By Chris Buckley - Staff writer
When it comes to coaching college soccer, you would be hard-pressed to find a person more experienced than Richard Nuttall. Now in his 26th season at the helm of the Hofstra Pride men’s soccer team, the England native has tirelessly worked his way upward to become the program’s all-time winning coach.
After graduating from England’s prestigious Carnegie School of Physical Education in 1984, Nuttall began spending his summers in the United States. Nearly three decades have passed since Nuttall permanently moved to Long Island to start his coaching career in 1988.
However, the decision to come across the pond for good was far from his initial plan.
“I traveled the world with friends in 1987,” Nuttall explained. “I worked all over the world. My intention was to come to Hofstra and work for two or three years in a part-time position. Then I intended to go live in Australia because I had spent a lot of time there. But essentially I fell in love with Long Island and this university and local soccer. It just evolved that way.”
To date, Nuttall has amassed 229 wins with the Hofstra Pride, giving him a record of 229-206-56. Prior to his arrival, the program had posted five losing seasons in nine years under three different head coaches. Needless to say, Nuttall helped transform a losing culture into a winning one.
However, in the beginning of his tenure, Nuttall quickly learned his new job was not always going to be easy.
“Back then, for our facilities, we had a grass field with no fence,” recalled Nuttall. “There was no fence around it, so we used to have people walking through our practices, students coming through. We didn’t have a sponsor; just getting the field watered and the grass cut was difficult at times. But, you don’t realize that it’s not great at the time, you just get on with it.”
Any time a new face is hired to turn a program around, be it in college or professionally, there is pressure on the new coach to succeed, from fans and organizations. But, from the start, Nuttall says the most pressure he felt came from himself.
“I think you always give yourself pressure internally to win games,” explained Nuttall.
“I didn’t really feel it from the administration, just to work hard and do my best. You put the pressure on yourself. It’s self-motivation. There’s no greater pressure than that. The pressure came from within.”
Early in his years as Hofstra’s head coach, Nuttall also continued his career playing with the Long Island Roughriders in 1994 and 1995. Having spent time in the English Football League with Stoke City and Leeds United, starting when he was just 15 years old, playing on Long Island helped Nuttall assimilate into his new career in the United States.
“It was a good level and I had some great friends on the team,” said Nuttall. “I was injured at the time with a bad knee, which I’ve had forever, but I enjoyed it. That was a fantastic team, we won a national championship my second year. I think it was probably the highest level of soccer at the time. It was enjoyable even though I was in the twilight of my career. I really enjoyed those few years with the Roughriders.”
Part of what makes Nuttall such a great coach and all-around person is the interest he takes in his players, not just while they play for him, but after they have graduated and moved on in their lives. Even though he has won three conference championships and helped lead the Pride to two NCAA tournament appearances, Nuttall says the players and what goes on, off the pitch, are what give him the greatest joy.
Nuttall said, “I love staying in contact with my players. I like seeing what they’re doing with themselves. That’s my biggest thrill. I stay in contact and see what they do and how they’ve progressed in their lives with families and the jobs they have. The thrill of the job never goes away. The fire gets bigger every year to be honest.”
On his time in Hempstead, Nuttall says he is nothing but grateful.
“I think I’ve been blessed,” said Nuttall.
“I feel very lucky to have been here for this time. The program has grown over the years, and so has the University. Every year they take a step or two steps forward as a university. I think the board of trustees have done a fantastic job at making this a better place to be a student or a student-athlete.”
He continued with, “I just appreciate all of the people who have worked for the program over the years, I’d like to mention them. It’s not me, it’s the players and the coaches and the administration. This is a wonderful place to be at.”
On Tuesday night, the humble veteran coach will lead his team out onto the pitch at Hofstra Soccer Stadium in search of his 230th career win in a match with Binghamton University. For Hofstra fans, that is a sight to be excited about for years to come.