Coach you have a great deal of experience with the club, having coached a range of boys and girls teams. What are some of the unique dynamics between coaching boys and girls teams and the youth ages?
Probably the biggest challenge to coach any youth player is the helping them develop psychologically. I believe the girls are more receptive to this help, the boys will get there, but much slower. The other tough challenge with many youth is getting them to buy in they need to put in the hard work for their technical ability.
Recently you coached one of our girls teams to a State Cup championship, advancing to Regionals. This was a huge achievement for you and your team. How do you keep a high level team like this focused on their opportunities and push them to realize their full potential?
The team that won the State Championship was a special team, so once they got to that age, I just went along with them for the ride. Building up to that point, we kept focused by making every session competitive in as many ways as possible. Once that environment is established, the intensity of everyone involved goes up (players and coaches). Constant positive reinforcement helps them believe in themselves and their future. It was a privilege to be with those girls as most moved on to play in college with great success.
It’s exciting to see you take on a younger team over the past couple of seasons, leading the 2007 Royal Girls at the U12 and now U13 stages. When working with this age of development, what are your main areas of focus?
When working with U12 and U13 players, it is really important to realize these are transitional years and that impacts many things related to soccer and not related to soccer. The main focus is to help all players to take their technical ability to the next level which helps them go to another level tactically (11 v 11). Along with that, guiding all of them to a path that matches with their ambitions (do they want to be the best college player? do they want to be the best high school player?) Ultimately this all leads toward player development to personal development.
For parents and players at the youngest ages, what is the #1 developmental area that these players should be focused on?
At the youngest ages the two most important things are having fun and technical development. Having fun being most important, but at the same time developing technically. Some times players will put so much into technical development they forget to have fun; the flip side is some times they have nothing but fun and don't work on the technical development. The trick is finding the balance.