Matt Habrowski’s experience leads way for Irish
Joe Everett | Friday, September 1, 2017
When people think of what truly defines great soccer players, most people will mention the athleticism that a Ronaldo may possess or the mastery of technical skill that a Messi may champion. However, for Notre Dame graduate student and center back Matt Habrowski, his success stems from his ability to diagnose, adjust and communicate what needs to be done in an instant.
In short, it’s his mind that makes him a great athlete.
“There’s a recurring joke that I’m not as athletic as many other people on the team … but the one thing I do well on and off the field is I think,” Habrowski said. “[Coach] loves that, and tries to instill that in his center backs, because we’re the heart and the vocal leaders the team back there — we see it all. I think that’s what I do well — passing, organizing and being a vocal leader, especially during the tough games, which happen a lot in the ACC.”
Starting his soccer career at the ripe age of 3 years old, it comes to nobody’s surprise that Habrowski has become a natural student of the game, as the Irish tri-captain spent much of his childhood and high school experience to developing and improving his craft. Off the field, Habrowski is an equally dedicated student, as he graduated last spring with a degree in mechanical engineering and is currently pursuing a one-year master’s degree in ACMS from the University. However, what truly makes the sport special for Habrowski, even more than the mental aspect of the game, is the brotherhood that is formed between the guys on the team.
“I’ve really come to love the team — we have a great group of guys here,” Habrowski said. “Everyone gets along super well, the team culture is fantastic and I think that’s what I’ll take with me even after [I leave] — the experience of hanging out in the locker room with lifelong friends that I’ve had for four years has been fantastic.
“… On the field, I love the thinking aspect of soccer — thinking about how to break down teams. We’ve made the comparison of making soccer seem like a game of chess — how you react to what the opposing team does, how you put them on the counter — so I think that’s what I really enjoy, and it’s a role I’ve grown into being the vocal leader in the back. I talk about how to set our pressure, setting our defensive line, linking everything together from top to bottom, so I really relish that role — but nothing beats the team culture of our 30 guys.”
Now, the team begins to enter the heart of the regular season, chasing an ACC championship and beyond. A freshman when the Irish won the national championship in 2013, Habrowski knows what it takes to reach the ultimate goal, and believes this year’s team has a lot of those qualities.
“I was lucky enough to be a part of [that team] my freshman year — it takes a special group and I think we have that,” Habrowski said. “On a more day-to-day basis, one thing we talked about is learning every day, to adapt and learn as a team. If we can continue to learn and then do it one percent better, five percent better the next day, I think that’s huge. Our team motto this year is ‘leave the jersey in a better place’ — so everything you do on the field contributes to the overall success of the program and culture that we’re setting up here.”
Arguably, no one on the current team has had as much impact on said culture as Habrowski. As a two-time captain, Habrowski commands respect within the locker room, mainly because he makes a point to build relationships with his teammates and get the most out of their potential. A two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll choice in addition, Habrowski best represents what it means to be a Notre Dame student-athlete, and commented on what being a two-time captain has meant.
“Obviously it’s a huge honor to serve as captain,” Habrowski said. “I lot of the guys trust me, I guess — I’ve done a few things right as a player. No one’s really ready to be a captain when they first start, and it’s something that’s a learning process every day. I’m still learning how to do things better … last year there were a couple situations myself and the other captains could’ve handled a little better, but coming back I was more excited.
“… I knew how to better communicate to the team, understand team expectations and give everyone the respect and self-belief that they deserved, and I think right now as a second-year captain my role has become, obviously on the field as a leader, but more of a mentor now that can pass along what I’ve learned to continue our team culture and what we want to accomplish long-term here at Notre Dame.”