Coach Spotlight: Chris Grassie


Photo courtesy of Marshall Athletics

Marshall’s men’s soccer head coach, Chris Grassie.

Editor’s note: Chris Grassie, 40, is the second-year head coach of the Marshall University men’s soccer team. Previously, he was head coach at the University of Charleston, where he became the winningest coach in history. He coached the team to the NCAA Division II Final Four the last three seasons, while being the national runner up in 2014 and 2016.

Under his direction the UC soccer program reached No. 1 in the nation dropping to No. 2 after losing to Wingate University.  Grassie spent four years as an assistant head soccer coach at the University of Michigan from 2007 to 2010. The Wolverines won the Big Ten Championship in 2010 and appeared in the 2010 College Cup, losing in the semifinals to the eventual national champion Akron. He is a native of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom. He served as a graduate assistant at Marshall University in 2003-04. He played soccer professionally in England for Northwich Victoria.

This story is a piece written for Professor Burnis Morris’s JMC 330 class and is an edited version of the interview conducted by a student named Millard Stickler, who recently interviewed Grassie using a style borrowed from the Marcel Proust/Vanity Fair magazine format located in the back pages of Vanity Fair magazine, which is designed to reveal the private and personal side of newsmakers.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

A: I would like to think that I’ve got a sort of steady growth mindset. I’ve worked hard on trying not to react emotionally to everything. I was always the guy who would fight every battle and argue every point. You know I want to prove my point all the time. I am trying to be a little bit more patient and a little bit more willing to listen and not get offended first.

Q: What is the quality you most like in a man?

A: Positivity – if it came down to like somebody who is an energizer, someone who could walk into a room and lift people and be able to find solutions as opposed to problems. I would say overall positivity would be my favorite.

Q: What is the quality you most like in a woman?

A: I would say, I mean positivity is very important for both. I would say like my wife, she is sort of the glue that holds everything together. She can you know make me feel better and make me feel supported. She can reach out to friends and family and keep everybody connected and keep everything on the right track. So, I feel like that positivity-supported glue, amazing would be my favorite quality.

Q:  What do you most value in your friends?

A: Trust, I think it is the older I get the fewer friends I have, but the better our relationships are. Same with my siblings, my brother and I are very close. We don’t talk often, but once every couple months we have a long conversation, but we don’t need to because we have a shared history and have that trust that we won’t let each other down. I think with friends it is the same way. I consider the guys I work with friends of mine, and I would like to have that relationship with them. Having that trust and knowing that if you fall left they will catch you, and if they fall right you can catch them and we have a shared history together and it builds and builds and builds and that trust gets stronger and stronger. So, they can help you there.

Q: What is a trait you most deplore in yourself?

A: Probably anger, I grew up in a different time and a different place where there was a lot of violence and a lot of fighting and a lot of that everyday, and I think anger was something that was always felt, always felt angry. It was like I had this anger to tap into as I’ve gotten older I have learned how important anger is as an emotion, and it is something that you can show and use for your own means. As a younger man I think I didn’t use it, but rather anger used me for its means as opposed to me using it for my means and I think you gotta keep that in control and in check and make that work for you and not lashing out and not getting upset.

Q: What is your favorite occupation?

A: College soccer coach.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: My idea of perfect happiness? I think that the meaning of life is joy and happiness, and I think that perfect happiness would be if my neighbors, if my friends, and if my countrymen all had everything they needed. I think that it is a utopian society where we are all looking out for each other. I think like there is a fable that I have heard about heaven and hell. I’m not religious; I don’t believe in either one but heaven and hell being exactly the same thing. So, there is a big bowl of rice in the middle and everybody is sitting around the table chained to their chairs with chop sticks that are too long to get rice and feed themselves and they are all starving and miserable in hell. While in heaven it is the exact same picture, but everybody is feeding each other from the rice bowl. I thought it was very profound and sort of proper. So perfect happiness would be knowing that everybody is looking out for everybody else and were not trying to take everything for ourselves.

Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A: The lowest depth of misery would probably be complete and utter loneliness, complete lack of purpose and complete lack of human connection.

Q: In which country would you like to live?

A: I would like to live in America. I have lived in the UK. I have lived in Canada. I have always had this idea of living in Brazil, maybe do a sabbatical for a year. It would be interesting to learn a different language and work in a different language.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Malcolm Gladwell. He is a genius who kind of gets to the point of it and looks at things from a different angle in a way that most people don’t really see. It’s like he is coming at something from a different point of view, then by the time he is finished writing it’s like how did we not see that? How did we not look at it from that it is so obvious? … I quite liked this Chinese author of sci-fi, Cixin Liu, that was quite nice. I just read three books on him that were kind of sci-fi just took your mind out there. Steven Backster, I have enjoyed. My cousin wrote a novel called “Fox Law.” I really enjoyed her work; she is excellent. Eleanor Rosenberg got to have a plug in there.

Q: Do you have a favorite poet?

A: I like Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet.” I think that is a really nice book. My wife got me that when we got married an I really enjoyed reading that. I like Robert Frost, and I have actually started liking Walt Whitman.

Q: Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

A: I don’t know. I read a lot and listen to a lot of books on tape these days, so I don’t know if there is one hero or heroine that stands out in fiction. I guess I always liked Robin Hood you know like the stories and the Disney cartoon with the fox.

Q: Who is your favorite heroine of fiction?

A: I am going to go with Maiden Marion for the combination of her job is much more difficult being in a position of somewhat power and trying to negotiate politically you know that environment. I would have to say those two are the classy ones.

Q: Who are your favorite painters?

A: I quite like Mark Rothko, the big giant different colors where you just kind of stare at them and see something different all the time.

Q: What are your favorite names?

A: My favorite names are Ever and Ia. They are my kids.

Q: What is it you most dislike?

A: I would say in my profession I hate when people take things for granted.

Q: Which talent would you most like to have?

A: Which talent besides being able to fly. I would love to be able to… God, I would love to be able to speak many languages. I would love to speak every language to be able to talk with every person on the planet that would be awesome.

Q: How would you like to die?

A: How would I like to die? Honestly, as a 5,000-year-old man surrounded by loved ones.

Millard Stickler can be contacted at [email protected].