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Five Questions on the Farm with Women's Soccer Coach Paul Ratcliffe

Picking the brain of one of Stanford's most successful coaches

Image credit gostanford.com
Image credit gostanford.com

Entering his fifteenth season on the Farm, Women's Soccer Head Coach Paul Ratcliffe is the winningest coach at Stanford with an .804 winning percentage (233-47-26). His teams have been a model of consistency and high performance. Between 2008 and 2013 his teams went unbeaten over 73 matches (70-0-3).

His players have gone on to play for the U.S Women's National Team and to appear in the Olympics and the World Cup. Dozens upon dozens of his Stanford players have received conference or national athletic and academic honors.

He is a six time Pac 12 coach of the year and has been honored as the national coach of the year three times. In 2011 Stanford won the national championship under Ratcliffe appearing in their third consecutive College Cup final (NCAA soccer's equivalent of the Final Four).

This season the Cardinal women are undefeated after three games and have allowed but a single goal thus far. They are ranked number 3 nationally and are expected to be in the mix for another National Championship this season.

Coach Ratcliffe was gracious enough to sit for 5 questions with Rule of Tree:


Rule of Tree: To what do you attribute to your longevity here at Stanford? Year in and year out consistent high achievement with the program and seemingly always in the hunt for the College Cup. In this age of the demand for quick results and what seems like short patience of administrations, how have you crafted a top-shelf program?

Coach Ratcliffe: I attribute my longevity at Stanford to recruiting top level student-athletes. I have had the privilege of coaching some amazing student-athletes during my time at Stanford. After we secure top level student-athletes, it is important for my staff and I to create a positive environment for learning. I believe the combination of top level talent and a positive learning environment creates success on the field.

Rule of Tree: You've had a number of players go on to the USWNT, the Olympics, not to mention to scores of players who earn high NCAA honors. What do you look for in a Stanford soccer player?

Coach Ratcliffe: I look for four main attributes in recruits. The first thing I look for is strong character and competitiveness. It is critical for our student-athletes to be good teammates and have a strong work-ethic. Second, I look for technical ability with the ball. Third, I want intelligent players who make smart decisions with the ball. Finally, I look for good athletes.

Rule of Tree: The 2016 season has started strong and you are recently back from a successful East Coast trip and based on the Instagram and Snapchat stories the team bonded really well. How do you approach the high expectations for the program this early in a season? How do the players deal with the pressure of high expectations and not let it overcome them?

Coach Ratcliffe: Our road trip to the East Coast was fantastic. The team bonded and we improved our team chemistry on and off the field. The way the team and I approach the high expectations for the season is to focus on performance and not results. If the team performs at a high level, then we should get positive results. It is important to be task oriented and give 100% effort in practice and games.

Rule of Tree: What would you tell a young woman who wanted to play at the College level, and perhaps at Stanford? When you see a recruit and thing "she's got it!" What is "it?"

Coach Ratcliffe: I advise young players to have fun! If you have fun playing soccer, you will play for a longer time which will develop your skills. I also recommend that young players have a balance in their lives. In order to make your dream of attending Stanford a reality, you must be a strong student and soccer player.

The "it" factor I am looking for is when I find a player with the four main attributes I mentioned earlier and they are a great competitor with a passion for soccer.

Rule of Tree: Whats your earliest memory of when you decided to coach? What's your coaching origin story?

Coach Ratcliffe: My earliest memory of wanting to coach was after my senior year of playing soccer at UCLA. I was asked by the UCLA men's coach, Sigi Schmid, to help coach the UCLA Women's Team. I coached the team as an assistant coach for Joy Fawcett during my senior year and enjoyed the experience. After this experience, I took time off to play professional soccer, but missed coaching. Luckily, I was able to jump back in at UCLA and from there my career started.

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Follow Stanford Women's Soccer on Instagram: @stanfordwsoc and Snapchat: stanfordwsoccer and Twitter: @stanfordwsoccer

Thanks to Coach Ratcliffe for his time and Stanford Sports Information for their help.