Barry Bimbi has been the head coach of the Loyola women’s soccer team for seven years. He’s taken the program from a 6-10-3 record in his first season to winning the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2018 and participating in the NCAA Tournament.
Bimbi took over the program in 2011 and said he quickly realized he had some adjustments to make. He said the players he had then didn’t fit the mentality he wanted the program to have.
“That was kind of a struggle early on,” Bimbi said. “It was a lot of ‘me first’ players. Where we try to weed out those players and get the ‘team first’ type of player. That’s definitely what we have now.”
Bimbi wanted the emphasis to be on building up the team and the program. He said he wasn’t looking for players who were selfish and the first four to five years were about building up the recruiting classes to bring the type of players he wanted.
One of the messages Bimbi has most instilled in the players throughout his time at Loyola is the idea of being a good ambassador of the program. Due to recent success, the team has been showcased and Bimbi said he wants to make sure the players are representing Loyola women’s soccer team well.
“When we go on the road, we always talk to them about remembering ‘Who you are, where you’re from and what you represent,’” Bimbi said. “We constantly remind them, ‘You’re not just a Loyola student. You’re representing the university, the athletics department, yourself [and] your parents.’”
Bimbi said being a good ambassador of the program also means leaning into the mentality of program-first. He said the mentality of the team when he got to Loyola was to win for the seniors or for an individual. Now, he wants the thought to be about the program.
“Let’s win because you want to leave the program in a better place than you came,” Bimbi said. “That’s the goal every year of the senior class. Look back over the past four years: are you leaving the program in a better place than when you came in? If we do that every year, it’s going to be sustained success.”
Associate head coach Franky Pelaez said creating these ambassadors wasn’t something that happened before Bimbi was around. He said it’s a process that takes time and starts during the recruiting process rather than when players join the team.
“It starts off with recruiting the person, not just the player,” Pelaez said. “They’re all players. They all have talent, but can the person be the right fit for the program? That’s where it’s changed. Taking your time doing it.”
Senior forward Madison Kimball said Bimbi’s focus on the team and creating a different mentality has been noticed. She said when she joined the team four years ago, it looked much different than it does now.
“It was a different type of culture, different mentality than it is now,” Kimball said. “Good things take time and I attribute that to [Bimbi’s] work ethic, his character [and] his desire to win.”
Bimbi credits the team’s success and the program’s development, not to the coaching staff, but rather to the type of player he’s brought into the program. The 2018 team was the first of Bimbi’s to make an NCAA Tournament appearance and he said it was because of the commitment the players had to the program.
“Before we even played our first game, there was talk about getting a bye in the conference tournament, winning the conference tournament and winning a game in the NCAA tournament,” Bimbi said. “We accomplished two of the three.”
Now the focus for Bimbi shifts from creating the mentality to sustaining the mentality. He said he hopes to continue the success of this year’s team by working off of the examples the players have set to keep the program moving forward.
“You need leaders to emerge in the group,” Bimbi said. “Looking to those players for the example that our captains set this year. Are they staying along that track? Are they adding things that they think is going to help? Continuing the tradition of the high standard of what our athletes are expected to do.”