ODU Soccer's Winning Ways Start with Their Head Coach Alan Dawson
By ODU Athletics
Students in Brendan O’Hallarn’s Advanced Sports Communication class produced the publication the Monarch Premier as a class project throughout the semester. To see the publication, and samples of the students’ work, see the Monarch Premier website at: https://oducomm495.wixsite.com/mysite
Written by Jamal Davis
NORFOLK, Va. - Alan Dawson, ODU’s men’s soccer coach, was born in 1962 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The conditions he grew up in were much different than those for kids in the United States. Dawson lived in a place where law and order was an afterthought. However, even while being surrounded with opportunities to get into some type of trouble, Dawson turned to soccer to keep him on the straight and narrow.
“Soccer kept me out of trouble. Kicking the ball down the street, ruining my shoes, and my mom getting on me for it. Even in our trying times, I’d leave the house at nine and not be back until 11 at night. Sometimes I’d play in a group, and sometimes it was just me, kicking a ball against a wall,” Dawson recalled.
That early love for soccer would carry Dawson into the next big phase of his life – coming to America.
He got his opportunity to leave Belfast for a trip to New Jersey when he was 12 years old. After his first initial trip, Dawson knew he wanted to move to America if he could. So, every year following the first trip, two of his host families brought him back to enjoy the summer on the Jersey Shore. He was even the first kid in Belfast with a skateboard because of it.
As Dawson grew older, it became increasingly obvious to him that moving to the U.S. would be the best move for his future. He was accepted into Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, where he would continue his soccer career. Although Dawson was not the most athletic player on the team, he had a gifted mind for the game that allowed him to play with just about anyone. His soccer prowess is perhaps only matched by his love for the game. He believes soccer is the most beautiful game there is, and that playing soccer is about touching the ball, feeling comfortable, and having fun while doing it. His players embody that thought process.
“What I look for in a player is a kid who wants the ball, who loves the game, who will take chances and who will not give up on his teammates. I can tell that within five minutes,” Dawson said.
It’s clear that Dawson has a good eye for soccer talent; he is in the top 15 all-time for winning percentage in college soccer. But, before he got to these major achievements, he started as a head coach at a small Division III school – Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
During his time at Methodist College, he compiled a dominant 129-30-10 record, for a staggering .793 winning percentage, including three straight undefeated regular seasons, from 1991-1993. Dawson led Methodist to six consecutive NCAA DIII tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 1995.
Under Dawson’s tutelage, Methodist won the conference championship and finished ranked in the top 10 of the ISAA national polls seven times in only nine seasons. In addition, Dawson won coach of the year for the Dixie Conference five times and won South Region Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1995. He would ultimately be inducted in to the Methodist College Hall of Fame in 2002.
Dawson has been just as impressive during his time as head coach of the Old Dominion University Monarchs. Currently, Dawson is the winningest coach in program history, with a record of 220-125-37 for a winning percentage of .624. In the past 15 years, the Monarchs have been to the NCAA tournament a whopping 11 times, nearly three out of every four seasons. In two of those 11 seasons, ODU went to the Sweet 16, back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
Due to his high rate of success, Dawson has also been named conference coach of the year four times since joining the Monarchs in 1997. During his 21 years with the team, Dawson has led the Monarchs to two conference tournament championships, and three conference regular season titles.
For further emphasis on how good of a coach Dawson truly is, look no further than his track record for producing high quality players. In his 21 years at ODU, Dawson has coached nine All-Americans, five conference players of the year, and has had 11 of his players be drafted by the MLS.
Dawson continued his success story this season. The Monarchs followed up a 12-5-2 regular season by winning the Conference USA Tournament on their home field for the second time since 2014. This came in a season when Dawson’s Monarchs were an afterthought and projected to finish seventh in their respective league.
The Monarchs followed up their Conference USA title with a win over North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament, before falling to Indiana, the nation’s second-ranked team, in Round 2.
“The first time was obviously special, it was the first (Conference USA) one for the university but this one is even more special. We came into this season, we were picked seventh in the league, we finished second and won the trophy so I’m very happy,” Coach Dawson said.