CV Manchester Coach Darren Parker
Youth Club Soccer Spotlight: CV Manchester's Coach Darren Parker
Great Coaches on Great Soccer on SoccerNation - Vision, passion and persistence are hallmarks of great coaches. All great coaches are different. Some great soccer coaches were professional players who have won world cups, some are coaches who have coached world cup teams. One of the most important attributes is dedication. CV Manchester's U18 coach Darren Parker is a coach who embodies dedication in spades and always goes the extra mile to provide his players with the best possible opportunities.
Darren Parker coaches the CV Manchester United BU18-19 Premier Elite soccer team here in San Diego. While San Diego is home to a number of Youth Soccer Coaches, Coach Parker has the somewhat unusual distinction of coaching this team since the boys were 9 year olds, having started the team over 10 years ago in Presidio League. The team is in its final year, playing the WCDA, West Coast Development Academy, and the new league, SCDSL or Southern California Development Soccer League, as well as Presidio Soccer League.
Coach Parker was born in Chester, UK, and moved to the US as a teenager. He has played soccer in college at SDSU, and professionally in the UK with Liverpool FC in the English Premiership. In his spare time, he works as an engineer for the City of Escondido, and likes to spend time hiking in the Sierra Nevada. We caught up with him at Villa Capri 2, a locals hangout near his home in Rancho Penasquitos, where one can likely find a soccer match in progress on the wide screen TV, and sat down for an interview.
SN: Coach Parker, you’ve had your ‘olders’ team now for over 10 years. They’ve risen to the top, so to speak, playing Premier Elite 1 in Presidio League, the new WCDA academy league, and now the newly formed SCCDL. Tell us a little about how this team got started.
Darren Parker: This team first started when I got my first coaching job with the Carlsbad Lightning Soccer Club boys under 8 team. I still have two players that currently play for me now that were on the under 8 team and two other former players that played last season that are in college now. The team and the players excelled and developed quickly.
From Carlsbad Lightning I moved the team to the Del Mar Sharks, where the team went from AAA to premier in the first year and kept that status for several years before moving over to CV Manchester. During my time at Lighting and Del Mar I introduced them to what was, at the time, a fairly new sport called Futsál. I’m a huge supporter of young players playing this game that is now recognized by FIFA and U.S. Soccer. Also at CV Manchester, the team progressed further as a team that is indicative of how well the team played last season. Hopefully, we will finish off strong.
SNN: With all the challenges facing elite competitive players, what with school and work, (SN:)) How do you manage to inspire your players and keep them motivated?
Darren Parker: Setting goals for the players at the beginning of the season is important and organizing a tactical training plan provides the chance for each and every player to achieve their goal. Of course, a little bit of luck helps as well.
SNN: You definitely go the extra mile as a coach, organizing scrimmages or ‘friendlies’ with the local pro teams (SD Flash, SD Sockers) for instance. How do you define your role as a coach?
Darren Parker: “I'm someone that grew up loving the game first, playing it second and now giving back to the young lads the knowledge and passion I have gained from this game. I also use all of my resources to give my players the best competition possible, and if that means calling pro coaches to set up games with semi pro and professional teams, then I am happy to do it for my team.”
SNN: How do you select your new players for your CV Manchester?
Darren Parker: “The CV Manchester team currently finishing up the season is a very special team; I have known many of these soccer players since they were seven years old. I have known some of my players’ families for decades. This is unusual and something one can never replace. I wish the players that are moving onto college well.
For our new soccer players coming to join the team, I expect and want them to play and train at a high level. Obviously, part of the selection process is their skill and their attitude, and how well they fit with the current team. I have always invited prospective players to practice and scrimmages with the current team before making a decision to join. It is a wonderful team, and once selected, and the new players will be very welcomed and appreciated."
SNN: What are your recommendations for youth soccer development? It would seem that many parents are happy just having their kids play. But what would you recommend for parents and for kids that really want to play serious competitive soccer at a high level?
Darren Parker: “I believe soccer players need to have a real love for the game. It is important that today’s youth soccer players never take anything for granted. Players have to want to succeed, want to be great and willing to put out the effort. If you think training three hours a week with your club team is going to make you a player, it might, but players should realize what else they should do to be their best. I recommend practicing and training by yourself as well if you want to really develop as a soccer player."
SNN: We notice that you were playing Futsál once a week with the team. Is this a team tradition, or is it something you use or have used as a training tool?
Darren Parker: It’s a mixture of both. I believe the game of Futsál should be part of every young soccer player’s career at some point, especially at a young age. I introduced it to the young players when I first started coaching and still teach its methods today. We play mostly in the off-season or when we just need a break and need to work on individual skills. I believe that every player that I have introduced Futsál to loves and has benefited from it in some way.
SNN: What did you think of Project 2010? (Editor’s note: Project 2010 is a blueprint created by U.S. Soccer in 1998 to ensure that the US became a world class participant in the FIFA World Cup by 2010. The legacy of Project 2010 are two programs created to produce world-class soccer talent in the US, Project 40 sponsored by Nike, and the US Soccer U-17 residency camp in Bradenton, Florida)
Darren Parker: I thought Project 2010 was great and something that needs to be done more.
SNN: Soccer is a relative new comer to US sports. What do you think of US Soccer in general? Is Soccer here to stay in America?
Darren Parker: Over the 15 years I have been in the states the sport have risen to a new level every year. I think that we have some amazing athletes here in the states but it is still not the biggest sport here for people. Once it becomes in the top 2nd or 3rd of all sports here in America, then you will see a huge change. But the players are getting better here in America, and you can see that by how many Americans are playing overseas at big clubs.
SNN: What do you think of the U.S.’s program for player development?
Darren Parker: “The U.S. soccer program for player development is evolving, as is the game in America. I think that the US soccer federation is heading in the right direction not only for player development but also caching as well. Soccer has been around for some time in America, but it is just now becoming an American sport."
SNN: What is your favorite American team?
Darren Parker: “I don't have one, because I only have one favorite team and that is Liverpool. But I did watch all soccer matches.”
SNN: Speaking of soccer in America, it now seems that one can walk into a sports bar with multiple TV screens and find that at least one of the screens has a soccer match on it. Would you call that progress?
Darren Parker: Yes that is definitely progress. Some years ago, bar proprietors would scoff at changing a channel to soccer. Now they readily accommodate such requests.
SNN: Care to comment on the early Sunday morning ritual at Shakespeare’s Pub near Old Town? I know that many die-hard fans of the Premiership can be found there at that time watching their favorite team.
Darren Parker: I must admit that I’m one of those fans that like to go to Shakespeare pub at about 4:30am in the morning and watch a match. It’s something about the atmosphere there that closely resembles being in a pub in England and watching a game with family or friends.
SNN: Coach Parker, it goes without saying that . . . you’re a coach, and coaches are supposed to win games. How important is winning?
Darren Parker: At a young level, it is not important. The emphasis should be only on player development (skills, skills, skills....). As soccer players develop and get older, then winning becomes important.
SNN: People say that a coach is good if his team wins…others say a great coach can spend years losing while he is developing his players …what do you say?
Darren Parker: At a competitive club level, winning for a coach should not be important and does not make him a good coach. Being defined ‘good’ as a coach because your young soccer team wins is ridiculous. Teaching young soccer players well is what matters. Any coach can win soccer games. Great coaches win games over time by developing players. You can be a coach that just wins games, or you can be a coach that wins games by developing your players.
SNN: It can take years to become proficient at coaching, and coaching has various levels of licensing just as refereeing does. What level license do you have?
Darren Parker: I have a C license. You need a C license to coach olders in competitive soccer.
SNN: Coach Parker, most know you as a coach, but you played soccer professionally at one time, is that true?
Darren Parker: Yes
SNN: What professional soccer clubs have you played with?
Darren Parker: “I have had multiple trials and stints with Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers, Derby County, Leeds and most of my time playing was with Wrexham.”
SNN: Most Americans probably wouldn’t know the difference between those teams. Could you elaborate on those experiences?
Darren Parker: The experiences with these clubs that I was fortunate to have at a young age will never be forgotten. So few players get the chance to try and get a professional contract. The experience was incredible for me at a young age, because I did come so close being there for several years bouncing around hoping to get a professional contract. I learned what it took to be at that level as a player. The memories that I had and the players, coaches and directors that I meet along the way were all so wonderful to me that I will never forget. Most of them to this day I still have contact with. I still have my old videos of me playing for the youth team at Liverpool, Leeds, Darby, Blackburn and eventually Wrexham.
SNN: You’re originally from Britain. One can safely assume that you started playing soccer at an early age.
Darren Parker: “As soon as my dad gave me a soccer ball, so maybe around 3 years of age. My father was also a soccer coach and coached in San Diego.”
SNN: Where did you live when you first started to play soccer?
Darren Parker: “I grew up and first started to play soccer in England, a small town called Chester.
SNN: Many of your players have gone off or are going off to college to play soccer, some on athletic scholarships. What final piece of advice would you give young soccer players who want to ‘rise to the top’ as some of your players have?
Darren Parker: You as a player must first want to play at the next level. Then you must set about putting in the hard work that it takes to get there. I recommend every soccer player strive for that, even if you get to experience a higher level of play for 4-5 years only. It’s a great experience that will be with you for the rest of your life. For every player who has played for me, I have tried my hardest to help him achieve that goal.
SNN: Thanks for your time Coach.
NOTE: Tryouts for this team are soon - Check the SN Bulletin Board for more information.