Culture Change

By Jordan Hall

halljo@theridernews.com

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

This interpretation may be more of an exaggeration than a pinpoint definition, but it holds much truth. A more succinct translation of Einstein’s belief is simple: in life, change is good, necessary and at times, for the best.

In the recent past, change has occurred at the head of the totem pole for the Rider soccer programs, and it has affirmed Einstein’s conviction quite well. Winning was at a premium for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams, but with fresh faces brought in at the head coaching positions, success has become more common.

From 2002-04, the women’s soccer program stood as a top four squad in the MAAC, and in ’04, the Broncs competed in the conference championship. But as quickly as they found success, the program slipped even faster. The following season, Rider finished 1-7-1 in league play and during the span of ’05-’07, the Broncs compiled a MAAC record of 6-19-1. Former head coach Kevin Long resigned after 2007 and in stepped what was needed: change. Drayson Hounsome took over the reins and the women’s soccer team is now up and coming.

After an expected difficult first season for Hounsome, Rider has made a complete turn in direction. In ’09, the Broncs won a total of seven games,  the most since ’04, and last year, Hounsome led Rider to the four-team MAAC playoffs and finished above .500 with a 9-8-2 overall mark and a 5-4 showing in the conference.

This season, Rider is primed for its biggest year. The Broncs are off to their best start in program history at 6-2-1 and are eyeing the ultimate goal.

“Win the MAAC Championship on Nov. 6 and be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Hounsome said.

First and foremost, Hounsome had to develop a new team mindset to embark on a turnaround.

“We created an environment of excellence everywhere and in everything that the players do,” Hounsome said. “This set the tone, so that the players that have joined the program in the last three years fully expect to win.”

Aside from the fresh outlook, last season’s MAAC Coach of the Year brought in an influx of talent.

“The talent level has improved significantly,” he said. “Rider is such a great university that we’ve been fortunate to attract some exceptionally talented student-athletes from far and wide into the program.”

Hounsome’s recruiting ability landed two of the premiere players in the MAAC. The Great Britain native brought in junior Abi Cottam and sophomore Jennifer Meier, two players who have blossomed into the league’s elite. Cottam ranks atop the conference in goals scored (7) with Meier right behind her in second (5).

Hounsome has women’s soccer on the right track, but at first, convincing his team that it could compete was tough. That’s what Charlie Inverso is attempting to do in his first campaign as the men’s soccer head coach. Like Hounsome, Inverso has taken over a program that made a living in the lower echelon of the MAAC. In order to right the ship, he’s changing the culture and work ethic of the men’s soccer team.

“We set down tough standards for the players right from the start,” Inverso said. “We ran a rigorous 11-week spring season with a tough conditioning program.”

Inverso is a popular name in the local area. The Notre Dame High School graduate gained strong recruiting ties after winning five national championships with Mercer County Community College. Now, he plans to bring that type of success to Rider.

Inverso’s squad started the season on the right foot. The Broncs opened the year with a bang, upending Big East foe Seton Hall on the road. Since then, Rider has played tight, competitive games, losing five contests, four of them by one goal each.

Overall, Rider sits at 1-5-1, but give Inverso time. Revamping a program that was once broken does not happen overnight. It may take one, two or even three years to turn the tide, but the men’s soccer team is in good hands for one reason: change.

Both soccer programs needed it, now they have it, and expect changes in the win-loss column because of it.

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