New SDSU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Ryan Hopkins on His Vision and Values
Ryan Hopkins takes over for Lev Kirshner as the head coach of SDSU. Here is an interview with this new, first-time DI head coach.
San Diego State University is welcoming a new head coach, Ryan Hopkins who helped Virginia reach the NCAA Finals in 2019. With desires to improve SDSU’s on-field performance, Hopkins discusses what makes a winning team perform their best.
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It is a dream to come home to California and lead a Pac-12 soccer program.Ryan Hopkins, Men’s Soccer head coach at San Diego State University
A Southern California native, Hopkins is the fourth head coach in program history.
SoccerToday Interview with Ryan Hopkins
Diane Scavuzzo: Welcome to San Diego. What made you want to take on this responsibility?
Ryan Hopkins: San Diego State provides a great platform for our student-athletes to excel in the classroom, on the field, and in the community.
And, I am proud to coach at the highest level of college soccer at an NCAA Division 1 University. I’ve always wanted to test myself to the highest levels of whatever I’m doing and I am very thankful I am at SDSU.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is going to be the greatest challenge taking over SDSU?
Ryan Hopkins: That’s a great question. I think there will be a lot of challenges. I feel most assistants that are in the games aspire to be head coaches and have their own vision for running a program.
I think coming in, establishing an identity and culture with my vision is not easy, especially with a group of players that I don’t know other than watching them on video a few times.
I see a ton of opportunities.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your vision?
Ryan Hopkins: This is what I tell parents. My ultimate goal — my ultimate mission — is to prepare your son for life after college. Of course, I want to pursue winning and I want us to compete for PAC-12 championships and college cups and national championships. My track record has shown that I can do that, but ultimately, this college soccer piece is such a short window of a person’s life. What really is going to carry a person forward is getting a world-class education from a university like SDSU. I can help my players grow as people and challenge them.
We’re going to hold you extremely accountable to the standards in the classroom and obviously standards on the field, as well as the standards in the community. So for me, my vision is it’s a very holistic approach.
We’re going to have a ton of leadership development.
We’re going to have a ton of opportunities for kids to fail, which I think is a massive part of their growth.
We’re going to have a ton of opportunities for them to volunteer in the community. And, obviously, we’re going to have a ton of opportunities for them to grow as a soccer player.
I really believe I’m so, so lucky. I love working with this age of kids. It’s an awesome age — you can really help shape them for the rest of their lives. I think San Diego is an interesting market because you have this awesome mix of cultures and nationalities — it’s such a cool melting pot, it’s like the world right now.
Diane Scavuzzo: It’s so true and it’s not something that is usually mentioned when people talk about San Diego. It’s a great reflection.
How would you describe your style on the field?
Ryan Hopkins: We want to be a possession based team.
I don’t want to keep possession for just possession’s sake. I want to be a team that can play through other teams lines and create transitions. We’re going to be a team with an extremely high tempo— and more geared towards playing on the ground.
I like to play building from the goalkeeper, building through the center backs. Our guys are going to have a lot of freedom to interchange positions. Defensively, we want to be an extremely high pressing team. We want an exciting, fast paced brand of soccer. This takes a group that’s going to be extremely fit. So I’m really excited about the sports science that we have at SDSU.
Nutrition is also important, as is the mentality of the group.
I was in the final four this past year and watched Stanford play. Stanford’s been able to go to four of the last final because they have a philosophy of competitive resilience. They just have a belief that they’re going to figure out how to win games. And, they make it extremely difficult to score on them.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you describe your ideal player? What do you look for in a player? What do you value most?
Ryan Hopkins: Wow, you’re hitting the hard-hitting questions here. To be honest, I think it fits really well with the Southern California player — they are a more technical player who wants to have the ball, likes to play on the ground, likes to play through the lines and create transitions.
I like to find the guys that are under recruited, have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, are extremely hardworking, extremely coachable, I would say that’s kind of tying it all into my kind of perfect player. And then obviously someone that cares and has a big passion for academics too.
Diane Scavuzzo: Awesome. What do you believe accounts for your success in Virginia?
Ryan Hopkins: Virginia was winning a lot of championships before I got there. When you walk into the office every day at Virginia, and the first thing that you see are the seven national championship trophies and there is a picture of every team picture that won a national title hanging in the locker room there’s a certain expectation — there’s a certain standard that you have to live up to.
And that’s what we told every recruit. We said, listen, don’t come here if you can’t handle this like this is going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life.
I think it’s all the players who came before; Bruce Arena, Claudio Reyna, George Gelnovatch, John Harkes, Tony Meola, Ben Olsen … the list goes on and on and on. There is a culture that’s passed down that really just drives the program. The guys know ultimately they’re playing for something bigger than themselves.
And that’s what I want to bring to San Diego State.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think a player can still become a professional after college? I know the ground is shifting on this as we speak.
Ryan Hopkins: That’s a good question. From my perspective, I think you can pursue both at the highest levels. In the past, we would consistently play USL teams in the spring and beat them by two or three goals. I’ll always be honest with the players when I think they’re ready, willing and able to become a professional.
So, I think the reality is that you can progress as a player and get a world-class education — so, yes, you can definitely do both. And that’s my goal to bring to San Diego State.
Top feature image: UV Men’s Soccer