Brandon Bianco is the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Denison University in Granville, OH. Denison is a NCAA DIII institution and a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference. Other members of the NCAC include DePaul University, College of Wooster and Kenyon College.
Coach Bianco has both played and coached at the DIII level even coaching at his Alma Mater: Ohio Wesleyan. Bianco has worked in the North Coast Athletic Conference for most of his collegiate coaching career with Ohio Wesleyan and now with Denison. He has also seen success throughout the years taking his 2018 Case Western team to the Final Four at the NCAA DIII Tournament. We are excited to see where he takes his Denison team in 2020 and beyond!
During our conversation today, Coach Bianco and I dive into the world of youth soccer and the recent updates to the Development Academy. Here are a couple articles on the topic:
https://soccer.nbcsports.com/2020/04/14/united-states-soccer-federation-will-reportedly-terminate-developmental-academy-program/; https://www.topdrawersoccer.com/club-soccer-articles/what-we-know-about-the-da_aid47924; & https://www.soccerwire.com/news/report-u-s-soccer-to-permanently-close-entire-development-academy/
After getting Brandon’s thoughts on the DA changes, we moved into some great recruiting tips for players, even if not affected by the DA’s decisions, and how they can stay in contact with college coaches during this time. He gave some fun tips and Dos and Don’ts in the recruiting process as well as shared a couple of his favorite recruiting stories. We also ended our chat with his Mount Rushmore of Soccer Players where he shares a fun story about his Top 4 favorite players of all time and how he fell in love with soccer during the World Cup back in 1994. Check out everything he had to share below!
Brandon Bianco: Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Denison University.
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Topic 1: Brandon Gives His Thoughts on the Development Academy Disbanding:
Brandon talks about the divide between the MLS soccer clubs and the non-MLS clubs and how there were lots of talks for the Development Academy to make some changes and let the MLS go their own way.
Topic 2: How Will the DA Announcement Affect Current DA Clubs and Players?
Brandon talks about how this could affect DA clubs and players and how there should be a place for them to land, even if there is some uncertainty at this time. He gives his insights and positive spin on the announcement and what he can do for the soccer market.
Topic 3: Will Recruiting be Affected by the Lack of DA Programs?
Coach Bianco talks about the changes that might happen with recruiting with DA events no longer being available and where coaches might find recruiting events.
Topic 4: Thoughts on Youth Soccer Landscape and What MLS Does Next:
Coach Bianco talks about having less competition when it comes to new leagues/club levels and gives his thoughts on what the MLS programs might be.
Topic 5: College Soccer Community Insight:
Brandon talks about what he and other DIII coaches have discussed with regards to how this could affect recruiting through the DA events.
Topic 6: Brandon Shares Some Recruiting Tips:
Coach Bianco offers up some great advice on keeping the recruiting process rolling or even just getting started as a Freshman or Sophomore. He suggests reaching out to coaches, doing some research on schools, and trying to figure out the best fit so you can make the recruiting process fit for you.
Topic 7: Brandon Shares Some Recruiting Stories:
Coach Bianco talks about his recruiting process as well as shares a player’s recruiting process and how “Finding the Right Fit” is important and that you can find it through some research and self-reflection.
Topic 8: What Has Made His Teams Successful: Talent VS Mental Toughness:
Brandon looks back on some of his success as well as successful teams he’s watched and how the mental toughness of the players works together with the talent. Listen in on his thoughts on being committed to the team to find success.
Topic 9: Mount Rushmore of Soccer Players:
Brandon talks about his top 4 all time favorite players that he would see on his Mount Rushmore of Players. He also shares a fun fact about the 1994 World Cup and how he fell in love with soccer while there.
It is evident Coach Bianco wants to help soccer players thrive when it comes to recruitment, despite the challenges that may occur.
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Awesome. All right. Oh, I should ask how do you pronounce your last name? So don't say it wrong. Bianco. Yeah, okay, so like it's all perfect. All right. Hello everyone. Thanks for joining us today I am here with Brandon Bianco over at Denison University. How are we doing today, Brandon? Wonderful. How are you? Not too bad. Not too bad. I know we chatted a little bit earlier about the lovely snow we're having over here in the Midwest. Yeah. So how are things out there?
All things considered pretty, pretty good. You know? Everybody's just trying to try to bunker down a little bit with the with the pandemic. And, you know, when we can get outside it's a little bit easier, but nonetheless, you know, everybody's healthy, so can't complain. That's always a always a plus. Hopefully, we're kind of leaning towards the end of this maybe and things will kind of start to get back to some sort of new normal, I guess.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I know each state's a little bit different. Ohio i think is is in a pretty good place. But you know, hopefully every everywhere starts getting a little bit better soon. So, yeah, fingers crossed. We'll see how it goes. How long are you guys and shelter in place in Ohio?
It's been since the end of March, essentially, and it'll go through May one. And obviously then it might might be extended, but I think the state government here has been pretty aggressive and as a result, Ohio's actually fared Okay, considering everything else but but nonetheless we'll be we'll be locked down for another couple weeks. Yeah, yeah, that's about the same here well till May 1, and they just had an announcement yesterday.
That that could potentially go through till June so we'll we'll see how things go yes yeah yeah yeah yeah it's like a mini is through June 15 still so they haven't that was kind of their mark to begin with so every different yeah for sure that's gonna be you know it's interesting time on a lot of fronts I know higher ed is is feeling the brunt of a lot of this I mean the trickle down to high schools and how it affects activities and sports and you know essay t tests I mean all those things are kind of affected and everybody's trying to figure out what this new normal is going to be so yeah, just kind of a wait and see and a lot of fronts. Yeah, unfortunately you can't can't do anything else. We don't have any anything for certain yet so just got to play by ear, which leads me into an announcement that was kind of made today. I know it's not exactly official yet. I don't think that USA soccer has Announced it themselves, but there was the talk that the development Academy was no longer. So I kinda want to chat with you about that and get your thoughts if you you know if you have any about that, if you've heard of it, you know, what do you make of that announcement?
Yeah, certainly, I don't think it was necessarily a surprise to, to some. I mean, if you follow the development Academy very closely, there for the last couple of years, there's there's been a growing divide between the Major League Soccer clubs that are involved in the Da, da and then the non MLS clubs. And as a result, there's been talk of the MLS clubs just pulling out entirely and starting their own League, which I think each and every year, it was getting closer and closer for that to happen. And so that so there was certainly starting to be some division. And I think as a result of the COVID-19 stuff, I mean,
It was kind of a opportunity, I think, for US Soccer to say, you know, let's kind of hit a reset button let's let's kind of shut this thing down and, and allow Major League Soccer to kind of go about their development path and in a different way and try to allow some of these other entities that are better in the US Soccer umbrella to kind of figure out how it all works. You know, it I think it's bittersweet because US Soccer at the, at the beginning, I think had this grand idea of, of capturing all of the best players and putting them into kind of a unified environment under similar types of standards. And, and just, it's just been very hard. The United States is a really unique soccer market and there's never been unity in terms of where kids were going to be playing and as well resolve is just there's it's always been fractured. And, you know, if this change results in less fracture, then it certainly can be a positive thing. But time certainly will tell on that time. Yeah, absolutely. So if it's not really a shock to that many people do you think there? Are there things in place like clubs are already prepared for that? Do you think kids really do I kind of wondering what's going to happen to them now? Yeah.
Well, I guess, for me, it wasn't a shock just because you hear different rumblings along the recruiting when you're on the recruiting side, and, you know, things that may or may not happen, but having said that, it is a big change, and there's going to be a lot of clubs now they're trying to scramble to figure out you know, what are the best environments for their players? What does that look like? And you know, players now are trying to figure out you know, what, what club makes the most sense For me from from my development standpoint where they want to go you know, hopefully with the timing of this if there has been a benefit to to all this thing, all this going on there US Soccer is kind of ripping the band aid off now as opposed to in July, which would make, you know, clubs trying to figure out where they go and families and kids trying to figure out where they go a little bit more challenging if it was that time. So in some ways, timing here was was good, but it's certainly a change with any big change. There's going to be a lot of moving parts and I don't think it's going to be an easy one for club directors to navigate. But I already saw just this afternoon six, six former development Academy clubs in California just joined the ecml. So certainly that'll be a landing spot for some and and then some will probably go back to us why is soccer which which offers National League and some other different options. So there's your Gonna be a landing spot for everybody. It's just going to take a little while for clubs and players to figure out what's best.
Yeah, that's definitely a good perspective to kind of keep it on the positive side, everyone is kind of out right now. So canceling it now, I guess isn't too terrible in the fact that, you know, you're not worried about going to practice tomorrow and no longer having a team since everyone's off the pitch anyway. So that's a good look at it for sure. Now, how do you think that that will affect recruiting because I know those da events were big recruiting events for college coach yourself. So do you have any thoughts on on how that might affect recruiting? And so what I envision happening is all of these clubs are pretty established clubs with big infrastructures on the development Academy side. They're either going to go to ecml on the boys side or go back into you know, the US wire system which offers National League and some regional leagues and Unfortunately, I mean, I hope this doesn't happen but the way youth soccer is monetized I mean, there there could be just somebody popping in to to create their own organization to capture some of these clubs. I hope that doesn't happen, I hope we see less, not more competition. And if we do see less than I think it's just going to be some better teams and good players are going to some of the events that a lot of college coaches are already attending with, you know, things like the Disney event and UCL showcases and nationally showcases and tournaments like Jefferson cup and serve cup and all, you know, tournaments that have been established for quite a long time. I just, I just think there's going to be an influx of of good teams and good players and if that raises the the standard and the level of those events, then then that makes good events. Even better. So certainly a positive on that side. Yeah. So now you mentioned not having more, I guess competition in that field. If the MLS is doing their own thing, do you think some of those kids will kind of roll over into that or just kind of depends on what they roll out? Yeah, well, certainly this is just me talking here. So my preference would be to see less competition. I mean, the youth soccer landscape is fractured, as already and I would hate to see it continue to be fractured. Having said that, the MLS clubs are kind of its own entity. And so if you if there's a player that's living in a Major League Soccer market, so you know, certainly any of the big markets in the United States, Chicago, New York, Philly, Boston, etc, then I in theory, those clubs are attracting kind of the best of the best In terms of ability, but also in terms of what what the players want to get out of that experience, from their development in their aspirations, I mean, all the players in theory that are going to those club opportunities with Major League Soccer franchises or players that want to pursue professional opportunities, and that's not for everybody. But it is for some and to have that opportunity for players i think is is incredible. In our country, I mean, certainly when I was a youth player, we didn't have any of that growing up, and there wasn't a clear pathway of how to get to the professional ranks. And so not only is that being offered by those Major League Soccer franchises, it's also offered pretty much cost free so there's opportunity for every player from every socio economic background and you know, certainly the challenge is trying to get into those markets and You know, so there's some complexity there. But I also think those franchises are also working through some of those things with opening up what they would call homegrown territories. And, you know, a whole bunch of nitty gritty that, that, you know, some of the executives kicked around but but yeah, it's, it's it's kind of its own separate arm. Yeah. Okay. Well, that's good to know, I guess you know, even though everything is still kind of up in the air, it's kind of good to hear. Now that I know your community, any sport really is very tight knit. Have you heard anything from other coaches about, you know, what is going on with all of this any kind of other insight? Maybe, you know, I think there was the initial Whoa, this is actually going to happen that that was passed around among our coaching friends. I mean, certainly the division three coaches. I mean, there was a couple of us that had an initial gut reaction of like, oh, man, maybe some Got the kids that fall through the cracks because some of the bigger programs in Division One, almost exclusively recruit, or not exclusively, but certainly a lot of their recruiting was at the development Academy events that oftentimes, there'd be some kids that that might fall through the cracks as a result, and it would be at an ECM elevation or a national league event that you know, smaller programs or a Division Two or three program might be able to kind of get on that that maybe that gets a little bit harder but honestly, if you're a good player, you're going to get found any in any environment. So yeah, it's going to be interesting. I think all of us as coaches are just kind of taking a wait and see approach and you know, there's a obviously a big wait and see approach. I'm quite a lot of fronts right now with with not only youth sport, but higher education. So it's gonna it's gonna be an interesting six to 12 months and You know, in the soccer changes will just be a small part of, you know, what's going to be happening country over the next year. So, yeah, for sure.
Well, I mean, with that being said, I guess let's kind of chat recruiting, because this this can definitely affect those da kids. But it also, you know, even everyone that stuck at home, it's gonna affect their recruiting a little bit. So can you share some some tips for these guys on what they can do during this time to kind of stay? Stay on that recruiting plan? Yeah, and she actually, any college coach would would tell a prospective student athlete to really be assertive with their recruitment and to take initiative and to do their homework. I mean, all those things are really important. And as a result of this, this is just a perfect opportunity for students to really do all of those things because
In many cases, in most cases, you know, you can't get on campuses and do visits like you'd normally would. There isn't recruiting events where coaches can see a play. I really think that, you know, as coaches, we want to get to get to know who's coming into the program. And this is a perfect opportunity to really get to know people at a really deep level. And so not only is it a chance for the students to do their due diligence on schools and do virtual tours and to set up chats with admission directors and those types of things. But also, you know, if it's a place and you're farther along in the process, and you know, you have your shortlist, there isn't any coach that would say no to to somebody saying, hey, coach, I'd love 10 minutes of your time. 15 minutes, we jump on a chat like this and I have three kind of questions I'd love to talk to you about I mean, every single coach would say Yeah, while you're taking some initiative, this is great. And I think this is where there's an incredible opportunity as well, as you know, each university is setting up things like that. So if you are somebody that knows, okay, I really want to go into mechanical engineering well, schools and programs are going to have different resources that you can get more information about that academic program about financial aid about, you know, whatever the case may be. And so, if you're just sitting on your couch and playing FIFA and doing that thing, yeah, it's a lot of fun that maybe you're missing a good opportunity to work in other areas. Yeah, absolutely. And now's a good time, especially if they have it. You know, I know some schools have their online classes and some schools don't. So if you have that extra time throughout the day, it's probably best to, to keep a routine with something, even if it's just, you know, looking up schools that you might be interested in. If you're a freshman or sophomore or something. Yeah, yeah, it wherever you are in the process, if you're younger and you're just kind of starting out, this is wonderful because there's so many resources just to kind of get a taste for what each school is going to be like. But if you're farther along
I mean, there's a ton there's a ton of stuff that you can do. I mean, if if style of play as an example is something that is kind of your hot button, I hope there's more than that. But but certainly that's important to some, some, some kids, you know, see if a coach will pass along game film so you can get a sense for how they play. I mean, those types of things are all things you can do remotely and and as I said, if you're assertive and taking initiative, then you're Can you have an opportunity to get kind of good information. Yeah, absolutely. There's definitely a lot that kids can do right now. Um, and with that being said, Do you have any kind of fun like do's and don'ts that you've seen throughout your years of coaching that you'd be like, sharing with these kids now Don't do this. Yeah. Do this any kind of fun tips for him? Yeah, sure, you know, the easy one is, you know, watch what you do on social media. I mean, that's kind of the one that you hear on, probably from a lot of coaches and each coach is a little different, you know, I I'm not going to scroll through 10 pages of Instagram on somebody, but some coaches do, you know, and, and so certainly, just being mindful of how you're presenting yourself in those settings is important. But some of the do's stay kind of on on on the positive side. Some of the do's would just be you know, reach out. Try to include something personal about the school, the program about yourself is is kind of nice, you know, how you're doing how you're transitioning to Remote learning are those types of things. You know, sharing, I think, in a concise, but personal way, who you are as a person and what you've been up to. Those types of things are always things that coaches are looking for me, nobody likes to form email that the coaches get, just like the kids don't like the form emails that coaches send, you know, and oftentimes, there's many coaches that will say, if that's, if that's the level of care you're going to give to your process. I mean, we'll give you the same level of care back. And so just taking a couple extra minutes and having good attention to details certainly goes a long way. Yeah, absolutely. Just real quick, I think the guy behind you smoking.
So, um, but yeah, those are some great tips for kids. I love the fact that you brought up doing the the form emails because I know a lot of people do that and social media. I know that many kids look at that. But a lot of kids don't think that adults are checking those things out. And I know it's become a bigger tool in the recruiting aspect. So it's always good to make sure you have a positive social media. brand, you know, and just like I think programs and coaches try to promote They're their brand a little bit on social media and presented in a positive way. I mean, the same that comes from the the players too.
Yeah, so all of its important. Yeah, exactly. Now, I don't want this whole chat with you to be kind of down a little bit because we heard that big news and kids aren't really sharing, there's uncertainty. So can you share kind of a fun recruiting story, a story of like one of your favorite players that you've recruited and kind of how they went through the process or even yours if you went through the recruiting process?
Yeah, I can tell you two so one is personnel. And, you know, I growing up I wanted to get probably as far away from home as as I as I possibly could. And I went to camp at where I ended up going to college, which was at Ohio Wesleyan University. So a small private college with great education, great soccer program great tradition and I always knew it was a wonderful place but but I kind of said you know I'll never go there because it's coming from my house and I want to get far away and and yada yada and then next thing you know my parents are dropping me off on campus and and I had a wonderful four years and I quickly realized you know home is closer as far away as I wanted it to be. And I wanted to be you know, still at home either either mentally or physically I certainly to do that but so that was kind of my own story and I think it relates to the recruiting side as well. I mean, especially with how connected you can be with FaceTime and Skype and all these other things. I mean, if you want to be home you can you can be home.
So there was that side, you know the other side about about a current players and you know, when you've done this, this will be college, soccer season, whatever it is 1314 team that I've, that I've been involved in. And, you know, I would say when you've done it for this long, I mean every coach can point to the kid that that really sticks out as the one that comes in is kind of quiet and unassuming and maybe lacks the confidence that you know, that he or she will grow into and, and at this time of the year, especially his academic years are finishing and kids are going off for graduation and whatever that might look like now, I think about those kids a lot. And there's certainly a handful that I think about more than others where, you know, they really came in as, as somebody that that had something special and they just needed it to be tapped into and in soccer, other sports certainly it's the same where I hope that maybe draws it out of them a little bit. And so to see those, those people grow into, you know, successful, confident, young people.
He's certainly the joy that each of us as coaches have. Absolutely. And those are some great stories definitely to kind of give kids the idea of how they can narrow down the schools they want and not just look at a division but kind of think how far away Do you want to go? Do you want to be in a city? Do you want to be in a rural area? So those are some some really good tips for kids to kind of figure out that process, which is the perfect time to do it. Yeah, yep. So it's all about fit, you know, and what works and what the fit is gonna look like. I mean, there's so much to it. And if you want to play college sport, then certainly that athletic side is important to people and what that fit looks like from teammates to squad size to potential playing opportunities early or late in their career. I mean, this fits important. I hope it doesn't Trump certainly all of the academic things and the stuff that
Certainly number one, but that all goes into figuring out what what works for kids. Yeah. All right. So you said you've been coaching for 1314 years now at the college. Right? So you have to have had some success in there. And I'm curious to hear your thoughts on what made those teams successful? Was it the talent level of the players? Or was it kind of their mental toughness, or a combination of the two? showed me that the latter more so than the former. I mean, there's a lot of really good teams across the country, a lot of talented players. And you obviously have to have that, that that's a part of it. So so I don't want to suggest that it's not. But it's also you know, the the willingness for the teams to choose to be good every day. And that is a choice and you I like to talk to our teams a lot about what their mentality and mindsets gonna be. You know, it's, there's some teams that are just compliant teams, and that's okay. And there are teams that, you know, show up on time and follow the rules and do what they're supposed to do, and that's fine. But there's a big difference between you know, being compliant and really being committed and, and helping others along and pushing the standard and trying to, you know, give more of yourself to the team that you're a part of, I mean, I really think that, that that's, that's tough to do every single day and, and even for the ones that that do that.
There are some in the team that that are just kind of conditional, you know, where all I'll play really hard or I'll be bought in if things are going my way or from starting or if it's not good terms and the academic load isn't isn't kicking my kicking my tail. And so you know, it's easy to get caught in just being compliant or even conditional when I say
It's really hard to get a group of young people to be ultra committed. And that's not to say that, you know, in a college soccer team, if you have 2728, or whatever the number is, guys on a team, that all every single one is going to be that is going to be ultra committed. I mean, everybody has their own path, and some don't figure it out right away. Because the team would have been very successful that had the pleasure of working with have more of those guys than not. And they also have incredible collective leadership, where it's not just one or two guys that that lead the group where it's, you know, certainly a number of people that help kind of keep the standard and hold people accountable. And so, those are the teams that are always the most fun that that I've, you know, had the pleasure of working with. Yeah, absolutely. Um, it kind of sounds like from what you said that that's something that kids can kind of work on now. Even when they're looking for do they want to be a role player, do they want to be a starter? Are they comfortable being a leader? Are they comfortable buying into a program? Because I think if you wait until you get to that level, you might find that you lose kids, you know that it just is fit for them for whatever reason, so yeah, they can work on it now. They can work on it and whatever they do. And, you know, it's easy to say, I mean, I was player one 200 years ago, so so I've been there. Yeah, you know, in a setting like high school, for example, and I remember distinctly my junior year, we hadn't graduated a big senior class ahead of ahead of us. And we just weren't all that talented that year. And I allowed my individual standards to go down because I just said, well, common Junior, it's not my time to lead yet. And it's, you know, next year I can I can deal with it and we're not as good this year. So You know, I'm not gonna I'm not going to give more of myself to the team. And as I reflect, I just think, you know, such a such such a wasted opportunity to really grow and how to have somebody that kind of held me to a higher standard than I was holding myself. I think that certainly would have snapped myself out of it. But But hopefully, if you're, if you're in that situation, which many kids are, whether it's in high school or club situations that, that you can always think about ways that you can just be a little bit better every day. Yeah, self reflection is a big one, too. It's a lot of things that don't want to take the time to do but you really have to understand yourself and how you're learning and what you want to do to know where you can make it to that next level.
So yeah, sure, for sure. Now, you mentioned that you again, you've been coaching for a while and that you've had some successful teams, so I'm sure you have some thoughts on your Mount Rushmore of soccer players so I'm super excited to hear kind of Your top four like all time players could be coached. I want to I want to hear what you got on your Mount Rushmore. This is a great question. So the first one is super easy. This is my all time number one. I'm my father was born in Italy so I think I came out of the womb wearing like a blue Italian national team jersey. And so Roberto Baggio is easily the first one who was a World Player of the Year and when I was growing up in 1994, my family went to the World Cup we were able to see some really incredible games I think that's where I fell in love with with, with soccer, deeply in love with soccer. And he Roberto Baggio was on the national team for Italy that that went to the World Cup final incredible player, so he's won. Cristiano Ronaldo is another you know, as I was College issue was when he was kind of coming on to the, onto the scene and just he's an incredible athlete, great competitor, just a different guy has some ego has some flair. And so he's he's really exciting to watch another one. And another one from when I was growing up a little bit, Claudio Reyna, who's an American player, he was one of the first Americans to really have a strong career with big clubs in Europe. And I just remember thinking about him is just such a great role model for for young American players at the time, which it's not like it was now where there's a lot of Americans playing abroad. He was one of the handful, that that was doing it at the time. And so he was he was a big one in there. And then and then the last one that I that I had was also an American, also an MLS person. And that was Brian McBride. I'm from Columbus, Ohio and McBride was just Awesome when he played for the crew and played for the national team and also went abroad and and so somebody like him I think about a lot is just kind of setting the standard for what players can be in this country. Yeah, that is a solid Mount Rushmore Can you just run through all four just the names again so we can make sure that we get that down for everybody. Roberto Baggio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride. Awesome. And so do you remember where obviously you remember where the World Cup was in 94 off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you 94 was in the United States and a fun fact for everybody. It is still the highest attended World Cup of all time in terms of total attendance as well as average attendance at each game. And that was at a time when the tournament was much smaller. So it Yeah, it was it was a great it was a great event that games all over the world. over the country and at the time, you know, the United States was still kind of evolving as a soccer nation. So that really kind of brought it to the forefront. So it was great. That's exciting. What What a great memory to have to write. Yeah. It's very cool. It's wonderful. Very cool. Awesome. All right, Brandon. Well, I really appreciate you sitting down and giving us a ton of awesome information and your thoughts on the DA and then telling us those great stories at the end so we can kind of learn a little bit more about you.
We can sit down and chat with you again, especially if we're all kind of still stuck inside for the next few months. But um, yeah, it was great to sit down chat with you. Thank you, talk to you. Awesome. Well, we'll catch you next time. All right, thanks. You're welcome.