Upper 90 were fortunate to gain insight from Head Men's soccer coach Bob Reasso. Bob had an amazingly tenured career as the coach of Rutgers University (NCAA D1) over 29 years, having produced over 50 collegiate players that had gone onto professional playing careers in the USA and abroad. We caught up with Bob prior to the season start with Pfieffer University. He has returned to his alumni school, Pfieffer University in North Carolina (NCAA D2), and has re-invigorated the program, with a conference title, and dip into the tournament for 2014. We gained his insight into many thing collegiate soccer related.
U90: Last year saw a stronger performance from previous years with the Pfieffer Men’s Soccer Program (10-8-2). What do you believe were the key ingredients for the turnaround in performance?
BR: The team I inherited had only won one game the year before and eight in the three previous years. Obviously confidence and belief was a problem, they didn’t believe they could win. It was complicated by the fact I was only able to bring in two players because I arrived in May. Having tried a couple systems early on we decided to simplify everything and play a 4-4-2 and press our opponents. It’s the easiest system for players to understand. We also trained a lot using tactical patterns, which imprinted our style of play and increased everyone’s fitness.
U90: During your 29 year tenure at Rutgers University (NCAA D1), you developed stand out players like Alexi Lalas and Peter Vermes (both US Men’s National Team players), including some 50 players that went onto professional careers. What key training approaches and methodologies are you bringing to Pfieffer, that you feel will transition the team to become more competitive in the coming season and beyond, and help your player’s transition potentially into professional play?
BR: Every season and player is different, but you can draw from your experience. I was able to make the decisions I made last year, because of everything I have encountered along the way in my career. We train our players like pros. I have been lucky to study at Barca, Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juve and many more clubs. I have watched and been able to interact with many high level managers around the world. Coaching is a lot about stealing ideas and then implementing them into your training.
U90: Many young players look toward professional pathways in Europe and other regions, sometimes foregoing their education for a shot at “the big time” in a foreign league. Given you recruit players from international markets, how do you feel that the US college soccer environment develops a player for life after college from an academic and professional playing perspective?
BR: A college education is an insurance policy. If you get hurt you have your education to fall back on. The college game is very intense, both physically and mentally because you quite often play three games a week and a few losses can really hurt your team’s chances. This builds a very mentally resilient player.
U90: Oftentimes when we interact with potential recruits, they ask about the quality and competitiveness of the divisions, and naturally assume that D2 or D3 schools are not as competitive (i.e. the top tier teams) as opposed to their D1 counterparts. Given your time within top flight D1 schools such as Rutgers, do you feel that the big D2 and D3 schools can compete convincingly across divisions? Do you feel that Pfieffer as an athletic program overall has a shot at transitioning into a D1 program down the line?
BR: First I don’t see us moving to D I it doesn’t fit our University. I have spent most of my career in D I, but I have also worked in DIII and of course D II. The top D I teams are very good, but the rule restrictions in D I make building and keeping teams tough. D II’s rules are a little more relaxed especially for foreign players. In D II there are more foreign players and you will find some older players, so the top D II teams can easily compete with D I teams.
U90: Pfieffer University have another big season ahead for 2014, what are your goals for the team, and how will you be preparing them for the best possible shot of consistency in the Conference Carolinas?
BR: This year will be interesting because none of our opponents will take us lightly. We are still building our program, so it will probably take us one more year of recruiting to have a deep enough team to compete on the level we want to. We have a good nucleus back from last year and have added about 7 very good players, most of them would have played for me at Rutgers and a number would have started as freshman. Our schedule is also tougher, so we will have to see, but we are excited to get started.