For some of you who sit close enough to our bench to hear my usual ranting and raving on game day you may have noticed one less coach on the bench against Chivas recently. I was in Scotland for a module of my UEFA Pro Badge and unfortunately it conflicted with our game. I have been lucky up until this point that I have missed only a handful of training sessions but this date could not be avoided.
It was tough though. I have missed plenty of weddings and parties over the years due to my involvement in the game but rarely is it the other way around. I’m sure my absence was confusing for some fans and perhaps even some people in the club as not everyone was aware of this project I was undertaking. But with all the recent hubbub about Chelsea’s Avram Grant’s qualifications this may be a good time to briefly discuss what I have been doing with the badge and what is left for my qualification.
Let’s start with a bit of background. I have been traveling to Scotland for coach education for over ten years but have been to the Highlands many times before. My mother is from Glasgow and I spent several summers as a young boy enjoying the fabulous weather (cold rainy) the exotic food (haggis blood pudding fried Mars bars) and the ‘fitba". My first soccer memory was sitting in my uncle’s living room filled with smoke and drunken Scots watching Scotland vs. Iran in the 1978 World Cup (1-1 draw). There were many tears and a few "Glasgow kisses" thrown around that day so needless to say I have been a tortured soccer soul ever since.
As a college coach I met Craig Brown who was the Scottish National Team Coach at the time in Virginia at the NCAA Final Four. He persuaded me to come to Scotland for the B-level of the coach education in conjunction with Euro '96 in England. It was an invitation I couldn’t pass up.
Since 1996 I have taken my "B" and two levels of the UEFA "A" badge in Scotland requiring 10 days of residential work on and off the field for each course. During those times I have had the chance to work with some of the top coaches in the UK and with standout players like Packie Bonner of Ireland and Ally McCoist of Scotland. Individuals like this have experience that you can’t get out of a book so I have picked up just as much from them as from any of my instructors.
With the obvious distance issues and the fact that MLS runs on a different calendar from UEFA these courses have always created conflicts in my professional life. Traveling to Scotland has become a bit of a personal pilgrimage and has required a great deal of commitment from me. But I have also required the support from the people that I have worked with and their ability to see the big picture not necessarily for themselves but for me. Stevie Nicol Greg Andrulis and of course Fernando have been tremendous in allowing me time away to meet my various requirements.
-Handling professional players
-Styles of play
-Key game analysis for the UEFA Cup Final and the Scotland/Georgia Euro 2008 qualifier
-Game related training
-Fitness and conditioning at the Scottish Institute of Sport
-The media and technology at BBC Scotland
-Ethics and code of conduct
-Business management at Stirling University
-Club structure: a three day visit at Fulham of the English Premiership
-Contracts and agents
-Planning including rest and recovery
-Study visits to a foreign club
-Practical work and problem solving
It is my hope that my time on this course will prepare me for the challenges ahead and that the network created with the guys on the course will pay dividends as well. Ultimately I want the Colorado Rapids organization to benefit by improved performance from me as it is their support that makes it possible.
In closing I am looking forward to the last four Rapids regular season games this year and hope the fans come out in earnest to support this last push. We all know it is tough to be a fan and the ones who made it out to Salt Lake are appreciated by everyone on the team more than they could possibly know.