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For VCU men’s soccer head coach Dave Giffard, it’s not about the destination but the journey.
Open and adamant that the Rams can — if not will — win a national championship one day, the first-year head coach is fully focused on the path and process that will get them there for now: the development of an honest culture.
“Most teams are going to have some good players; a lot of teams are going to have many good players; some teams are going to have a ton of good players,” Giffard said. “But at the end of the day the teams that win and are successful consistently are the teams that have the best culture.”
So, just what type of player is Giffard looking for in his system?
“A guy that you can count on in all aspects in his life is a guy you can count on when things get tough,” Giffard said. “Can you count on guys being honest and do things right offensively, defensively? It translates into success on the field; it’s a huge piece.”
It is also a topic of great importance to Giffard; results thus far in the season have proved why.
On VCU’s road trip last weekend — the team’s first in conference play this season— the team pulled off two impressive, if not improbable, wins versus Georgia State and George Mason.
In Wednesday’s matchup with Old Dominion, VCU once again showed the sort of resolve Giffard craves, coming back from a goal down against a Monarch squad that knocked off No. 2 North Carolina last weekend to get the tie.
The results leave the Rams with as many wins as they had in the entirety of last season and keeps the team near the top of the CAA, but lest one get ahead of themselves in their expectations for this season, realize even Giffard views the recent results as mere baby steps.
“We have to focus on … the path that will take us in the (right) direction,” Giffard said. “I think the pretty good start is a result of us starting to follow that path, but we’re certainly not there; we’re not close to being there. But you will start to see some high moments along the way because you’re heading in that direction.”
It is a direction Giffard knows well. At Akron — who are No. 1 in the nation this year and lost last year’s National Championship only through penalty kicks in the final — Giffard was part of a coaching staff that oversaw the transformation of a team that used to draw a few hundred in the stands to one that drew more than 7,000 people when they played to a 2-2 draw at Ohio State last week.
Can the same be done at VCU?
“Once we play a good enough style, casual fans will come watch,” Giffard said. “My experience is … when you’re really good and you do things right and you play an attractive brand and you play against good times, people will come watch that; I don’t think it matters what the sport is.”
After the draw versus Old Dominion, the Rams have now extended what was already an impressive unbeaten streak to nine. And if the team hadn’t allowed a last-second winner against Florida Gulf Coast in the first game of the season, the squad would be one of the few teams in the country still undefeated.
Despite it all though, more baby steps are what Giffard’s calling for, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The path were on … is what gets me out of bed every day,” Giffard said. “Is it going to take two or 10 or five years (to reach the ultimate goal)? I don’t know, but I can tell you it’s going to happen, and it’ll come when we’re ready for it.”