Clint Peay takes reins as head coach of Revolution
When Bruce Arena’s termination as head coach of the New England Revolution soccer team was announced, the circumstances surrounding his dismissal were like so many others in today’s sports — clouded in suspicion and controversy.
His departure, however, resulted in the addition of Clint Peay to the small number of Black coaches leading one of Major League Soccer’s 29 teams, even if on an interim basis.
Peay, who played for Arena at the University of Virginia from 1991 to 1995 and on the 1996 Olympic team, has found himself in the spotlight due to a situation that is none of his making.
“There is always a sense of hurt when you are called to replace a friend, especially considering my long-term relationship with Bruce, which stretches from my high school years to the present day,” Peay said in an interview Sept. 21. “But I now have a job to do, and I must be professional in my approach to the situation.”
Peay takes over the reins of a Revolution squad with a record of 13-10-6 and high expectations. With a background of winning from his high school, college (four NCAA Division 1 national titles) and professional years, which included three MSL titles with DC United, Peay feels he is prepared for the challenge of being the head man of a pro franchise.
“The difference from playing to coaching is a totally different experience. As a player, it is more about you and your personal play,” he said. “As a coach, you have much more responsibility for team goals and success.”
Until recently, the league had three other Black coaches: Chicago Fire’s Ezra Hendrickson, Columbus Crew’s Wilfried Nancy and Colorado Rapids’ Robin Fraser. Fraser was fired earlier this month, so with Peay’s elevation, the number remains at three, making up just 10% of the league’s head coaches. In recent years, about one-quarter of players have been Black.
For Peay, it has been a slow and steady progression up the coaching ladder. After college coaching stops as an assistant at Georgetown University (2003), Davidson College (2004-2007) and George Mason (2008), head coach at Richmond University (2009-2012), and eight years with USA soccer as a coach and scout with focus on youth development, Peay feels his time has come.
“This is an opportunity and challenge that I look forward to,” said the 48-year-old father of three.
Turning back the pages of his college history at the University of Virginia, Peay gives one the impression that he is well-schooled in this world’s ways. “When I came from high school in Columbia, Maryland, to UVA, I experienced a cultural shift,” he said.
In Columbia, a planned community that opened in 1967, Peay quickly points out that his environment was welcoming. “I was around a lot of people of different races — Black, white, Asian, Indian — and it didn’t matter,” he said. “And so, to be honest, going to UVA, I sometimes felt uncomfortable because there was a little bit more of a clash of races at the school. So, that was probably, in a lot of ways, a wake-up call for me. At times, I’ll have to admit it kind of threw me off. It just wasn’t what I was used to.”
He added, “The Black community was very tight-knit there at UVA. I was a guy who could kind of mix from this race to that race, and I was now in an environment where people were a little bit more guarded. But overall, I would say that I enjoyed my experience at UVA. And I never tried to limit myself to one type of race over the other race or segregate myself from people. I tried to be open to everybody.”
The valuable social and athletic lessons that Peay acquired at UVA should serve him well as the new coach of the Revolution.