Why Baylor’s Dave Aranda is in contrast to any school soccer coach you realize

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Final October, in a room beneath McLane Stadium, Baylor soccer coach Dave Aranda took to the rostrum after a 31-24 win over Texas.

Whereas a win over the Longhorns is all the time trigger for celebration among the many inexperienced and gold trustworthy, Aranda did not exult. He may not have even cracked a smile. That is not the Aranda manner.

What’s, nevertheless, is the kind of reply that he gave to probably the most innocuous of questions. How, a reporter requested, have the Bears been so good at stopping massive performs on protection?

“We name that, like, the Berenstain Bears search,” Aranda said without a hint of irony. “There is a Berenstain Bears e-book, ‘Previous Hat, New Hat,’ the place he needs a brand new hat, Papa Berenstain Bear. And he is making an attempt all these hats on. It is like, too tight, too free, too colourful. Proper? Too shiny. And he lastly places on his previous hat. So that is what that was.”


The reporters laughed, in fact, as a result of no person within the broad, broad world of sports activities would’ve ever seen a Berenstain Bears analogy coming in a postgame information convention from a Texas school soccer coach. However Aranda plows proper on forward, the professor making his level. This was not a efficiency, akin to the solutions by one in every of Aranda’s previous bosses, Mike Leach. It wasn’t supposed to entertain, however somewhat to make a degree, a mantra for the soft-spoken coach and all of his coaches and gamers.

It is all the time greatest to easily be who you might be. Even if you happen to’re a bit startled by the response, like whenever you evaluate your teaching philosophy to illustrated bears.

“I knew, however I did not know, how completely different I used to be,” Aranda stated. “You reside up in your head. So whenever you do speak, and also you let or not it’s recognized the place you are at, what you are considering and you’ve got that sort of disconnection, that may be fairly scary.”

That is why Aranda is right here in his workplace in Waco, and never at LSU or any of the opposite openings the place he drew curiosity this offseason after a 12-2 season, a Huge 12 championship, Baylor’s first Sugar Bowl victory since 1957 and a No. 5 rating within the remaining ballot. It is why he signed a contract extension by way of 2029 to stay in Waco.

As a result of, he says, a spot like Baylor is the place Dave Aranda will be precisely who he’s.

IN JANUARY 2020, whereas serving as defensive coordinator, Aranda helped Ed Orgeron, Joe Burrow and LSU win a nationwide championship. That week, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades known as Aranda to gauge his curiosity within the Bears’ head-coaching emptiness following the departure of Matt Rhule for the Carolina Panthers.

Rhoades was on trip in New Mexico and known as Aranda from a closet within the Sierra Blanca airport close to Ruidoso. As he made the brief flight again to Waco, he could not cease desirous about the dialog.

“I simply bear in mind getting off the cellphone with him going, ‘Wow, I like him much more than what I anticipated,'” Rhoades stated. “Why did I like him greater than what I believed I used to be going to? And why did I join with him? I believe it was his authenticity, nevertheless it was additionally his viewpoint of Baylor by way of his lens and the way he noticed himself as an important match. That was considerably distinctive by way of the way in which he defined that and laid that out. What it made me notice is that he understood not each place was for him.”

Aranda may afford to be picky. He was the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach, making $2.5 million a yr, and coming off a nationwide championship. However the noise across the program throughout his time at LSU, from Les Miles’ firing to Ed Orgeron’s bravado, together with the strain to win, had compelled Aranda right into a bunker mentality.

“I felt after I was (at LSU) that I used to be like a machine,” Aranda stated, including he purposefully saved a darkish workplace with massive screens to interrupt down tape, so he may simply keep in his world. “I did not actually speak, and it bought to the purpose the place I used to be there lengthy sufficient to the place individuals sort of understood that and they’d defend me or defend me from speaking after which it simply turned worse. I might take away myself lots. I simply would not have interaction, greater than something.”

The rub, in fact, is that to be a head coach, you need to speak. Aranda stated that is what propelled him to hunt out the Baylor job. It wasn’t for the ability. Or the cash. It was to power himself to alter, he stated, for the sake of his youngsters.

“My oldest woman, Jaelyn, and my youngest, my son Ronin, they’ve no matter I’ve,” Aranda stated, talking about his introverted nature. “I may see them turning into me, turning into a scientist. You realize, ‘Hey, give it to Dave to determine it out, put him within the nook.’ I simply did not need that for them. I may see them turning into me, in order that made me mad that I used to be modeling that for them. That was an enormous motive for eager to attempt to transfer.”

That is the essence of the Aranda expertise, in line with these round him. He is a seeker, a learner, and all the time making an attempt to increase his thoughts.

“I cherished who Dave was and what he stood for,” stated former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who employed Aranda at Utah State and took him to Madison. “He was all the time looking for only one extra approach to discover a bonus. One factor I will always remember about him … by no means in my life have I known as a coach [who played the upcoming opponent] from their recreation the week earlier than. He would all the time name. Dave did not care if anyone stated ‘no’ or ‘I do not wish to speak to you or no matter.’ It was wonderful the knowledge that he would come again with.”

He felt comfy speaking soccer with different coaches. However being the face of a program, a college, coping with boosters, reporters and a complete employees of workers? That appeared out of character, even to his personal daughter. When he advised Jaelyn that he was going to interview at Baylor, she stated, “Papa, are you certain you wish to do this?”

“She stated ‘No, do not do it!,’ Aranda stated, laughing. “She was scared for me. And I used to be sort of scared too.”

That would not come as a shock to one in every of Aranda’s earliest and most trusted mentors, Dr. Jerry Lynch, an acclaimed sports activities psychologist who has written 13 books on teaching and management and whose teachings have closely influenced Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr, amongst many others.

Lynch, like Rhoades, discovered himself drawn to Aranda, regardless of him being a younger, unknown coach at a small college.

Aranda grew up in Redlands, California, the son of Paul and Marguerite, Mexican immigrants from Guadalajara, and didn’t play school soccer after struggling a number of accidents in highschool whereas enjoying linebacker — together with fracturing his shoulder in a recreation in opposition to powerhouse Mater Dei and enjoying the rest of the sport together with his arm pinned to his aspect.

His love and lack of soccer set him adrift. He tried to hitch the Navy, however the lingering shoulder points precipitated him to fail a bodily. He was working the evening shift as a safety guard at a truck cease and training the junior varsity protection at his former highschool when he determined to go to a buddy at Cal Lutheran, a Division III college about 100 miles west of Redlands and about 40 miles north up the coast from Los Angeles. Cal Lu had a status as a spot for health club rats, although it didn’t provide scholarships. He determined to try to rekindle his enjoying days, however his shoulder would not cooperate.

He was, nevertheless, given an opportunity to grow to be a pupil assistant, and Aranda relished the chance to give attention to ball, as he says, the place he felt most comfy. He started searching for out coaches to speak store. Anybody, anyplace. He turned enamored with Lynch’s e-book, “Considering Physique, Dancing Thoughts,” and cold-called Lynch in 2001 to ask if he may make the 300-mile journey from Southern California to Santa Cruz to satisfy with him.

Lynch stated he does not sometimes do plenty of 1-on-1 conferences, as a result of his consultancy usually consists of work with complete groups. Lynch stated previously 30 years, by way of his firm, Means of Champions, he has labored with groups which have made 54 Ultimate Fours and gained 36 nationwide championships in school and the professionals.

“There was one thing about Dave when he contacted me,” Lynch stated. “I felt, by way of his phrases, a way of being real, genuine and susceptible. These are the three keys that entice me to individuals. It is virtually like, OK, I do not wish to let this chance go by so I noticed it as a possibility for me to study this younger man.”

The 2 spent three days strolling on the seaside, speaking about their shared curiosity in Jap thought, Tao and Zen classes. Now, greater than 20 years later, the 2 have a shared kinship. Aranda is a rising star within the teaching occupation and simply wrote the foreword to Lynch’s latest e-book, “On a regular basis Champion Knowledge.” Lynch in contrast Aranda to 2 of his most completed collaborators.

“So many soccer coaches, they get into the sector they usually get their alternative they usually really feel they have to scream, yell, stroll up and down the sideline, do all these items to inspire,” Lynch stated. “You do not inspire individuals. The motivation comes from inside. Dave is aware of that. He is aware of it comes from inside. What he does is he creates the surroundings which permits that motivation inside to come back out the place persons are not afraid. They are not afraid to fail. Steve Kerr creates the surroundings. Phil Jackson creates the surroundings. These are secure environments the place individuals will be who they should be in an effort to carry out on the highest ranges. That is it in a nutshell.”

Baylor center linebacker Dillon Doyle has his personal idea about why Aranda has been profitable.

“I believe if anyone requested a gaggle of people that needs to be a head coach, I am unsure Dave Aranda would elevate his hand,” Doyle stated. “It is like Plato’s ‘Republic.’ Typically the most effective ruler for a kingdom is the one that does not wish to be a ruler.”

THE HEAD COACH is quoting the Berenstain Bears and the center linebacker is citing classical Greek philosophers.

“Hey, welcome to Baylor,” Bears defensive position coach Dennis Johnson stated, laughing.

That is Johnson’s seventh yr working alongside Aranda, starting at LSU, then making the leap to Waco, and enduring a brutal 2020 season during which the Bears’ season opener was canceled 3 times on account of COVID earlier than they limped to a 2-7 document.

He knew Aranda would flip it round, although, as a result of he stated he all the time has a much bigger image in thoughts. Johnson recalled sitting subsequent to Aranda in New Orleans proper after they gained that nationwide championship at LSU, and nonetheless marveling at his coach’s response.

“Proper after the sport, all people’s excited, I stroll in and he is sitting in his locker,” Johnson stated. “And he was like, ‘That is it?’ I imply, we simply gained a nationwide championship. To him, it needed to be extra. There’s extra to be gained. I consider it is what led him to Baylor.”

It is all the time deeper with Aranda. He is actually the one coach who was requested for his e-book suggestions throughout his time on the podium at this yr’s Huge 12 media days.

“There is a e-book by Shawn Ginwright that is known as ‘The 4 Pivots,'” he stated. “It is about social change. It is actually good. I believe there’s some factors in there the place he talks about going from transactional to transformational, and he talks about going from a lens to a mirror, the place we’re all sort of skilled to critique and label and look out, however the hardest look is wanting within the mirror. As they are saying, the mirror does not lie. In order that’s a very good one. There is a bunch of books by Richard Rohr that I really like. Brené Brown is one other writer that I really like.”

However crucial e-book in Aranda’s toolbox is one other one you’d by no means anticipate to listen to, the “Velveteen Rabbit,” a 1922 youngsters’s e-book about toys who hope to grow to be actual. For Aranda, it is the proper metaphor for a way soccer might help you transcend into turning into a greater individual.

Aranda provided, in his thoughts, a easy clarification of why these metaphors are such efficient instructing instruments, delivered in his soothing cadence that sounds extra fitted to a meditation app than for soccer two-a-days.

We’ll simply let him roll, so maintain on:

“There’s one thing about books or motion pictures for youthful audiences. In plenty of these, there is a hero’s journey behind it, or beneath it proper on the floor. There is a private transcendence, there’s some ethical, there’s some quest. There’s some transformation in these tales. So, the “Velveteen Rabbit” can be one other one in every of like, turning into actual. The Pores and skin Horse offers the recommendation on what it takes to be actual. Some individuals break too simply. Some persons are too sharp across the edges. They by no means grow to be actual. When you’re actual, you are tattered and also you’re torn. However that does not actually matter to different individuals which can be actual. Actual acknowledges actual.

“There is a scene we used previous to the beginning of the season from the film “Pig.” Nicolas Cage is in it and there was a scene in there the place he is on the lookout for his pig. It is a truffle pig. He was a well-known chef. He was disillusioned. Individuals would go to his restaurant simply to say they went to the restaurant. He knew each individual that got here into the restaurant, he knew what they appreciated, he remembered all the pieces about him. And so they did not know something concerning the meals. They only wished to take an image that they had been on the restaurant and so he simply turned disillusioned, went into the wilderness, lived there together with his pig in Oregon, in Portland. His pig will get stolen and he comes into city looking for his pig. He is sitting at a restaurant. The proprietor of the restaurant is available in to satisfy him and he is raveled. He has blood caked on, dust, seems like a hobo. He simply seems tough. I believe he is the Velveteen Rabbit, you realize?

So the chef is asking, lastly acknowledges him. It is a actually fancy place. And so Nicolas Cage’s character goes, ‘What did you say you wished to cook dinner whenever you had been youthful?’ He sort of bashfully says, I wished like a beer and burger place or one thing. So he asks, ‘Why aren’t you doing it?’ He says, ‘As a result of nobody would eat it. That is what individuals need, all this fancy stuff.’ That Nicolas Cage character lastly says, ‘It is advisable to cease making an attempt to be different issues for the individuals. Nobody can see. You do not see. These individuals do not care about you. It is advisable to be you, you realize?’

So, like, that was an enormous scene. That was an enormous a part of going into the season of simply the strain of all that turns into each coaches and gamers. Like that is about us transcending and this isn’t about us saying, ‘Eff this, or eff you,’ Proper? I noticed that scene. He was the Velveteen Rabbit. I simply suppose there’s morals in these elementary tales that talk to that. And I believe it is like, it is all the time good to return to these as a result of I believe these are sort of virtually common.”

In order that’s how the 2021 Baylor Bears, the Huge 12 champions, had been impressed by a truffle-hunting pig and a chef who could or could not have been the Velveteen Rabbit.

Like Doyle quoting philosophers, that is one other Aranda hallmark that appears to have grow to be contagious.

“My government staff will let you know, half the stuff I now inform them, I’ve bought analogies or metaphors for,” Rhoades stated. “I by no means did that. Nevertheless it’s due to Dave that I do.”

Johnson spent 5 minutes explaining how he cherished “Batman Begins” and “The Darkish Knight Rises,” however had an entire new view of them after Aranda defined how they’re actually about making a call to do one thing arduous, failing at it, then getting your self again up and out of the cave, like Batman.

“He can see meanings in issues that you just may simply view as leisure,” Johnson stated. “It is wild. It is wild that he sees it like that.”

THE WORD MOST usually used to explain Aranda is “distinctive.” It is a well mannered manner of claiming what others aren’t afraid to.

“I knew he was sensible,” stated Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached alongside Aranda as an assistant at Texas Tech from 2000-2002. “All of us thought he was bizarre, however we knew he was sensible.”

Aranda does not take offense. He laughs when he remembers seeing Holgorsen at a Houston Landing Membership occasion final season, when Holgorsen stated the identical factor to him immediately.

“Dana sees me and he comes out of the nook, shakes my hand and says, ‘Dave, we all the time thought you had been bizarre and sincere, however now that is a commodity. Congratulations.”

Holgorsen is true. Within the switch portal and NIL period, gamers are choosing faculties based mostly on quite a lot of elements. Aranda is aware of there are gamers who would somewhat be challenged intellectually than processed by way of a soccer manufacturing unit. Baylor has been the latter previously. Now, it could provide an alternate.

“The one factor about him is he is aware of who he’s,” stated new Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire, who was retained as Baylor’s affiliate head coach by Aranda when he took over for Rhule. “Everyone’s bought a shiny helmet. Everyone’s bought an enormous stadium. So how are you going to separate all that? He is comfy in his personal pores and skin to a degree which you could virtually use that to separate your self from the norm of what school soccer is.”

However how does the Velveteen Rabbit speech play in the lounge of recruits? Aranda stated that three out of each 10 certified recruits is perhaps a match for his sort of program. Even then, he needs his employees to drill down and research these prospects, as a result of he always preaches “individuals over participant.”

“We begin there, after which they’ve their conversations with me. It turns into sort of a very tight pool,” Aranda stated. “We do not wish to transfer quick. We do not wish to be haphazard. I am making an attempt to speak to a number of the academics about like, how does this specific dude deal with individuals which can be perhaps beneath him, individuals that may do nothing for him?”

Trey Novosad is a believer. He and his spouse Nicki are Texas A&M alums whose son, Austin, is an Elite 11 quarterback recruit from Dripping Springs, Texas, within the class of 2023 who dedicated to Baylor final December. They went by way of the recruiting course of and had been struck by the conversations with Aranda, particularly as soon as Austin’s inventory began skyrocketing and different massive faculties began calling, together with A&M.

Trey stated Austin grew up a maroon-blooded Aggie fan and has attended Jimbo Fisher’s coach’s evening occasions since he is been at A&M. Yearly, he stated, Austin would get a photograph with Fisher and inform him he’ll be his quarterback within the class of 2023. However A&M did not provide immediately whereas Baylor did. Austin finally developed a robust relationship with Aranda on account of their comparable low-key personalities, in line with Trey, and determined to tug the set off.

“If Coach Aranda shouldn’t be there, we might by no means go to Baylor,” Trey stated. “I imply, that is how essential Coach Aranda was. Everyone tells you do not choose the faculty as a result of the coach as a result of they all the time transfer round. However he advised us, ‘I have been to LSU, I have been to the loopy locations. I do not match there. I match right here. They let me do my bizarre stuff. I will be me and I am not going anyplace. I prefer it right here.'”

Earlier this month, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Ohio State all put the arduous press on Austin, who was interested by exploring the gives, notably as a result of he’d all the time dreamt of enjoying for the Aggies. He was nervous about wanting into them and known as Aranda to speak it out, Trey stated.

“He stated, ‘Look, Austin, I am not going to be mad in any respect,” Trey stated. “You’ll be able to go. That is completely tremendous. I do know your character. I do know you are gonna prefer it higher right here. So go test it out, I am assured you may be again as a result of I do know you properly sufficient.’ He was all the time calm about it, and he was assured.”

On Aug. 2, Austin introduced he was sticking with Baylor, incomes Aranda one of many Bears’ largest recruiting wins in class historical past.

That is why Johnson stated Aranda is the nearer on the employees.

“He is the lead in recruiting, as a result of he is so sincere about who he’s and what this system is, as a result of it is about match.”

The problem now for Baylor is to take care of its standing in a new-look Huge 12 beginning subsequent yr when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all arrive. With a self-imposed smaller recruiting pool and a coach that could possibly be in demand throughout teaching carousel season, the Bears must work to maintain all of it on observe.

“In some unspecified time in the future in time, he’ll determine that it is time to transfer on and impression lives another way,” Rhoades stated. “However proper now he is on this technique of actually impacting individuals and doing it in his actually distinctive manner. I all the time suppose will probably be a piece in progress for him due to who he’s. However I believe he is discovered his consolation degree in when he needs to be the man as a result of he’s the top soccer coach. I’ve virtually visually been in a position to see that journey since January of 2020 after we employed him.”

Baylor defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, who has recognized Aranda for greater than 20 years — since Aranda first cold-called him to speak protection when he was the top coach at Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi in 2000, earlier than he later employed Aranda there — says he is seen him morph from a pupil to a trainer to now being on “the chopping fringe of management on the Energy 5 degree and the way soccer applications are run.”

“He is breaking down plenty of boundaries from gamers to coaches and gamers to one another and the way the connection works,” Roberts stated. “That’s the reason for our success.”

This season, for the primary time in class historical past, Baylor is the preseason media choose to win the Huge 12, and Aranda is main them there in a manner nobody has accomplished it earlier than. The person who stated he was known as “Fencepost” in highschool as a result of he did not speak, the one who sat in a darkish room and stated he felt like a machine, has Baylor believing. The Velveteen Rabbit has grow to be actual.

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