Ohio University's new women's soccer coach Aaron Rodgers is stepping in to guide a program that has seen consistency in who has ran the program for more than a decade. He took the position in December after former coach Stacy Strauss, who guided the Bobcats program for 13 years, stepped down to pursue other endeavors. After a national search conducted by the university, they found their man in a fairly young but experienced former professional player and coach.
Rodgers' stops have included:
• Playing at University of Arkansas-Little Rock and the University of North Texas as a collegiate athlete.
• Stints in the USL (United Soccer League) with the Texas Toros, The Dallas Rockets and the Mobile Revelers.
• Associate Director of the Cardinal Soccer Club in Cincinnati, Ohio.
• Coaching experience at the University of North Texas, the University of South Alabama, Alabama, the University of North Florida, the Flager College Men's team, the University of Florida, the University of Kentucky.
I interviewed the coach who has gotten to work with his new team and begin making hires and changes to this program.
You moved here from around Lexington correct? How has the family been thus far with the transition?
It's been different obviously, I mean obviously Athens is a smaller community. A community that, you know you're used to a bigger city, it takes a little bit getting used to that part of it. It's a wonderful place to be a student-athlete and that's one of the main reasons I took the job because I know that it's a fantastic place to recruit to, and hopefully we'll be able to translate that into a successful team.
When it comes to professional soccer, who would you consider yourself a fan of? And what types of teams do you really enjoy watching.
Barcelona simply because of the way that they maintain possession of the ball and they press you to win the ball back so quickly when they lose it. I've always been a lifelong fan of Liverpool in England. Actually over the last season, they've got a new manager, (Brendan Rodgers) who actually I guess no relation (laugh) another one of my long lost cousins, he has kind of brought that mentality to Liverpool, their mentality is to maintain possession of the ball and winning the ball back quickly, by pressing the ball, and then obviously if you don't want to get it back quickly to drop it, you organize then once you win it back, you're style of play being shortest to fastest, to put the other team under pressure, and make them chase the ball. So I'm hoping to be able to emulate those styles, and I think right now we're going to do our best, but a lot of it is going to come through recruiting the right student-athletes as well, but I think right now we have a strong foundation that will allow us to do that as well.
What was it that made you interested in coaching this Bobcats program?
I coached in Cincinnati in 2000-2001, a youth club, and I knew about Ohio University at that time. And my wife is from Ohio, she went to UC, so I've always been connected to the state of Ohio since probably 1999. And just always saw that it was a great University with great athletic traditions. I think knowing that one; it's a wonderful place to be a student-athlete, that I think we could attract the top athletes. And the fact that Ohio has a great base of youth talent that I though it was kind of a no-brainer.
How have you enjoyed your time thus far guiding the program at Ohio University?
It's been a lot of fun, you know the girls have a great hunger for learning and they have a great hunger for success, and to win the MAC. They definitely have been people that have shown that desire and willingness to learn and it has been a good environment to work with. I think the administration has been supportive and wants to see us succeed and is doing their best to support us in every way they can to have that success follow.
What types of things, philosophies, and teachings will you bring with you from your previous coaching experience at collegiate and club levels?
Yeah, I think one of those things that you can't really coach but it's such a massive part of part of the women's game is athleticism. And the main push for us, is I mean obviously the 2013 class I did not recruit. They were all committed to the former staff, so the 2014 class, because women's soccer is such an early commitment sport, that I was able to kind of get some 2014 players. I didn't have a huge impact on the 2014 class but we were able to get some solid soccer players that understand the game that can maintain possession of the ball and fit into the style that we want to play. But really the 2015 is the big class that we're able to affect the whole recruiting class. So our mentality is athleticism. Strong, fast, agile players because in the women's game, athleticism can really set you apart. So if we have those players that understand the game and enable us to play tactically to keep possession and press the ball and get it back when we lose it quickly, and we add that with athleticism, that's a great combination to build a very successful program.
How will your previous experience coaching goalkeeper's help strengthen this Bobcat defense?
Well I think first of all when I got the job, and I have a whole lot of experience coaching goalkeepers, the first thing that I was hiring my full-time assistants, I wanted someone that shared the same goalkeeping philosophies that I do, and I want somebody that can stand good, quality goalkeepers. So I won't be coaching the goalkeepers very much because Allison Whitworth who is my full-time assistant, has a tremendous amount of experience and success doing that. But I think we always have a bit of a joke saying that goalkeepers make great coaches because in reality we're the ones that stand behind the rest of 10 players and watch the game unfold. So we're able to see the game in its full perspective as opposed to a forward that may only be able to see the ball when it's in the attacking part of the field, a midfielder or defender only sees the ball in the back and is trying to defend. We see the field and the game progress the whole way through, so we can kind of think through games and so I think it helps. There a are a lot of goalkeepers who have been successful coaches. good coaches. Jon Lipsitz at Kentucky, who I most recently worked with, he was a goalkeeper as well I his playing days, so I think being able to see the game and then seeing how it progresses and builds up is definitely something that helps you out as a head coach.
If you could model this program after another school's, who would you be looking to emulate, and in the long run, what do you think Bobcat fans can expect to see from this team?
Well, as far as emulating, I would definitely say the last two programs that I worked for, like Kentucky and Florida are two fantastic programs that I would love to be able to emulate. No. 1, being the ability to possess the ball and be patient in the attack, but be very quick in their attacks as well, and then also add the athletic element to players of both Kentucky and Florida, have those elements that I would love to emulate, and obviously those are my two most recent experiences in coaching and developing a team, so those are what I'm going to hold closest to.
I hope that Bobcat fans will be able to see an attacking team that is willing to go forward and taking risks to score goals, as opposed to just sitting back and absorbing other teams attacks and hoping to score on the counter attack. I want to be a positive, goal-scoring team.