A Humble Teacher: How Randy Waldrum Is More Than Just A Soccer Coach

Interview performed on May 31, 2011

“Everything revolves around soccer and my family.”

Coach Randy Waldrum is a very humble man. While most people would find a record such as his something to boast about—who wouldn’t boast about two National Championships and several other awards?—Waldrum simply says that he doesn’t have any “interesting tidbits” to himself. However, even the busiest and most accomplished of people have hobbies. Waldrum is most assuredly busy, proven accomplished, and he does have some hobbies.

“In my spare time, if I ever have it, I do like to get away and golf a little bit, if I can—although I’m not very good at it, because I don’t have much practice time. And, you know, I don’t mind getting out to a lake and getting on a boat, fishing a little bit, but I don’t have much time to do that. So, I really would say everything pretty much revolves around soccer for me.”

Many people would say that life passions begin very early in life, arguably at the ages of five or six. Waldrum’s passion began when he was a bit older. He played baseball, but the slow-moving sport did not fit well with the young, hyper, and active Waldrum.

“In the city that I grew up in, Irving, Texas, we didn’t have soccer when I was a little boy. I didn’t start in the parks system until I was twelve years old, so by today’s standard I really started late. But as soon as I stepped on the field to play, at twelve, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I just fell in love with it....Baseball bored me, you know? Standing around waiting...I just fell in love with soccer.”

Waldrum knew that soccer was what he wanted to do, but it was not what he was expected to do. But expectations wouldn’t stop him. “My family’s in a business—they all own a sign company where my dad and his three brothers all ran the business, and, of course, all my cousins and all my brothers and sisters worked there, and it was kind of assumed that that’s what I would do, you know, just follow in the footsteps. I was kind of the black sheep of the family...everybody else went and worked in the family business, and I went off to college and ended up playing soccer.”

In Wichita Falls, Texas, Waldrum attended Midwestern State University. His family attended most of his games there after realizing what soccer meant to Waldrum and how realistic his dream was. (The caliber of its reality wasn’t realized until colleges began offering scholarships.) Until that point, they believed that it was just something he was doing to pass the time, and they felt that eventually he would work in the family business. He graduated from Midwestern State University in 1981 with a major in physical education and a minor in political science.

The experiences Waldrum had at youth, high school, and college levels in soccer would help him enter a profession that was in no way like his family’s sign-making business. After college, he went on to play professionally for the Los Angeles Skyhawks and the Indianapolis Daredevils, both teams in the American Soccer League. He then went on to coach others in the sport he loves. Waldrum explained that his high school coach influenced him greatly:

“My high school coach, to me was—second to my father—was probably the most influential man in my life. His name was Simon Sanchez. And he kind of—he was one I’d say I kind of modeled myself on. And I hope at the end of my career that my kids who played for me think as much of me as I did of him....I would say he was my idol, as far as a coach, growing up.”

While his high school coach was the most influential on Waldrum, he stated that his youth coaches were the ones who really taught him the game and got him involved in it. He said that one of his coaches brought the sport to Irving, TX from his home country of Sweden and got Waldrum “really excited to [play].” Another of his coaches, from Mexico, directed his development in the sport from his earliest days playing through high school.

The influence Waldrum’s coaches had on him is now becoming the influence that Waldrum has had on the teams he coached, and still coaches. He coached in his hometown at MacArthur High School, where his team went to three state championship games, one of which they won. He then went to coach the men’s teams at Austin College and Texas Wesleyan. From there, in 1989, he began coaching both men and women at Tulsa. In 1995, he took a job at Baylor where he coached women only, something he says he has never regretted. Deciding to quit coaching men altogether was difficult, but the coaching transition from men to women was not a difficult task for him because he coaches women no differently than he coached the men:

“What I’ve always believed in is that...it’s still soccer, whether it’s men or women....You coach the same way you’ve always coached. Now, there’s some differences in team chemistry and the way you handle players a little bit, but I think for the most part...the sport’s the same way.”

Coaching women seems to fit his particular style of coaching better. He stated that, “In fact, I’ve found that what makes me love coaching women more than I did the men is that the women are so coachable. They’re so hungry for information and they’re so eager to please and to do things correctly. I think sometimes at the college level, the male players already kind of thing they know it all, that they have all the answers. You don’t find that with the women. It was something that was real refreshing to me.”

He then explained his particular coaching style: “With being a teacher and my degree in education, I think my style would be more of a teaching mode. It’s not a Vince Lombardi, it’s not the yelling...it’s not demeaning players, we don’t use foul language, [and] it’s not one of those ‘get in your face to make you do what we want you to do’ [styles]. I think it’s more of a teaching environment for our kids, and you do that work during the week and my belief is that, on the weekends, when the games are being played...simply, game time is for the players. You’ve done all your work as coach during the week....We have to prepare them for the decisions they make on the field.”

This coaching style and attitude have helped him lead his 2004 and 2010 teams at Notre Dame to win National Championships. The 2004 win will always be a memorable one for him because he won it with friends and family on his staff.

“The [championship] in 2004 was really special because one of my assistant coaches was Alvin Alexander, who was my very best friend. He and I grew up playing club soccer against each other, and then we went to college together, so we’ve been lifelong friends. And Dawn Greathouse was a former player of mine on staff, and of course Ben Waldrum, my son, who was on staff as well. So to win a National Championship—your first one—with your son, with your best friend, and with a former player on staff was pretty cool.”

He relived the National Championship win in 2010 after guiding his team through considerably one of the hardest schedules in NCAA Women’s Soccer. He shared that shortly after the game on the way back to Notre Dame from the Championship game, he walked to the back of their charter plane where, in the midst of the girls reliving the game, Melissa Henderson, Jessica Schuveiller, and Courtney Barg were already talking about repeating the season and going for yet another win. Waldrum said that getting to the Final Four is one of the team’s main goals for the 2011 Season. Another National Championship win is also on that list of goals, and he has faith that the team can repeat history.

Amongst his numerous awards, championships, and other achievements, Randy Waldrum remains humble. He is a family man to his wife Dianna and son Ben, but he also acts as an almost-father to the girls he coaches. He takes pride in any awards they win, whether academically or athletically and is glad to see his players graduate and lead successful, happy lives. Before I spoke to Coach Waldrum, I had heard several good things about him. Never did I doubt them, but until I had actually spoken to him, it didn’t register. His welcoming attitude, kind voice, genuine care for others, selflessness, and humility make him a likeable person and the beloved, successful Notre Dame coach he’s known to be.

Other information obtained from http://www.und.com/sports/w-soccer/mtt/waldrum_randy00.html

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