MERIDEN — Danny Gutierrez makes no mistake about it. He’s a disciplinarian and a self-described no-nonsense coach.
And he has his hands full as the new Platt girls soccer coach.
Gutierrez inherits a squad that has gone a combined 12-65-3 in the previous five seasons.
“I’ve seen this team the last few years and I think there’s talent; they just need someone to push them,” Gutierrez said. “I’m the kind of coach where I’m not nice. I tell the kids straight to their face, ‘I’m not going to be your friend; I’m not paid to be your friend; I’m here to push you to your max,’ and so far they are pretty good.”
Gutierrez held tryouts last week and announced the varsity and JV players for the 2018 season through a written evaluation for each player. The paper showed the girls specifically what skills they need to improve in their game this season.
“They try out and I watch their foot skills and the way they take headers, trap the ball, pass the ball,” Gutierrez said. “These are the fundamentals and, if you don’t have those skills, you aren’t going to be a soccer player. You are going to be a kickball player. I tell the kids, ‘I don’t coach kickball. I coach soccer.’
“Soccer is a little more complex because you have to think and look what is around you. There are a lot of things you have to do all at the same time. You have to watch the with your feet and you have to watch behind you to see if you have pressure coming from behind you. Then you have to think what you have to do next and you only have split seconds to make these decisions.”
Gutierrez grew up in New Jersey and moved to Meriden in 2001 with his wife Maura. The couple has three daughters, Anani, Alexa and Brisa. Anani, 16, is a junior defender for Platt. Alexa and Brisa are 12-year-old twins.
Gutierrez has coached in the Meriden Soccer Club for 12 years and, last year, coached at Lincoln Middle School. He got a call in March from Platt athletic director Rich Katz about the opening at Platt.
“I talked to my kids about it,” Gutierrez said. “My twins are very mature for their age even though they are only 12-years old. So I will coach my oldest daughter for two years and they will follow. They will all get the experience of me coaching them.”
Guiterrez, a carpenter, is the owner of Daniel Gutierrez Construction. As he goes about rebuilding the Platt program, he said he wants his players to be disciplined.
“I don’t take nonsense from anybody,” he said. “I’m very strict with them. I have rules. I tell them, ‘I can care less about their boyfriends; I can care less about their social media.’ Phones aren’t allowed. Practice is at 2:30 and that’s pretty much it.”
Expect that passion to continue once the season gets under way. The Panthers open on Friday night against Berlin at Sage Park at 6:30 p.m. Their home opener is next Tuesday afternoon against Middletown at 3:45.
“During games, I’m very agressive,” Gutierrez said. “I’m very passionate and I’m not the type of coach to stay quiet all of the time. I will start on the bench, but two minutes later [if] I don’t see what I like, I will start screaming my lungs out.
“One thing I don’t like, if we are losing and we don’t run hard after the ball, they will go to the bench. It could be Lizzie Garlock, the best player on the team. If I don’t see the effort, I’m going to make an example out of them. Everyone runs on this team.”
Gutierrez said he’s realistic that it will take some time to turn things around at Platt. He said the change will start with a coordination with the middle school.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an immediate turnaround,” Gutierrez said. “I think a lot of the parents are going to be happy with the effort the girls are giving. They will be working hard and playing hard, and if I can manage to win four games this year and keep the deficits to two goals when we lose I will be happy with that. I don’t mind losing, but I don’t like getting killed.”
A measuring stick stands to come as early as Friday night in Berlin. The Redcoats twice defeated the Panthers last year by a combined scored of 14-0.