(Image Credit- Orlando Sentinel)
A few weeks ago the Pride were turned upside down in the middle of a freefall when bench boss Marc Skinner crossed the pond for a gig in England. Orlando had started the season unbeaten, enjoyed a stint at the top of the table, and were in talks to be serious contenders for title winners. But when Skinner left, the Pride were left to sink deeper into their six game winless skid.
In comes Becky Burleigh. The former Florida Gator bench boss has enjoyed her stay at the top of Pride rock, building a record of 2-2-1 over the course of her five games so far, and here are three things we’ve learned about Burleigh and what she brings to the table.
The Definition of a Player’s Coach
It didn’t take long for the players to learn the most defining trait of their new coach; and the media weren’t left wondering for too long either. Burleigh started her introductory press conference by telling everyone that they “spent the whole first day just trying to gather information, both from the players and from the staff, I think they appreciated that platform.”
The demeanor of the Pride’s new coach is one that would immediately attract any player, and her words back that up. Anyone who has played under a coach who sees the game as being about them rather than the players would know how quickly that could suck the joy out of the sport. Orlando’s group won’t have to worry about that under Burleigh though, as she explained her coaching strategy as being able“to create a platform for the players to coach themselves. Soccer is a players’ game, not a coaches’ game.” Burleigh added that she sees her role as needing to give them the tools to be able to execute this new mentality.
She wasted no time singing her players’ praises either, acknowledging that “some of these women, most of these women, have so much experience and are so competent. Now it’s just providing the structure for them.”
Upholding the Unit
The players have been outspoken about what they feel the biggest difference is between their current and former head coaches: the desire to be a part of the Pride. When asked about why the team feels so connected to Burleigh, Sydney Leroux was honest in saying “I guess the feeling of someone wanting to be here for us.”
Former bench boss Skinner was in a rough situation, however, and those close to the team will confirm that his passion and excitement were there in the beginning. But having an ocean, an 8-hour time difference, and a pandemic between you and your partner and child would be enough to pull anyone away from the task at hand.
Vice captain Ali Krieger put it simply by saying that “this coaching staff is exactly what we need” before elaborating on the newfound feeling of unity and connectedness the Pride are experiencing. “Everyone had a willingness to win and to fight and to support each other,” Krieger said after one of the Pride’s first games under Burleigh.
Krieger continued to speak about her new coach’s impact on the team culture by summarizing her point saying “I think we’ve hit the restart button, and refresh button, and this coaching staff is exactly what we needed.”
Power of Preparation
A common theme of player interviews in the games following Burleigh’s appointment was the next-level preparation they have all been feeling. Leroux pointed out the tough time constraints placed on Burleigh and her staff ahead of her first game in charge against the Courage, but was complimentary of her coach, “We didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare under Becky, but I think she prepared, and this was the most prepared we’ve gone into a game.”
Burleigh’s tenure with Orlando began with a three-game undefeated stretch, truly showcasing the power of preparation from the locker room, to the offices, to the practice field. Since her introduction, Orlando has more than comfortably righted the ship and turned their season back around, looking like a real playoff contender. If Burleigh can keep them in form, we could see a deep playoff surge from this group.