Three decades ago LaValle Stadium did not exist. Yet, three decades ago, coach Sue Ryan was at the helm of the Stony Brook women’s soccer program.
When she started, “the arena was a parking lot,” Ryan said, “The stadium was a dirt patch and the football team played in a wooden stadium besides the parking lot and grass fields the soccer team played on.
“It was a different world. It was like a completely different university.”
Over the course of thirty years, Ryan has made the women’s soccer program a contender. After taking over in 1984, she has led Stony Brook’s soccer program from its infancy as a Division III program to its current place atop the division one America East Conference.
Soccer has always been a part of Ryan’s life.
“I think the link between loving the game and enjoying working with people leads me to enjoy the teaching and coaching profession,” Ryan said.
It is only by coincidence that Ryan ended up at Stony Brook.
“I’m a very family oriented person,” Ryan started, “I went away to school to Cortland but I knew I wanted to stay on Long Island, by my big extended Italian family. I wasn’t even out of school for six months when this job opened and I applied for it because of the location.”
Ryan’s career has shadowed that of the athletic program. Since joining Stony Brook, the athletic program has grown from the lowest level of college athletics to the top level it resides at today.
“One of the challenges we faced when we went from division three to division one was scholarship money. It was a tough transition but once we got the scholarship money it led to more success and allowed me to get full-time assistant coaches,” Ryan said.
Winning the first American East championship was a special time for her and for the program, Ryan said.
She said, “(We had) been chipping away and getting closer and closer to that success. And over the past five years we’ve been in that top category of playoff contention and the previous two years has really seen the fruition of all that hard work over the years.”
One thing Ryan makes very clear is her message, refined through all her years of coaching and all of the lives she has touched.
“Sometimes people will ask, ‘Do you coach soccer,’” Ryan began, “No,” she tells them. “I coach people. I just use soccer to coach people. Soccer is my passion and I enjoy being around people who share that.”