Newly appointed Chicago Red Stars head coach Chris Petrucelli met the press for the first time on Tuesday, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the franchise. The experienced coach, who comes to Chicago from SMU, laid out some aspects of his vision for the new era.
Creating a better environment for the players
Despite the tumultuous second half of 2021 for the NWSL and the Red Stars, Petrucelli emphasized the need to focus on the upcoming season and competing for a championship.
“We’re looking forward. We’re trying to win championships,” said Petrucelli. “We’re going to create a positive, supportive environment, and it’s going to be centered on the players.”
Such an environment is a welcome breath of fresh for the organization, following the end of Rory Dames’ time as head coach. Petrucelli also contrasted himself to the previous coach, sharing that he sees his role as more of a “support role”.
“I don’t view my role as a person in a position of power. I view my role as trying to help the players reach their goals. I work with the players, the players don’t work for me. I want to create an environment where players feel safe and feel free to take chances, take risks, and not be afraid to make mistakes,” he said.
The coaching search
The search for the new coach lasted quite a bit longer than expected. The Red Stars had hoped to announce a coach by the end of January, but it took a few more weeks before the search committee could finalize their hire. Today we learned a little bit more about the process involved in that search, which provided encouragement that Petrucelli was indeed the right man for the job.
“We had a tremendous amount of people that were involved in the search committee,” said the Red Stars Chief Business Officer, Vicky Lynch. The committee included nine current players who volunteered to be involved, as well as three members of the ownership group, three assistant coaches, and a sports psychologist. The players involved did not care so much about the coach’s nationality, gender, or professional experience, provided that they are the best possible hire. “[Hiring Petrucelli] was truly a consensus of the stakeholders in the search committee. It was unanimous. We’re incredibly excited to be able to offer the position to Chris.”
The interview process
The new coach shone a little bit of light on the interview process, which was seemed to provide further encouraging signs that the Red Stars had conducted a complete search process to find the best coach for the players and organization. Petrucelli even likened it to the interview process for the U.S. National Team.
“[The interview process] was very thorough. I interviewed for the women’s national team job twice, and it was nothing like this. This was very intensive, very thorough.”
Gearing towards the new season
Due to the extended coaching search, the Red Stars had to run the first three weeks of preseason without a permanent coach in place. Petrucelli had already been in communication with the coaching staff throughout the interview process, but he didn’t arrive until Monday and had the chance to be at training yesterday. Petrucelli says that there were a lot of smiles at training, and the team enjoys being around each other.
“The plan is to meet with every player and to start discussions with every player to get to know them, to find out what they feel good about, and where they may have some concerns. [...] From the outside, it seems to me like they have moved on. They are looking forward and moving forward.”