FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the New England Revolution hired Bruce Arena as head coach and sporting director in mid-May, the team added a five-time MLS Cup winner to a sports franchise family that includes six-time Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick of the NFL’s New England Patriots.
Does that mean Arena, who once professed that he could "learn as much or more" from the Pats' coach than from Pep Guardiola, and Belichick swap stories when they run into each other at Gillette Stadium?
Not quite… yet.
“He’s pretty busy and so am I,” Arena said of Belichick. “I look forward to the day we can have a conversation.”
Arena has observed Belichick at work recently at a Patriots’ preseason practice. And he says he appreciates the opportunity the diverse sports landscape of the U.S. provides to take in how other coaches in other sports operate.
“I've said this a number of times, we probably have the best environment in the world for coaches here,” Arena said. “When you're in countries where it's only soccer or football, I think it gets a little stale. When you have so many great coaches, in so many great sports, and they're dealing with athletes the same way we are, it only supports some of the things you're doing.”
While Arena and Belichick have yet to talk, Arena has held court with Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They had a wide-ranging chat about coaching, with Magic having played for the iconic Pat Riley, and sports in general.
For Arena, one of the most important components of coaching having an understanding of teaching concepts. Arena taught high school for a few years in Ithaca, New York after he graduated from Cornell, where he played both soccer and lacrosse. And when Arena went on to coach men’s soccer coach at the University of Virginia, he won five NCAA Division I titles with the Cavaliers and was a physical education instructor, too.
“Teaching, there are progressions to it and you need to understand the mental and physical capabilities of the people you’re working with and that contributes to coaching,” Arena said.
In that sense, the training field is not so different from a room with desks and chairs and someone lecturing at the front.
“I would say it is my most comfortable classroom,” Arena said of the training ground. “As a student, it was my most uncomfortable classroom.”
Revs attacker Juan Agudelo said the major difference between Arena and other coaches he has played for during his career is Arena’s understanding of players.
“He’s a manager more than a coach,” Agudelo said. “[Arena] allows us to express ourselves. He knows when to stay quiet, and let the players figure it out. He knows when to step in. The thing that he does the most is not telling you what to do. He's suggesting what to do and those very small details I think go a long way and show how far he's come.”