The Mercer men’s soccer team began their season on Aug. 24 and have been playing hard from the start. They have faced many difficult opponents since the season started and have played strong in all of their games. In order get a better idea of how the team is looking this year, Head Coach Brad Ruzzo took the time to give us an interview concerning the team and his coaching philosophy.
The Cluster: How did you first become interested in soccer?
Ruzzo: I have two older brothers and they always played soccer. Being the youngest I followed in their footsteps and took up soccer. It’s the only sport I have ever really played besides a little bit of tennis and I ended up being the best in the family at soccer.
TC: What did you originally want your profession to be?
R: Originally I was attending the University of Cincinnati to be a high school math teacher and coach soccer at the high school level. I did not realize at the time that you could make a living off of being a head soccer coach at the college level. Once I figured that out I changed my mind. After graduating from college, I went right into coaching college soccer. I started off at the age of 21 and I have been in it ever since.
TC: Where did you coach before coming to Mercer?
R: I started off my coaching career as an assistant at Xavier University for one year and then after that I went on to becoming the Associate Head Coach for Bradley University for eight years. From there I came to Mercer and I have been here for five years now.
TC: What interested you in coming to Mercer?
R: I always wanted to stay in division-one college soccer and when the Mercer job opened up I was very interested in the position. We are in a great league and play a lot of good competition which is something that I really enjoy. Mercer also had a very good history with its soccer program. They were consistently good every year and I felt that I could help contribute to keeping the program on a successful course.
TC: What is your overall coaching philosophy?
R: I take it as more of a program approach. My job here in my opinion is to make sure all these guys are the very best students and athletes that they can be. I believe that will help transition them to being the best employees, fathers, and husbands that they can be as well. I look to judge ourselves on those areas. Obviously, we want to win and win as many championships as we can and get to the NCAA tournament, but I believe it is important to take a look at the overall program and focus and all those specific areas.
TC: What have you thought of the team so far this season?
R: I think we are doing pretty well right now overall. Currently we are 1-2-1 but we have played two tough nationally ranked opponents and have been competitive in each game. We just recently came back from a successful road trip where we won the Bradley Tournament. We are entering into a stretch of games that are very winnable for us and we like playing the higher competition because it keeps us sharp. We have also been dealing with some injuries to some very key players so once everyone is back and healthy I think we will be in a very good position.
TC: What separates your coaching style from other coaches?
R: I tell my players all the time that I wake up every morning and tell myself that there are a million coaches out there that are better than me and ask myself what are a couple of things that I am going to do today to make our program better and to make myself better. I think that if the players and the coaching staff take that approach then all of those things together can turn into something really positive. I also stress the importance of outworking the opponent to our guys and personally I am always trying to outwork another coaching staff. Whether that is in recruiting, scouting, preparation with the team, or strong practices.
TC: What does a typical day of practice look like for the team?
R: Well we just came back from a long road trip and because of that we have to adjust the practices accordingly. The first practice after a long road trip is hard because you are trying to get the guys who haven’t played a lot of minutes up to that fitness level and sharpness level while trying to rejuvenate the guys who played the majority of the minutes during the road trip. Some days can be harder than others and I try to break them up into groups to help the process. Once the season starts you just don’t have a lot of time to train. So we just have to be aware of the guys who are logging heavy minutes in the games because you can’t ask them to log heavy minutes in practice as well because they have to get their bodies right for the next game.
The men’s soccer team will look to improve on their record when they face Presbyterian, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State in their next upcoming games. The team still has many home games left to play so come cheer on the team as they take on their upcoming opponents.