By Corey B Elliot
BROWNSBURG — There will be a new look to the Brownsburg Bulldogs girls’ soccer program this fall, but don’t worry, they aren’t changing their school colors or their logo.
However, the Bulldogs are certainly undergoing a transformation.
After 15 years former coach Phil Slavens will no longer pace the sidelines as the varsity soccer coach at the end of last season.
So, how does Brownsburg replace someone who became the foundation and the face of Brownsburg’s program?
Hire his former assistant, who will pick up right where he left off and continue the culture of winning that has developed over time.
Megan Osborn served eight years as Slavens’ assistant coach before stepping away to spend more time with her family. Before her experience coaching Brownsburg varsity soccer as an assistant, she played collegiate soccer at Goshen College. Osborn is familiar with the game, the Brownsburg community, and the students who have come through the program.
Now, she will take over for Slavens as head coach of the Brownsburg girls’ varsity soccer team.
“It’s hard to get out of coaching mode, but I would have hard time to find anyone better,” Slavens said. “She is a really good coach. She will have those girls fit and she is an outstanding role model. She will do a great job. She will be outstanding for the program and I’m looking forward to watching from the stands.”
Slavens’ endorsement speaks volumes about Osborn. It’s rare to see coaches remain in one place for the amount of time Slavens did and it’s even harder to find someone to walk that same road. But Osborn understands the footprint Slavens left on the Bulldogs’ program.
“Well, I feel like I have big shoes to fill,” Osborn said. “Phil was a great mentor and a wonderful person, so I’m really excited to be able to have this opportunity. It’s a new group of girls so it’s exciting to get to know their personalities.”
A new coach usually means new everything. For Osborn, it will be no different as she begins to put her stamp on the program.
“Phil has been a go-to person in terms of the organizational background but we haven’t talked about players,” she said. “He’s been a huge help for decisions but only on the managerial side. We have a lot of fresh, young faces. There are 22 freshmen trying out and a couple veterans that will be pretty solid contributing big time to the program.”
One of the things Osborn will rely upon is her coaching staff, who she says is “young, influential, and positive.”
Osborn will have an opportunity some coaches don’t have. Along with taking over a program that has expectations for success, she will also be around the future Bulldogs’ soccer players while continuing to teach at Brownsburg East Middle School, where she has been since 2000. She will oversee the program’s future while maintaining the present, and that will certainly be a leg up.
“I’m able to see the kids as they are coming through so I can find out what club team they play for and feel out my feeder programs coming into high school,” Osborn said. “It’s nice to be able to put faces with names so that when they get on the field it’s a different setting.
“I feel like local clubs are a great feeder system. Prepping girls for high school, at our level, they have to be able to play at a high level because we are in one of the strongest conferences in the state, so we have to be ready for that.”
It’s always hard to take a moment to enjoy the present while looking toward the future. Oftentimes people don’t take a minute to stop and appreciate where they are and take stock of accomplishments.
So, how does a first-year varsity head coach take it all in while trying to maintain the success that has been synonymous with the program in a pressure-filled environment?
“In terms of coaching, mistakes that a first-year coach can make I hope I never repeat,” Osborn said. “Phil basically started the program, so to have been here that long and now to try and follow the success of the school and stay competitive there is definitely pressure.
“It would be great to win a sectional title and make a regional berth. It would also be great to be at the top of the conference because that would be something new and special.”
Those are lofty goals considering the talent and parity in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference, but for Osborn those aren’t just lofty goals. That’s exactly why Brownsburg brought her on as its new coach. The preparation in practice will show during the 80 minutes on the field during games. However, Osborn has bigger plans than wins and losses for every girl that comes through her program.
“Getting to know these girls is like having 40 more daughters — they have been working so hard in conditioning and workouts and I hope they take a little piece of that with them,” she said. “I want them to work hard every second on the field, but I want them to take that with them to college and through life.
“I want them to be accountable to themselves and their teammates.”