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

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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 won’t have even cracked a smile. That is not the Aranda means.

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 large performs on protection?

“We name that, like, the Berenstain Bears search,” Aranda said without a hint of irony. “There is a Berenstain Bears ebook, ‘Outdated Hat, New Hat,’ the place he needs a brand new hat, Papa Berenstain Bear.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 unfastened, too colourful. Proper? Too shiny. And he lastly places on his previous hat. So that is what that was.”


The reporters laughed, after all, as a result of no one within the large, large 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 all Aranda’s previous bosses, Mike Leach. It wasn’t meant to entertain, however reasonably 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 when you’re a bit startled by the response, like if you examine your teaching philosophy to illustrated bears.

“I knew, however I did not know, how completely different I used to be,” Aranda mentioned. “You reside up in your head. So if you do discuss, and also you let it’s identified 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 via 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 serious 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 mentioned. “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, but it surely was additionally his viewpoint of Baylor via his lens and the way he noticed himself as a fantastic match. That was considerably distinctive when it comes to the best way he defined that and laid that out. What it made me understand is that he understood not each place was for him.”

Aranda might 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 stress 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 mentioned, including he purposefully stored a darkish workplace with large screens to interrupt down tape, so he might simply keep in his world. “I did not actually discuss, 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 shield me or defend me from speaking after which it simply turned worse. I might take away myself loads. I simply would not interact, greater than something.”

The rub, after all, is that to be a head coach, you need to discuss. Aranda mentioned 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 vary, he mentioned, for the sake of his kids.

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

That is the essence of the Aranda expertise, in accordance 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,” mentioned 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 option 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 any individual mentioned ‘no’ or ‘I do not need to discuss to you or no matter.’ It was superb the data that he would come again with.”

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

“She mentioned ‘No, do not do it!,’ Aranda mentioned, 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 all 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 along with his arm pinned to his aspect.

His love and lack of soccer set him adrift. He tried to affix 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 pal 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 gymnasium rats, although it didn’t supply scholarships. He determined to attempt to rekindle his enjoying days, however his shoulder would not cooperate.

He was, nevertheless, given an opportunity to change into a scholar assistant, and Aranda relished the chance to deal with ball, as he says, the place he felt most snug. He started searching for out coaches to speak store. Anybody, anyplace. He turned enamored with Lynch’s ebook, “Pondering Physique, Dancing Thoughts,” and cold-called Lynch in 2001 to ask if he might make the 300-mile journey from Southern California to Santa Cruz to satisfy with him.

Lynch mentioned he would not sometimes do quite a lot of 1-on-1 conferences, as a result of his consultancy usually consists of work with whole groups. Lynch mentioned prior to now 30 years, via his firm, Approach of Champions, he has labored with groups which have made 54 Closing Fours and received 36 nationwide championships in school and the professionals.

“There was one thing about Dave when he contacted me,” Lynch mentioned. “I felt, via his phrases, a way of being real, genuine and susceptible. These are the three keys that entice me to individuals. It is nearly like, OK, I do not need 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 seashore, speaking about their shared curiosity in Japanese 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 career and simply wrote the foreword to Lynch’s latest ebook, “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 mentioned. “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 setting which permits that motivation inside to return out the place persons are not afraid. They are not afraid to fail. Steve Kerr creates the setting. Phil Jackson creates the setting. These are secure environments the place individuals will be who they have to be to be able 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 undecided Dave Aranda would elevate his hand,” Doyle mentioned. “It is like Plato’s ‘Republic.’ Typically the perfect ruler for a kingdom is the one that does not need 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 mentioned, 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 by which the Bears’ season opener was canceled 3 times on account of COVID earlier than they limped to a 2-7 file.

He knew Aranda would flip it round, although, as a result of he mentioned he all the time has a much bigger image in thoughts. Johnson recalled sitting subsequent to Aranda in New Orleans proper after they received 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 mentioned. “And he was like, ‘That is it?’ I imply, we simply received a nationwide championship. To him, it needed to be extra. There’s extra to be gained. I imagine 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 ebook suggestions throughout his time on the podium at this yr’s Huge 12 media days.

“There is a ebook by Shawn Ginwright that is known as ‘The 4 Pivots,'” he mentioned. “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 trying within the mirror. As they are saying, the mirror would 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 ebook in Aranda’s toolbox is one other one you’d by no means count on to listen to, the “Velveteen Rabbit,” a 1922 kids’s ebook about toys who hope to change into actual. For Aranda, it is the proper metaphor for the way soccer can assist you transcend into changing into a greater particular person.

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 quite a lot 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 all like, changing 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 change into 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 in search of his pig. It is a truffle pig. He was a well-known chef. He was disillusioned. Folks 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 favored, he remembered every thing about him. And so they did not know something concerning the meals. They simply needed to take an image that they have been on the restaurant and so he simply turned disillusioned, went into the wilderness, lived there along 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, grime, seems like a hobo. He simply seems tough. I believe he is the Velveteen Rabbit, you recognize?

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 needed to prepare dinner if you have been youthful?’ He sort of bashfully says, I needed 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’s worthwhile 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’s worthwhile to be you, you recognize?’

So, like, that was an enormous scene. That was an enormous a part of going into the season of simply the stress 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 nearly common.”

In order that’s how the 2021 Baylor Bears, the Huge 12 champions, have 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 change into contagious.

“My govt staff will let you know, half the stuff I now inform them, I’ve bought analogies or metaphors for,” Rhoades mentioned. “I by no means did that. However 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 choice to do one thing onerous, failing at it, then getting your self again up and out of the cave, like Batman.

“He can see meanings in issues that you simply would possibly simply view as leisure,” Johnson mentioned. “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 means of claiming what others aren’t afraid to.

“I knew he was sensible,” mentioned 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 would not take offense. He laughs when he remembers seeing Holgorsen at a Houston Landing Membership occasion final season, when Holgorsen mentioned 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 have been bizarre and sincere, however now that is a commodity. Congratulations.”

Holgorsen is true. Within the switch portal and NIL period, gamers are choosing colleges based mostly on quite a lot of components. Aranda is aware of there are gamers who would reasonably be challenged intellectually than processed via a soccer manufacturing unit. Baylor has been the latter prior to now. Now, it may possibly supply an alternate.

“The one factor about him is he is aware of who he’s,” mentioned 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 snug in his personal pores and skin to some extent that you could nearly 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 mentioned that three out of each 10 certified recruits may be a match for his sort of program. Even then, he needs his employees to drill down and examine these prospects, as a result of he continuously 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 mentioned. “We do not need to transfer quick. We do not need to be haphazard. I am making an attempt to speak to a few of the academics about like, how does this explicit dude deal with individuals which can be possibly 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 via the recruiting course of and have been struck by the conversations with Aranda, particularly as soon as Austin’s inventory began skyrocketing and different large colleges began calling, together with A&M.

Trey mentioned 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 mentioned, Austin would get a photograph with Fisher and inform him he will be his quarterback within the class of 2023. However A&M did not supply instantly whereas Baylor did. Austin finally developed a powerful relationship with Aranda on account of their related low-key personalities, in accordance with Trey, and determined to drag the set off.

“If Coach Aranda will not be there, we would by no means go to Baylor,” Trey mentioned. “I imply, that is how necessary Coach Aranda was. Everyone tells you do not decide the faculty as a result of the coach as a result of they all the time transfer round. However he informed 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 onerous press on Austin, who was interested by exploring the presents, notably as a result of he’d all the time dreamt of enjoying for the Aggies. He was nervous about trying into them and known as Aranda to speak it out, Trey mentioned.

“He mentioned, ‘Look, Austin, I am not going to be mad in any respect,” Trey mentioned. “You possibly can go. That is completely fantastic. I do know your persona. I do know you are gonna prefer it higher right here. So go test it out, I am assured you will be again as a result of I do know you effectively 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’ greatest recruiting wins in class historical past.

That is why Johnson mentioned 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 keep up 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 may very well be in demand throughout teaching carousel season, the Bears should work to maintain all of it on monitor.

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

Baylor defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, who has identified 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 scholar to a instructor to now being on “the chopping fringe of management on the Energy 5 stage and the way soccer applications are run.”

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

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

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