FRISCO, Texas - To say Richard “Dick” Hall had a massive impact on the growth of soccer in Dallas/Fort Worth and the development of athletes in our community would be a massive understatement. The England-born former Dallas Tornado player came to the United States in 1970 after playing for Weymouth and Bournemouth in England.
Hall played for the Tornado from 1970-1976, helping lead the team to the NASL title in 1971 as a defender, earning All-Star honors throughout his career. After earning his U.S. citizenship, he earned four caps with the U.S. national team between 1973 and 1975.
From 1971-2010, he served as the boys’ soccer coach at Addison’s Greenhill School and was inducted into the Southwest Preparatory Conference Hall of Honor in 2010. During his tenure, Greenhill won more than 500 games and 15 Southwest Preparatory Conference titles.
Coach Hall, as so many know him, truly broke barriers as a Black athlete serving as an ambassador for the global game in North Texas.
We had the chance to chat with him on the phone recently about his influence, his legacy and his experience on and off the pitch.
How did you get involved in soccer?
We just started at school. It was just like streetball, really, just kicking the ball and playing. It was something I liked to do and that’s what we did as kids growing up. The main sport that most of the young people played was football (soccer).
How did you get recruited to leave England and come to Dallas, TX?
I was married to an American lady. We had a daughter and she wanted to come back to America because her father was in the Air Force and stationed in England. He happened to be stationed close to where I live.
I just finished my contract with Weymouth, went to Bournemouth and played and then back to Weymouth. Stan Shelton, who was our coach, knew Ron (Newman, the former Dallas Tornado coach) really well. I was speaking to Stan about what our plans were.
I finished my contract in June of ’70 and we came over to America. Phil Woosnam (former NASL commissioner) passed my information to Ron who contacted me. We went down into Washington and met the team there on a Saturday and I played on a Sunday. Then we came into Dallas with the team that evening and we’ve been in Dallas ever since.
When you moved to Dallas, TX in 1970, being a man of color, were there some challenges you had to work through as a family?
Not really. With the Tornado, at the time, there were a number of players of color who came from different countries. The team stayed at the Baccarat apartments, that was located on 75 just across from TI. We were the only Black family there.
I really didn’t care or recognize it, really. My wife at that time was more affected by it than I was. I was never really exposed to that.
I faced more racism when I played at home in England because there were very few of us in the football league who were playing in it. At the time, there was the issue of immigration in England, that was an issue for the Black players. I was targeted more there than I was here.
How do you handle targeted racism?
At that time I was young, 18-19 years-old, coming through the game professionally and I was a younger player, again, who was protected by my teammates. There was always that camaraderie in team sports and they protected me a lot, in terms of things that were said and the lot.
Travelling was an issue when you played away against the opposing teams. In Weymouth, people knew us and knew me but when you went away to play in away games and going to different cities and so forth, that’s when you heard it a lot. That’s what I had to deal with and so did a few others.
What advice do you have for a young athlete trying to overcome some of those challenges he or she might be hearing or facing?
To be honest about what you’re trying to do. It’s the way you present yourself in that arena.
Unfortunately, now with social media it’s very difficult to not be exposed to some kind of issues, but it’s just a matter of how you handle yourself in the best way that you can.
Did you face any challenges when you transitioned from player to coach?
I was at Greenhill as a part-time coach first and just coached the boys soccer team. In 1982, I believe, I was appointed athletic director (at Greenhill). At the time, most athletic directors were football coaches. Me being a soccer coach, as well, was an additional challenge.
Trying to push and present new approaches of doing things, especially the sport of soccer. A lot of them didn’t have the background or knowledge of the sport, except seeing it played. When I came in, there was one other Black coach in Austin. We tried to move some things forward in the way the game was played back then. They played NCAA rules – that was one of the biggest challenges we had – trying to get them to move the sport of soccer more towards FIFA.
When you see today’s athletes help lead and change the race conversation in a positive way, how does that make you feel?
I really feel good about that when I see all those athletes step forward and use their platform to address these issues. I think we can do more and more. Players are doing that. They’re supporting their programs and different things with their own money, as well. It’s a big step. We’ve got to fight this injustice and that’s something people have to do who are in that position, who have influence. I give them credit, all the credit in the world for doing it. It’s not easy and even today, it’s not easy to go out there. There’s always someone who’s ready to knock you down and see you not be successful.
What are you most proud of as a head coach and athletic director?
My goal at Greenhill was to get equality with all the sports, supporting all the sports equally – boys and girls. There’re some sports that are more expensive to operate and put in place but making sure you can still get equal support and balance. That’s what I tried to do in the way that programmed developed.
We can’t let you go with getting from you your favorite Dallas Tornado memory, a story you can tell for our readers and audience.
(Tornado head coach) Ron Newman was a promoter. It was in the summer, heat of the summer. Ron came in and said ‘I need five players and get your blazers on.’ We had these bright orange blazers.
What it turned out to be was a Fourth of July parade being held in Plano. You got to imagine, this is July, end of June, 100 degrees. We jump in the cars and head to Plano. What they wanted us to do was walk alongside the cars and wave to people. We had these bright orange blazers on and then the parade picked up somewhat. We had to start jogging. Finally, we had to jump on the bonnet (the hood) of the cars. Can you imagine sitting on those cars in that heat! That was something!