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Three Q's With A Coach

Coach q and a

Brendan Burke: Head Coach, Bethlehem Steel FC, 2/8/17

Brendan Burke returned to the Philadelphia Union organization last year as the first Head Coach in Bethlehem Steel FC history. With the club's second season approaching, he sat down with us to discuss his role in developing players for the Union first team and the challenges of taking a development over results mindset. The full interview can be read in the February 2017 issue of The Evolving Game.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the USSF Coaching Pathway?

I think now more so than a few years ago you can apply what you take from those courses to your home environment no matter what level you work at.  I was always fearful when I was an assistant MLS (coach)—I hadn’t gone through a lot of the licensing—that I would be spending a lot of time (getting the licenses) and not be receiving a lot of benefit. Now I am living the benefit. I am reaping the rewards of working through my licenses right now. Especially as I have gone from “E” to “D” to “C,” now I am in the process of finishing the new “B,” I feel like I’m on an “A” license. It is challenging and I am able to apply it to everything I do every day.

In terms of the Union's development philosophy, how do you approach a directive that maybe you’re thinking, “This doesn’t really benefit this particular game or this particular 11”?

Yeah, I get that one a lot. I did have a degree of frustration with it in the beginning, but honestly, I have come to better understand what my goals and objectives are within the organization. And that is to develop players. It has almost nothing to do with winning games at the USL level. So as a competitor, that is extremely difficult to swallow at first, but once you understand it, it is actually freeing and allows you to be more effective at developing players. I am not worried about a result on the weekend. We’re always going to approach a game trying to win. We are players and coaches, and you can never take that out of us. But the freedom to approach a game from a developmental standpoint when you are playing in front of 20,000 people in Cincinnati, I felt free to put Anthony Fontana in the game at 16 years old. So if I lose 1-0 instead of a draw at 1-1, my decision wasn’t influenced by the result, and Anthony is the beneficiary of that.

How does having that overlap of training between the first team and Bethlehem Steel benefit the players?

The benefit of that is experience. There is zero replacement for a player experiencing a new, more challenging environment. So when they go up and train with the first team and come back to us, they are training at a higher level. When I take a U18 (player) and he plays in a game for us and goes back to a U18 game, he looks like a pro who is playing in a U18 game. It is a very natural experiential knowledge that we cannot give them without games, without training sessions at a higher level. So the ability to move guys up and down is one of our most valuable tools, and that is why we are using it as much as or more than other clubs.

Read more with Brendan in The Evolving Game

Martin Dell'Arciprete: Head Coach, U12 Boys Ukrainian Nationals Zirka, 2/24/16

Martin Dell'Arciprete has spent his entire soccer life in the Philadelphia area. A Lansdowne native, Dell'Arciprete starred for FC Delco, Delco Christian High School and in Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's Olympic Development Program before playing collegiately at Temple University. He's since gone on to a successful career in business, which resulted in a recent appearance on ABC's hit show "Shark Tank." Dell'Arciprete took some time to discuss that experience as well as how his entrepreneurial spirit aids his coaching for his Ukrainian Nationals U12 Boys team.

How did your soccer career aid or influence your business career? Were you more nervous for Shark Tank or a big game?

My soccer career helped me in business primarily due to time management. Playing for FC Delco meant a lot of time in the car or plane to and from games. I learned from my early teenage years the importance of planning ahead to ensure that I kept ahead of school work, while still competing at a high level on the pitch. In my early soccer career, it was about doing the things necessary to taking care of my body; hydration, proper rest and staying fit. It has transitioned to power point decks, meetings and travel in the business world.

I wasn’t that nervous for Shark Tank due to the amount of big games I prepared for in my life. I treated Shark Tank as though I was prepping for a big game, walking down the hall to pitch the sharks was like walking down the tunnel for a big game. Once the whistle blows you know its show time, and it was similar with the sharks. Once they said “go” to start my pitch, I knew I had prepared, so at that point I just wanted to do my best and make everyone proud….similar to my mind set for soccer games.

What aspects from entrepreneurship do you apply to coaching your club team?

In entrepreneurship, building the team dynamic is important. If you are able to bond and gel as a team, then the “sky is the limit.” It is similar in coaching. You have a group of kids from different backgrounds that are all provided with the opportunity to play the game that they love. As a coach you need to find a way to put together all the puzzle pieces so the kids are in the best possible position to execute for success. In soccer, like business, as long as you are doing what you love, then you are having fun at the end of the day regardless of the ups and downs.

Would you rather score a goal, win a trophy (championship, league, etc.), or secure a sale or deal? Are the emotions similar?

Given my soccer background, I think I’d still choose a goal or trophy due to the fact that you are never sure how long you will be given the opportunity to play soccer. The emotions are definitely similar in both scenarios in that you get to see all of your hard work pay off. My time horizon for sales/business deals will run longer than my soccer playing career, but I would say the excitement surrounding striving to achieve my goals in business and soccer keeps me getting up in the morning.

Mark Cuban is for better or worse the face of Shark Tank. What was it like presenting in front of him? Did you get a sense of the leadership style he employs as one of the most active owners in American sports?

Presenting in front of Mark was a dream come true. I was honored just to have the opportunity! He is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the world. It often seems as though just about everything he touches is successful in business. I am sure even Mark would tell you that he has experienced the ups and downs, but his leadership qualities are evident. If you see him courtside at a Mavericks game, you see the passion and competitive nature he possesses, which I am sure carries right into the board room. He seems like someone who is a fearless, calculated leader, who will do anything in the pursuit of success. I definitely look up to Mark and would love to run my own company like him someday.

How have your kids reacted to your new-found fame?

I coach a u-12 team at the Ukrainian Nationals club and the boys have been extremely supportive. They have been asking me non-stop when my episode would air, and I had no idea that Shark Tank was the favorite tv show of so many of the boys. It was really a dream come true to finally have the show air. The parents and kids have been supportive from day 1, I couldn’t ask for a better group.

Mike Barr: Technical Director, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, 12/9/15

Mike Barr's accolades as a coach could fill this page. The current Technical Director at Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, Mike is perhaps best known as the former head coach at Strath Haven High School, where his Panthers won five PIAA State Championships.

You’ve sort of earned a reputation for being heavily critical of the modern youth soccer model. Having said that, are there aspects of today’s game that have improved greatly from when you played or first got into coaching?

The technical level of the young players and the speed of the game has improved dramatically in the last 30 years. With the improvement though, the passion and desire seems to leave as players grow older. I think the level of play of older players is not much different in the United States as it was 10 or 20 years ago. The knowledge and expertise of today’s coaches are stronger but they fail to see the potential, nor do they offer playing opportunities to young children. I think in many instances we as coaches and administrators force soccer and winning down the throats of children way too young and eliminate thousands of potential players by deciding who will be the next great player at seven years old and not going the full mile to develop and nurture children.

The sport has never been more popular as it is now in the United States, and that was just a dream to many when I first got involved with coaching. Television and internet have truly made soccer the world’s number one sport. Hopefully the power and popularity of soccer can somehow unify the world. FIFA should recognize the influence they could have on poor, struggling countries and assist in repairing the differences of various countries who have a common bond of enjoying the sport of soccer.

What do you consider your main responsibilities as Technical Director of the state association?

My role is to provide honest answers to coaches, players, and parents about youth soccer. I try to offer consistent quality education to all coaches by keeping them well informed of educational changes, new training methodology and appropriate developmental models. I try to utilize my platform for the good of all players and not just the elite player or players who have the economic advantage of paid trainers, extensive travel opportunities and widespread exposure. I hope to keep our Olympic Development Program relevant as a pathway to national and collegiate opportunities.

Who is the best player you've ever seen? Best team?

The greatest player I've ever seen is Messi. I saw him play at Camp Nou and watch him on television at every opportunity. I doubt in the rest of my lifetime I will see any player better.

I enjoyed watching Manchester United and Arsenal in the early 2000’s. The match-ups between Arsenal with (Thierry) Henry, (Patrick) Vieira, (Cesc) Fabregas, (Ashley) Cole, (Dennis) Bergcamp and (Freddie) Ljungberg against Manchester with (Ryan) Giggs, the Neville’s (Gary and Phil), (Roy) Keane, (Ruud) Van Nistelrooy, (Paul) Scholes and (Cristiano) Ronaldo made for great drama and incredible soccer. The most organized and tactical machine at this time is Bayern Munich. Their play in transition should be part of any coaching course and a must see for players over 12.


Karl Reddick: Director of Coaching at Nether United, 11/11/15

Karl Reddick has quickly become one of the more respected coaches in the state despite his relative youth. He is the Director of Coaching at Nether United and helps coach the U15 Boys Eastern Pennsylvania ODP Team. Karl played his college soccer at Boston College. Prior to that, he was a standout in ODP as well as at Strath Haven High School.

What prepared you to take over as Director of Coaching at a traditional club at a comparatively younger age?

My preparation to become a DOC starts with my playing experience. Playing for Nether United as a youth soccer player allowed me to see the tradition of a 50-year-old club. As a player I was able to meet the likes of Bob Urban who was one of the founding fathers of the club. Understanding the tradition as well as the knowledge of the game allowed me to step into my position in stride. I also think that having mentors like (Eastern PA Youth Soccer Technical Director) Mike Barr, (Eastern PA Youth Soccer Assistant Technical Director) Gary Stephenson and Sam Griggs allowed me to gain not only the knowledge you need to lead the club on the pitch but also the correct way to administratively advance the club.

What was it like to play for Mike Barr at Strath Haven? How much of his history and the school's success did you know about going in?

Playing for Mike was instrumental in my development as a player. He was a coach that taught beyond the technical aspect of the game. He was able to push you to become better regardless of how good you were. His winning pedigree rubbed off onto his players and allowed his teams to intimidate the opposition be for the game even started. Every match I have ever played for Mike I distinctively remember my expectations, and they were nothing other than, “We are going to win this game.” Not every player needs that extra push to play with a chip on his shoulder, but Mike created an environment that it is the norm to walk on the field with a certain “Haven Swagger.” As an assistant coach at Haven now, there are coaches that to this day bring up some of Mike’s old teams. As far as the each generation of players knowing and understanding the history of the Strath Haven Boys Soccer Team, here are the numbers under Mike: 22 seasons, 409 wins, 85 losses, 46 ties, 6 District Championships and 5 State Championships. We absolutely knew the history of the program. It was a privilege to be able to put the Haven jersey on.

How did your experience in ODP influence you, now, as an ODP coach?

When I played ODP it was a different program. We did not have the academies at that time and we would train more often. It definitely helps as a coach, because I am able to directly relate to the players. I am only 10 years removed from the program so I am still able to picture myself in their shoes throughout the evaluation process and during the pool trainings.

Frank Olszewski: Eastern PA ODP & Head Girls Soccer Coach, Archbishop Carroll High School 10/28/15

Frank Olszewski, or Frank O or Frankie O to those who know him, is the Director of Soccer Operations for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. He's also an accomplished coach who has worked for various high schools across Southeastern Pennsylvania. Currently, Frank is the head girls coach for the Archbishop Carroll Patriots. In addition, he works with the U12 Boys Delco ODP team as well as with Nether United at the club level.

You’ve been involved in a lot of different schools, clubs, and ODP teams during your coaching career. What makes you choose a particular place or team?

There are the mundane factors such as geography and administration, for example, that certainly weigh into accepting a position, but I would say that the most important factor in determining where to coach is whether there is potential for growth and development. I was with Spirit United for 12 years and coached two teams (one boys and one girls) to conclusion. I still interact with many of those players and their respective families on a daily basis. I never wanted to be perceived (or be) a ‘Gun for Hire.'  I always aimed to leave the program in a better place than it was before I was there, and I have worked hard to do so. Truth be told, my most recent appointment was a ‘no-brainer’ for me when I noticed the prestigious interviewer across from me conducted the interview in bare feet! I love this Guy! Not surprisingly, the job was a perfect fit (no – it was not my interview at Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer!).

What sort of impact did your father (Frank Olszewski, Sr.) have on you as a player and later as a coach?

My dad was the inspiration for getting involved in soccer.  He worked tirelessly as a volunteer for Lehigh Valley Soccer and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer.  He would fabricate soccer goals out of our basement and dig holes to put them up in community fields. He was always running to meetings or heading to referee games of all levels – youth, high school and college. He and my mom always found time to come to my games. Most importantly, he never got involved with my soccer with the coach – he never got in the middle of things – no ‘playing time issues’ or ‘why did my son not get selected’. When I made the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer State Team at U14, I was so proud because I knew I made it on my own. He and I would referee games together and would discuss the application of the rules or game situations. Being honored with the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association Service To Youth Award meant a lot to him. Pancreatic Cancer cheated him his opportunity to enjoy watching his grandchildren play most of their games, see the Lehigh Valley host World Cup Viewing Parties and help run EPYSA events among other things. This should have been the time of his life. He would have loved to be alive right now with soccer finally gaining traction here. My father lives through me as a coach every day. His love of the game – and his love of me – is passed on to every player or child I coach.

What could the return of Bethlehem Steel FC mean to the Lehigh Valley and Lehigh Valley soccer?

Firstly, Bethlehem Steel FC is especially poignant to me, as my father worked for 20 years in the forges at Bethlehem Steel and I’ve already spoken of his soccer volunteer work in the Lehigh Valley.  The Lehigh Valley is a great sports area because of its proximity and cross-traffic of sports teams (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore etc.).  The minor league teams in the Lehigh Valley do very well and all of those sports are fantastic events to attend – Iron Pigs Baseball, Lehigh Valley Phantoms…and now Bethlehem Steel FC.   I remember going to Pennsylvania Stoners games as a kid at Allentown School District Stadium – watching Jeff Tipping, Roman Urbanczuk, Clyde Watson, Matt Bahr and others.  Now, youth players today will have a modern version of what we had – along with a Major League Philadelphia equivalent (Philadelphia Union).  The Lehigh Valley has come a long way in a short time.

Meridith Crowell: Assistant Coach Gwynedd Mercy University Women's Soccer 10/21/15

Meridith Crowell started her coaching career before she even graduated college. She joined the Gwynedd Mercy Women's staff as a senior at Temple University, where she played four years with the Owls. A Lansdale native, Meridith played her youth soccer for Montgomery Soccer Association as well as Philly Soccer Club. She was also a member of Eastern Pennsylvania's Olympic Development Program. In addition to her college coaching, Meridith coaches the PA Rush '01 Boys team. She recently joined Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's office staff.

You made the transition from college player to college coach fairly quickly. What was the biggest challenge in making the move?

The biggest challenge was not being able to play. I still want to jump in the games and participate!  As a player, I had the ability to alter the tempo of the game and boost energy by picking up my level of play.  As a coach, I quickly realized that I could not directly influence the play but had to verbalize instruction to my players... this was probably one of the more difficult adjustments I had to make.  

How much of the recruiting process as a coach did you borrow from when you were on the other side as a player?

The recruiting process as a young player is a very unique and highly influential experience.  Now that I am the coach, I combine what I have learned from my own journey, from my former teammates, and from my current players.  I believe it is equally important to follow up with players who have chosen to attend your school/program as well as players who have not chosen to attend your school/program.  Allowing recruits to see the real character and personality of your program is what will bring them back and after they graduate, will entice them to continue to support the program.  

What specific advantages are there to coaching both boys and girls? Club and college?

Coaching different levels of play and both genders allows me to sharpen various aspects of my understanding of the game. At the youth level, players are still developing essential technical and tactical skills. Generally, practices and competitions are more consistent because you have the ability to train all year round and often times the core of a club team will remain together from U11-U18, enabling them to build strong team chemistry and fluidity. When players reach the collegiate level we have only a few weeks to gel as a team before the season begins. There is a constant rotation of players into and out of the team each year due to recruiting and graduation. Because you are introducing roughly a quarter of your team to the style of play every year, there is limited time to fine tune technical skills as you need to focus more on tactics and style of play. 

Fernando Carrizo: Eastern Pa ODP Coach and Assistant at Moravian Academy 10/14/15

Fernando Carrizo hails from Antofagasta, Chile but has called the Lehigh Valley home for more than 30 years. He coaches at state power Moravian Academy as well as with Eastern Pennsylvania's Olympic Development Program. In his spare time, Fernando goes by DJ Nando. He brings music to soccer events and beyond. He resides in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania with his lovely wife Allyson and future soccer star Ava Carrizo.

How did you get into coaching? What sparked your interest?

What really got me to coaching was a really good friend of mine who I played high school soccer with. When we had free time to play, we played serious futbol. His name is David Weitzman. Dave, Luis, my brother Roberto and I would always get together at any location that had grass and would play 2v2 soccer until we couldn't move any more. The majority of the time it was at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, which in that time the head coach was Jeff Tipping. He would walk out on to the pitch and with his British accent he would tell us to leave the fields, because it was well maintained and it was for college games only. As soon as he left we would be back out playing again (Ed's note: Fernando later said meeting and getting to know Tipping was one of the best things that happened to him).

What sparked my interest in coaching soccer is when I was asked to train a girls team that hadn't won a single season game. I set a goal to make them the best players and the team went undefeated. I knew then I was going to strive to continue my coaching career. What has made me a better coach is that I teach and coach all ages from two years old all the way up to college level. I have now become a trainer for individual players at all ages and even several teams. My goal is to make a difference everyday no matter what the level the players are.

Is there an element of the Chilean or South American style that you like to incorporate into your coaching?

The game I call Futbol has come a long way! I use a South American style of play, which I have grown up with. That's being technical with your feet, but I've added a twist of the American soccer, which is speed and fitness.

What has your experience been like as the Spanish-speaking community grows? How can outreach improve for Spanish-speaking players and coaches?

As a Spanish-speaking coach I have utilized my knowledge both in Spanish and English to help grow our local Allentown YWCA/YMCA for the past 10 years in working with all types of nationalities. I see the smile in the kids’ faces and I know I have made a difference, especially when they can't speak the English language. I have also helped guide inner city soccer players to high level clubs to play competitive soccer. In the end they reward me with a big thank you, which is all I need. To me it isn't about having all the big trophies but being a mentor and guiding them to be the best is all I can ask for!

Gary Stephenson: Assistant Technical Director, Eastern Pa Youth Soccer 10/7/15

Gary Stephenson is a Northeast England native. He graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He played club and collegiate soccer in England and coached as well. Gary came to the United States in 2000 and progressed to earn a USSF National A License within US Soccer's coaching pathway. Gary has coached every level from kindergarten to adult, intramural to college. Gary currently works as the Assistant Technical Director for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. He lives in South York with his wife Kim and three children Keegan,Keira and Declan.

What is the true value of the licensing system?

The licensing system allows coaches to grow, develop and benchmark themselves with and against their peers. An “A” license does not guarantee you are a good coach. It states that you have and are invested in the growth of your skillset. With US Soccer’s coaching pathway, as with other country’s systems, they allow you to be professional and global in your outlook of our game. I remember when attending my National A License the lead instructor Jeff Pill said, “Enjoy... but be careful. It’s not a license to kill!"

In recent years the sentiment around American soccer has been to make it more like the European system. From your perspective as an Englishman, what things do we do well in the states that others don’t and what balance should we aim for?

Well, the US Women's National team is in a good place, but the competition from other countries is getting stronger, so we must keep building on the success and not stand still. The Men’s National Team has competed and finished strong in the last three world cups (a lot of European countries would love those results and finishes). I feel the culture that the coaching staff has established and how it has been filtered through to the youth game via the licensing system is setting the foundations to build good teams for years to come. As an Englishman living and working here, I want the team to build more South American style into their play. It’s fun to watch.

How has your perception of the American game changed since you’ve been here?

Arriving here, there was nothing but a Spanish channel showing a game. Fast forward to the complete coverage we get now in HD: every MLS game and you get an a la carte selection of whatever European league or club you want to follow. I stood in line to pick up my pre-ordered, prepaid PS4, FIFA 2016 game. Times have changed and the game is alive! What highlighted it for me was a loss for the USMNT in the Gold Cup. I was working Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s residential camp. Pick-up for 250 players was Saturday before the finals after the US lost to Jamaica. Everyone and I mean everyone was down! I have seen it before watching England. More people feel the pain but then there is more to love….

Will Newcastle avoid relegation this season?

There are some bad teams in the league. They will be there or there about!

Kelly Connor: Eastern Pennsylvania ODP 9/30/2015

Kelly Connor, a Wallingford native and Strath Haven High School graduate, played collegiately at Florida State University where she was a captain and All-American. She also played for the United States at the Youth National Team level. Kelly currently works as the Business Administrator Manager for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, while running the state's Olympic Development Program.

What was your transition like from All-American player at Florida State to soccer coach? Was it difficult to adjust?

The transition from player to coach is definitely interesting. You would assume that as a player who has competed at some of the highest levels collegiately or even with the US Youth National Teams that it would be easy to get out there and run a session. I find that just because you were a really good player, doesn’t make you a great coach. Much like education, coaching is an ongoing process. The more you can learn and surround yourself with other coaches who can share their knowledge the better. I also think coaching education courses are important for players to take part in so they can gain valuable knowledge as well. While I think a great player has the potential to be a great coach, it takes practice too!

What traits do you look for in coaches for the Olympic Development Program?

Our ODP staff coaches are some of the best coaches in Eastern Pennsylvania. Our staff is all nationally licensed, meaning they have taken the time to enhance their coaching abilities by taking courses. Many of our coaches are college coaches, great club coaches, and high school coaches. To me, a coach is measured by more than just wins and losses. Are the players improving technically? Are they being exposed to new concepts? Do the coaches treat players with respect and fairness? We meet with our staff each year to go over the goals for the year for our players. I think we truly have a great staff.

What lessons do you hope to pass on to your players?

I hope that my players learn the importance of practice. Everyone likes playing in games, but a player can really improve the more they practice. When they arrive at practice, are they focused and playing hard each play? I think what separates players at a high level is their drive to succeed. For me, I wasn’t the most technical player, but I outworked my teammates and opponents. I think that is something players can control, so it is important to learn that at a young age. The harder you work on your game, the better off you will be down the road. It shouldn’t take a coach or your parents telling you to go practice, you should want to do that on your own!


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