Anson Dorrance, the women’s soccer coach for the University of North Carolina, has received the 2016 Werner Fricker Builder Award, U.S. Soccer’s highest honor.
The award is presented annually to an individual who has dedicated at least 20 years to soccer in America. In the words of U.S. Soccer, it “recognizes those who have developed programs that will outlast their own involvement in the sport.”
The winner of 21 national collegiate titles, and the architect of a program that consistently ranks among the strongest in the country, Dorrance is by far the most successful soccer coach in America — for men or women, at any level.
He’s coached dozens of women who went on to play for the U.S. national team, including Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Carla Overbeck, Cindy Parlow, Crystal Dunn, April Heinrichs, Siri Mullinix, Cat Reddick, Lindsay Tarpley, Tisha Venturini, Lori Chalupny, Whitney Engen, Ashlyn Harris, Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, and Heather O’Reilly — among many others.
But his real legacy, former players say, isn’t what he’s achieved in Chapel Hill. It’s the lessons he taught them that they’ve carried through life.
Here’s a sampling of comments from Tar Heels who are current or very recent members of the U.S. team:
Crystal Dunn, who played for the Tar Heels from 2010 to 2013, won an NCAA championship, was a three-time All-American, and a winner of the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top college player in the country:
“He grew the women’s game when people didn’t know about women’s soccer, and for him to recruit these great women to play this sport and for them to be just so dominant was turning heads across the board.
“It was such a key stepping stone for women’s soccer that I was basically jumping at the opportunity to play for him, because I knew he could teach me so much more about the game.”
Whitney Engen, who played for the Tar Heels from 2006 to 2009 and won three NCAA championships:
“Something I really appreciate about him was that he didn’t treat every player the same, and he was able to get the most out of everybody because of his understanding that we’re all unique.”
Ashlyn Harris, who played for the Tar Heels from 2006 to 2009 and won three NCAA championships:
“He was constantly there, pushing me to be better, pushing me to be a better person and just grow in my overall character and who I genuinely was in my core. Not many people do that in those types of moments.”
“A dynasty isn’t created by luck. Luck has nothing to do with this. He set in stone a philosophy, a way of life and an enduring culture.”
Tobin Heath, who played for the Tar Heels from 2006 to 2009, won three NCAA championships, and was twice named a first-team All-American:
“He’s been a constant source of encouragement even past my days at Carolina, and I feel like I belong to a family back in Carolina because of him.”
“He’s able to impact so many different types of players in different ways. If you ask any player, they’ll have a million stories about him and each one of them is so different and so unique to them and has motivated them in some way that’s unique to the person they are.”
Meghan Klingenberg, who played for the tar Heels from 2007 to 2010, won two NCAA championships, and was an All-American in her senior year:
“I grew in my personal life. I grew as a soccer player. I became a better person. And that is almost fully [because of] … Anson and the coaching staff and the culture he created.”
Heather O’Reilly, who played for the Tar Heels from 2003 to 2006, won two NCAA championships, was an All-American, and had her number (20) retired, an honor bestowed upon Hamm, Lilly, and a handful of other Carolina greats:
“At the University of North Carolina, he bred these players to learn how to compete and how to win, and I think that platform was so important in the development of soccer in our country.”