CHICAGO (Oct. 1, 2012) – As the U.S. Men’s National Team prepares to continue World Cup qualifying, U.S. Soccer caught up with former MNT head coach, Bob Gansler. Gansler was a professional player for many years before becoming one of the most respected U.S. coaches of all time.
Gansler served in various coaching positions with U.S. Soccer beginning in 1975. He took over as head coach for the Men’s National Team in 1989. The following year, he made his most significant mark on the game when he led the team to its first appearance in the FIFA World Cup in 40 years.
As a result of his success as a coach, Gansler was inducted in to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011. Despite his official retirement, Gansler is still very involved with the sport and has a wealth of knowledge to offer fellow coaches.
ussoccer.com: How are you spending your time these days? Are you still coaching?
Bob Gansler: “I’m a lifer. I’m retired for the most part, but I still work with a local youth club. I do sessions for various age groups and work with the coaches. I also help out with Coaching Education. I work with the state in terms of D and E licenses and help out with the state-hosted C license. A couple of months ago I did a National “A” renewal course, which was a lot of fun. We had it out at The Home Depot Center and I thought that was an ideal setting. I am retired but that’s what I do. I make my own schedule but soccer is something that I still enjoy. As long as I maintain my level of enthusiasm and passion and people think I have something to give, I will continue.”
ussoccer.com: What was one of your most memorable moments as a coach?
BG: “Certainly a memorable one was the Under-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia in 1989. It was a big tournament in which we finished fourth in the world. I regard that as a highlight. I would say there are certainly a few others though.”
ussoccer.com: As you reflect on your career, what memory stands out from the 1990 World Cup?
BG: “The fact that America hadn’t been there in such a long time and that we qualified. We earned it. It was a matter of looking at the present but also down the road. We coaches got together and decided to select players not only for 1990 but who would be there throughout the 90s. If you look at the players who were there in 1990 a lot were also there in 1994 and further on. I feel pretty good about what we got done there.”
ussoccer.com: What is your style as a coach?
BG: “I always prided myself in being realistic and idealistic at the same time. You want to do as well as possible but you have to be conscientious of the wherewithal that you have been given. So to try to balance that realism and idealism is what the job is all about. You have to maximize what you have and what you are given. I feel that the Under-20 team in 1989 came as close as possible to maximizing - they pulled out everything within themselves and from each other and put on a great performance.”
ussoccer.com: How was the transition from professional player to coach? Do you think it’s important for coaches to have high-level playing experience?
BG: “I started coaching when I was in college. I was coaching for a long time while I was still playing. I felt coaching helped me be a better player and playing helped me be a better coach. But being a coach is more than just knowing the game. It’s about people and being able to communicate and transfer your ideas in a clear fashion. Having been a pro player helps because you have experienced the way it can be and the way it should be. But there is more to coaching than having just played. That is why there are fantastic coaches who have played very little and fantastic players who might have been mediocre coaches. But it is extremely helpful to have played at a decent level when you are trying to coach at a decent level.”
ussoccer.com: When you were a player, who were your influential coaches?
BG: “I feel every coach I ever had has had an influence on me. It’s a matter of passing something on. We coaches beg, borrow and steal from the coaches we had along the way. I can’t give you one individual that I feel influenced me so much that he is my role model. But once I became a coach, people I met along the way influenced me. Once I got to the A-League and MLS I probably used more of things that I begged, borrowed and stole from the other coaches than from those who had been my coaches when I was playing. Beg, borrow and steal from everyone whose path you cross.”
ussoccer.com: How can coaching improve in the U.S. today?
BG: “We need to further educate ourselves, and that’s not just us, that’s every coach. The learning never stops. Just like a teacher – coaching is teaching in short pants. You never think you have finished learning. We have to continue to educate ourselves. We have to be aware of what is happening around the world and apply it to our situation. But it is not just about adopting what is happening in a country that is having great success - it’s about looking at what they do well and adapting it to our needs.”
ussoccer.com: What advice do you have for young coaches just starting out?
BG: “You do not become a better coach by simply going and acquiring licenses. Yes, it is important to get information but you then need to use the information. Sometimes it’s trial and error. You become a better coach by doing it. But once you’re doing it you can’t say you have it all figured out. You have to keep learning. Continue to be passionate about this. Enthusiasm is ok, passion is preferred. Be passionate about what you do and you will continue to evolve. The education can never end. The passion can never wane. The doing can never stop.”