Tao Shen leads new Snohomish Skyhawks era in WISL

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Skyhawks trialists during pre-season. (club photo)

-40010SEASONSLOGOSNOHOMISH, WA— The Snohomish Skyhawks have been around a long time. How long? This year the club is suiting up for its 10th season! This makes the Skyhawks the longest continually operating elite men’s indoor club in Washington. All of that history in the PASL is taking a new direction in 2015-16 as Snohomish moves to the WISL under the leadership of Tao Shen.

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Tao Shen.

“There are a lot of changes with the Skyhawks this season,” Tao tells WISLnews.com.  “Starting with a fresh group of new players, new coaching staff and joining a new league. We have 4-5 players returning from last year and both Casey (Collins) and John (Newberry) moved on to coaching at the collegiate level. I have known them for a while and actually coached Casey at Whatcom CC 8 years ago, and both guys have excellent character and I’m happy they get to pursue their passion and stay with the game.”

Skyhawks on Facebook / Skyhawks Website / Snohomish Soccer Dome

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Tao Shen explains strategy to the Skyhawks during the WISL pre-season tournament. (David Falk)

John Troka was promoted as the player coach and will assist Tao with organizing our team. “If you ever watch Troka play then you can see why he is great player and leader for our group,” Shen says. “He has a relentless work ethic and plays fearlessly regardless the size of opponents. His passion and toughness are unparalleled.”

Then there is the new league. “We are excited to be joining the WISL and re-igniting some wonderful rivalries from the past. This league from top to bottom is very competitive and it will really take a special team to win it all.”

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Divine guidance? John Troka, who will act as the Skyhawks’ player-coach this season, dressed up as a famous biblical figure at the pre-season tournament, which took place on Halloween. (David Falk)

Skyhawks in tryouts, training

“We started doing some open fields starting in September but have really got things going in October since more players have been available after our open tryouts,” Tao explains. “We had some really good players coming through those tryouts and our team consists of most of them. ” It’s all really new for the lastest batch of Skyhawks players. “This new group will need to stay hungry over the course of season and play gritty, hardworking, yet with flare — the kind of soccer that I want us to produce. I know we are eager to start playing games that will count. Not a bad way to start out the season against Olympic Force this Saturday, who won the preseason tournament.”

Snohomish was also at the tournament. It was a good measuring stick for the Skyhawks. “We need to get better,” Shen says honestly. “We always play hard but we need a complete team effort and every player on the pitch and off needs to buy into our philosophy. Every player on our team has a purpose to achieve our overall team goal and no player is above the team.”

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The squad the Skyhawks brought to Bellingham for the pre-season tournament.

Longtime Skyhawk

Tao has been around the Skyhawks for over half a decade. “I got involved with the Skyhawks playing about 5-6 years ago when Vasco Rubio was coaching. I lived close and so wanted to stay fit and playing competitively. I knew about the team when some of the ex-Sounders played on it back in the day and I knew it was good level. When Vasco retired it was a shock for the players. Pablo Mummey, the owner, asked me if I would be interested in taking over as he knew I had coached in college and worked with him at the same youth club team. I have being coaching for a while and continue looking to improve my trade. I have being coaching college soccer for the last 10 years and also many great youth clubs and teams. It’s nice to see some of my players I worked with graduating high school and continue to play in college.”

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Building the “New” Skyhawks

Shen has a plan. Now his job is getting his players to rally behind that plan. “I feel the biggest challenge is to get all the players to buy into your concept of building a team. Many players have full time jobs (students) and getting them to training can be tough on a week to week basis and that’s why we have a large pool of players to select from. All players know that you have to come to training in order to play. I have some players driving more than 2 hours away to come to training and trying to make it work. Their passion and seeing them improve on their games will be my biggest reward.”

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