Guelph Gryphons & NMSC’s Onkar Dhillon On The Impact Of Coaching Women’s Soccer

Onkar Dhillon | Soccer High Performance Coach | University of Guelph & North Mississauga Soccer Club

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From an early point in my coaching career, it is the sport that embraced me and allowed me to grow and develop.!

Onkar Dhillon

Soccer High Performance Coach

University of Guelph & North Mississauga Soccer Club

× The interview with Onkar Dhillon was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Being an Assistant Coach of Women’s Soccer for the University of Guelph and the Head Coach for League 1 Women’s Soccer for North Mississauga Soccer Club must keep you very busy and require a lot of commitment.

A Firstly, tell us about your role as the Assistant Coach of Women’s Soccer for the University of Guelph and what does a typical day look like for you?

My role at the University of Guelph is an incredibly rewarding one and something that I am constantly humbled by. The ability to work with high performance student-athletes who are achieving at such a peak level in both academics and athletics is something that not many are able to do. These ladies work so incredibly hard to be great and most of our time goes to removing obstacles from them as they continue to realize their full potential.

In season a normal day will revolve around an early evening training time. Outside of that time will be lots of preparation for what we want to achieve that night and in the larger context of the week’s objectives. In the off season, our focus can shift to longer-term performance goals for the players but also our work in the Guelph community and not to mention program advancement and recruiting.

B Next, tell us about your role as the Head Coach of League 1 Women’s Soccer for North Mississauga Soccer Club and what does a typical day look like for you?

I’m relatively new to this role and COVID-19 has certainly affected our day to day tasks. Much of my first few months on the job was to go out and listen to the needs of the players in our catchment. I worked extensively with our commissioner on trying to identify specifically the needs of the modern-day high-performance athlete so we could make sure to deliver on those needs with the program.

In the subsequent months, we assembled the team and prepared for the season. Due to COVID-19, we moved to a training pool environment and over the fall we worked with the players to keep them sharp and giving them as much game realism as was allowed by our governing bodies. I think, given the circumstance, this was a huge success just to get these athletes out training in a safe environment in a year where many people weren’t able to do as much of what they wanted to.

You have been involved in coaching women’s soccer for quite some time now. Why women’s soccer and not men’s soccer? What sparked your interest in coaching women’s high performance soccer?

My entire coaching career has been in the Women’s side of the game. I don’t have anything against the men’s side and it’s entirely a personal preference.

From an early point in my coaching career, it is the sport that embraced me and allowed me to grow and develop.

I suppose someone in a decision-making capacity recognized that I would be an asset to the Women’s side of the club early on.

I am happy that they did, and I have never looked back.

It is evident that one will face more challenges no matter what role they have in women’s high performance sport.

A List three obstacles that you have faced as a women’s soccer coach.

I personally haven’t had to face many obstacles. I am fortunate that both institutions I work with place a huge importance on Women’s athletics and ensuring there are equal growth opportunities for Women’s and Men’s athletes.

I do believe that the sport as a whole has a responsibility to grow the Women’s game in Canada and create a professional outlet for our ladies. With that, there will be growth opportunities for Women in the entire ecosystem of sport including more playing opportunities, coaching, broadcasting, business, analytics and so much more. This is something that we all can get behind, I’m sure.

BList three things that you have done in trying to improve your role as both an assistant and head coach of women’s soccer.

1 Listening

I have learned to listen carefully to the needs of Women’s athletes. I have tried very hard not to assume I understand the best way to serve my players as our realities are not always the exact same. Especially in the high-performance space, these ladies are so driven and so self-motivated that they often know what will help them achieve excellence. I just need to continue to keep my ears open to those needs.

2 Continuous Learning

Continuing to become better at human development as well as soccer development: I work for a University and with senior players so even though I have the opportunity to be a part of their athletic development journey. I have always tried to prioritize the importance of human and character development as well.

3Respecting Others

Respect all of those that have come before you but do not be afraid to challenge old paradigms: There have been so many incredible coaches and players that have worked in the Women’s side of the game before me. The groundwork they have put in has been immeasurable. I try to respect and remember all of that great knowledge. I also am not afraid to take a closer look at “how things have always been done” again from a lens of respecting the past but how we can look to be better for these incredible ladies. They deserve that.

I noticed that you were a part of the staff for the women’s Team Canada at the World University Games (FISU) in Italy and Portugal. How did your experience as a women’s coach get you to that position? Tell us about your experience with these University level players as well as other women’s players from around the globe.

I don’t know that it was my experience that got me to that position. I think it was the welcoming nature of Peyvand Mossavat, and his staff Jose Valdes, Cindy Tye and Charlotte Vallières-Villeneuve that believed I could be an asset to the Canadian Women’s FISU Team.

Certainly, the experience working with USPORTS athletes was helpful as I had a base level knowledge of many of the athletes going into the training camp and competition.

The experience was something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. To be able to work with 20 of the highest calibre soccer players in the country in international competition was so incredible.

To watch these ladies problem solve, take on information at such a rapid rate and to witness how other countries approached the competition was also a huge learning moment for me.

How has the current pandemic impacted your role as the Assistant Coach of Women’s Soccer for the University of Guelph and your other role as the Head Coach of League 1 Women’s Soccer for North Mississauga Soccer Club? What has changed? What have you done as a coach to adjust to this new reality?

Both organizations have had their seasons cancelled which comes with its share of disappointment especially for graduating players at the University. Our training has been modified for safety in both programs and competition of any sorts has been eliminated.

The adjustments have been less from me and more from the players. I have had to make some safety-related adjustments but most of these come from our governing organizations who have done an amazing job.

The players have been the ones to make the best of it and enjoy the training they have received. In a year like this where people have lost so much, the ladies have stayed humbled and appreciative that they are given a safe space to get some training in.

SPMA SPMA's Final Thoughts

Onkar Dhillon takes his role as a Women’s Soccer Coach very seriously! He puts his heart into his teams and strives to assist his athletes in the best ways possible. With experience in coaching University and League 1 soccer, Onkar is a great example for aspiring Women’s Soccer Coaches. Onkar believes that the sport of soccer as a whole has a responsibility to grow the Women’s game in Canada and to create a professional outlet for women. With contributions towards women’s soccer from individuals just like Onkar this is definitely something that we can all get done!

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