MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In his first year as a head coach, West Virginia University alumnus Dan Stratford used what he learned as a student and assistant coach to lead his team to the NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer National Championship.
Stratford, who first earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education Teachers Educationin June 2009 and then a master’s in July 2015, both from the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, says consistent messaging kept the players at the University of Charleston focused.
“No one was phased by the magnitude of the occasion; they just went out and did their jobs with an incredible level of professionalism,” he said.
One of WVU’s most decorated soccer players, he appears frequently in the record books, most notably as the career leader in games played and assists. He was recognized as an All-Big East and All-Region selection during his senior year. Stratford notes that his time at WVU helped launch his career.
“I will forever be appreciative of my experience at WVU and CPASS,” he said. “My time as an assistant coach both at WVU and UC allowed me to develop my own philosophy and identity.”
Stratford embraces both consistency and change in his coaching beliefs, encouraging his staff and players to look for ways to improve, regardless of the outcome.
“I believe it was a culmination of our approach throughout the season that allowed the players to perform at their peak in the championship. We adopted a phrase this year, ‘Win or lose, we learn.’ We were always looking at ways we could improve, regardless of the result,” said Stratford, who is a native of London.
He served as assistant coach for WVU Men’s Soccer from 2011-2014, then was an assistant for three seasons with UC, helping Charleston get to three consecutive Final Fours and two appearances in the National Final, before taking over the Golden Eagles in 2017.
Stratford advises those who want to coach to experience other training methods and continue to study the game and different playing styles.
“The beauty of our sport and of coaching is that there is no right way,” he said. “It is about finding the way that is most consistent with your beliefs and values that align with your identity. This is something that, in my opinion, you should start thinking about as early as possible in your coaching career,” he concluded.
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