Florida Tech Soccer Head Coach Ryan Moon’s Journey from Leader on the Pitch, to Leader on the Sideline

Florida Tech Soccer Head Coach Ryan Moon’s Journey from Leader on the Pitch, to Leader on the Sideline

moon is the fifth head coach in program history

To say the last 15 months have been a whirlwind for Florida Tech women’s soccer head coach Ryan Moon would be selling it wildly short. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – To say the last 15 months have been a whirlwind for Florida Tech women’s soccer head coach Ryan Moon would be selling it wildly short.

Moon was announced as the fifth head coach in program history on June 8, 2020, and went about accruing his first recruiting class.

This past spring, the Panthers played a six-game conference-only schedule, which was designed more for players and coaches to experience game action again than it was about wins and losses.

In May, the former center back and his wife, Florida Tech Sports Hall of Famer Teresa, welcomed Elliot, their second child. And this Friday evening, Sept. 3, Moon will coach his first game of record as the Panthers travel to Alabama to face Auburn-Montgomery.

Oh yeah, and he’s done all this amid a global pandemic.

Moon’s Panther career began in the fall of 2008 after a year at Lincoln University in his native England. During his three seasons in a Florida Tech uniform, he became a rock at the back as he started 42 of 43 games including all 31 over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, both of which he served as team captain.

His best season came in 2010 when he was named Second Team All-Sunshine State Conference as he helped lead the Panthers to the SSC Tournament Final.

Panther men’s soccer head coach Robin Chan knew straight away that not only had he brought a talented player into the ranks but someone who could organize a team on the field, traits that would serve him well down the road.

“When we recruited him, it was clear that he was a really strong leader and he plays in a position on the field that was important for us to bring in a character like Ryan,” said Chan. (Florida Tech image)

“When we recruited him, it was clear that he was a really strong leader and he plays in a position on the field that was important for us to bring in a character like Ryan,” said Chan.

“That leadership quality is something that got him into a captain position within the team very quickly. Obviously, the role of the captain is to represent the team a lot of times when we communicate back and forth, so we were able to develop a good relationship with that kind of dynamic.”

After his playing career concluded, Moon did what so many footballers do after hanging up their boots, he stayed in the game by moving into coaching.

Chan offered him an assistant coaching spot before the 2011 season and he repaid that faith by helping Chan guide Florida Tech to eight winning seasons in nine years, including a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016 and 2019.

Moon’s influence on the bench grew during his time with Chan’s staff, as he was promoted to Associate Head Coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

His work with the defense played a big part in that successful stretch as the Panthers had six defenders named to the All-SSC team, including Sam Sawyer being named SSC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.

Coaching your former teammates can be a thorny issue, as you need to have the respect of individuals you were playing with and going to class with not so long ago, but Moon handled that potential roadblock with composure. (Florida Tech image)

Coaching your former teammates can be a thorny issue, as you need to have the respect of individuals you were playing with and going to class with not so long ago, but Moon handled that potential roadblock with composure.

As Chan witnessed this play out in training daily, he saw the potential for his former defender to lead a team of his own one day.

“It’s been a fun journey and seeing him develop firsthand from a player into a coaching role,” Chan stated.

“It’s sometimes tricky for some people, but he was very mature and an old head at that time when he was coming into that role. The players respected him because of the role that he had as a captain on the team initially. So, it was an easier transition than some people have. I think once he got his head around being in a coaching role, he just grew every year. He was a bigger voice and became a very integral part of our success.”

Moon believes that learning daily from the man he played for has helped shape him into the coach he wants to be. One of the most important lessons gained was seeing the process that goes into tough decisions that he didn’t see as a player.

“As a player, you may think that it was a quick decision, in the game or for a starting lineup, but the reality is it’s a talk, it goes on a lot, back and forth and thinking about how it’s going to affect everyone’s mentality,” said Moon.

“I learned that from Robin when I moved into the coaching role. I think seeing his management of players and his availability to talk and listen mostly to players gave them that feeling of trust that I had for him when I was a player, I saw how he cultivated those relationships with players from the other side.”

Both Moon and the team have taken on the immense challenge of a coaching transition during truly unprecedented times. However, everyone involved is determined to make sure this pairing works.

“I think the positive from taking over when I did and it being a different kind of season was the benefit of the players having a new coach,” said Moon.” So they were motivated to train and work hard and impress; me being in front of a new team, I had that same motivation to show them what I wanted to bring, the culture, how we’re going to change things. From that point of view, it was easy to motivate from both sides.”

The usual Fall 2020 season was wiped out due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, so the Panthers were unable to take the field for the competition of any kind until a six-week stretch in March and April exclusively against SSC teams. (Florida Tech image)

The usual Fall 2020 season was wiped out due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, so the Panthers were unable to take the field for the competition of any kind until a six-week stretch in March and April exclusively against SSC teams.

One of Moon’s first tasks as Panther gaffer was shoring up a defense that had conceded 2.7 goals per game in SSC play in 2019.

“The main focus was to stop that, so we started at the front, worked our way back, and put a bit of pressure on high up but just being organized as a unit,” said Moon.

“We said as long as we’re not conceding goals, then we’re going to be in every game right away, and then gradually as the year went on, we started to work on more attacking play. But definitely, the organization and trying to keep defensively solid was a key aspect.”

Florida Tech did just that as they were unbeaten in four of their six games in the spring, including a victory over reigning conference co-champion Rollins.

More importantly, the Panthers conceded just three goals over those six games and kept four clean sheets during the mini-season.

As Moon sees it, if Tech is to make its way back up the SSC standings and notch their first winning campaign since 2017, it will take all 11 on the field putting in a shift every game, especially when the opposition is in their half.

“If you want to succeed in the college game, there’s not really a chance to carry any passengers that aren’t going to work hard,” Moon stated.

“We tried to install that in training, where there’s no one going through the motions. It’s intense in every drill and exercise we do, it’s full-on or we don’t do it. That’s how we expect the game to be, if we don’t have the ball, we want to win it back. Forwards working hard defensively and not just thinking about when they’ve got the ball but where should they be when we don’t have the ball. Can we win it high up the field, which will give us more chances and a better opportunity to score goals.”

Growing up in Bideford, England, Moon probably never envisioned that life and the game he loves would bring him to the Space Coast of Florida.

The boy who once dreamed of lining up for his favorite club Everton has now become the man looking to give back to the school that’s helped shape his world.

The biggest reason for that is he’s always remembered how Florida Tech took in a teenager from across the Atlantic and made him one of theirs.

“I think it was the way I was treated,” said Moon.

“I always felt this sense of trust from Robin especially and I felt that I was looked after when I was here but also the relationships I made while I was here.”

“Obviously, I met Teresa while I was here, some of my best friends I met here were groomsmen at my wedding. Florida Tech embodies that family atmosphere and all the values that go with that, so it was hard to leave. It’s a lovely place to be, a great environment to work in, and a place I hope to see myself at for a long time.”

Moon and the Panthers open the 2021 season this Friday, Sept. 3, on the road against Auburn-Montgomery. The kickoff is set for 8 p.m. EST.

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