August 13, 2018
As Kwame Oduro enters his 4th season as head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer program, he continues to search for a balance in juggling the team’s performance in the classroom, on the field, and engaging the alumni. During his time leading the Bonnies, he has led a resurgence for a program that was once considered the bottom feeders of the Atlantic 10 conference.
In 2014, the year prior to Oduro taking over the reign of the New York state university program, the team finished 1-15 its worst record in over 10 years. But since he took over, the Bonnies have improved gradually every season, and in 2017 the team finished with its best record since he took over at 8-9-2. As the team enters the 2018, it will look to finish above .500 for the first time since the 2010 season. Yet, Oduro hopes that the team’s biggest accomplishments continue off the field, as the Bonnies have been recognized by the NCAA for a standout Academic Progress Rate (APR). In 2016, the team finished the fall semester with a 3.112 GPA. Oduro is also extremely proud of the alumni ability to remain engaged with the program. We had the pleasure to sit down with him to learn more about the Bonnies and how he plans to continue to lead the program into the future.
blacksoccercoaches.org: You were born in Ghana but moved to Canada in the early 2000’s to earn a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and eventually Master’s degrees in Organizational Leadership and Sports Administration. How important is it to pursue higher learning degrees prior to pursuing a college head coaching role in the NCAA?
KO: Coming from an African background, we are taught that education is important. So even though we all aspire to be good soccer players, in the end we must pursue the highest education possible. Most athletic administration and hiring committees are looking for a Master’s degree, and generally, it has become a prerequisite for most collegiate head coaching positions. I made sure I got a Master’s degree to gain an advantage over my peers, I got another one while I was an assistant coach.
blacksoccercoaches.org: You were hired in 2014 to help shape the St. Bonaventure program and were able to double your win total in 2016 from four to eight in 2017. As you enter into your 4th season, what expectations have you set for the team in 2018?
KO: We made the playoffs last year after an 8 year drought. Our expectation is to make the playoffs again. I wish we could double our win total again but realistically that won’t be possible. Our 2018 out of conference schedule is very strong and I am hoping that prepares us to compete in the Atlantic 10 conference season. Once we are in the playoffs, then the next goal is to win a conference title.
blacksoccercoaches.org: When you first started at St. Bonaventure how would you describe your initial approach to building the program and has that changed now four years in?
KO: When I first started at St. Bonaventure, we had 9 players in the spring. So we joined a 7v7 tournament and ended up winning it. Most people thought we should not have even bothered with a team that spring, I disagreed and we ended up having a decent spring season. With any rebuilding program, it is about bringing back pride of being a ‘Bonnie’, setting expectations, getting kids with good work ethic, and instilling discipline on and off the field. If you didn’t fit the new culture, then you couldn’t play for the Bonnies. I will admit we made mistakes sometimes on the type of players we brought in but we made sure those mistakes were corrected right away. In the past 4 years, the program has been on a rise. We are recruiting higher caliber players, competing at a high level and winning. In addition, our team GPA has been over 3.0 the past 3 years and our players are maturing as good men. So our approach hasn’t changed, but expectations have become higher individually and as a team.
blacksoccercoaches.org: When building a college soccer program, what are your top 3 long-term goals and objectives?
1. Changing the culture and sustaining that culture.
2. Compete at a high level and make the post season each year in hopes of winning a title.
3. Connecting with our alumni, so they can help with funding to continue to improve our budgets and facilities.
blacksoccercoaches.org: What is your style of play at St. Bonaventure and how difficult has it been to find student-athletes who suite that style?
KO: Our style of play is the style that gives us the best chance to win games. We want to keep the ball when we can but if the game warrants us to be more direct, then we will adapt. We are a defensive team first and we want players that are willing to defend and attack with the same intensity. We tell our players, everyone defends unless you are scoring 10 goals a season. We recruit athletic players and add a mixture of intelligent players. Our school is beautiful and when students come on recruiting visits they fall in love with the campus and what we have to offer. Our recruiting has been great and my assistant coach, Ryan Arvin has done a great job of identifying players that fit our culture.
blacksoccercoaches.org: Recruiting season ended a couple of months ago, what goals and objectives did you set and do you feel that you have accomplished them to secure the future of the St. Bonaventure program?
KO: Recruiting is never done for us. We are always on the hunt for better players. In our 4th year at St. Bonaventure, we can now recruit specific positions, which makes it a little easier. With that being said, I think we have accomplished our goals and needs for the future.
blacksoccercoaches.org: What do you look for in a student-athlete who wants to attend St. Bonaventure?
KO: There are 5 things we look for when we watch our prospects play and through preliminary stages of recruitment:
1. Discipline – prospects that show discipline in the classroom and on the field.
2. Mature and high character prospects, who respect his teammates and family.
3. Mentally tough individuals – how players react to adversity.
4. Good athletes – I can’t teach athleticism but I can help improve a player’s technical skills.
5. We want our players to be good intelligent soccer players.
We demand our players to continue to show those traits throughout their collegiate careers and beyond. Our job as a program is to improve those traits.
blacksoccercoaches.org: What have been some positives for your program during your time at St. Bonaventure, and what would you like to see the school improve to help you to continue to build your program?
KO: There has been a ton of positive things here. Just to name a few, the welcoming community here is extraordinary, the campus is beautiful and we have some great soccer alums that care about our program. Areas of improvement is to continue to upgrade our facilities, which are happening each year. We would like to have more scholarships so we can keep competing with the elite Division 1 programs in our conference each year.
blacksoccercoaches.org: Where do you see your program at this stage and what are the next steps moving forward?
KO: Our program has grown very quickly since 2014 when I took over. We have exceeded expectations and we want to keep that momentum going. I don’t want our program to take a step backwards, we want to continually recruit quality recruits, increase home game attendance, increase budgets and compete at a high level against any team in the country.
Thank you and Go Bonnies!
blacksoccercoaches.org: Kwame thank you for a great interview and for taking the time out. To follow the Bonnies this season, you can click here to view their schedule.