Since assuming the role of head coach of UC Irvine’s women’s soccer team in 2006, Scott Juniper has wasted no time in making his presence felt within the program. In his six seasons coaching the team, Coach Juniper has helped the lady Anteaters soar to new heights. The team has qualified for the Big West Tournament in five of his six seasons here, with two of those tourneys culminating in a trip to the finals.
In 2010, Coach Juniper led the women’s soccer team to an unprecedented record of 19-3-2, which also saw the program reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in its history. They would capture the Big West Conference title without dropping a single game in the regular season, finishing the season ranked No. 2 in California and No. 14 in the nation. In recognition of his work, he was honored as the Big West Coach of the Year and the NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year.
In spite of the success he has enjoyed his career thus far, and Coach Juniper remains humble about his contributions to the program’s success in recent years.
“It’s a real multi-faceted approach that you need to have in order to have a successful program.” Coach Juniper said. “I’m only the coach, and I’m only one small part of it. We’ve got a fantastic institution to recruit players, and academically we’re highly regarded. From the recruiting to the medical support that we have in athletics, to the people that run the facilities, they’re all components of our success.”
Perhaps what is most telling about Scott Juniper as a coach is his ability to recognize the importance of soccer in relation to other aspects of his players’ lives. In a display of wisdom that seemed to betray his years, Coach Juniper explained that soccer should not hold that much precedence in regards to other priorities.
“If you put soccer above [the players’] health and well-being, you can’t be a successful team. If you put soccer above academics, then you are not fairly reflecting the nature of the experience because they’re students first, athletes second” Coach Juniper said. “If you set the priorities in the correct way, we do believe it’s the best way for them to flourish in every single one of those aspects. If you get all of those in the right order, [taking] care of your health and well-being first, family next, academics and career after, you can still flourish to your maximum potential in soccer. We feel our players are able to have a very fulfilling life on campus and off campus because they’re taking care of all the important things first.” Prior to coaching at UCI, Coach Juniper served as the assistant coach for the University of Bristol from 1998-2002, and UC Riverside from 2003-2005. Coach Juniper strongly emphasized that his coaching philosophy is something he has acquired over the years.
“When I first began to coach, I think I was desperate to prove myself, I had a lot of emotion in my coaching,” Coach Juniper said. “I think I have the ability now to step back a little now, and be a little more consistent with my coaching, manage the emotional side of the game a little better. I think the players have flourished more as I’ve done that.”
Having played soccer since he was four years old, Coach Juniper has practically been involved in soccer his entire life. In high school, he captained his team to a national title in 1995. He went on to play for the University of Bristol in college, and was recognized as the Freshman Player of the Year in 1996. While pursuing his Masters at the University of Bath, he would go on to add another National Championship under his belt and played for an assortment of semi-professional teams in England. Juniper even went on to base his Master’s Thesis on the group dynamics of elite soccer, with his findings being published in English F.A. Coaches Association Journal and “The Sport Psychologist.”
Despite his illustrious career and extensive history with the sport, Coach Juniper still sees himself as a student of the game and is constantly striving to better himself as a coach.
“The evolution of your coaching style never stops.” Coach Juniper said. “When I meet coaches that I admire, they are always coaches that are in pursuit of knowledge, searching for new ways to do things, for new ways to improve their craft. To evolve as a coach you must always have a constant thirst for knowledge.”
“It’s the little things. It’s watching young players come into the program, as 18-year-old girls, and they leave 21-22 ready to take on the next challenge of the their lives. Those things, watching the players grow, and graduate from the wonderful institution that we have and move on to the next stage of their career. That’s what I enjoy the most.”