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Keystone Athletic / HEX FC Keystone

Keystone Athletic / HEX FC Keystone

Tom Mustac: Passion, Pressure, and Pumpkin Seeds

Keystone's Director of Coaching Shares Secrets for Success

It's only been about one year since Tom Mustac assumed the role of Director of Coaching at Keystone Athletic and already the club is beginning to return to the position of strength it held years ago. You could say he's done a lot of work in a short amount of time-- which is true--but aquiring the talent and expertise to grow the Poconos' most storied soccer club, make teams more competitive, and help kids become successful players and citizens has been a lifelong pursuit.

Soccer and the Poconos are in his blood.

"I have been coming to the Poconos with my family since I was very young for fishing trips, camping, and snowboarding," Mustac says. So when he elected to play for ESU after high school in 1998, the area was already his home away from home. But along with family time in the outdoors, came family time on the soccer field.

"My father was the biggest influence in my soccer life," Mustac admits. "The first club I played for was Clifton Olympics and my father was my first coach. He gave me my skill and taught me just about all I know about the game. He is why I am currently in coaching. Meanwhile, my mom, grandparents, and the rest of my family were the ones who pushed me in the right direction. They supported me in my endeavors and gave me the best chance to be successful." Mustac, like many of his childhood friends in Clifton, NJ, grew up in an international, soccer-friendly home. His father was Croatian and his mother is Polish, which no doubt contributed to his enthusiasm for the world's game at an early age. He still speaks both languages. "I don't think there was one kid I played with at Clifton High School whose parents were not first generation American," Mustac says, and a little European and South American influence is good for a kid who loves soccer. Soccer was everywhere in Clifton: in the schools, in the parks, on the streets, and for Mustac the stage was set for maximum exposure to the game he loved, a unique soccer environment not present in many American neighborhoods. Mustac immersed himself in select and state youth teams, played on a nationally ranked high school team, and led ESU to national ranking and a 2000 Final Four appearance with a hattrick and a win over New Hampshire College. After college he moved to Italy to play professionally for a small club called Isernia FC. Since then he has played in the PDL for the NJ Falcons and Jersey Express, and for FC Sonic in the NPSL where, in 2012 as the oldest member of the squad, he led his team to a national championship. In 2013, Mustac was the team-leading goal scorer.

In addition to dad, Mustac says there were two other coaches who refined him as a player. "Fernando Rossi and Jerry Sheska. They knew how to bring out the best in me and I owe them a lot for it.  I had a successful career at the high school and collegiate levels because of them."
By the time Mustac started coaching at Keystone Athletic in 2009, his journey had earned him professional status at home and abroad, as well as multiple individual and team awards. At only 35 years, Mustac is an outlier in the sport, inching closer to the mystical 10,000 hours of practice experts say it takes to achieve mastery a field. 

And the journey continues with Keystone Athletic.

"I started at Keystone in 2009 and coached in the Rising Starz development program and a couple of travel teams." Eventually Mustac would become the Director of Development.
 "Keystone was the best club in the area with the most potential for me to grow as a coach. The club's model from U4 to Super 20s is all around what is needed to become a successful player. There is a clear path for player progression, from Rising Starz to Super 20, and possibly more to come."

"My goal is to grow the club and give kids at all levels a place to play and succeed at the sport," Mustac adds, but he's practical as well. "Playing soccer in a club like Keystone Athletic is not just about making it to the pros. It's about enjoying the beautiful game at every level, playing at a level that is right for your development and enjoyment, and I think Keystone can be that kind of place for all kids at all levels in the area."   

 Mustac is only the third Director to be named in the nearly 30 years of Keystone's existence. In addition to his prolific playing experience, he brings other essential qualifications to the job. While serving as Director, Mustac continues in his position as Assistant Coach for ESU's mens soccer team. Mustac is a 2003 graduate of ESU where he earned a bachelor's degree in management/economics, and later earned a teaching certificate at William Paterson University. In 2009, he completed his master's degree in sports managment from ESU. Mustac also currently holds the NSCAA Advanced National coaching diploma. 

When Mustac became Director last year, the club was in need of a spark and he has proven himself up to the challenge. "There's been a lot to learn about club soccer. The details of different leagues, deadlines, dos and don'ts I'm still learning. Ultimately, however, I know I have to provide a quality soccer experience for our players, on well-organized teams, on good facilities, and with an exceptional coaching staff. We've been able to address all of those points pretty well this past year and I think we'll continue in the right direction." 

There can be a lot of pressure to perform as a Director, something that playing and coaching at a high level has prepared him for. "As a player, I am very serious.  I believe when you step on the field, you should give 100%.  Play the game like it's your last. I am normally very calm on and off the field but I don't mind the pressure. It actually brings out the best in me."  

Mustac can often be seen carrying a bag of pumpkin seeds around. They are more than a light snack, they have become a fixture of his philosophy. "The seeds are something to keep me from yelling too much. I think once the kids are on the field, they should figure the game out themselves. All instruction should come at practice and they should translate what they know to the field. A lot of coaches want to dictate every move. Sure, some adjustments are necessary, but in the end, it's a player's game."  


Keystone Athletic
551 Main Street 
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania 18360

Phone: 570-213-0392
Email: [email protected]

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