Q&A with Bob Ammann, Part I

After 18 years of dedicated service to Cal State Fullerton, former Titans goalkeeper and long-time assistant coach Bob Ammann was promoted to lead CSF's men's soccer program. TitanCentral.com recently sat down coach Ammann and here is part one of that interview.

Bob Ammann was the Titans' goaltender during the 1983 through 1986 seasons. He posted 12 career shutouts including six in the 1986 season when he helped the Titans capture the Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship and their first NCAA Div. I playoff berth. His younger brother, Mike, was the Titans' goaltender 1990 through 1993 and went on to a long career in professional soccer. Bob played at the professional level for Neuchatel Xamax of the Swiss First Division in 1989 and 1990. He also played for Brighton and Hove Albion F.C. in England, the Edmonton Brickmen of the Canadian Soccer League and the Los Angeles Salsa of the American Professional Soccer League.

TitanCentral.com: You played at Cal State Fullerton from 1983 through 1986, and you were an assistant coach at the school for 14 years, so how does it feel to finally become the Titans head coach?

Bob Ammann: It's a tremendous feeling. As you know it's been long in the making. After finishing my professional career in Europe, and because my brother Mike was playing here, I came back and volunteered. That volunteer eventually turned into a paying position.

When we went to the Final Four in 1993 I already had decided I wanted to get into the coaching profession. It was at that time I was dangled the carrot, "In three years, the program is going to be yours." That three years was obviously lengthened numerous times [laughs].

Looking back, if I had known it was going to take that long, maybe I would have jumped at some of the other opportunities that I had. But, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It's allowed me to become more educated and it was time well spent. I am much better suited to be a head coach and run the program because I've seen the good and the bad and now I can make changes accordingly.

 

TitanCentral.com: The Titans soccer program is 35-53-9 over the last five seasons but before that they enjoyed a great deal of success in the not too distant past. What do you think it will take to return Cal State Fullerton to the Top 25?

Bob Ammann: Well, I don't think that we are that far off. I've seen over the years that the top has come down but the bottom has come up so even though we are at the bottom we really are not that far off. We are a couple players away. I think we have a tremendous start in getting Gab and Mike (FarFan brothers), national team players. They elevate the program big time. Players want to play with good players and the word is now starting to get out there. A sign of that is some of the kids I've already signed who are coming in the spring.

It's just... It's changing the mentality of the players who have been here and making sure that the new players that come in have that positive effect on them. The current players, they don't know about the past. They don't know that we were in the playoffs even in 2000. They look at the present. Currently they say, "Oh Fullerton is losing. Why would I want to go there?"

So it's important to get wins and get back on the saddle real quick. One of the ideas is that we have to scale down the schedule a little bit. Kids look a W's more than a tough schedule. So there's a whole philosophy change in regards to the schedule. We are not making it soft by any means but we are making it so we can compete, still have a high RPI so even if we don't win the Big West we still have a very good chance of making the playoffs.

 

TitanCentral.com: I have a few recruiting questions but let me first ask you something more general. Obviously one of your main recruiting tools has to be the soccer facility but what are some of the other tools you use to entice the recruits?

Bob Ammann: I think the proximity to the professional clubs. The majority of good players have aspirations of playing at the next level. The reality that a large percentage of them will go is not real high but that is a recruiting tool. Our facility, first and foremost, is one of the best and as long as we can keep it in the state that it is right now, that is a huge tool.

Being in Orange County has its pluses and minuses. One of the minuses is the recruiting of Orange County kids because they see it as a commuter campus and they want the entire college experience. We are getting much closer to that but I still think that is kind of a negative perception. What I try to do is, within my group of players, make sure that guys that we are recruiting get involved with them, see where they live... just because there's this vibe out there that we're a commuter campus, you can still have the entire experience at Cal State Fullerton.

So having a good team, a tremendous facility, and having the ability to go on and play at the next level, I think our the three keys to recruiting good players.

 

TitanCentral.com: You have played and worked under former head coach Al Mistri for about 18 years but every head coach puts their own stamp on a program. What will be the Bob Ammann stamp? (Any significant changes are you bringing to the team from the last few years?)

Bob Ammann:My stamp on the program is having a direct relationship with my players. It is so important nowadays to have open communication with the kids. I have seen a huge difference in the makeup of the kids and because of that you are now forced to be more than a coach. They look at you as a mentor. For a lot of my players I'm almost like their second dad. By communicating with them you get a really good relationship that then transpires and transcends onto the field.

One of the things I did immediately when I took over was that I met with every player every other week. Now it was a lot of work, it was a lot of time but it was what I needed to do to form that relationship, to bridge the gap that wasn't there before. Before it was, coach is there at practice, coach is there at games and that's it.

Now it's more than. My whole idea behind the program is it's a family. And you don't have a family and just show up for a certain event and then take off. I want, when my players are done playing, I want them to still walk through this door. If they're not walking through the door well then I didn't so something right. That's the first step to building a program. you have to have that foundation.