Blakely. “I’d like to be involved in the CCAC Tournament year after year and become a permanent fixture in the postseason.”