Shek Borkowski is head coach of both FC Indiana and the Haiti Women's National Team. He has brought the two together in the WPSL Elite League as part of a two-year building process.
Women's Soccer News: We Are Making Progress – An Interview with FC Indiana's Shek Borkowski
FC Indiana is an American women's soccer club based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that plays in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League. The club has won four national championships, the WPSL in 2005 and 2007 and the Women's Open Cup (2005 and 2008. This year, however, has not seen the same level of success as earlier teams have had.
There are two important reasons for this. First, shortly before the season began FC Indiana joined the newly-formed WPSL Elite League, alongside former Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) sides Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars and Western New York Flash and several strong WPSL teams. A second reason is the makeup of the team, which is in large part members of the Haiti Women’s National Team who are unfamiliar with the American game. The connection is that FC Indiana's Head Coach Shek Borkowski is also the head of the Haiti team and brought the nucleus of that side up to help them improve their game.
For all the team’s early poor results, Borkowski remains positive and upbeat. “From the beginning this was a two-season project for me, for FC Indiana and for Haiti,” he says with a smile.
To be efficient and effective, non-North American players need time to adjust to the style and pace of play in the U.S., and Borkowski expects to realize the benefits of this experience in 12 months time. Some progress has been made, as FC Indiana picked up their first win on the road Friday, June 29, against Philadelphia Fever and followed that up with a draw against ASA Chesapeake Charge on Sunday for a four-point weekend.
"This is a great preparation for us," he admits. "Mexico's international success is based on having American-born and trained players competing for them. Haiti is the poorest country in the region and we have no players in American colleges; we needed a different approach."
FC Indiana's Liz Alvarez interviewed Shek Borkowski on FC Indiana’s season and how the work with the Haitian women has progressed.
Liz Alvarez: What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Shek Borkowski: We are making progress. We are approaching the season in three monthly stages. May was difficult because we lacked experience at this level and our fitness was low. On top of that we played Western New York, Boston and Chicago on the road. In May we averaged per game .5 goals scored and 3 goals against. In June, we averaged per game 1 goal scored and 2 goals against. So statistically we have improved quite a bit, but more important we have improved our fitness level, our tactical discipline and our play in the attacking third.
Liz Alvarez: Is the progress sufficient to make the WPSL Elite playoffs?
Shek Borkowski: No. We simply are not at the level of Boston, Chicago, Western New York or New York (Fury). It's important for us to be realistic and to manage player and fan expectations. Fans tend to be unrealistic because they fail to understand that teams like us had two months to organizationally prepare for this league. Former WPS teams had a huge advantage over us in the fact that they either had professional squads already in place or player relationships to finalize their squads. They were ready to compete by February. You don't build your squad two months before your first match, you do it 6-8 months ahead.
Liz Alvarez: What has been a big challenge this season so far?
Shek Borkowski: You can get undone very quickly in this league, and what we are constantly working on is the mental strength of the team so we don't get carried away by positive or negative results and by opinions about them – the ability mentally to shrug off disappointments in games and get ourselves going again.
Liz Alvarez: There has been some criticism of the overly defensive approach by FC Indiana. How do you respond?
Shek Borkowski: We have to play to our strengths and know our limits – you cannot expect everyone to play like Barcelona. Football is not only about scoring goals, there is an art of defending and of working hard without the ball. Team like us, at this stage of our development, can't play open, expansive football. We have to be pragmatic and those who have a knowledge and understanding of the game know it. We simply do not have the personnel to implement an open, attacking brand of football.
Liz Alvarez: Which teams and players have impressed you most in WPSL Elite this season?
Shek Borkowski: There are some very good players in the league Adriana (WNY Flash) is good technically and plays very well between the lines, (Gina) DiMartino from the Fury is difficult to play against because of her movement and work rate, (Lori) Chalupny (Chicago) is experienced. As far as teams, they all are good and playing Boston presents one problem, while playing WNY Flash presents another problem.
Liz Alvarez: Let's talk about Haiti. How is the team adapting to your methods?
Shek Borkowski: Very well. We have so much work ahead of us, from fitness to professional approach to training, living and behaving. We have some good players who know how to play but need to learn how to compete. The potential is good, but you need to draw it out.
Liz Alvarez: Will you have any international matches coming up?
Shek Borkowski: It's pretty difficult to organize matches against European competition because their international schedules are so full. South and Central American nations tend not to play too many international friendlies, so for us playing against WPSL Elite teams and against college teams is the only option left. But I'm confident that in another 12 months we will be well prepared.
Liz Alvarez: How did bringing the Haiti WNT here and playing in WPSL Elite come about?
Shek Borkowski: Haiti simply does not have a development structure in place; it does not have a competitive league nor training environment. In order for us to make progress we had no choice but to bring our players and expose them to competing against good teams and players. We are just beginning to realize dividends, and this format of preparation will benefit us in regional competitions coming up.
Liz Alvarez: What will 2013 bring for FC Indiana and Haiti?
Shek Borkowski: I expect it to be a good year. We have a very good stadium agreement in place (Carroll Stadium, capacity 12,000), in a great location, so we will get more international opponents to Indianapolis. With more time available to prepare, we will put together a stronger squad next season.
Related Articles: WPSL on SoccerNation and Pre-Season Interview with Shek