Behind Manning’s coaching, Utes prepare for weekend slate

—Erin Burns

Utah head coach Rich Manning can usually be seen on the sidelines hollering out commands and implementing strategies for his team. The side that most people don’t get to see, other than his staff and players, is where he learned to be a coach.

From growing up in California an avid soccer fan to constantly bothering his coaches at Santa Clara to teaching mathematics, Manning has used every experience as a way to evolve himself as a coach.

“I had a real good upbringing,” Manning said. “Here is a path you can make, if you love the game and want to make a difference. Then here’s a way to be successful.”

Manning has always had an interest and understanding for how the game of soccer should be played. He remembers always being in his coaches’ offices talking and picking their brains. And what brains he had to pick — at Santa Clara, Manning was coached by two U.S. National Team Coaches.

Manning played under Ralph Perez and Steve Sampson. Perez went on to coach in the MLS and was the assistant coach for the 1990 U.S. World Cup team. Sampson became the head coach of the 1998 U.S. World Cup team.

The inspiration from his former coaches would give Manning the desire to coach, but not before he pursued a career in his field of study. Manning graduated from Santa Clara with a B.S. in mathematics in 1986 and then received his master’s in education from Azusa Pacific in 1996. He spent 11 years teaching high school math and as he taught he learned how to be a better coach.

“The hardest part about teaching math is motivating the people to do it,” Manning said. “It did really force me to come up with some teaching methods and different learning styles. So that helped me in my soccer coaching.”

Manning would develop his coaching ability over the years as a head coach at Los Alamitos High School in Southern California and then on the coaching staff at his alma mater.

When he was interviewing for the position at Utah, there was something that stuck out to him.

“I’d been here before as a coach and I was familiar with the quality of players in Utah,” Manning said. “One of the first things I noticed was how much the administration believed in soccer.”

To anyone that is first meeting Manning, he comes off as a very likeable person. He is soft spoken and connects with people easily.

“When I first met Rich I opened up really fast,” junior Lindsey Luke said. “He was a really good listener and I thought that was awesome that I could talk to him about my personal life.”

Luke gets to see the human side of her head coach more than most people do. Due to their last names being close to another alphabetically, Luke and Manning usually sit next to each other on the plane to away games. Luke knows that even before the plane takes off, her coach will be fast asleep. If he isn’t napping he can be seen jamming with his headphones on.

“He can fall asleep anywhere,” Luke said. “I always take pictures of him on Snapchat.”

Utah’s soccer program has been going strong for 20 years and Manning has been at the helm for 13 of those. He learned a lot on his journey and made an impression on his players.

Manning will put to use all that he has learned from past experiences this weekend as his side returns home for a doubleheader against No. 18 Washington and No. 24 Washington State.

Both matches are crucial for the Utes, as the team has only won one in the last six games. Luke hopes that being back at Ute field will help.

“I think just playing on this field and the whole atmosphere just pumps us up,” Luke said.

Utah will take on the Huskies at 7 p.m. MT on Friday night before squaring off against the Cougars on Sunday at 1 p.m. MT.

[email protected]