03 Mar New assistant coach looks to make incremental impact in first season
Gavin MacLeod is new to Ohio State, but not to the state itself.
MacLeod, originally from East Kilbride, Scotland, became the newest assistant coach for Ohio State’s women’s soccer team in January, leaving his previous position as the associate head coach of Cincinnati’s women’s soccer team.
“I wasn’t looking for opportunities to move but when an opportunity like Ohio State comes along, it’s almost like a no brainer,” MacLeod said.
Growing up in Scotland, MacLeod was one of the few people that watched American sports.
“I would follow the NFL; I remember at a very young age drinking tea out of a Dallas Cowboys cup,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod said he knew he wanted to have a career revolved around sports, so he came to the United States to get a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and exercise science from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
“I knew that if I wanted to have better opportunities to do that, this was the best country to do it in,” MacLeod said.
He then went back to England to get a master’s degree in sports and exercise nutrition, and began coaching youth teams. He also worked with a Premier League team, Leeds United FC in England, before deciding to come to the U.S. to be a coach.
Originally, MacLeod was a volunteer assistant coach for the Bearcats in 2014, before rejoining the staff in 2017. He said he looks back on his first experience with Cincinnati as preparation for where he is today.
“It gave me the opportunity to experience what the college game was like to get a lot of experience in recruiting and all the facets of the college game,” MacLeod said.
When MacLeod returned and coached the Bearcats for three years, he helped the team set new program records, including in point totals and rankings.
MacLeod said the news coming out that he was going to be joining a team was a memorable moment.
“From the point it got out on social media, for about 12 hours, my phone didn’t stop, between people sending me messages, retweets and new people following my social media accounts,” MacLeod said.
Since joining Ohio State’s staff, he said he has noticed the professionalism and work ethic of the athletes on the team.
“I think the first thing you notice is how driven they are. How motivated they are to try to maximize the potential that they’ve got,” MacLeod said.
Lori Walker-Hock, head coach of Ohio State’s women’s soccer team, said she talked with MacLeod in recruiting and on the sidelines at games prior to hiring him.
When the assistant coach position opened up, she said MacLeod was one of the first calls she wanted to make.
“I was very impressed by Gavin’s professionalism and his knowledge of a lot of players,” Walker-Hock said. “We would sit and talk about players, he was very in tune with where players would fit in and what level players should be participating in.”
Walker-Hock said she was not the only one who noticed MacLeod, as people in the game she respected thought highly of him as well.
MacLeod is primarily working with the Buckeyes’ defense, and he said he hopes to bring a new perspective by making little fixes to improve the defending.
“Small incremental changes in what they do can make a very big difference, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I’ve been here,” MacLeod said.
Walker-Hock said she has been impressed with MacLeod’s mind for the game and how he has been able to add his own spin while keeping the traditional style of play the Buckeyes have used.
“He has identified some things that we can do better with the personnel that we have, what their strengths and their weaknesses are and how we can play into their strengths,” Walker-Hock said.
Even though he is joining the staff during a global pandemic, MacLeod said it has not been too impactful for him, especially compared to the challenges the athletes have had to face during COVID.
“I think it’s been a bit more of a push on the mental endurance of our players, but with what we see from them everyday in training, it looks like they’ve been able to cope with that very well,” MacLeod said. “They always come in with a great attitude, super positive.”
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