Chris Kouns head coach for Georgia Gwinnett College’s women’s soccer team.
(Atlanta – GA / By Glenn Boylan)
Chris Kouns was introduced in February as the new head coach for Georgia Gwinnett College’s women’s soccer team. Kouns comes to GGC after a very successful run at Division III Capital University in Ohio.
Coach Kouns chose to make the move because he sees great opportunity at GGC within the successful environment the Grizzly athletic program has built in Lawrenceville.
“When I looked at Georgia Gwinnett, one thing I knew was that Darin [Director of Athletics Dr. Darin Wilson] was a winner.” Chris said. “Everything is in place here to be very, very successful. I think that as a competitive coach, any time that you have an opportunity to go to a place, where you feel like, on a consistent basis, not only you can be your best but your kids can be their best, I think it’s attractive.”
Coach Kouns took over at Capital in 2011 and led the Crusaders to three conference titles and a place in the 2013 national semifinals. He was OAC Coach of the Year and a national finalist for Division III Coach of the Year. Prior to Capital, he was the head coach at Jacksonville University, winning an Atlantic Sun Conference title and NCAA Tournament berth, and at Union College where his team won a Mid-South Conference championship and a spot in the NAIA national tournament.
We talked about what it takes to build a successful program. Obviously talented players are essential, but I asked Chris what he felt are the other keys to building a winning program.
“I was fortunate to grow up with a father who gave me certain traits: accountability, responsibility, work rate, controlling everything within your power to be successful,” Chris said. “I think those are the traits that you have to embody to be successful in terms of longevity. “
“But I don’t believe that I embodied them day in and day out until I became a father. I think that at that point, I changed from coaching to educating. I think that when I tried to do a better job of educating the players about how accountability, responsibility, and hard work transfer from soccer to academics to the real world, that I began to see the fruits of the labor year in and year out. That’s the first thing I brought here. These are the traits that we are going to embody going forward.”
An important aspect of Coach Kouns philosophy is to apply these traits both on and off the pitch. It’s what he refers to as a holistic approach to excellence. “Excellence is an all-encompassing thing in your life,” Kouns explained. “I don’t want an excellent soccer player who’s a crappy human being.”
Kouns’ holistic approach asks that his players excel in every aspect of their life. “If I can do that and I can set the perimeters and set the stage for them to do that,” he explained, “I’m going to win soccer games by a by-product of us doing everything excellently. To make that commitment to live it in every aspect of your life, that takes a little bit more. Those are the people who ultimately are successful.”
Chris started the process with his team by having them work on a performance profile. The profile involves team members identifying traits they see in successful soccer players, and then rating themselves on those same traits. They start with soccer traits, but then Kouns has them expand outside of soccer.
“Let’s transfer this to academics,” Kouns said. “What does commitment look like in a classroom? We really started to break down things for them so that they see the transfer.” The players start to see that soccer, class work, even personal relationships can all benefit from the same commitment.
“Part of that holistic process is helping them see and measure success throughout their lives. If they see it in the rest of their life, soccer is going to take care of itself. I can teach soccer. I can’t teach character. Character determines if they’re going to work hard enough for the soccer knowledge I want to impart to have an end result. Work rate determines if they’re going to be focused enough to take the soccer knowledge and win. It really is not as much about the soccer as it is about setting the table for who we are.”
The type of soccer Coach Kouns will be teaching is centered on an aggressive style of play. In each of his last four years at Capital, his teams led the conference in goal scored. “You’re going to see much more attacking in the soccer,” he said. “You’re going to see players taking people on, getting to the goal.”
And he feels that he has the type of players he needs to implement that style. “I think there is already a core group here who have the characteristics and traits to be able to play that style. You have to have a certain mindset to do it. I don’t want the kid who wants to win. I want the kid who can afford to lose. Because the kids who can afford to lose, they’re going to be the ones that try everything.”
As a long time college coach, Kouns knows how vital recruiting is. He’s got commitments from players from Sweden and England. He’s already had one of his top 2016 recruits on campus, and another one is coming in from Colorado soon.
But he also knows the importance of protecting the home turf. “I honored all of the Georgia commitments that Dom [former Coach Dom Martelli] had ahead of time,” Kouns said. “I told Darin I think that’s very important that since Georgia is in our name, we have to have a presence and we have to have a good reputation.”
Kouns sees strength in having a diverse pool of players. One of his rosters at Capital University had four players from California, three from Florida, and two from Philadelphia in addition to the local Midwestern players. He characterized them as technical (California and Florida), tough (Philadelphia) and blue-collar (Midwest). As he put it, “We had different ways to beat you. If we introduce different styles of playing and different ideas, something’s going to click.”
Obviously that approach has advantages, but it also presents challenges to the coaching staff to make the different styles work together on one team.
“We have to have a very clear vision,” he said. “I think that’s the key. For me that’s the fun stuff of soccer. It’s getting them to break down those barriers and find ways to work together.”
We held our conversation in Coach Kouns’ office at the Georgia Gwinnett Athletics building, which is a first class facility in every aspect. The overall quality of the Grizzly Athletics program is something that helps immensely during recruiting. “It’s not just the facilities,” he said, “but it’s the presentation of the facilities.”
Kouns pointed out the programming put out by the Grizzly Digital Network allows recruits from all over the US – and all over the world – to get a real feel for what GGC offers. And with GDN televising soccer games the recruits’ family and friends can watch them play no matter where they live.
Chris Kouns has come to Georgia Gwinnett with a clear vision of what he wants the program to be and how he wants to get it there. His record of success, combined with the outstanding environment of GGC Athletics, portends great things for the women’s soccer program, both on the field – and maybe more importantly, off the field as well.
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