Seven times an NCAA champion at UCSD, Women’s Soccer Coach Brian McManus enters his 20th season at the Triton helm this fall. McManus, who turned 60 last month, and his 2006 club will be searching for a sixth CCAA title in seven years when they kick off the season in late August. In the wake of the recent World Cup, the veteran mentor took time to talk about his career, the soccer world and staying young.
Q-Does it seem like 20 years since you took over as head coach at UC San Diego?
McMANUS—No it doesn’t. Only when I look in the mirror and see gray hair and wrinkles. Although it is a bit strange when you meet former athletes at games and they have three kids with them.
It’s been a tremendous run. Every year’s been a good experience, watching the whole program evolve. There’s a consistency in that our players have the same type of character now as they did 20 years ago. That attitude and mental toughness allows them to take on classroom challenges and be competitive on the soccer field as well.
What was your greatest fear in taking over as head coach?
McMANUS—Being too chauvinistic and making women cry and believe me I did. The coaching did not worry me, as I knew that the women players were just as eager to learn as the men.
Very happy about the decision. If I wasn’t, I would have moved on a long time ago. I still look forward to every season. I wish this season was starting tomorrow.
After five seasons, what differences have you noticed between Division II and III?
McMANUS—The number of scholarships in Division II has increased the level of play and women’s soccer in general has improved leaps and bounds. Also, there are simply no easy games at Division II. When we were Division III, you could always count on a handful of matches each year that would essentially be walkovers. That doesn’t happen at Division II, particularly in the CCAA.
What are the keys to having a successful season in 2006?
McMANUS—Scoring more than the opponents. Being prepared and getting the right players in the right positions and to believe in what we are doing.
Our two big question marks are filling in at sweeper and shoring up the central midfield position where Heather Szafraniec played last year. That’s the backbone of your team.
We did well offensively last year but need more goal production. Identifying a forward who can put the ball in the back of the net is a priority.
How are you different now than you were in the 1980’s?
McMANUS—I am older, although I’m not sure I’m any wiser. Basically, still crazy. I think I am much more mellow with the teams now. I tend not to shout as much and try to let the players play more and think for themselves and use their own soccer instincts.
How would you review the 2006 World Cup?
McMANUS—I thought it was great. I thought there were some excellent games. It was great to see some teams like Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Ghana all coming and doing well. It shows that the world of soccer is getting much bigger.
Ghana was my favorite team to watch. They were never going to win it but they played with no inhibitions and enjoyed themselves. You like to see the game played open like that. It was also nice to see Germany come out and play soccer like they did. They’ve always been stereotyped as a robotic, totally defensive-minded side. This year they came out to play, were entertaining and very unlucky to have been knocked out in the semi-finals.
The most disappointing team was probably Spain—again. They always have talent but never seem to produce. It was also disappointing that soccer people actually believed England could do well. They were not good enough to start with. Their players simply play too much and that seemed to show. They were worn out.
What is your assessment of the U.S. team’s performance at the World Cup?
McMANUS—Not much to say. I think Americans, like the English, expected too much. With half of the players in Europe and half America, you can’t prepare properly. The European teams can fit in four day camps throughout the year without a problem. That can’t happen here with the players so spread out. Also, the U.S. has good quality players but not world class players like the top countries have.
What facet of the game is most critical to winning at the collegiate level?
McMANUS—With the number of games we play, and the strength of competition injuries are probably the major key. Team chemistry is not about all the players loving each other, but respecting each other. When they turn up to practice and play it has to be done as a cohesive unit.
What’s the secret to staying young?
McMANUS—Coaching young women. With their youth and enthusiasm for the game, how could you not stay young? It’s just natural. Listening and being around them keeps your mind active.