Oct. 5, 2000
In every season of every sport, it seems as though the classic story of "leading by example" is written. It's a repetitive, if not overused, phrase. There's no doubt that leading by example is an imperative quality in the student-athlete, but when used as a cliche, it takes away from the individual.
But, when an athlete comes along that truly epitomizes a leader, one must realize that there are certain aspects of leading that go beyond example, in an even more unspoken sort of way.
Senior soccer player Mike Casale does just that. With his quiet yet strong demeanor, Casale doesn't need to say much to make it understood that he means business. A powerful defender and midfielder, and this year's captain of the Husky squad, Casale is taking on the challenges of being the team's leader and only one of the four seniors among a very young team.
Coach Dean Wurzberger says the Redmond, Wash. native is "highly respected by his teammates. He's a great player and a great leader."
He's come a long way to get where is at today. Casale started playing soccer at age five and made quite a local impact on the sport before he even began his UW career. He played for the Under-17 national team during the 1994-1995 school year and also while at Eastlake High School, Casale earned the honor of the Gatorade Player of the Year in his junior and senior years.
His junior year he led the team to an unbeaten season and the Class AAA state championship. Casale also participated in cross country and volleyball while at Eastlake and to finish out his stellar high school career, Casale served as captain for the soccer team his senior year. Casale's high school success and his innate ability to lead came full circle and brought him to UW in the fall of 1997. Since then, he has made his defensive mark on the field and helped the team to two MPSF championships in 1998 and 1999.
This year, he hopes to continue the Husky prosperity as they begin the season in the newly formed Pac-10 men's soccer conference. In reference to the change to the Pac-10, Casale says he and his teammates are looking forward to new opponents and a tougher schedule.
"I think it's going to keep us on our toes and really ready to face the challenges of the playoffs," says Casale. "Basically, every week we're playing a good team that could possibly be in the playoffs."
With the season looking to be hard-hitting, the team must be ready to step up to those challenges and be ready to set new goals as the year progresses.
"As always, we want to win our division and to take it a step further at least," Casale says in reference to the team's unsuccessful attempts to get past the second round of NCAA tournament playoffs.
Off to a bit of a rocky start so far, Wurzberger has recently moved Casale from a left back to defensive midfielder where he hopes Casale can fill the role of a "midfield general." As far as his leadership position goes, Casale takes the role seriously and hopes that his example will bring the younger teammates to a better understanding of what they should expect from themselves and their teammates.
"It's a good chance to show them what it's like at a higher level. I have the chance to teach them what they should be doing, what the right thing to do is, and then they can carry that through the next two or three years they are here."
Wurzberger sees Casale as the ultimate example for which to lead the team into the challenging season.
"He's an outstanding student, so as a student-athlete, the guy has got it all together. That's why he's a good role model for our younger players."
In this, his final year at school and as a collegiate athlete, Casale hopes his success at UW can carryover into his life after college. A society and justice major, he may look into a career in law enforcement and wants to continue to play soccer at the professional level. He credits a great program and supportive athletic department for helping him reach his goals both on the field and in the classroom.
"One thing about UW is the dedication that we have (from the school) and the hard work that all the sports programs have. Everyone is supportive and it's a great environment we have to take advantage of."
He's on his way to a great senior year as he takes on a role that he readily accepts. Casale is a leader and no matter how redundant the story may become, he's one that breaks the classic mold and makes a story of his own.