Kayla King, the goalkeeper for the ambitious Kentucky women's soccer team, was talking about her evolution as a college player: from headstrong, but ill-informed freshman and sophomore to coachable leader.
Again and again, she credited "Jon." Jon's wise counsel. Jon's patience. Jon's leadership.
"Jon" was UK Coach Jon Lipsitz, apparently the antithesis of the demanding field general who considers the title "coach" as synonymous with ruler/king.
"I want to be Jon," Lipsitz said Tuesday as he sat between King and defender Arin Gilliland. "If (a player) comes into my office and needs something, I'm Jon."
Why, he asked, shouldn't he be Jon on the field?
Because ... the coach must be a revered, perhaps feared figure who commands the players' respect?
"To me, respect is earned and given," said Lipsitz. "And it's not from a name (like 'coach'). Every once in awhile, a player will call me 'Coach.' I say, 'Player.'"
Lipsitz, whose father is a college professor, clearly wants to conduct athletic business without the familiar militaristic my-way-or-the-highway histrionics. He seemed to need to check his emotions when explaining how far King has come and how Gilliland has always been dutiful from the start.
"How can you go through that journey, as different as they are, and not love one another," he said.
When he was an assistant coach at Ohio State, Lipsitz was known as "Jon." When he became head coach at Charlotte in 2004, he wanted to be addressed as "Coach." It was an affectation he outgrew.
"I think I was establishing who I was," he said. "I don't feel the need to do that anymore. I'm telling them what we need to do to win the game. I think that's enough."
UK volleyball coach Craig Skinner touted the new playing surface his team will use at home matches this coming season. It puts UK on the cutting edge, metaphorically speaking. The softer, more cushiony surface is used in Olympic competition and gives players more confidence to dive for balls. Only three other schools use the surface.
"The first time we went out to practice, it felt pretty big-time," Skinner said.
Adding to the puffed-up feeling is UK playing host to an NCAA regional in December.
Jack Van Arsdale is the goalkeeper for UK's men's soccer team. He noted the "huge shift in culture" brought by Coach Johan Cedergren, who begins his second season at UK.
"He brings excitement every day," Van Arsdale said of the coach. "It's a privilege, not so much a job, now."
Like many college sports, soccer involves a mental and physical strain over the course of a season.
"In the past, it was 'Oh man, I have to do this,'" Van Arsdale said. "Now, it's 'I get to do this.'"
The soccer team received a bid to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2003, and only the fifth time in the history of the program.
UK season openers
Friday — At Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 — Wright State, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 — At Belmont Opener (Nashville, Tenn.)
Aug. 30 — vs. Florida State (at Long Beach, Calif.), 8 p.m.