Anson Dorrance

Last night I finished reading The Man Watching, a biography of Anson Dorrance Women’s soccer coach at University of North Carolina. It was an interesting read on many levels. I have been a close observer of Anson for years. Certainly you have to admire his success in terms of winning, numerous NCAA Championships and 94% winning percentage in all games played. Anson certainly has his detractors, which the book addresses; I am not one of them. We all have our faults and he readily admits his. I had the opportunity to work with his team in spring of 1997 and then again in the winter of 1999. It was great to see the system in operation. It was a great experience. He is always looking for an edge, which is one example of what it takes to be great. UNC is not for every girl, there is an emphasis on toughness and competitiveness that runs contrary to the accepted role of female in society. He works hard to encourage competition and physical and mental toughness through his famous “competitive cauldron.” Everything in practice is recorded, an idea he picked up from Dean Smith. The players know where they stand at all times in the ranking system he has devised. This is a system that works for Anson at UNC with his assistants and his personality. If I have one criticism, which in many ways is also a complement, is that the players who played for him try too hard to institute the UNC system in toto at their schools. There is only one UNC and one Anson Dorrance. He has the ability to get players to fit his system, that is crucial and he always has great depth that other schools cannot match. He can get girls who are willing to walk on and sit for three or four years to wait their turn to play. This does not happen at other places. Those women who sit at other places quickly become malcontents or quit. My other personal experience was getting to see the recruiting process from a personal perspective. My daughter was recruited by UNC, clearly as a walk on, but one of the fifty girls each year that receive recruiting letters. It was amazing to read those letters, he is a great communicator. He was very gracious in recommending my daughter to one of his former players who is the coach at Rice University. It was the right school for her, but I know the experience of the Carolina soccer camp and the interaction with Anson was very special to my daughter. I know as parents my wife and I appreciated his candor and honesty with our daughter. If you are interested in excellence you need to read this book. The following quote sums up what he is about and his approach: “I saw that my strength in coaching is having the courage to constantly deal with the athletes that unconsciously try to take things a bit easier, and the way I’d lose the respect of my team is not by being demanding enough, not making a passionate, stressful investment. My challenge would be to never surrender my standards to be more popular with my team, but to push my players to transcend ordinary effort in every training session and every match.”


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