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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A clever recruiting strategy builds a soccer program

Dorrance describes an intriguing recruiting strategy. The UNC women's team, which after earning varsity status in 1979 was the only women's varsity soccer team in the area, played elite high school teams to fill out its schedule. After a game, Dorrance would recruit the best players from those teams. Within two years, Dorrance's team had won a national championship. (The NCAA did not recognize women's soccer until 1982.)

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anson Dorrance, June 11, 1991. Interview L-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

It sounds so unlikely to me that this group of students could just become a varsity team; easy almost. Did it have to do with the timing of it?
I don't understand either. I mean, the credit that I give Bill Coby is consistent because I really think he had a great vision because there was no reason for him to start a women's varsity here. Women's soccer wasn't that popular in the state. It really wasn't that popular in the region. I mean the region is still catching up with the rest of the country. And I give him great credit because he put us in a position where we haven't looked back. And the analogy I use is by having a varsity here before anyone else did in the region; it was like a sprinter in a 100 yard dash being given a twenty yard head start. Basically, we've been in that position ever since. I think my function as a coach has been, "Let no one catch us." And he just put us in a remarkable position because whenever a young soccer player in our region or even in the Northeast was considering schools, ours had to be one to consider. The recruiting class of 1981, I think, was an incredible class. We had two recruiting classes before that. The one in 1979 was a very thin class because we established the varsity in the late spring, so I was able to recruit only a couple of players, one from North Carolina and one from Dallas, Texas who became a four year captain for me by the name of Janet Raeford. And one named Emily Scruggs from Rochester, New York. So, with those three players, and Heinz. I don't remember her first name off hand. But those three were outstanding collegiate players and we had a great first season, but most of our victories were against clubs and the competition wasn't that high. We used to play a high school age select team from northern Virginia to supplement our schedule. And almost all of them beat us. What we would do is play these teams and then recruit their top players. And so, within two years, by 1981, we brought in an absolutely incredible freshman class. And it was the freshman class that ended up displacing nine starters from the previous year's team. And those were basically players that came in as club players that had played for me for two years on a club and then were almost entirely replaced by this onslaught of the top youth talent in the country. I remember it was interesting. There was an athletic faculty banquet and I was asked to be one of the key note speakers and it was really funny. I had absolutely nothing to lose and so I got up there and started a review of this recruiting class. And I basically told everyone that this class was going to win the national championship for us the following season, 1981, which is absolutely a blasphemy for a coach to stand up there before the season even begins and predict the national championship. It was a ridiculous sort of position to take, but I was really convinced that we were going to and I was young enough and naive enough to feel that by making these sorts of statements, we could draw some attention to our team and maybe that would be positive. But I was also convinced we were going to win. I was one of the few coaches out there that was aggressively recruiting in the entire country. I had sorted out the top two soccer areas in the United States as Dallas, Texas and the Washington, D.C. area; at least the two top areas east of the Mississippi or within striking reach of our recruitment area. And sure enough, we got the best players out of those areas, plus some great players off of Long Island. And we did. We won that first year. I remember I came down off that podium and I was walking with Bill Lamb who is still our wrestling coach and he said, "Anson, you're a young coach, but that was the most insane thing I've ever heard anyone do in my life. Now it doesn't matter what happens. You can have a great year, but if you don't win the national championship it's going to be considered a failure." And I basically told him, I said, "Bill, if we don't win the national championship, I'll consider it a failure." And so we started with that sort of very aggressive mentality from day one. And our philosophy has been to aggressively pursue the highest level we could every year since. With the exception of one year, I think we've done a pretty good job.