By Mike Woitalla
U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame welcomed Bob Gansler last week.
He coached the USA when it qualified for the Italia '90, reaching the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. He won an A-League title in 1997 and an MLS title in 2000. But the 69-year-old Gansler, who now serves as a scout for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, has deep roots in the youth game.
His start in coaching came when as a ninth-grader he made compensation for a gym window he broke by coaching a fifth-grade basketball team. While a college sophomore he coached a high school soccer team.
“The way I coached is I played along with them,” he explained in an interview with Charles F. Gardner in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. “I was the best player, so they listened.”
In 1981, Gansler coached the first U.S. national team that qualified for the U-20 World Cup. In 1989, at the U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia, Gansler guided the USA to a fourth-place finish, which remains its best finish at that competition.
I was able to watch Gansler closely during the 20 days in Saudi Arabia and he made an important impression on me. This was in the Bobby Knight era when a popular school of coaching believed in the hard-ass, screaming, marine-sergeant approach.
In Gansler I saw a gentleman coach. A coach who believed respect from the players should be earned and not taken for granted.
Never in his long career did I see him scream at his players, abuse or even criticize referees – or hold a grudge against his critics.
He was proof that nice guys do not finish last and that high-volume isn’t the best way to convey a message.
“The louder you speak, the less you're heard,” Gansler once said. “When you're whispering, you've got their attention.”
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)