Why Mike Leach loves recruiting players with a soccer background

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday March 14, 2017

Coaches like players who played multiple sports growing up, but Mike Leach especially prefers one you don’t hear much about: soccer. And it's not about kickers.

A lot of high school football players play basketball or run track. Some more play baseball or wrestle. Soccer is a sport often maligned by football fans, but Leach says the skills transfer a lot better than you might think.

“This is a minority opinion among football coaches,” Leach said on the CY Interview. “Football coaches like dumping on soccer that they have to share the field. I’ve had great luck with soccer players, to the point where, in recruiting, it’s a plus if the guy played soccer. They’re coordinated on both sides of their body, both feet are coordinated, and they’re good at making cuts on both sides of their body. They tend to be explosive on both sides of their cuts.

“The soccer players I’ve had play for me, I’ve had good luck.”

Leach pointed to several specific players over his career.

“Wes Welker is a prime example. He was all-state soccer,” Leach said. “If they’re a ball-carrier, they have great vision. I had a linebacker, Fletcher Session, soccer player, great feet. I had an offensive lineman, soccer player. He played for the Arizona Cardinals.

“The thing that’s indisputable in football is having quick feet within a small space, where it’s not just one-sided. It’s a huge benefit. All those soccer players and coaches that are maligned by football coaches around the country, I want them all coming my direction.”

As for other sports, Leach admits he’s not as knowledgeable about basketball skills compared to other football coaches. Some look to see if defensive backs or receivers played baseball, because it can help them read a ball in the air.

“Basketball, from a football coaching standpoint, you’re looking at guys can run and jump, the athleticism,” Leach said. “Baseball is a little more multi-faceted. You don’t care if a guy can hit. You might care if he can throw, and the running in football is more dynamic. Part of it is the season mindset. Baseball’s season lines up better if you play both baseball and football. Some of it is practical.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.