New Clayton State women's soccer coach Gareth O'Sullivan is excited about the future of the Lady Lakers' program.
New Clayton State women's soccer coach Gareth O'Sullivan sat down on Wednesday with Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald sports editor Doug Gorman to talk about his expectations for the Division II program:
O'Sullivan brings a wealth of coaching experience to Clayton State University. O'Sullivan is a native of Ballina, Ireland and most recently served as the head coach of the Atlanta Beat, of the Women's Professional Soccer league. He has coached both women and men's teams at the college level, including at Christian Brothers where he overall both programs at the same time. He led the Christian Brothers women's team to the NCAA Division II national title in 2002. He also started the women's team at West Georgia. He has an overall college coaching record of 174-82-12 and 105-26-5 in the women's game. He takes over a program that's seeking its first winning season since 2007.
What attracted you to
"Having coached the Atlanta Beat, my Missus and I really fell in love with the Atlanta area. When this job came open, obviously it was of interest to us. From talking to coaches in the area, they have all told me, Clayton State has huge potential. The more I looked into it, it seemed to be a very good fit. When I came down to interview for the job, I got the impression this school was going to be very serious about winning soccer games and that was exciting for me."
Club soccer is so big in the Atlanta area, will that serve as your recruiting base?
"You are not going to get the top level girls, so there is no need to even try, but if you can get some quality girls and put Clayton State on the map, I think that will help down the road. It's going to be tough to sell Clayton State initially because we have to have a better record and start winning games again, so I will probably go overseas for my first recruiting classes. Once we can start winning games again, we are going to recruit locally. When I say locally, I mean the state of Georgia."
How much did you know about the Peach Belt Conference when you took the job with Clayton State ?
"I have never coached in the Peach Belt before, but I am familiar with a lot of the teams, Columbus State in particular, because when I was at West Georgia, we did play Columbus State. When I was at Christian Brothers (like West Georgia it's in the Gulf South Conference) there is a lot of interaction between the two leagues. I know it's a strong conference across the board in most sports. They have a great program at Columbus State, and we need to aspire to get up to their level."
How would you describe your style of play or your coaching philosophy?
"You can only have a very creative and nice style of play if you have those types of players on hand, but I generally like to keep the ball on the ground, and I like the possession style of play. Next year we may not be able to do that depending on who we are playing, but if it's a team where we feel we can play our style, we are going to go out there and play an exciting brand of football (soccer)."
Do you have a time frame on when you want to see Clayton State start contending for conference and national titles?
"Our initial goal is to make a run at winning the conference, but that could take I'd say, two recruiting classes before we can start challenge the best teams in the conference. If you can get to the point where you are challenging the likes of Columbus, then you are nationally ranked, so you are in the mix. We just need to get a couple of recruiting classes in here, and then see where we are at."
What is the difference between coaching at the pro level and the college level?
"This is a big step down in ability level, but the goals are the same, to improve the players individually, and to make the program into a successful thriving program. Many of things we ask of the pros will be the same things we ask of the girls here at Clayton State. We want to turn this into a top-notch Division II program, and I think the girls are looking forward to it."
What is the difference between coaching men and women?
"Women are very easy to instruct. They will generally do exactly what you ask and maybe not second guess you. There can sometimes be more drama with females, but I can wear whichever hat needs to be worn, and I am looking forward to it."