After filling the head coach position for the University of Richmond women’s soccer team, Adam Denton reflected on his time coaching at Davidson College, gave his first impressions of UR women’s soccer and shared his plans for the upcoming seasons.
THE COLLEGIAN: On December 15, 2022, University of Richmond Athletics announced you had been selected to fill the head coach position for the women’s soccer team. What was it like to finally see that announced and how does it feel to be working with Spider Athletics thus far?
ADAM DENTON: Knowing the A-10 [Atlantic 10 Conference] and being at Davidson [College], I was familiar with Richmond athletics and the program and we got crossover with the schools because of the academic standards. And it was always a school that I admired from competitions and standpoint. And when the position came open and then I started to pursue the position, the more and more I learned about the school. It was an opportunity that I knew that if it was going to be extended to me that I would take. I feel there was a lot of potential here. And I was happy where I was at. So that’s always an indication that if you leave somewhere where you’re happy, it’s obviously something that you feel has a lot of potential for growth.
C: And you sort of touched on this a little bit, but was this something that you had sort of envisioned yourself doing for a while — leaving one school and coming to another?
AD: Before I was at Davidson, I was at Charlotte Soccer Academy and I built a program into the League club, National League…so I did that for 10 years. And then I was at Davidson a total of nine. So I’m not a person that just hops from one place to the next. I feel like there’s projects there, you build, you enjoy it. I enjoyed my time with Charlotte Soccer Academy, but then it was an opportunity to go to Davidson and I kind of built a program there that I enjoyed. And you always want to leave somewhere in a better place than what you left when you got there. And I just feel I’ve settled in really quickly, and people are friendly and I’m really looking forward to it.
C: What ultimately drew you to UR and what was the process like of interviewing and eventually being named head coach?
AD: It came about pretty quickly, to be honest. I just found a lot of similarities between high academics…and the type of students. So I felt like it was a change and a challenge, but it wasn’t something that was completely different. A lot of the things that I’ve done the work through on and off the field I felt like I could implement here and have success.
C: And you have begun to work with the players obviously, as you start offseason training and practices. What is your impression of Richmond women’s soccer thus far?
AD: Well I think definitely they’ve been really positive, they’ve been open. Whenever a coach changes or somebody new comes in, it’s a little bit daunting for players, so we’ve just tried to make them feel comfortable as we’ve worked through it. Everything is not going to be decided in week one. The spring season is a long season. But they've been receptive to what we’re talking about. Constantly talked about we’re going to do things that might be a little bit different. That’s okay. And I feel like they’re starting to feel comfortable after they’ve got questions, as you work through that they feel comfortable to talk about.
C: Absolutely. And obviously, you had a successful career at Davidson College, where you previously served as head coach for six seasons. Last season, you led your team to a 13-3-4 finish and a trip to the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals. What does your time at Davidson mean to you and in turn, what is it now like to move to another school in the same conference.
AD: I look back at Davidson fondly…When I took over the program, it was about building a program that could compete in the A-10 because Davison moved into the A-10 when I was an assistant. And then, moving into a very competitive conference takes a little bit of time, but all the players were part of that success through the course of the six years there as head coach. The program, we laid foundations those first couple of years and then over the last four years, we had a real strong period of success because of what we’ve done for the six years. So, it took a little bit of time to get things rolling, but those players were so receptive to what we were doing. The coaches I worked with, the administration, they were supportive. And when we look back at the last season, it was the best season in school history, and two of the three seasons before that were pretty good, too. So I feel like I’ve left it in a good place. And I can look back on the relationships I had and the memories there, but now I’m moving forward and I’m wanting to make new memories and build a new program.
C: And you played yourself at Wingate University. Do you find it benefits you in your coaching to have been through a similar experience as your players in that you have a collegiate soccer background?
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AD: I don’t think all coaches have to have played at a high level, but I think there is some benefits to that. It’s just what you take from it. I think when I first started as a coach, I was still a player that was coaching. Now I’m a coach because those playing days have gone by. But you take those experiences that I think can help you ‘cause I think there’s some things that you learn in that environment that you know what players are going through. And the game’s changed over the last 20 years, people have changed, and you’ve got to just basically adapt to the changes of the environment.
C: You’ve been in North Carolina for quite some time. As mentioned, you were a player at Wingate University, which is in Wingate, North Carolina. You coached at the Charlotte Soccer Club from 2003-2009. You were the Elite Club National League Director of Coaching at the Charlotte Soccer Academy. And of course, you were an assistant coach and then head coach at Davidson, also in North Carolina. How does it feel to be in a different state in this new position and being in a place like Richmond after spending so many years in North Carolina?
AD: North Carolina’s the only place that I’ve lived besides England. But my wife actually spoke to me about that. So actually, she’s from Florida, but when she was younger, she lived in different states in Georgia and Texas and stuff like that. But she’s actually mentioned this like, ‘you’ve been in North Carolina 20 plus years, now you’ve moved to a different state.’ So, it’s exciting. Like I said, kids going to get new schools, all of those things, but we got a good handle on that stuff and it’s exciting. It’s kind of a fresh start for everybody.
C: Definitely. And you’re only the third coach in UR women’s soccer history. What will you do to both build on what the program has already accomplished and simultaneously add your own style and culture to the current program here?
AD: I think when you’re working with high academic players and the type of players that you want to recruit to a school like Richmond, you’ve got to build a brand and identity with what the players are going to be. Every recruiting class is going to be a little bit different, but a lot of it’s gonna be the same because it’s the same type of student-athletes. So, just the brand that we want to establish is something that’s true to Richmond and true to Richmond soccer. And we want to play a brand of soccer that we can relate to that we don’t have to change from year to year. Even though there’ll be little variations from year to year, we want to make sure that we’re us. And part of that is applying that stuff in training and practice where we can value possession of the ball, make smart decisions, be creative in the right areas and also be tough to beat. And they’re typically the recipes for success. It’s a lot easier to say them than it is to implement them, but we’re off to a decent start this spring.
C: And then finally, where do you hope to see this new team you’re taking the reins of in the next couple seasons?
AD: I think the A-10 is a really, really competitive conference. It’s got 15 teams in it, only eight teams make the tournament. So half the teams are not making it. Last year, the gap between fourth place and 12th place was like three points. I mean it’s one win, it’s so competitive. So what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to put ourselves in a position every game to get points. There isn’t a magic number of points to qualify for the tournament, but if you’re in the tournament, then you’ve got a chance to win it. Saint Louis right now have had their way for the last five years. We’re not gonna be the only team that wants to try and knock Saint Louis off their pitch. It’s easier said than done, but what we want to do is put ourselves in a position every season where we can compete to get into the tournament and if you get into the tournament, you can win it.
Contact sports editor Jimmy James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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