By Brian Jennings

Pablo Mastroeni and the Rapids players put in the work hours in 2014. That was never an issue with this group. The challenge for Mastroeni and his staff was thinking less like players and more as teachers and communicators during the weekly build-up.

“The whole experience for me was new,” admitted Mastroeni succinctly. “What I did was spend endless hours prior to any meetings that we had, any of the video sessions that we had, any of the sessions on the field that we had to make sure that we were very organized and buttoned-up from a staff perspective.”

Mastroeni explained how his communication style changed during the season. “The information that was given was, for the most part, received in a way that can actually be applied on the field. Initially I was very black-and-white in the way I delivered messages. Communicating as a captain in the locker room is a lot different than communicating as a coach. The nuances there — when you say things and have the trust of a group from a ‘you’re on the field with us, you’re going to battle with us’ perspective — it’s a lot different from saying the same exact words in the same tone now as a coach with a shirt and tie on.”

Pablo admits he still occasionally gets pulled between the player mindset and the coaching role, and he has taken an interesting approach to reminding himself on a daily basis what his new career must focus on. In fact, if you looked closely at the Colorado bench you may have noticed it but not given much thought to the small transformation on his face. “My dad gave me the idea. He said you need to differentiate the Pablo that played and your new career path. It still is a work in progress, which is why I’m growing this mustache: So when I look in the mirror I realize I’m not the guy that was in the locker room.

“As a player I’d always say, ‘Get your head out of your (rear). Let’s go!’ and they were used to that,” Mastroeni recalled of his playing days. “There’s a lot of new players. If I say those things, they don’t know Pablo as a player. They just know me as a coach, and it comes off as abrasive — ‘he’s nuts.’ I have to communicate in a different way to the players than I was accustomed to.” The mustache is a daily reminder of this transformation.

However, the 12-year MLS veteran still has moments when he’d almost rather “catch the fish” instead of “teach to fish,” as the old saying goes. “There’s times with injuries I thought to myself, ‘I might want to suit up,’ but I talked to myself about do I want to be a good player or do I want to be a great coach? So if I want to be a great coach, I have to use my knowledge that I gained in my experience as a player and communicate to the best of my abilities.”

Pablo’s message to himself? “Do the best you can and learn from it. Don’t run and hide and try to put on (boots) and get away from that role you were asked to be.”

Stay tuned for more of my conversation with Pablo coming soon as we discuss the takeaways from the 2014 season and what changes may come about in 2015.