Tuesday, October 15, 2013
In only her second season at the helm, Sandy Burris led the Carolina Elite Cobras to the W-League Championship final four in 2013 after a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. Also head coach at South Carolina State University, Burris is a respected longtime ODP, club and high school coach in North and South Carolina. She spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at South Carolina State and Belmont Abbey College before taking over the reins at S.C. State in 2013.
How did your involvement with the W-League begin?
SB: I’d worked as an assistant with Glad Bugariu for years in the college setting. When he started his involvement in the W-League as the original head coach of the Cobras, I was brought on as his assistant. When he decided not to continue with the team in 2011, I was promoted to head coach.
How beneficial can playing in the W-League be for elite college players, and those who want to play professionally?
SB: I think the W-League provides the highest level of competition other than the women’s pro league. It is a chance for top level players to train with other players at that level, with the same aspirations to improve their game and compete at a level that makes them better.
Why is the W-League important in the North American women’s soccer landscape?
SB: With the women’s pro league trying to find its home the past few years it has given the top-level players and the top college players coming out a place to train and play high-level games.
Overall, how do you feel the level of competition is?
SB: I have only been involved for two years but the level has improved each year. I have watched the league for many years and think it has helped develop some of our top players.
What level of player are you looking for while building your roster?
SB: Obviously as a coach you want the best players, but it is fun to find the players that if you give them a chance, no matter age or playing level, they rise to the level of the players around them and become an impact player.
Which team do you consider to be your toughest opponent?
SB: In our division I would say Charlotte, but overall I think Charlie [Naimo] and Pali have set the standard for the W-League.
What’s your top W-League memory?
SB: Making the final four in our second year  and proving we could play at that level.
If you could pick any player to build your 2014 roster around, who would it be?
SB: That’s a tough one. There are many on my roster that our team needs to be successful, and there are great players throughout North America. My favorite to watch right now is Crystal Dunn. If I’m speaking from experience, I would have to say Blakely Mattern is a player anyone could build a team around, with a great attitude and work rate.
What encouraged you to pursue coaching as a career?
SB: Meeting Glad Bugariu and having a chance to work with him and learn from him. I had been a coach for a few years, but he encouraged me to make a career out of it.
What differences do you see with soccer in general and player commitment/focus/goals today compared to when you started coaching?
SB: Womens soccer and soccer in general has evolved so much in the past 15 years. It’s so fun to watch a U12 game and realize those kids know more than my high school kids did 10 years ago.
Who has been your biggest coaching mentor?
SB: Glad Bugariu. I was his assistant for eight years and learned something new every day and enjoyed going to work. It was a great learning experience.
What aspects of coaching do you look at that define whether or not you’re successful?
SB: Winning games is the obvious answer, but I think if my team is learning from every game experience and growing as a team in training, sometimes that feels as good as winning a game.