A Coach In The U.S. spotlights international coaches who have made successful careers in the U.S. with YESsoccer.
Based in Connecticut, Jim Thwaites tells YEScoach ID Director Chris Andrew how he made it in America.
Tell us about your background and how you got into coaching?
My local Sunday league club Leamington Hibernian had a fantastic support structure for its players that allowed young athletes to gain coaching qualifications such as their FA level 1 and 2 but also aid them through their Refereeing badges. With the help of the club I was able to obtain my FA level 1 and level 2 and from there I began to work with the U7, U8 and U9 teams. Later on, I became a part of the young leaders program for the Birmingham County FA and was lucky enough to work alongside some very experienced coaches such as Marieanne Spacey and Mark Walters. With their help I was able to envision a career as a professional soccer coach.
Tell us about your current club, role and responsibilities?
The aim of South Windsor Soccer Club is to provide a fun and safe learning environment for all players from recreational soccer to High school travel, whilst also aiding each individual to reach their playing potential. As Director of coaching I am there to aid and assist our coach development, we have established a number of coaching clinics over the past Spring season both on and off the field as part of our ongoing coach education program. We have also created our clubs own curriculum from U4 through U10 that highlights the areas of development specific for each age group helping our volunteers to deliver a consistent level of coaching across the entire Recreation section of the club.
What is next for you and your own personal development in the U.S.?
I am looking to continue to grow as a coach, I am looking to obtain my USSF qualifications to compliment those I have already gained in the UK, However as a coach I believe you grow and gain new experiences every day and can take a positive from every situation the game puts you in.
What advice would you give to a coach in the UK thinking about joining YESsoccer in the US?
Do it. You will enjoy every minute of your time here from working with some great coaches to coaching some incredible young athletes. You will also get the opportunity to travel and see the country and the sights it has to offer but ultimately It is what you make, it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity or become a career choice you will never regret.
What differences are there between coaching players in England and the US?
When talking about ability for me there is no difference, as a coach for YESsoccer you get to work with players of all ages and abilities, just like the UK you could be working with a group of elite high school or academy players or with a developmental group of U8s. in my opinion the noticeable difference comes down to personality, many kids in the USA play a great number of sports from soccer or baseball to football and lacrosse, and with this comes a high level of competitiveness and determination at the student athletic level this becomes more apparent as they progress through middle school and into high school where the level of sport can become incredibly competitive.
Why did you choose to become a coach?
Since I could remember I have had a passion for soccer, as I got older it became apparent that I was not good enough to play at the level I wanted to, and there is not a lot of room in the game for a goalkeeper who is only 5ft10’’. Fortunately I had been involved with coaching a few local teams from a young age and enjoyed the experience, from there I caught the coaching bug looking to inspire the next generation of soccer players. For me it was not always about creating the next David Beckham or Steven Gerrard you work with the players you have and help them play to their strengths whilst helping them to identify and work on their weaknesses and most importantly about creating an environment for kids to fall in love with the beautiful game.
What do you remember most about one of your coaches when you were young and playing soccer?
I have one very fond memory as a kid playing soccer, from the age of 7. Coventry City Football Club would run camps at the local high school. My favorite coach was coach Ray, he had a great way with kids and played a very big part in me choosing to play soccer. I remember playing the American style PK shootout where you have 5 seconds to score from the half way line 1 on 1 with the keeper at the end of every day.
Who has been the biggest influences on your coaching style and career? Who are your heroes?
It’s difficult to name just one as a coach you take in so many thing from so many people and especially in the early stages your style changes a lot until you find what works best for you. I can however name three coaches who have shaped me the most along my coaching pathway.
My father had a large effect on me from a young age as I am sure most fathers do when they coach their sons team, he helped me to understand from a young a age the meaning of team work and how to organize and maintain a team throughout a season from a grassroots level.
My second and third influences both come from the same Club, The Strachan Football Foundation. Dan Elliot the education officer and co-founder of the club helped me to realize my potential as a player and as a coach and installed in me the self-belief that what I was doing was correct and not to doubt myself as he did with all the young athletes who stepped into the program, Dan and the SFF helped me to understand that I could coach full time in the USA.
Finally, the coach with the biggest influence on my coaching style goes by the name of George Mackie. The majority of my coaching experience up to joining the SFF had been with kids between the ages of 5 and 11. George helped me to understand the game on a far deeper level and introduced me to what is expected from a top-level coach and the demands of the players. Most importantly I now understand how to create a professional hardworking elite team environment that pushes players to reach their playing potential but also growing them as young adults, and help them to understand all the possibilities that can come from the game of soccer.
The men have been separated from the boys. As the ‘boys’ who have now been eliminated embark on the summer holidays, the ‘men’ continue their journey to be crowned European Champions. But what have we seen and learned from the group stages and what does this tell us about what to expect in the next 2 weeks?
Prior to the tournament, all of the talk was about Spain’s possession game, Germany’s power game, The French quick counter attacks and the Dutch’s ‘Total Football’ approach. However, after two weeks of thrills and spills, there are several different talking points in the bars around the world.
Sure, Spain have dominated possession (2,289 total passes in 3 games) and the German’s have looked powerful (14 straight wins in last 14 competitive games). Do Spain lack a cherry on the top of their otherwise quite delicious passing game by playing without a striker and do Germany have the ability to cope with a team who do not go toe to toe with them physically? Without doubt, these are the two front-runners to lift the trophy however…
But what happened to the Dutch? Are too many players fatigued from the club seasons? Are they simply a team of talented individual’s who cannot play together due to their egos and different views? One thing is for sure, after their unexpected early exit, the ‘Total Football’ approach may need to be taken back to the drawing board…and fast!
As for the French, they have not yet set the world alight with their attacking firecrackers have they? Perhaps this is due to a lack of identity. On one hand the French have some fantastic attacking options who offer flair and pace. On the other hand, they want to take a page out of the Spanish book and simply keep the ball away from the opposition. At some point within the next two weeks, they may have to take the shackles off, take a few risks and play to win, not to not lose. Limiting Karim Benzema to 17 shots with none being clear scoring opportunities may be something that could cost Le Bleus in the knockout stages.
Speaking of playing not to lose, that brings us to the English. “If we can just scrape through the first two games and wait for Wayne to come back we will be ok”. That appeared to be the approach taken by Roy Hodgson and his players. And for all of the critism and negative feedback from press and fans alike, there is no arguing it worked. Now what though? Will the English team bus be parked in the parking lot for Sunday’s game or will it continue to be parked in front of Joe Hart’s goal in the hope that Wayne and his questionable hair cut can work his magic again at the other end of the field.
Someone who know a little bit about working his magic so far this tournament is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. After a drab opening game, ‘Ronny’ changed into his pink and white scoring boots and set the team alight. With a total of 30 attempts on goal in just 4 games, he is on track to being the Portuguese’s LeBron James. However, as electric as their attack may be, the Portuguese defense may need a jump-start against a more technical, tricky and imaginative opponent. When Pepe cannot simply use his physique, but instead rely on his brain to defend, the Portuguese may be in a spot of bother.
Now for the Elephant in the room…Penalties. With the knock-out stages now underway, it is almost inevitable that at least one of the games in the next two weeks will be taken to the little white spot 12 yards out. But is this the right way to end a game? After 2 hours of combat on the field and months of preparation, is it right for the fate of a nation to come down to one kick of a soccer ball which has been argued to be no more then a lucky punt? Surely, there must be an alternative to decide a winner of one of the biggest games in world football. Perhaps we simply let the two teams play until a winning goal is scored. Or how about we let the two teams continue to play and after every 5 minutes over Extra-Time, one player from each team is removed from the field.
Whatever your preference, the next two weeks will no doubt provide some heart stopping moments, some awe inspiring performances and some crushing disappointments. Football remains, and always will be, the ‘Beautiful Old Game.’
But I leave you with this. As other sports around the world evolve, and introduce new and exciting ways to ensure that winning and losing becomes fairer, should we not be questioning the “Beautiful Old Game’ and its traditional structure after what we have witnessed so far in Euro 2012? Should we not be more open to introducing new ideas, fresh structures and innovative technology to move with the times? When so much money is riding on the modern game and so much pressure resting on one kick of a ball, should we not be more concerned with the “Beautiful Modern Game?”
I woke up this morning after a long day on the road yesterday visiting YESAmbassadors and YESPartners in New York. After spending the later part of the night moving the new YESCamps Balls and Jerseys into our new Storage Facility over here on the East Coast, I was longing for my bed after a long, though enjoyable day.
However, as my eyes opened and I rolled over to check my cell phone for Facebook and Twitter updates this morning, the realization hit me that today is a GREAT DAY! I got butterflies in the pit of my stomach and a huge smile graced my face. Why? Today my friends, the entertainment begins. Today...EURO 2012 begins!
It is a fantastic opportunity for young players across the world to have a consistent stream of games over a 3-week period where they can simply 'Watch and Learn'. They will see the Tiki-Taka style of the Spanish with Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings in the midfield and Torres hoping he packed his scoring boots. They will see 'Total Football' from the Dutch with Robin Van Persie hoping his goals can lead him to the Golden Boot, but also lead his country to glory.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo dazzle us with his amazing footwork? Will Mario Balotelli stay on the field long enough to show us something amazing? Can Luka Modric put the transfer speculation behind him back in England and focus on being Croatia's playmaker?
Personally, I look forward to seeing 4 teams in action; Spain, Holland, Germany and France. England, you say? No, I am not excited by England. I am as patriotic as any Englishman out there. Though excited? I am not. I feel that for pure entertainment value, the 4 afore mentioned nations have the correct formula. Attack, entertain, enjoy the ball and most of all play like you did growing up in the back yard. Spain LOVE the ball, Holland LOVE constant movement, Germany LOVE to overpower teams and France LOVE to counter attack with speed. As for England...I hope I am pleasantly surprised this time in 3 weeks!
As for who will win the tournament? I would love to see Spain triumph as I could watch their Tiki-Taka style all day long. Every player wants the ball. Every player cherishes the ball. Every player is comfortable with the ball and plays with a sense of freedom.
I feel that the Golden Boot will go home in the German luggage, but with whom I am unsure.
Finally, as a soccer coach in the US, my fellow coaches and I could spend hours and hours out on the fields with our teams coaching them on how to play 'Total Soccer' or 'Tika-Taka' or this formation or that style. These next 3 weeks are better then any session we can do with our players. Better then any coaching DVD we could watch. These next 3 weeks will be a lesson from the worlds best and we get to see that lesson for FREE!
So I will be sitting down for each game over the next 3 weeks with an open mind and with a pen and paper not too far away to simply...Watch and Learn!