Commentary

'When you whisper' ... Reflections on a Hall of Fame coach

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.)

4 comments about "'When you whisper' ... Reflections on a Hall of Fame coach".
  1. Brent Crossland, June 8, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.

    “The louder you speak, the less you're heard,”

    Probably 15 years ago I cut the subtitle of a magazine article out & stuck it on the bulletin board over my desk. Can't remember the magazine or the author, but's it's moved with me through three offices.

    It says "If you have to YELL to be heard, you probably don't have anything important to say."

  2. John Soares, June 8, 2011 at 6:04 p.m.

    Good advise; Another take that, sat on my desk for 20+ years, don't remember who said it first.
    "If you want some one to listen... whisper"

  3. Jim Mcnamara, June 8, 2011 at 9:06 p.m.

    Bob Gansler is awesome...I have sat in on teaching sessions as he trains players and coaches and he has provided a complete different approach in my style...I have also had the opportunity for him to come alongside me on the sideline and guide me...I can tell you, this is something I will never forget. He is a MAN above all others and his respect for those still learning to teach at his level is second to none. He is truly an icon and a hero where many do not even come close. Thank you Bob for all you have committed to the game of soccer and my life as a coach.

  4. B Arsenal, June 9, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.

    I wish I knew him. He sounds like an amazing role model. My high school football coach was that type of a person but I was not fortunate enough to have such a great role model for soccer. You guys who knew him are truly blessed. I hope I'm lucky enough to meet him some day.

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