Those numbers are unacceptable, the longtime University of Connecticut coach says. And he’s tired of hearing platitudes about the need for diversity in the coaching ranks. So he’s putting his money where his (and many other) mouths are.
Reid and his family have donated $25,000 to the United Soccer Coaches Foundation. He’s pledged another $75,000 as an estate gift. Each year, the Ray Reid Family Fund will enable a minority coach to attend a United Soccer Coaches education course, or the annual convention. The scholarship is open to college coaches until Reid retires; then any minority coach, at any level, can apply.
“I was very blessed to grow up in a diverse neighborhood,” says the Long Island, New York native. “The youth teams I was on were very diverse. When I played at Southern Connecticut for Bob Dikranian, those teams were diverse, too. From Day One, the teams I’ve coached have been extremely diverse.”
They’ve been extremely successful as well. Reid led the Southern Connecticut Owls to three Division II national titles. In 2000, his UConn Huskies captured the Division I crown. Reid’s 445-130-75 record over a 30-year career ranks him number two in overall winning percentage (74.2) among all active NCAA head coaches.
But Reid prefers to talk about the present, and the future. He is proud of his mentorship. Over 25 former players and assistant coaches now coach in the college and pro ranks. Three – Bo Oshoniyi (Dartmouth College), Chris Gbandi (Northeastern University) and Bryheem Hancock (Radford University) -- are Black.
That’s far too few for Reid. “We have to push the needle,” he says. “It’s not enough to say that more minority coaches should get an opportunity to learn and advance to a higher level in the game. We have to take actions that will provide those opportunities.” He hopes the soccer community will be motivated to help grow the Ray Reid Family Fund, and that coaches across the country will look for their own opportunities to mentor and assist minority coaches.
While diversity has always been important to Reid – and a roster filled with minority and international players attests to that – the importance of a wide variety of voices and backgrounds was made especially clear this spring.
With the Storrs campus closed since mid-March, and a planned trip to England canceled, Reid kept in touch with his players the way many other coaches did: through team and individual Zoom meetings.
Amid the talk about tactics and check-ins on physical conditioning, players and coaches broached another subject: the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I got to see the guys in a different light, and vice versa,” Reid says, of discussions in the wake of the deaths of several unarmed Black men and women. “We talked more than we usually do.” Out of those talks came a renewed recognition that having a team with a diverse range of backgrounds is important not only on the field, but off.
Of course, Reid is also an intense competitor. The past few months without matches has been tough. With the Big East fall season canceled, the Huskies have been in the same boat as much of the college soccer world. After quarantining for 14 days, players began training in pods of four. They’re working their way up to four hours of ball work a week, and four hours of conditioning. The medical staff closely monitors their progress.
Though the number of students on campus has been cut by more than half, from 12,000 to 5,000, Reid’s team is nearly intact. Reid credit’s UConn’s international student affairs officials with making sure there were no visa issues. Two players are still overseas. They’ll return in January.
“They’ve been good,” Reid says, of his squad. “Our guys love playing. They haven’t been able to do that since March. But they’re keeping the team mentality.” Still, he notes, “the only thing certain is uncertainty.”
Meanwhile, the coaching staff’s work continues. Like everything else, recruiting looks different this year. There are new NCAA regulations. Campus visits are out. Not every potential player has a chance to play this fall. Still, Reid notes, if the process is different for his staff, the recruits themselves won’t notice any change. It’s all new to them.
Also new: UConn’s Joseph J. Morrone Stadium at the Rizza Family Soccer Complex. The state-of-the-art facility was set to open Aug. 29, with a match against Notre Dame. That’s been pushed back to next year.
At which time, the coach hopes, his team will be more than ready. And the Ray Reid Family Fund will have grown, providing even more opportunities for minority coaches to grow too.