High school soccer: Pragmatic approach nets coaching honor for Marian's Charmat

MISHAWAKA -- Technique over tactics can be a winning approach in high school soccer.

Marian's Djamel Charmat proved that point last fall.

Rather than overloading his Knights with complex strategies, Charmat harped on the fundamentals from early summer through late fall.

"If you can't softly kick a ball straight, on target, you surely can't make some complicated play," Charmat said. "So many coaches at (the high school) level are worried about tactics. Not me."

Net result: State championship.

By virtue of Marian's 2-0 Class 1-A state championship win over Providence, which avenged a penalty-kick loss to Providence in 2011, Charmat earned The Tribune's Girls Coach of the Year honor.

Charmat, 59, developed his philosophy on fundamentals by coaching at the middle school level -- both boys and girls -- at St. Matthew School for "a long, long time," said Charmat, who couldn't compute the exact years.

"Coaching at Marian was always my goal," Charmat said. "Marian was always a top-notch team; a benchmark in soccer."

More than a decade ago, he made the move to the high school level by coaching the girls team at Clay for three seasons. Charmat took over the Marian boys junior varsity team for four years, and is now heading into his fourth season with the Marian girls.

"The girls at Marian are committed to soccer. They're serious about the game," Charmat said. "At Clay, I'm not sure. It's like the parents forced them to join. They don't have goals set there like we have here."

Marian's goal hasn't changed. But, this past season, the motivation was enhanced.

Charmat recalled the scene following the state championship loss in 2011. The Knights had just battled to a scoreless tie, then lost 3-1 on penalty kicks.

"My attitude was that we had played a great game and we had tied," Charmat said. "I told our players, 'Don't hang your heads. We played a great game. Just go out there (for the penalty kicks) and have fun. If we win, we win; if we lose, we lose. It won't change the way we played.'

"I remember those faces when we were getting on the bus to go home. I remember the disappointment. Right then, I knew we'd be back."

Marian compiled an 18-4-2 record this past fall, having a win over Penn and a penalty-kick loss to South Bend St. Joseph to its credit. In seven postseason victories, the Knights outscored their opponents 32-2.

Given its back-to-back trips to the state championship game, Marian (as well as Providence) will be moved up to Class 2-A this season, because of the IHSAA's tournament success factor. They will be the two smallest schools in that tournament.

"The girls have talked about (the move); it's nothing that bothers them," Charmat said. "We can take on the competition. Our girls are looking for a challenge. We can be as good as we were last year. We can be very competitive."

The goals haven't changed. The approach hasn't changed, which is why success has been a constant.

It's all about technique.

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