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Sandy Davison joining Arizona soccer as assistant coach

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Arizona soccer has hired Sandy Davison as an assistant coach. Davison joined the team a couple weeks ago and her hiring is expected to be made official Wednesday.

Davison comes to Arizona from Indiana where she was an assistant coach for the 2018 season. Before that, she was an assistant with the Washington State Cougars for four seasons.

Davison replaces former UA assistant Kate Norton, who left the program in February after two seasons. Arizona head coach Tony Amato said the impetus for hiring Davison is her ability to, well, coach.

“We want all of us to be soccer coaches first. That’s what the players need,” Amato said. “I know it sounds funny, but sometimes when you start going through the interview process and you call around, some people are like, ‘oh, they’re good in the office. They’re organized.’ I want you to say first that they can coach.”

Prior to the 2018 season, the UA soccer coaching staff also handled administrative tasks like planning team meals and booking flights and hotels. But Tara Barrett, who doubles as UA gymnastics’ director of operations, now handles that role, giving the coaching staff more time to focus on improving the product on the field.

In addition to her experience at IU and WSU, Davison has an extensive background in youth club soccer, as well with U.S. Youth Soccer National Teams and the Olympic Development Program.

Davison made the jump to the collegiate level in 2011 when she joined UNC Greensboro’s coaching staff.

“I’ve had situations before where I’ve hired assistants who had no college experience, and that is not who Sandy is,” Amato said. “She comes with coaching experience, she can coach, she has recruiting ties, and she’s been to a Sweet 16 at a Pac-12 school when she was at Washington State. So it’s a no-brainer for me.”

Davison joins Paul Nagy as one of two assistants on staff. Arizona has had at least one female assistant coach on staff since Amato arrived at Arizona in 2013, and hiring Davison ensures that trend will continue. Amato said he values diverse points of view.

“I think having a female on staff is important to me, because you can be tone deaf to some stuff if you’re not, and I think that’s really important,” he said.

At the same time, Amato rebuffed the idea that adding a female coach was necessary because they make better connections with female players.

“It’s always player to player,” he said. “Sometimes a player would feel more comfortable talking to Kate, but there’s another player who wasn’t and they were more comfortable talking to me or Paul (Nagy). It’s not so much gender specific and I think sometimes that’s where people view it as you need a female on staff to connect to the girls. But I don’t see it that way. All of us have to connect to the players in some way.

“Our way is not going to necessarily be we’re connecting because we’re their friend or we know what their favorite song and Netflix is. Maybe that can be a factor, but the true connection coaches make, whether you’re male or female, is through making that player better. You connect through performance, you connect through coaching them, or making their life better through being a better student, or handling some stuff off the field. You connect that way and that’s usually when you have the most success. And that’s what I wanted for all three of us.”

Davison’s first chance at striking a connection came during the interview process when she chatted with a few UA players before a training session. By all accounts she made a strong first impression.

“She’s really cool so far,” forward Jill Aguilera said in March. “She’s only been here a couple days, but she seems really nice and I’m excited to work with her in the fall.”

“She’s really driven,” added forward Brynn Moga. “She knows a lot about the sport, obviously, and she’s come out here and has been nothing but positive.”

Arizona went 13-6-2 in 2018, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.

The Wildcats host New Mexico on Sunday at 11 a.m. MST, their third game of the spring.