Danny Mooers; Assistant Sports Information Director
Any aspiring coach would be envious of Ryan Gresse’s career path. The recently named head men’s soccer coach at Dordt College found himself offered the position without ever thinking it was a possibility.
Gresse was hired by Dordt in December 2017 to be the Graduate Assistant for the men’s soccer team. He came from Indian Lake High School in Ohio where he was the head coach for the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. Prior to that, he was the assistant boys’ soccer coach at Shawnee High School and head coach for a team within the Warrior Soccer Club.
The 2018 soccer Dordt season didn’t allow Gresse to sit in the background and observe. He coached the men’s JV team and assisted with the varsity side.
The season was a learning experience for most involved. With Bill Elgersma acting as the head coach for both the men’s and women’s varsity teams, all hands were on deck to help in any way possible.
“To be honest, we were all pretty stretched,” Gresse said. “We had a lot of different responsibilities and it was a challenging season. At the conclusion of the season there was much evaluation of where we were as a program and where we wanted to go as we looked to the future. I believe the foundation of the program continues to be strong and our administration has made it clear we want to run a program that trains servant leaders and pursues excellence on the field.”
The men finished with a 6-10-1 record and missed the GPAC tournament for the first time in three years.
Gresse had no idea he would be the solution that administration had in mind. He had lunch before Thanksgiving with Athletic Director Ross Douma to talk over the program and things he had in mind for its future but was not expecting anything significant to come out of it. A few days later, Gresse was offered the job and accepted with aspirations of making the program into a legitimate contender for the GPAC title.
“Coming into the Graduate Assistant position last year I had hopes of maybe getting hired full time as an assistant at Dordt or at another school,” Gresse said. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity. This isn’t what I envisioned a year ago but I look forward to serving as a head coach.”
Since being hired as head coach in December, Gresse has been busy reflecting. A year within the program taught him what it takes to manage college students and create a successful program. Building a relationship with his players is first and foremost, something that Douma appreciated about him all along.
Creating a culture and atmosphere where the team gets along and wants to work with one another is also key. Gresse does this by encouraging the guys to get together off the field and using his captains to keep everyone on the same page.
Once he sees those goals in progress, Gresse focuses on the training. As of now, the team is lifting and training four times a week with plans to intensify the schedule as the year continues.
“We want the standards of our program to be black and white,” Gresse said. “We don’t want anyone to question what we stand for and the things that are most important to us.”
Coaching and strategy have always been something that went through Gresse’s mind. He began his coaching career during his senior year at Urbana University in 2014. He had been playing the previous three years but saw the transition into coaching as a blessing.
Soccer wasn’t a passion of his until his junior year of high school. Football had always been his sport. The 5’8” linebacker/defensive tackle realized that there may not be much of a future for him in football after high school. A friend convinced him to try out for the soccer team and he was hooked. Strategy and thinking the game was always something that he enjoyed.
His soccer philosophy is focused on high pressure and taking care of the ball. The more opportunities to have the ball in the attacking third, the better. This past season, the men’s team struggled with keeping the ball for extended periods of time and that’s something Gresse wants changed.
Gresse knows, however, that his role extends beyond the soccer field. At just 27 years old, he can easily relate to the players and motivate them to play at their full potential.
“I want people to see the team as a great group of guys that competes for the right reasons,” he says. “I want them to be great husbands, fathers and members of the community. There are plenty of lessons to be learned on the field, but most of their concerns and teaching moments will come off the field and I want them to know that my door is always open, and we’ll do our best to get them through those tough times.”
Gresse has learned many of his methods from watching past coaches, including Elgersma.
“Bill has taught me quite a bit over the year that I have worked with him,” Gresse said. “He’s a coach that knows how to gain respect from his players. He has a very polished product and system. His confidence spills over into the team.”
With year one under his belt, he has learned what it takes to recruit, build a schedule and try to get his players to put their best product on the field.
The core pillars of the program: team before self, focusing on details, competence and character are all necessary for success. Winning may not come right away but building for the future is a process that Gresse understands.