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Dang Pibulvech - 1994-1998 - Women's Soccer
On April 28th 2017, I made Facebook contact with Dang Pibulvech. He recently suffered a stroke and his ability to talk and walk are impaired, but he can type. He used my inquires about his years at Texas to cleanse his soul of some past demons. He said "he still loves Texas" and has great sorrow he did not accomplish his goals to make Longhorn soccer great. His quote, not mine, is that he was the "WRONGHORN".
There is no other coach in the history of college sports who has started more NCAA college sports programs than Dang Pibulvech.
Pibulvech resume’ is impressive.
· Assistant Coach Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo (1978-1980),
· Assistant coach Central Florida (1981-1983),
· Head Coach Colorado College (1983-1991), First NCAA Soccer Coah
· Head Coach Washington Huskies (1991-1994), First NCAA Soccer Coach
· Head Coach Texas (1994-1999), First NCAA Soccer Coach
. Assistant Coach Colorado University - Big 12 champs
· Assistant Coach Tulsa University
· Head Coach- Nevada (2000-04) First NCAA Soccer Coach
By the time Coach Pibulvech was 49 he was one of the all-time winning-est women's soccer coaches in NCAA history. He ranked 18th on the NCAA's list for career victories with a record of 197-155-23 in 20 seasons as a head coach. During his college coaching career, Pibulvech led his teams to six NCAA Final Four appearances, nine NCAA Tournaments and coached 25 Division I All-Americans. Pibulvech was also a three-time West Region and two-time Central Region Coach of the Year as awarded by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
Melanie Jackson from ESPN in 2000 said Pibulvech was “one of college soccer’s greatest coaching icons”. She states the Dang Pibulvech welcomed the opportunity to start another soccer program for another university. Dang said "I have always considered myself a teacher and a coach." "It doesn't matter if I'm building a new program, I just look forward to teaching kids to play soccer the right way."
History says that Coach Pibulvech never duplicated his success at Colorado College. All the stars at Colorado were aligned for a great program. At Washington, Texas, and Nevada, there were no programs in place, no perfect scenarios, and no perfect alignment of the stars. There was only multiple voids that surround programs in their infancy. Coach Pibulvech learned that start-ups require more than just coaching skills to succeed. Success requires consummate people skills and the ability to adapt to the circumstances.
WHY PIBULVECH STRUGGLED AS A HEAD COACH
Many of the struggles he confronted as head coach at UW, UT, and Nevada were uncontrollable, but many were also self inflicted. Bumps in the road that he constructed. His coaching techniques were incompatible with the American high school coaching techniques of the time and his "cultural" expectations of women's high school soccer players were inconsistent with American performance standards. More bluntly Coach Pibulvech said that he had a difficult time dealing with the ego's of soccer players who he considered "under achievers" coached by high school "marginal bosses". Needles to say his comments offended the high school coaches and the high school soccer players. A recipe for professional suicide.
Coach Pibulvech should have heeded Harvey Penicks advise about how to maximize an athletes potential using past success as the spring board for future improvement. Harvey was the Longhorns men's golf coach who learned quickly to adjust his coaching style to compliment and accept the "stroke' techniques taught by the high school coaches. Dang did not learn this lesson. Instead of trying to compliment the soccer skills learned in high school, he tried to total change soccer techniques learned in high school. Some players never adjusted.
Instead he chose to reject American coaching techniques that taught soccer by developing skill drills. He said "I come from a street soccer background, and I think there's a lot of things the kids are learning that are too structured." He said "Training drills don't have to be fun for kids to learn. They just have to be effective, constructive, and challenging." "I'm very picky about how they receive balls in certain locations on their body and on the field. I'm very detailed." Coach Pibulvech said his coaching style was "mean and demanding". This was not a helpful recruiting message.
Most coaches who survive and succeed at the college level listen, learn, adapt, and adjust to their circumstances. Coach Pibulvech did none of these. He did not tweak his coaching style to the current trends of the 90's.
Coach Pibulvechs years as the Longhorn coach were his most disappointing. His tenure at Texas started off on a positive note. The Longhorns improved dramatically from the first years brutal schedule against ten Top 20 teams. He said "We may still be a relatively new program, but we've proven that we belong with the top teams." "We've been beaten by some of the best teams in the nation, but we have also beaten some of the best." He hoped the Longhorns' style of play would lead to more wins. It did not.
After resigning as the Longhorn head coach, he experienced a new low in his coaching career. Coach Pibulvech for the first time understood that a reputation as a winning coach has an expiration date. Eventually he regained his optimism and chose to coach again. Nevada gave him the opportunity to start his 4th soccer program at the college level. A feat that will ever be eclipsed.
At Nevada he experienced some some small peaks but deeper valley's. Nevada reminded him how tired, bruised, and exhausted he was from all the internal battles starting 4 women soccer programs. Being "tired" and "exhausted" is not an indictment of Coach Pibulvech. It is the reality of what happens to all coaches who spend 12 months a year working 12 hour days. He finally took his own advise when he said " Sometimes when times are tough, its best to drop everything and just get away. He moved back to his home in Bangkok, Thailand, ,
Coach Pibulvech's career should not be judged by the same standards as many other coaches. He was a sports pioneer in the true sense of the word. Building 4 different women's college soccer programs from scratch deserves a "Oohrah" .
That said, I know he acquired wisdom and humility from lessons learned so I asked what were his toughest obstacle to overcome in starting 4 soccer programs at 4 different colleges. His response was forceful and compelling. He said that the interaction with athletic administrations, alumni, parents, players, and fans was almost impossible. He said that expectations by all for a start-up were not in sync with the realities of building a program from scratch. When he was hired, all agreed that building a program would take more time, energy, and effort than maintaining an established program, but everyone forgot these truism very quickly and the pressure from all members with a vested interest in the program was palpable.
He said the Longhorns were the only university that showed some degree of patience with his start-up. Texas gave him 5 years to develop a successful women's soccer team. He failed and concedes that he was the "wronghorn" .
After his career was over it took him years to realize that losing does not dictate self worth and intrinsic character. He no longer views his years at Texas and the other universities as as a failure. He hopes the Longhorns win a National Championship in soccer, but he said that no coach should gauge their success on winning a once in a lifetime national championship, but instead should gauge their success in building a program that gives the team a lifetime of chances to win the national championship.
Coach Pat Weis agrees with Coach Pibulvech when she says "Winning simply cannot be your only goal. One team and only one team wins."
No wiser statement could ever be made.