Phantoms’ head coach leads players to success on and off the field

By Brian Devine

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Photo of the 2016 Phantoms Soccer Team. Head Coach, Ryan Griffith (left), and assistant coach, Steve Weatherby (right), led the Phantoms to their first playoff appearance in four years with a 7-5 regular season record. Photo by Ryan Griffith.

In his 13th year as head coach of The Phan- toms, DCCC’s soccer team, Ryan Griffith led his club into the play- offs with a 7-5 record in the NJCAA region 19 standings. Although the Phantoms were defeated in the first round against Sussex County Com- munity College, Griffith’s team showed resiliency as they won their final three regular season games to clinch a playoff spot.

What Griffith is most proud of is how his players fare off the field. Griffith says he instills values such as teamwork and dedication in his team, and he wants his players to use these skills to succeed in school as well as in their daily lives.

Griffith says he started playing soccer once he was old enough to walk, and received coaching from his father. When Griffith was a student at DCCC, he played for the Phantoms, which is how he began his coaching career.

As an athlete for the Phantoms, he took on responsibilities such as running practices and was offered the coaching position the following year.

In a recent interview with the Communitarian, Griffith talks about the team’s season, and his coaching philosophy.

Q: How did it feel to make the playoffs this season?

A: It was fantastic. It’s been four years since we made the playoffs. It was quite an accomplishment for the guys. Going into the season, that’s where we wanted to be. Our expectations were a little bit more than what we achieved this year, but overall it was still a really good achievement based on the personnel we had on the field and definitely our goalie, Kyle {O’Brien}, who never played soccer before.

He pretty much took one for the team and decided to become goalie three weeks before the season started. So we had to turn him from a novice defender to a novice goalie in a matter of three weeks before the season started. I knew we were going to have some growing pains there, which we did throughout the season. And the guys on the field were very supportive. All 16 guys were actually very supportive of Kyle’s decision to play goalie.

Overall, it was a great season. It’s fun every year because they essentially start out as competitors against each other, and then they become brothers at the end. And some, not necessarily all, because it usually takes two years the majority of the time, the players go from boys to men. They grow. The maturation process between the lines becomes real, and outside the lines as well.

Q: In your 13 years coaching at DCCC, would you rate this season as one of the most successful?

A: I rate every season as successful because, essentially, soccer is one of those games where you have to rely heavily on your teammates. Every season is a success based on what they accomplish as individuals coming out of the season.

The whole idea is to grow: grow as a soccer player, not just from skillset, but from the understanding of the game. And then obviously, from a student athlete perspective, we always stress that the student comes first.

Last year, for instance, we had the highest GPA of any athletic group, so we want to continue that going forward. But every year is definitely a success. It’s not just based on soccer alone.

Q: How hard is it to find students willing to commit to the team if they also work outside of school?

A: Unfortunately, we run into this issue every year. It’s tough even from the time I played because in community college, most student athletes have either part-time or fulltime jobs. They have school and other responsibilities as well.

And then from a transfer standpoint, you have to weigh if they are going to give up one or two years eligibility based on how serious they are about their athletics. So it is hard, and obviously from the community college standpoint, there aren’t scholarships from the athlete perspective.

They are coming here based on the previous talents of the team before, word of mouth, and obviously myself and coach Steve {Weatherby} as well. So it is tough to retain these guys and getting players.

And with 13 years, like I said, every year has been successful. And it’s great to forge these relationships with these kids because when you look back on it now, guys I coached in the first five or six years, they reach out to say, “Hey coach, I appreciate what you’ve done for me, not just as a player but as a man. ” These guys are married, they have kids. They say, “We’ve seen what you’ve done with your kids on the sideline, and now I have a son.” Stories like that. Those hit home.

Q: What was the best moment of the season?

A: I would say in our final game. Obviously, it was a defeat and a tough one, but they finally as a collective group played the entire 90 minutes, even after they were down one goal. It was good to see them committed to the game. They committed to each other. And they committed to the process. I was very, very pleased by that. Although they lost, it was the happiest I was the entire season because they didn’t give up at all. There was no quitting.

Q: What was the lowest point?

A: I wouldn’t consider any of it a low point. It’s only the process. Obviously, you start at the base, so if there’s a low point, it would be training camp, starting from scratch. But there’s no actual low as far as morale or anything like that. You just start at the base every season, and you progress throughout the season.

B: As a coach, what is the most important attribute you look for in a soccer player?

A: Teamwork. The ability to work with others. It’s not an individual sport. You have 10 guys with you on the field at a time, so collectively, it’s a group effort at all times.

Q: How do you motivate players to play together as a team?

A: You have to motivate each player separately and then collectively as a group. Once you get through to each player, and get their buy in, then you can get through to the entire group. But you got to start with each player. And then collectively, you can build from there.

And that’s basically getting to know each player. Once you figure out what makes them tick, whether it’s from a practice session, from technical work, tactical, to just straight up from a motivational speech, you have to find out what makes them tick. And then, you find out what makes the group tick, and then you go from there.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I guess for next year or any players coming in, we are looking for primarily selfless players. Anyone who is willing to commit to the team. Once you commit to your brothers on the team, we will find a spot for you here at Delaware County Community College.

Together Everyone Achieves More — TEAM. I’d also like to add that without my assistant Steve, none of this would be possible.

Contact Brian Devine at Communitarian@mail.dccc.edu