RCFC is please to announce the signing of our new Director of Coaching (DOC) James Harrop. James has been hard at work with our teams this past month and has already made a great impact at the club. Harrop brings a wealth of experience and expertise from a long career in club soccer. We are excited to have a world class USSF “A” license professional heading up our team of coaches.
We had a chance to sit down with James in a candid interview recently…
Q: Welcome to Riverside City Football Club. How has the first month been as the new Director of Coaching?
A: Very exciting and enjoyable. I’ve been moving around the fields introducing myself to coaches, players & parents, jumping into sessions now and again, getting a feel for each group. Everybody has been very welcoming and positive. I have been especially involved with the youngest age groups, observing, taking some sessions and games and I’ve also just started back training my 2004 boys group. I’m looking forward to the Summer tournament season and supporting our teams at every opportunity.
Q: What is your background and experience in soccer?
A: I played soccer from a very young age. I was always encouraged by my Dad and two older brothers who both played. School soccer played a huge part in my development and I was lucky enough to have a great coach during these years. My strongest memories are of playing tournaments in Europe for my school and local teams. College soccer followed and an opportunity to play for local Burscough FC, then a North West Counties Premier team. It was at College I started coaching and attained my UEFA C & B licenses. I graduated in Exercise Physiology and quickly took an opportunity to coach in the States. I worked on the East Coast for Springfield / South County Youth Club in VA where my Boys team gained 4 straight promotions in the National Capital Soccer League. This great group of boys allowed me to develop my philosophy and coaching methods and their development really encouraged me to pursue a coaching career. I attained my USSF C License during this time in Richmond, VA before relocating to CA in 2007. I secured my USSF B in the same year in Thousand Oaks and then my USSF A the following year in Carson. During my time in CA I have coached teams at Los Gauchos, Arsenal, Pateadores and now Riverside City Football Club.
Q: What do you look forward to in leading the Riverside City Football Club Coaching staff into year two?
A: The coaching group are passionate about the game, talented and experienced but with so many sessions an games it’s important to build and maintain consistent habits. I aim to provide solid direction and varied support to the coaches so they can deliver and communicate RCFC’s philosophy to all our players. My aim is to have our coaches operate under the highest of professional standards for training, games and player management and to make sure these standards are consistent across the Club and upheld at every opportunity. I do have items top of my list for 2019/20. Helping the coaches with their preparation, content and delivery of training sessions so we can start to grow a consistent style of play across the Club. Working with coaches on their player and team management, team communication and strengthening their group dynamic. Introducing a healthy lifestyle initiative so coaches can be at their very best when coaching the RCFC players.
Q: What are your thoughts on player development in the United States?
A: Coaching & player development should be focused more on the masses, given that 4 million youth players participate in soccer across 6,000 youth soccer Clubs in the US. We should be cultivating a broader understanding of the World game, developing players who will continue to play and enjoy the game as adults and who will pass on their passion for soccer to the next generation. Our knowledge of the game is far grater than it was 15 years ago and there are obviously far greater numbers of professional coaches tasked with making our players better. The concern for me is there are too many coaches are not enough teachers. I have enjoyed most coaching courses I have attended. There has always been a healthy sharing of knowledge and methodology but never enough focus on teaching skills…….areas such as communication, motivation, patience, adaptability, imagination, mentoring. Too many Clubs & their coaches seem obsessed with having successful teams. I think a big cultural step forward in player development would be more Clubs & coaches becoming obsessed with good soccer, how to communicate it and creating an optimal learning environment. US Soccer have made some meaningful changes in recent years to help create this environment. None more so than the Play – Practice – Play concept for teaching youth soccer players. Researched, developed and launched as part of US Soccer’s Grassroots initiative the training structure aims to give the sessions back to the players. Less, more meaningful coaching in game-like situations. This is not to say other methods of coaching players are wrong but Play – Practice – Play, as a staple for practice sessions, will keep players motivated, can meet the goals of every session and deter over coaching. Good work US Soccer!
Q: What is your coaching philosophy?
A: I always teach my players & teams to recognize & value their way of playing, every single game. It is a fundamental part of my coaching that allows a consistent approach to training and games. My view is that if you learn & play in a recognizable way, one that you have worked on and value…..then win, lose or draw, you always have a home to go to. I like to see a technical game. I always think of tackling as a consequence of bad technique so the higher technical games are far cleaner and more enjoyable to play in, coach and watch. I want everyone on the field to have an enjoyable experience training & playing, express themselves and recognize and protect their style of play. I remind my players regularly that 99% of Pros are not special – they are just strong athletes that do the simple things well and consistently. I encourage players to make natural passes within their formation and to play in groups, believe there’s no risk in forward runs and passes but be patient if needed and don’t force things. I always send my players onto the pitch asking them to enjoy it. I’m confident in my vision of the game my methodology so the key is always convincing your players. There’s a lot of information out there so coaching is often about convincing players your right! The more repetition, success and the building of trust between player and coach allows you to further develop positive behavior in each position. The aim is, over time, each individual player will have built up such a strong behavior in their respective position they are able to recognize and act quickly and correctly in any situation. I task every player with this. Make your position as creative, deep and meaningful as you can. Make your position important and exciting. Make your position a Masterpiece!
Q: How do you plan on implementing a strong culture with Riverside City Football Club?
A: The Club Leadership, the Players, the Coaches and the Parents are all responsible for developing, upholding our growing club culture by the way they play, coach & support and how they behave both on and off the pitch. RCFC’s mission, vision and philosophy are set out and a strong, distinct culture must be formed around these values and beliefs, inclusive of everyone associated with the Club. This is a process and will take time but it’s what will ultimately set us apart from our competitors and the reason why players and families want to be part of our Club. I like to think over time I will add to the vision & purpose of the Club and help with policy that will continue to grow the RCFC culture.
My aim is to form a consistent playing style across all our teams which will be central part of RCFC culture. Freshening up the training session structure and methodology and making sure all coaches stay on track will be the start of taking our style of play to the fields. I will be introducing our ‘DNA’ training initiative this Summer which will allow a collaborative approach to growing a coaching curriculum that will help develop the RCFC playing style. Playing culture at RCFC means technical ability, mature tactical awareness, high physical capabilities and, most importantly respecting the game. RCFC want to cultivate players who show a true passion for soccer and love being out on the field with their team. We want everyone in an RCFC jersey to play with confidence and joy, with a high work ethic and the ambition to be the best they can be. We want players to positively influence their team, show dedication to the game away from coaching sessions & have integrity on and off the field.
So much can be done on the training ground but not everything. My aim is to introduce the coaches to a variety of tools that can be used to influence our players and fuel their passion for the game. The game never stops. I aim to educate and develop coaches with strong methodology who can design & deliver positive, engaging, player-centric training sessions. Already introduced is a Play-Practice-Play session structure for younger groups. The aim of this change in session structure is to stop over coaching in the younger age groups. This less is more approach will give sessions back to the players with coaches providing more teaching within the game. Coaches have to think and function more as teachers and less as coaches. RCFC coaches must prioritize development & over results and make sure their players know the act of competing, being with their team and putting into practice their learning is more important than winning.
I will be strong on making sure all RCFC coaches act as role models for the players. They must always lead by example with a healthy lifestyle, the promotion of well being, positive behavior and look to provide moral & ethical direction to players at every opportunity. My aim is to provide education, direction and leadership support at all times to our coaches on this important subject. I feel the current group know their purpose, trust each other and have great pride representing RCFC. I want to build on that!
The key to developing a successful Club culture really is the parents! The Club wish to be transparent in everything they are doing. Club policy. Vision. Partnerships. Strategy. Playing. Coaching. Programs. Initiatives. All parents will have access to information relevant to the coaching of their children. What we are doing, why we are doing it, the methodology, the structure and the learning outcomes expected at various age groups and levels is important to share. Providing this level of communication and sharing of information will help build a strong connection between Club, coach & parent. The days of ‘us and them’ are long gone and it’s my aim to build a strong player – coach – parent dynamic within the Club.
RCFC Executive Director, Kevin Watson remarks on the hire…
“I am beyond excited to welcome James to the Riverside City Football Club family as he has always been a leader and coach in the community that I have respected for years. I cannot wait for James to hit the training grounds and showing his abilities in executing the club’s vision, philosophy, and overall club culture for our coaches, players, and parents. Not only does James have a great brain for the game of football and a fantastic approach to the management of coaches, but he is a fantastic character. Our coaches and I will learn a great deal from him. With James on board we continue to further develop our club in creating a top-level environment for players and coaches in the community of Riverside and the surrounding areas.”