By Pat Tintle
From West Africa to Western New York – Coach Kwame Oduro has traveled far to continue being a part of the sport he loves.
Appointed the seventh head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer team in mid-December, the Ghana native is plenty familiar with the American university atmosphere. Oduro graduated from Niagara University in 2007, earning a degree in political science. He also played soccer for the Purple Eagles, for whom he captained the school’s winningest team while taking home the team’s Most Valuable Player award.
For the past four years, Oduro has been serving as the assistant coach at Canisius College, which has seen its soccer program excel in recent years, while setting a new record for wins. To add to his impressive resume, Oduro has received top 25 votes from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America several times.
Oduro is walking into a similar situation at St. Bonaventure as when he entered the Canisius program – a struggling team with small means of recruitment. As Oduro is well aware, the Bonnies were just 1-15 last season, but that does not change his dedication as he prepares for his first head coaching job.
“In my previous coaching experience, we’ve had to rebuild a team – a team that didn’t do well and rebuild them and make them better,” Oduro said. “So that’s what I can do here. I know what the process is and I can help with that process. I’m a big believer in discipline and hard work. If you can instill that in your kids, hard work will win you a lot of games. I want to get that in the kids’ heads and make that a culture here.”
The Bonnies have not seen a winning season since their 2010 effort of 10-8-1 and are coming off of the worst season in school history. While Oduro will start next season with eight returning players, he wants to emphasize team chemistry rather than individual talent.
“It’s really hard to gage right now,” Oduro said. “I’ve told my team that it’s all a matter of how well we gel together. If we can, we can do good things. I think there are some talented players on the team, but you have to build a whole team together.”
Of the Bonnies’ 15 loses last season, 12 were shutouts.
“Our objective is to be competitive in every game. Some of the games (last season) were 4-0, 5-0; you have to give yourself a chance. If we can sort ourselves out defensively, then we can give ourselves a chance in each and every game that we play.”
Coming from a country that treats soccer as a way of life rather than a collegiate competition, Oduro recognizes that an American soccer player is a different breed than a player from a more soccer-oriented country. While Ghanaian athletes have been playing the game for most of their lives, Americans have a wide-range of sports to play – an aspect that creates a unique kind of athlete, Oduro has observed. “There is a difference,” Oduro said about American soccer players. “Foreign players are more technical. They can pass a little better; they can see the ball a little better than American kids can. Their soccer knowledge is a little higher; reason being is that if I’m from Ghana – all I know is soccer. Here, kids are involved in basketball, baseball. There are so many other sports pulling them away.”
Despite being given the burden of a program-makeover, Oduro is exactly where he wants to be – the head coach of a Division I soccer team.
“I’ve been coaching for a while,” Oduro said. “I’m excited to get going rather than being nervous about what I’m doing. I’ve been mentored really well by my previous head coach, Dermot McGrane, so I think I’m ready. I’m excited to go.”