PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Hofmann making most of first season as varsity starter
By Lance Catchings
Sophomore defensive specialist Rhett Hofmann has earned his way onto the field this season. With graduation leaving the Panthers searching for defenders, Hofmann has stepped in and stepped up to the challenge.
The Panthers have had 12 games this season where they allowed one goal or less with seven of those being shutouts. Head coach Darren Bauer said Hofmann has earned his right to be on the field.
“Rhett (Hofmann) is a player that last year you never would have thought he would move to be a defender,” Bauer said. “We have had to work with him a lot this year and since the season has started, he has improved tremendously. He wanted to improve and work on what we wanted him to do in that position and he has done a tremendous job. He still has a long way to go as a sophomore but this year he has stepped up big for us and filled a whole that we needed. He gets on to himself just as hard as we do. When kids do that you know they want to improve and get better. He wants to achieve everything he can, and I believe he will in the long run. This year has been a big huge step for him, and he has become a solidified part of our starting 11. It is good to see a sophomore step up like that.”
Hofmann said making the step up from the junior varsity level had much to with his mindset and learning the game.
“Last year my season on junior varsity felt somewhat unproductive as far as my technical progress is concerned,” Hofmann said. “I did increase my understanding of how Liberty Hill plays the game. I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect to be on varsity this season and maybe that is unfair of me. I had this expectation in my head that I had improved, but at the beginning of the season for Liberty Hill soccer I had not really improved that much. Somewhere between the beginning of school and tryouts I improved and got better.”
The transition from midfielder to defensive started on his club Lonestar team and transferred to his high school team.
“My Lonestar coach is really good at seeing people’s potential,” he said. “I was playing my attacking mid spot and he decided to switch me to defense because one of our players got hurt. For some reason it clicked with me right off the bat. Last year my biggest problem was defense. It surprised me probably as much as its surprised coach Bauer.”
First year varsity players always must adjust to the speed of the game, but Hofmann also had to adjust his technique.
“The biggest adjustment I have had to make is staying calm on the ball and being decisive with what I want to do with it,” he said. “I think last year I wanted to stay calm on the ball that I focused so much on it that it had the opposite effect. I wanted to increase my confidence as a player and move the ball where I wanted it to go.”
Hofmann has used his relationships with his older teammates to increase his knowledge of the game.
“I have pretty solid friendships with guys on the team,” he said. “All the upperclassmen I have known for a decent bit, so I am developing more relationships with them. The whole atmosphere of the team is serious, but the main goal is to enjoy the sport for what it is. It is called a beautiful game for a reason so we should enjoy it like that. I really chalk that up to Bauer for keeping that attitude about it but still being serious.”
With the Panthers rolling through district play and poised for another deep playoff run Hofmann knows the tougher games are coming. He said he does not feel much pressure but is confidence in his teammates and his ability.
“There is pressure but at the same time there isn’t,” he said. “I know I can never replace the guys that were previously played this position because they were so good and had a lot of focus. I didn’t really feel nervous at the beginning of the season and I couldn’t really tell you why. I know those guys and I know they would want me to progress as a player as well. If I continue to progress, I feel like I will be fine. I look at film from me at the beginning of the season and me in recent games and I am so much calmer and more decisive. At the beginning of the season I was antsy all the time and jittery on the ball.”
Since becoming a member of the Liberty Hill soccer program two years ago he gives his coach the credit for recognizing his potential and giving him the opportunity.
“Bauer is really good at seeing your internal talents and letting you know if they are there or not,” he said. “He is good at picking them out and putting you where they need to be. My older sister played for Bauer and she moved from a defender to an attacking player and nobody saw that coming. I feel our program is really good at developing talent and that makes us a strong program.”
Hofmann and his teammates hosted Florence Tuesday night and will travel to Little River Academy Friday before hosting Salado Tuesday.