Photo courtesy of Trinity Athletics
Nearly 20 years after his playing days for Trinity Men’s Soccer ended in 2001, Dylan Harrison is in his fourth season leading the women’s soccer team. As the Tigers roll through another Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule with a 6–0 record, Harrison talked about what brought him back to Trinity as a coach and what he enjoys most about soccer.
What brought you back to Trinity after seven successful seasons at Division I Nicholls State University?
One of the big things is, when the coach you played for when you were 14 or 15 picks up the phone and calls if you’re interested in a job that he’s been at for over 20-something years, you have to kinda consider it. Obviously it’s gotta be a good gig to keep him here as long as he’s been here, so when I got that phone call I definitely had to look into it. After coming back and seeing it with my wife and just being ready for something new, we jumped at the opportunity and have been grateful ever since.
What is it like to now coach as a colleague of Paul McGinlay [head coach of men’s soccer] after playing for him?
I knew him even before I came here as a player. One of the big reasons I came to this university as a student was I knew what I was getting into. It’s been great to have somebody that’s been a big part of your life — big part of being a mentor, not only as a student but also throughout my career as well, and initially, that got me even started in coaching. To come back and even consider that you’re a peer of somebody you’ve looked up to for so long, it’s been a little surreal. The great part about it is we get to have soccer conversations just like we did 20 years ago and really just have an appreciation for playing the game a certain way, playing the game with the types of players that we appreciate that Trinity attracts.
What has been the biggest difference between Division I, which you were in previously with Nicholls State, and now in Division III?
Coaching-wise, just that focus, there’s a balance to everything we do. There’s a balance in terms of how much we can really go ahead and realistically ask of our students, knowing their commitment that they made through the academic side and just being very conscious of that has been a big part. Luckily for us, again, the types of students Trinity attracts, they’re able to go ahead and retain information very quickly and implement and execute some of the things that we give them. We spend maybe a little less time at practice, but we’re able to go ahead and present them with more things through readings, through PowerPoints. On their own, they look at that information, and they’re able to bring it to the training setting that much quicker.
Having yet to lose a conference game in your time at Trinity, how do you keep the team focused game-in and game-out?
We don’t even talk about it. The focus is what we need to do on that day to get better. Every game there’s two to three things that we say, “This is what our challenge is, knowing that this is going to help us continue to improve as a team.” Fortunately, the opponent just has to deal with us that day, and I think we’ve done a very good job. When we first looked at it and saw the number of conference games that we’ve won in a row, the thought is “okay, that’s great,” but really when you look at it — we dealt with having four players sick this year at one game, weather conditions — to still be able to not have an off day in that many games is pretty impressive, and it’s a credit to just the mentality that the former players have brought and just knowing that each and every game is important.
What is your favorite thing about the sport of soccer?
As a player, my favorite thing was scoring goals or preventing them. Now there’s a bigger appreciation for the people that I’ve met through the actual sport. There’s a bigger appreciation for being dropped anywhere, whether it’s a city in the United States or internationally, [and] having something that I can talk about that’s pretty acceptable worldwide and having that commonality that we can go ahead and start a discussion. It’s always interesting where that little “in” starts, but where you end up taking that discussion with some very different and unique people and sharing that bond with people from all over the world. Even [making] some of my very close friends, that I don’t know if we would have ever met if it wasn’t for the sport, is now my appreciation for the game.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
I’m not a very good singer. I even got a little bit hustled into singing at my own wedding and still get some stick for it today, but it used to be just a good [and] safe “[I’m] Proud to be an American” because even if it’s bad singing, people can’t boo you too bad because of the song choice.
If you could have your dream dinner party, what three people, past or present, would you invite?
It would be some good friends that I lost too early, so they’re sitting there with me one more time.
What would you eat at this dinner?
Everything. It would be like a medieval feast. We’re going big because the plan is we’re not getting up from the table any time soon. We’ve got too much lost time.