One of the toughest jobs in any sport is the role of a coach. The hours spent on the training field with their players can slip the minds of fans as they only see the fruits of their labours on game day. Sometimes you look down from the stands and wonder why the person yelling instructions, kicking every ball with his team and going through an emotional rollercoaster puts themselves through the whole ordeal.
When the team is successful, it can be the most satisfying feelings. However, when the result doesn’t go their way then they are open to criticism, heckling and abuse despite the fact they are students of the game who are probably the most knowlegable people in the vicinity of the field.
With that in mind, I have decided to give you – the reader – an insight into some of the soccer coaches throughout the state with a series of question and answer sessions so you can fully understand what makes them tick, why they love the game so much and why they put themselves in the firing line game after game.
First up – we have the Assistant Director of Coaching at Eden Prairie and coach of Simley High School, Noel Quinn, who tells us about playing on both sides of the Atlantic, his hopes of a Metrodome appearance and why more should be done to promote club soccer in the local press.
What is your background in soccer?
I have played soccer since I was a child growing up in Belfast, Ireland. I played all the way through school and into college for the University of Ulster, Jordanstown and St John’s University, MN. I also played in the IFA Amateur League for 5 seasons before moving to the USA. Since 2004 I have been coaching youth, high school and college soccer in Minnesota for Edina SC, Eden Prairie Soccer Club, St John’s University, Central Lakes College, Columbia Heights High School and Simley High School.
How did you first become interested in the sport?
Was simply a part of out lives growing up, my father was a player in the Irish League and had represented Northern Ireland at an international level. I was exposed to the highest levels of the game from an early age but when I heard stories of my father playing at the Nou Camp versus Barcelona I was hooked.
Who are your heroes in the game?
My heroes have been Eric Cantona, Henrik Larsson, Martin O’Neill but my favourite of all time was Paul McGrath who played for Ireland in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup and especially his performance against Italy in 1994, which has never been matched in my opinion.
When did you first become involved in coaching and why?
I first began coaching in the US at Saint John’s University. I got involved because I was an SJU alumni and the team were struggling a little. That was September 2005 and we went on to win the MIAC Playoffs and play in the NCAA tournament that season. In 2006, we won the MIAC Championship.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
My father told me when I started that winning was not important, playing soccer was all about building character and making friends. Once your team understands that, only then can they play with “real” commitment and pride!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy spending time with the players on the field, working on the elements of the game that we can improve and seeing improvement every time we walk on the pitch.
And what do you enjoy least?
Telling players that they did not make the team in a big game or dropping a player from the roster are the toughest things, especially if the player has been working hard to make the team.
What are your goals for the coming season?
I am not actually coaching a team this summer at Eden Prairie Soccer Club, but our club goals are to keep developing players at all levels, create a club atmosphere, prepare for the season correctly and hopefully that will bring some successful results on the pitch. In the Fall season I will be coaching again at Simley High School and our goal, as always, will be to make it to the Metrodome.
Do you feel that soccer gets a fair amount of exposure in the local press?
High School soccer gets more attention than the Summer Club soccer and I think that with the number of young players participating in the sport, that it should receive more exposure, especially around State Cup, as it is the highest level of competition in youth soccer in Minnesota.
What rule changes if any would you make?
I would like to see at higher levels, a limitation on the number of substitutions in the game as I think it disrupts the flow of the game and does not help kids develop the correct knowledge and tempo that a match should be played at.
What do you think the authorities could do to help improve the standard of the game locally and nationally?
On a national level, there needs to be a better structure for up and coming players to break into the highest level. As of now, the MLS has no “Minor League” structure and the college system does not encourage the technical and tactical development of the players to reach their full potential.
I would also like to see the inclusion of more players from diverse backgrounds making it to the National team, there must be a reason that more Hispanic and Asian players are not making it onto the USA squad. Their inclusion would only add to the quality of the National Team and eventually make them more competitive.
What advice would you give to any aspiring coaches?
Don’t try to copy anyone else’s style but be yourself and continue to try to learn the game, because you can never know it all.