For a team that won just three games last year, hiring one of the most successful women’s soccer coaches in the country might seem unlikely.
But that’s just what athletic director Heather Lyke announced in December with the hiring of Randy Waldrum to lead the struggling program.
Waldrum has been coaching soccer for the last 30 years. He comes to Pitt as one of the winningest head coaches in women’s collegiate history with almost 400 wins, which puts him at sixth most for Division I coaches.
Since joining the ACC in 2013, the Panthers have found little success in women’s soccer, going just 7-45-1 in conference over the past three seasons. Since Pitt hired head coach Greg Miller in 2012, the Panthers have gone 32-69-8 overall, winning just three games last year.
But since coming into the program, Waldrum has already noticed the big problems that have ailed the team for so many years. He said he plans to change the entire culture of the team.
“We have to really change that culture and in terms of the intensity and the expectations from the players on the field. That’s kind of jumped 70-80 percent of what they’re used to,” Waldrum said.
Besides all of the negatives this program and team have carried, Waldrum was surprised to see the players and program in a lot better shape than he expected when he arrived.
“I think we’ve got a core of some good players,” Waldrum said. “I don’t think they had a great vision of how they wanted to play.”
The players on the team have also responded well to the hiring. Redshirt senior forward Taylor Pryce was happy with how organized the team has been so far.
“You can just tell the intensity is just a lot higher, and he helped hold us all to a much higher standard, which helps [with] trying to change the whole culture of the team,” Pryce said.
One of the biggest changes with the team that Waldrum has focused on is improving the offense. He has shifted the focus of the team from being defensive to more attack-minded. Redshirt senior midfielder Ashley Moreira is supportive of this shift.
“We’re always used to … defending our half. He wants us to push higher, get numbers around the ball higher up the field,” Moreira said. “So we’re focusing on that mainly this upcoming season.”
Waldrum brings decades of soccer coaching and experience to the Panthers’ program. The former college and professional player has been coaching since 1989, when he began coaching double duty at Tulsa, heading both the men’s and women’s program.
“The good thing about those days is I got [to do] a lot of coaching,” Waldrum said. “As a young coach I got double the opportunities and I think that really helped my growth as a coach, but it’s a difficult thing to do.”
The teams continued to have great success and began to gain national attention. With a higher profile, both teams had to play against much tougher competition and it became harder for Waldrum to split his time between the programs. Waldrum compiled a record of 61-36-9 with the women and a 66-33-6 record with the men before leaving for Baylor University in 1995.
He was the inaugural women’s coach at Baylor, leading the brand new program to a 46-14-3 record in three seasons. He quickly moved up to the head coaching job of the Notre Dame women’s team in 1999.
Waldrum cemented himself as one of the country’s best coaches in his years with the Fighting Irish. In 15 seasons, he led Notre Dame to 15 NCAA tournament appearances, eight Final Fours and two National Championships — in 2004 and 2010 — with a record of 292-58-17.
Waldrum left South Bend in 2013 to take his first professional job with the newly founded Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League. While with the Dash, Waldrum was able to coach high profile players like USA National team midfielder Carli Lloyd and defender Meghan Klingenberg.
He noticed how much more time professional players had to take care of themselves and focus on their performance compared to college players.
“You try the best you can, but you got that exam the next day so you gotta stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning. And you got a late practice so you don’t eat at the time you need to so you’re eating at 9 at night instead of 6,” Waldrum said. “It’s much different in that regard because every focus that the player has is just on performance.”
During his tenure at Houston and with Notre Dame, Waldrum also coached internationally. He coached the U.S. Women’s U-23 team from 2012-13 and the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national team from 2014-16, an underfunded program.
“I was getting people in this country to sponsor by sending us boots, goals and you name it,” he said. “You felt good about doing it because those players really deserve that opportunity.”
After Trinidad and Tobago, Waldrum neared the end of his stint at the Dash. He left his head coaching job last May after going 19-39-3 in four seasons.
Waldrum has quickly introduced his offensive-focused style to his new team, and the Panthers have seen some results so far, beating Canisius, Robert Morris and Duquesne in spring season friendlies. Waldrum is satisfied with the performances, but says that there is still work to be done.
“I can already see the improvement from January until now,” Waldrum said. “A lot of parents have come out and watched a couple of the games we’ve played and … almost every one of them and said, ‘Gosh, how much better it is and how much different it looks from last year.’”