The UC Santa Cruz soccer program is living out the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” dichotomy as they simultaneously bid farewell to and welcome in familiar faces to the men’s and women’s head coaching positions.
The moves began when men’s head soccer coach Dan Chamberlain decided to accept an assistant coaching position with the Stanford University men’s team.
While Chamberlain immediately recognized the Stanford opening as “one of those things in your life that you can’t pass up,” it didn’t make the decision any easier for him.
“It was definitely something I grappled with … but at the end of the day it was a decision that was best for me and my career in coaching,” Chamberlain said. “While it was probably one of the most painful things to do to let my team know I wouldn’t be there anymore, I knew it was the right decision.”
The move came as a surprise to junior left forward Clay Sorensen, who was called over to Chamberlain’s house along with two other teammates for what they thought was a meeting to discuss the spring season.
“We were pretty shocked that he was going to leave, because he was pretty invested in the program,” Sorensen said. “It just came out of the blue.”
After the initial surprise wore off, however, Sorensen says the team was supportive of their coach.
“It’s a pretty big opportunity,” Sorensen said. “We’re happy for him but also really excited to move forward.”
As a result, former UCSC women’s soccer head coach Michael Runeare will be taking over for Chamberlain. Josh Schelhorse, who has been an assistant to both the men’s and women’s soccer teams for the past year, has stepped in as interim head coach for the women.
Runeare also had to face the difficult task of breaking the news of his departure to his team, and says the players dealt with the decision well.
“I thought they handled it fantastically,” Runeare said. “Their initial reaction was surprise; I don’t think they had any idea something like that would take place.”
Despite the abruptness of the moves with regard to timing, there is a general consensus among players and coaches that the transitions have gone smoothly, thanks in large part to the fact that both Runeare and Schelhorse were familiar with the UCSC soccer program before these position changes occurred.
Schelhorse says his prior experience as an assistant for both the men’s and women’s teams has helped prepare him for taking over from Runeare.
“It just gave me good insight into what the program was like,” Schelhorse said. “It allowed me to hit the ground running and not have to start from scratch with them.”
For Runeare, the transition to coaching the men’s team was made easier by his experience as coach of the Breakers, a semi-pro team in the Monterey Peninsula Soccer League that used to play during UCSC’s offseason and therefore attracted many players from the men’s team.
Meanwhile, as the new assistant coach for the Stanford men’s team, Chamberlain says the adjustment of going from a Division III to a Division I program is still taking some getting used to, as it comes with an added amount of pressure.
“Definitely Stanford’s at a level along with many other athletic departments where if you’re not winning or producing a quality experience for your student athletes you run the risk of getting fired, and that’s not the pressure at UC Santa Cruz,” Chamberlain said.
Both coaches realize they have big shoes to fill. During his three years as head coach of the men’s soccer team, Chamberlain’s teams went a combined 44-14-2 and made the NCAA DIII tournament twice, and as the women’s head coach for six years Runeare compiled a 68-28-13 record.
While Runeare acknowledges that maintaining fitness levels and getting good recruits are key, there is one other component that he said will prove essential to the team’s success come fall.
“One of the biggest things is we need to play with weapons of the heart — courage, integrity and selflessness,” he said. “Players have to come in here hungry, want to get better and push themselves to be competitive.”