|Soccer Nation: What team(s) are you currently coaching?
John Napier: Coaching at FC San Diego, I will have 2 new teams for this Presidio season BU10 and BU12. I also coach the Cal South ODP Girls 95 team.
SN: Who were the coaches you played under/coached with who shaped your style of coaching? What did they teach you?
JN: Probably my first coaches at Bolton Wanderers, Nat Lofthouse and George Hunt. I think besides good focus on technical ability they taught me the drive and desire to succeed to reach my goals. Those early years were so important in my young career.
SN: What is your style of coaching?
JN: I like to play a possession game, so a lot of my training is based on teaching good technical skills to maintain possession; I encourage players to be comfortable on the ball at all times. .
SN: Who are the players you are particularly proud of on or off the soccer field?
JN: At the youth level there are so many kids I have worked with that deserve so much credit for all their efforts on and off the field that there are too many to name. In my present ODP Girls team, I have two players that I think will be recognized at the National level before long, they are only 15-years-old but Kelly McCann and Maddie Bauer have great futures ahead of them.
SN: What do you look for in a player?
JN: Obviously I look for technically ability as a number one. Passion and desire for the game is a must, Inner drive is also so important, I have seen so many players in my years in soccer that just did not reach their potential, even with all the abilities they had. Controlled speed is an important element in today’s game. Being mentally strong is a must; the game becomes a mind game as you progress in years.
SN: What advice would you give to any player looking to become a professional soccer player? What advice would you give to parents?
JN: The road is long. You need to work at the technical skills from an early age, enjoy the progress, enjoy the game, and get around coaches that put development ahead of winning at all costs. Parents should let their kids have fun, put them in an environment that will help their development. Don’t pressure them. If the tools are there and the progress is good, they will continue to love the game and grow with it. There are a very, very low percentage of kids that get to the top in ANY sport, let them enjoy the ride. Soccer is a life sport.
SN: Your team is playing for the championship title and they are down by three at the half. What do you say in your halftime pep talk?
JN: Being 3-0 down in any game drops the moral of the team, my talk would be all about getting the confidence back; being very positive at youth level is a must in this particular situation. One step at a time, try to get a goal back early! You have to get the belief back into the team. Not easy but it can be done.
SN: Who is your favorite professional soccer player?
JN: I like the young player Lionel Messi at Barcelona, he is wonderful player, In fact I love to watch that team play. It is pure soccer all the way through the team. It reminds me of the great Dutch National teams of the 70s and 80s. Just beautiful to watch. My favourite player of all time, along with the great Pele, was my former team mate George Best, so much talent, you had to be there to appreciate what he could do with a soccer ball.
SN: If you could, would you change anything about soccer what would it be?
JN: In youth soccer I would try to take the win at all costs out of the game. We need to develop better technical players and let them grow with the game. We put way too much pressure on our young players. In fact we drive them away from the game with the demands and high expectations to succeed. I think U.S. soccer will take a whole new look at our youth system, we have come a long way, but we still have so far to go. Player development is the key, but we are asking 6 and 7 year olds to play at a high competitive level, with screaming coaches and parents at their every move. We will never make progress this way. U.S. Olympic gold medal winner Shaun White said “I used to love soccer as a young boy, but when other parents started shouting at me to run faster and kick harder in a negative way, I realized I did not enjoy it anymore and took up skateboarding and bike riding.”
SN: Favorite Quote:
JN: "Aim for the sky, and you reach the ceiling, aim for the ceiling and you will reach the floor." - from the best Liverpool manager ever, Bill Shankly