LA Galaxy boss Bruce Arena has coached at every level of the men's game in the United States, and he's also kept an eye on the women's side, as he proved by sharing some intriguing observations with former WNBA president Val Ackerman in an in-depth interview for ESPNW this week.
The four-time MLS Cup winner and former US national team coach discussed the growth of women's soccer at the youth, collegiate and international levels – which he believes has accelerated “at a little faster rate than it has on the men's side” – and even praised female players for generally being more coachable and not as “contaminated” by greed and ego.
“In my experiences with coaching girls or women ... they are much more receptive to coaching than men,” said Arena. “They're eager to learn, and I believe they're more disciplined in terms of their concentration and training.”
He also issued a surprising mea culpa regarding the impact of Title IX, the law mandating gender equity which transformed the college sports landscape over the past four decades. Arena made his name at the helm of the University of Virginia's NCAA dynasty in the 1990s, and he admits now that his qualms about the change were mistaken.
“We see all the good things that have happened because of it,” he said of Title IX. “People like myself, at the time, thought it was wrong on so many fronts. I was absolutely wrong on every front.
“I thought it would take away from men. Nothing was taken away from men. It was appropriate to give women opportunities to participate and they've taken those opportunities and have grown them at every level.”
Arena and Ackerman also mulled the struggles of women's professional soccer in this country. Though he believes there is limited “crossover” potential with MLS, he sounded a note of cautious optimism about the NWSL, the new effort in that sphere being led by the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“They have a better financial model in place and, in the early going, I think there is going to be patience,” Arena said. “So, if we give it time, the women's professional league is going to be around for many years to come, and hopefully this new plan will make it work.”