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Coach Brian Gill, even in his first year at the helm, has already significant changes to the culture surrounding Penn men's soccer.

Credit: Chase Sutton

For the first time in 20 years, Penn men’s soccer has started its season under a new head coach.

Brian Gill now sits at the helm of a program that was led by the current Senior Associate Athletic Director Rudy Fuller since 1998, two years before this year’s recruiting class was even born. His promotion comes after spending just one season under Fuller as an assistant.

That season was of vital importance, however, in becoming acclimated to a new team.

“If you ask a lot of head coaches, that would be almost a dream scenario for them,” Gill said. “You have more knowledge about a situation, you can make better-educated decisions, you can establish better relationships, and communication is going to be better.”

This is Gill’s first head coaching position, but he has gained a lot of experience as an assistant coach at the collegiate level over the last 10 years. His former jobs include two seasons at Lafayette College, one at Seattle University, and seven at Georgetown. 

During his time as an assistant coach, Gill has built a reputation of being an outstanding recruiter as well as excelling in player development. 

“As an assistant coach, just having the pleasure of working with some pretty good head coaches in my career, one of the vital pieces that I feel like made them successful was getting the player buy-in, having a player-driven program, and good communication with the players,” he said. 

Even though Gill emphasizes this player-focused approach to coaching, he also recognizes the importance of the on-field result. 

“I couldn’t just step out and not be competitive, so my mind works on ‘how do we win games — how do we come out of things with results,’” Gill said.

Beyond the strategies and philosophies that he has picked up as an assistant, Gill also owns an accomplished resume as a player. At Rider University, Gill was a three-year captain as the goalkeeper and led his team to MAAC championship appearances in 2000 and 2003. Later, Gill spent time as a goalkeeper in the USL Premier Development League, playing for the Brooklyn Knights. 

It had always been his goal to continue to be involved with the game of soccer, so after exhausting all possibilities as a player, the next logical step was to try his hand at coaching.

“Just finishing a playing phase and moving into this thing where you have a whole lot of information and now it’s about how to really structure it and formulate ideas and teach people and direct them in ways that are constructive,” Gill said.

Over time, Gill has developed a coaching style predicated on a balance between working one-on-one with players to help them improve their individual games and coaching the entire team in order to produce results on the field.

It is evident that Gill is skilled at teaching the more nuanced details of the game to his players individually. At the same time, Gill understands that too much coaching can overwhelm his players and that they already have tremendous natural ability they can rely on. 

“We spend a lot of time talking to them about what specifically they need to be good with, how this plays a part in the overall bigger picture of what we’re capable of accomplishing as a team,” Gill said. 

It is critical to the success of any athletic program, but especially collegiate athletic programs, that the players buy in to what the coach is telling them to do and follow his or her direction, knowing that they can put trust in their coach. It seems that Gill is beginning to get this response from his players, so this program looks to be on the path to success.