An Eye on the Goal

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Longtime soccer player Eric Watson '93 is now an award-winning coach
From the Winter 2010 Caller
By all accounts Eric Watson ’93 was a superb athlete at Catlin Gabel. But he knows he didn’t just go it alone, and that great coaches make great players. Now it’s his turn. A teacher and soccer coach since his college days, Eric loves working with his student athletes to realize their potential to become better players—and better people.
Eric had some fine role models at Catlin Gabel. “Mike Davis, Brian Gant, and John Hamilton were always there to inspire, instruct, and occasionally discipline me if my competitive desire got the better of me,” he says.
Eric concentrated on mathematics for his undergraduate degree from Williams College, and earned his master’s in leadership and sports administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. During summers he coached at Mike Davis’s soccer camps, which led to a job teaching and coaching at a private boy’s school in Connecticut. After a year there, Eric got an invitation from his coach at Williams: would he consider coaching there, at an 85 percent pay cut, with no benefits? “I jumped at the opportunity,” he says.
That opportunity paid off for Eric. He moved on from Williams to a coaching job at the University of Richmond, then finally got his big break: the position of head men’s and women’s soccer coach at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. “I was fortunate enough to have a very talented and dedicated group of players,” he says. The team advanced to the NCA tournament twice during his five years there, and Eric was voted Coach of the Year in 2005.
Another great chance came his way, and although he had loved being back in Oregon, Eric moved to New Paltz, New York, where he is now the men’s soccer coach at SUNY New Paltz. He lives there with his wife, Paola Gentry, and their children, Aracely, 7, and Oliver, 4. He also serves as assistant coach with the United States Under-23 Women’s National Team.
Eric says it’s never felt like a job to him to make a living in soccer, a game that has always been his great passion. “I feel that I can show my players how to best approach a passion of theirs, whether it is athletic or academic, and then use my position as a coach to help them reach their goals,” he says.
“The challenge of trying to make my players, my team, and the overall program better keeps me going back, day after day. Certainly there are days, especially after a loss, that make going back more difficult, but as long as there are still games to be played the team can improve and we go back to work. In the end the real job I have done won’t be measured in the four years I have direct contact with my players, but in 5, 10, or 15 years after they leave the school and forge their lives out in the world.”