If a team is to bring its dream of winning a national championship to life, there can’t be any off days and there definitely cannot be any wasted practices.
For the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, senior captain Blake Succa is the glue that holds them together; the motivator that keeps the team focused on its overall goal; and the man doing all of the little things in order to make sure the Badgers function like the well-oiled machine they have proven to be.
But Succa almost wasn’t a Badger.
“Honestly, when I initially heard that Wisconsin was interested in me coming here to play soccer, I only said yes just to keep my options open,” Succa said. “They weren’t high up on my list.”
The Lewisberry, Pa., native ended up coming to Madison on an official visit, met with the team and coaching staff and saw what Madison was all about.
“Once I saw that and took into consideration the combination of academics, athletics and the city as a whole I couldn’t say no,” Succa said.
And Badger head coach John Trask is glad he didn’t.
“He’s a tough kid with a great personality,” Trask said of Succa. “He makes everyone on the team better in practice and that is something you cannot replace.”
Trask continued his praise of Succa by saying, “Where other players find reasons to be off the field, Blake Succa finds reasons to be on it.”
A frequent starter on the back line for the Badgers, Succa gives everything he can during matches, but he knows his greatest asset to this team comes during practices.
“In practice I definitely have a bit more of an edge,” Succa said. “I just try and make sure that if I see a guy not into it mentally — I have those days as well — I try and make sure that he is on the same page. I try to lead by example instead of barking at the guys, even though I do that sometimes.”
Leading by example is often a characteristic of great team captains, which is why Trask named Succa the team’s fourth senior captain at the beginning of the season. Succa said he believes he has always been a type of leader on the team, but once Trask told him he had earned the official title of team captain it made him even more confident in practices and games because he now had the backing of the coach and his teammates.
The decision to name Succa a captain was not just Trask’s decision, it was also the whole team’s decision.
“When I went to all of the guys and asked them their opinion on naming Succa the fourth team captain, it was an easy choice,” Trask said. “There was no hesitation whatsoever from any of the guys. Some of them even said that they thought he should have been named captain the year before.”
The intensity the 5-foot-11, 175-pound defender brings during practice and games is hard to match, it’s hard to question that. What is also unquestionable is the level of respect and professionalism Succa carries with him off the field and after games.
That level of sportsmanship is part of the reason why Succa was named a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree in 2011 and why his teammates and players from opposing teams all have so much respect and admiration for Succa and his game.
“In games, everybody needs to come in with the understanding that once you step in between the lines and the clock starts ticking, the guys you are playing against become the enemy,” Succa said. “You are going to battle against them, they’re going to battle against you and some trash talking will go on, but you have to understand that it’s just a game.
“Once that clock hits 90 minutes, you have to shake his hand and congratulate him on a good battle.”