AFC Ann Arbor have confirmed the return of Ron Rudland to the coaching staff for the 2019 season. Ron, the father of AFCAA head coach Eric Rudland, has spent time as a member of Eric’s coaching staff at his previous stop in Lansing, and also coached the younger Rudland during high school at Parma Western. This is season number four that Ron will be spending with the club.
Ron is a legend of the sport all throughout the state of Michigan. After playing (American) football during high school at Flint Carman, he began a soccer career at Olivet College, where he says his love for the game stems from. After that, his coaching career began. He describes the process, saying, “I was given the opportunity to start a soccer program at Western HS in Jackson County back in 1985 and was the Varsity coach there until this past fall. I also coached club soccer and have seen several of my former players now become coaches themselves.” The sport has also given him the opportunity to both teach and learn, as he says, “Soccer has given me the opportunity to not only teach young men the game of soccer but also teach lots of life lessons. [It] has taken us around the world from Europe, South America and many places in the United States.”
For Eric, it is a special experience to be able to coach with his father. Eric says, “Obviously the football is what brings us together, which is true for all of the staff.” He continues on, though, saying, “But having my dad involved has been a special dynamic. He has keen insight that comes from years of experience in the game, teaching and managing players.” For Ron, too, it is a fantastic opportunity to have some quality family time. He says, “I enjoy coaching with Eric because it gives us time to spend together which is hard to do the rest of the year between my teaching and his club coaching schedules.” Amidst busy schedules, the connection AFC allows the two Rudlands gives both the chance to connect over a shared passion.
As with so many coaching families, talk of coaching and the sport is not limited to just the time on the pitch or at training. As Ron describes, “During the season we are on the phone all the time talking about personnel, scouting the teams and just basic soccer talk! Off-season we still talk soccer but more about player recruitment and club news.” Eric added about the familial dynamic, “Coaching is a common thread in all discussions in the Rudland household, and it's been that way since I can remember. My dad began coaching soccer when I was five or six, so it's really all I've known.” He also joked about the scenarios he and his father could frequently find themselves in saying, “The most recent dealings with players, talk of soccer tactics, an upcoming match and/or a new way to organize a training activity were (and still are) normal dinner conversation...probably much to my wife’s and mother's despise!”
With so much experience attributed to him, the presence on Ron on the sidelines gives another set to brilliant eyes to coach with during training and to make adjustments during games. The partnership between the senior and junior Rudlands has brought great success to Ann Arbor, and the hope is certainly that it will continue into the 2019 season.
When asking Eric what the greatest lesson he learned from his father, Eric said, “The greatest example is the passion my dad has to grow and learn. I always remember, still to this day, him reading books, watching coaching VHS tapes, talking to other coaches on the phone...always eager to find the next nugget of gold that would allow his players and team to be successful.” He continued, saying, “This desire to learn and grow really is what helps coaches stay sharp and provide the best environment for players to develop and win.”
With the coaching staff of The Mighty Oak set to return all four assistant coaches to the organization, this lack of turnover has offered a sense of stability for the upcoming season. Instead of what Eric described as an “acclimation period”, he says, “There is a commonality in how we work, our vision for the team and a familiarity with each of our roles & responsibilities.” The hope is that this understanding will allow the staff to grow and flourish as well as they have in previous seasons from the first moment of the season.
Bringing it back to the elder statesman of the Rudland family, he has plenty that he is excited for. He says, “I always look forward to having the chance to work with the fine group of young men that play on the team and spending time coaching with Eric and the rest of the coaching staff.” In terms of a favorite memory during his time in Ann Arbor, he says, “Every time I show up, I have fun being there! But the neatest memory is probably the first season playing away at Detroit City, which was the first game ever held at their home stadium in Hamtramck.” With plenty of positive results and atmospheres that, as Ron described, have been “exhilarating” in the past, the best is yet to come.
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.