Mike Cook’s Winning Recipe
(Provided/ UCO Photo Services).
As the UCO Women’s Soccer team take the field this season, they will be led by head coach Mike Cook, who has been with the Bronchos since their inception 20 years ago.
“It was a great opportunity,” Cook said. “It’s been gratifying and humbling to see the progress and success we’ve had here.”
In 1998, the University of Central Oklahoma added women’s soccer to their list of athletic programs. That was when a young Cook came over from Southern Nazarene University and never looked back.
Cook had been the head coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams for SNU since 1993, where he led the women’s team to back-to-back NAIA semifinals before coming to UCO, about a five minute drive from his home.
“A school like UCO has a lot of potential,” Cook said. “It was the next step for me.”
The inaugural season for the Lady Bronchos ended with an 11-9 record, the next season was much of the same in a 13-5-1 record in 1999. The early years of building the program saw its share of adversity. The lack of history and recognition of the university is what Cook said were the hardest obstacles to get over.
Then in Cook’s third year, UCO took the next step and finished 20-3 with both regular season and Lone Star Conference Tournament titles, advancing to their first National Tournament and shining some light on the program.
“As the country got to know our program, we started to get some more All-American caliber players,” Cook said.
The increase in recruiting made a difference. From 2004-2007 UCO Soccer dominated the LSC winning four straight league championships, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2007. “We had a good core of players who knew how to get it done,” Cook said.
The Lady Bronchos have reached the National Tournament on 11 occasions since 2000, giving Cook a 280-102-28 record as head coach. He also ranks in the top tier in career winning percentage at 73.
Looking back at his time at UCO, Cook knows every season brings new challenges. “You have to be kind of lucky with injuries,” Cook said. “There’s years when you think you’re going to be decent… other years it surprises you.”
For Cook, it’s about more than the success that may come on the field. It’s about getting his players an education and growing as people. “It’s not all about the soccer,” Cook said. “We want them to get a good education as well.”
Over the past two decades Cook has coached hundreds of young players, helping them become not only better athletes but better students.
Cook has been around UCO long enough that his former players have now grown up and led their kids to him. The trust players have for him even long after their playing time, tells him all he needs to know.
A lot has changed over the past 20 years for UCO, throughout his tenure Cook said he’s seen both the program and school grow.
“The perception of the university has changed, to see us get more national recognition is great,” Cook said.