Q & A with Plymouth junior varsity soccer coach Glenn Liguori

August 30, 2017

Glenn Liguori and the Plymouth High School varsity boys (above) and junior varsity girls soccer teams participated in the RISE Leadership Program during the 2016-17 school year.

By Bryan Matecun

CANTON, Mich. – Glenn Liguori is entering his seventh year with Plymouth High School. He coaches the boys and girls junior varsity soccer teams and serves as an assistant coach for the varsity teams. The varsity boys went through the RISE Leadership Program in fall 2016, and the junior varsity girls participated in spring 2017. The varsity boys team is scheduled to participate in the program in fall 2017. The program takes place over the course of the season and uses interactive activities to address social issues and improve race relations. The program is designed to empower sports administrators, coaches and student-athletes to be leaders in discussing and addressing matters of racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusivity within their teams, schools and communities. Program participants learned about the history of race and sports, the power of sports to drive change and how they can become leaders in improving race relations. Liguori spoke with us about the program.

How did you first get involved with RISE?

Initially it was a request by our former athletic director, Kyle Metteyer. He had attended something as part of the training and wanted to introduce the program to the school, so he asked me and a couple of other coaches if we were interested. I expressed interest because of the perceived non-diversity levels within our school, and I wanted to introduce more leadership and more dialogue around the conversation to our soccer teams.

What do you think the students learned from the program?

I think the most common thing I hear or is suggested is that they need to be, or are being more, sensitive to what diversity means and how everyone is different for more reasons than just skin color.

What did you learn personally?

Personally, I learned more about the definitions behind diversity, race, ethnicity and the importance behind recognizing differences and how people perceive those differences. I also learned about the historical backgrounds of the athletes we profiled. There was more to the history than I had initially realized.

Is there any activity from the program that you found most useful?

The identity activities were the most useful. With the boys, everybody wrote different descriptors (about themselves) on a card. Then, they discussed what they wrote in groups and started tearing up the cards (until they were left with one descriptor that best defined each of them). With the girls, we did it on a sheet of paper and also had small discussions. I was able to mold the versions together and do a combination. It helped them recognize themselves, who they are and how they fit in within the greater context of soccer and being leaders. That activity really helped bring out the best in them.

What surprised you most about your student-athletes going through the program?

Going in, we felt that the students would really want to utilize social media to talk about going through the program, but a lot of them weren’t comfortable putting these types of things on social media. They’re more comfortable talking to each other about these topics rather than putting it out in public.

Have you seen any differences on the field that may have stemmed from the program?

Not so much with the girls on the field because we finished the program so recently, but definitely with the boys. Every time I come across them or talk to them, there’s usually some element of understanding that came out of the program. They recognize who they are and the differences among them, and they’re able to talk about it a little more freely now.

If you were recommending the program to a coach from another school, what would you tell them about it?

I’d tell them it’s a great opportunity to get to know your players a lot better, as well as help them develop great skills and understanding that they’re going to use for the rest of their lives. It isn’t just about talking about race; it’s more about understanding who they are and how they fit into their team and into their school.

Bryan Matecun is a summer 2017 intern for communications and marketing in RISE’s Midwest office in Detroit.