It was elementary, really.
It was always within the realm of possibility that Ryan Anatol would one day make his way back to his alma mater. After all, this is his family.
“This institution has always had great people, and that is something I really love about USF,” Anatol said. “From the faculty and staff to the students and players, this is just a great place to work.”
No one is questioning Anatol’s qualifications.
It was easy to welcome back a former player who, while playing four seasons (97-00) for USF, helped the soccer team to two back-to-back Conference USA Championships in ’97 and ’98 and a place in the NCAA Elite Eight in ’97.
Of course this is not Anatol’s first coaching position. Before being hired this April, Anatol was an assistant coach on the University of Akron’s soccer team for two years. Under his supervision, Akron compiled a 28-10-5 record while also winning the Mid-American Conference (MAC) title in 2004. One might question why Anatol accepted the USF position with Akron prospering under his expert tutelage.
For Anatol, the answer to that question is simple.
“It was an easy decision with me being a former student and player,” Anatol said. “I’ve always loved the athletic program here. So when coach George Kiefer asked me to come back and help out the soccer team, I welcomed the offer.”
Never lacking in praise of Anatol, Kiefer can’t wait to see what he will bring in the upcoming season.
“Ryan is a great addition to the team,” Kiefer said. “He was a captain and has worn the shirt, and he brings some valuable experience to us.”
Coming back to a familiar environment was not Anatol’s only factor in returning to USF.
“I saw that the program was moving in the right direction,” Anatol said. “One of the most important things, though, was I wanted to be among coaches and players who have the same aspirations for winning as I do. Being able to compete in the Big East was another factor that brought me here.”
For a soccer team that was 5-3-1 last year in conference play, coming into the Big East is a chance to see if the players can improve upon that record. With players like Jordan Seabrook and Sammy Castellanos, Anatol likes what he see’s for the future.
“At this point I feel we have very talented players. I can bring my experience having been a part of championship teams,” said Anatol, who scored two goals and one assist in his senior season in 2000. “Sometimes if you haven’t been a part of those teams, it’s difficult to know what it feels like to play at that level. I was here at a time when we were very successful and I want to instill that same sense of success in the players we have now.”
Even from a young age growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Anatol had a passion for the game seldom seen in those so young.
“Soccer is the biggest sport down there; it’s all people talk about,” the 2002 graduate said. “I started playing when I was five. You play in the streets, in the lots, in any piece of grass you can find.”
Anatol’s success in the sport was seen early in his teenage years. Later on he played as a member of the Under-20 National Team (’95-’96) for Trinidad and Tobago. The rush felt from being selected to the island’s All-Star Eleven team as a senior would have gone to the head of other players, but not to Anatol’s. Being modest about your skills is a rarity in the sports world, but Anatol is a rare person in today’s self-centered society.
“I don’t know if I’m a natural,” Anatol said. “I had some great coaches and they had a positive effect on me. I always had great support from my family and friends. So am I a natural? I don’t know.”
Talk of returning to USF was always on his mind, but now that he’s back for good, Anatol is just glad that his dream has become reality.