Early this summer, Ozark coach Zack Owens received props from Tigers strength and conditioning coach Corey Roy for simply having a player with all the physical tools Alex Williams possesses.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Williams indeed towers over many of his teammates and also is taller with broader shoulders than the great majority of his other peers at school, no matter the sport they play.
Nine matches into his junior season, Williams has taken steps toward fulfilling his obvious potential. He’s raised his level of play to join midfielders Caleb Lepant and Phin Scott and give the Tigers three consistent scoring options.
“He's starting to turn the corner,” Owens said. “We’ve put some players around him to help facilitate his strong points. He's a big body (and) he has sneaky speed. We've got to make sure he understands that and has the confidence in his athletic ability and let him flourish. We're excited about him. Going into his senior year, he'll have even a bigger role for us.”
Williams transferred to Ozark from Strafford at the start of his sophomore season a year ago. By joining the Tigers, it marked his first season playing school ball. Previously, his only experience was club ball.
Given Williams’ stature, it would have been almost human nature upon his arrival for Owens to ask too much from him. But Owens was mindful to be patient and gave him spot duty during Ozark’s COC championship season.
It’s turned out to be the right approach to help bring Williams along.
“The transition was tough for me because there were a decent amount of kids here I didn't know and I didn't know their playing style,” Williams said. “I'm very grateful to coach Owens for being patient with me during my transition and getting me opportunities to be on the field to showcase what I can do.”
“There was a learning curve for him,” Owens said. “He hadn't been coached in our style of play.”
Gradually, Williams settled in and became comfortable in the Tigers’ system and his teammates.
“I've built a lot of chemistry with players on the team,” he said. “We have a good bond.”
The Tigers are benefitting from Williams’ size, as he repeatedly wins battles for a loose ball all over the field.
“It's hard for (an opponent) to try to get in front of him while he’s got the defender on his back,” Owens said. “When he’s got the defender on his back, he’s able to bring a ball out of the air to his feet and collect it with less pressure because the defender can't get around him. It's a huge advantage for him.”
Nothing comes easy for Williams, though. Owens added officials often allow smaller opponents to be more physical against Williams in much the same manner basketball referees allow taller centers to be roughed up.
“You see, sometimes where Alex doesn't get a call he should have because he's bigger,” Owens said. “There have been a few times I thought (an opponent) had earned a foul. But being how Alex is so big, against a smaller kid a lot of the times it’s difficult for the official to make that call. They see his size and think, ‘Well, I don’t know if that smaller kid brought him down or not.’”
Naturally, Williams is often asked about playing football. Ozark football fans can picture him as a tenacious linebacker or hard-charging defensive end. He played basketball in the past, but never has played organized football.
"Football is not my type of speed and play,” he said. “I fell in love with the game of soccer from a young age and it’s what I’ve wanted to do through high school and college. I like to lift weights. So, during our off days I’m either out here on the soccer field or in the weight room. I’m always trying to get better.”