" ...If you are good at the basics, your gifts/super qualities will allow you to shine."
- Philip Poole
Today we are lucky enough to be able to talk to one of the most experienced goalkeeper coaches in the United States, Philip Poole! He is the current USSDA girls director and director of goalkeeping for the Charlotte Soccer Academy. He took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss a bit of goalkeeping with us, see what he had to say below!
We know you're a native of England, but tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in Newcastle, like most from there I am a massive Newcastle United fan. As a young player I joined Newcastle’s academy (11 years old) and was with them until I was 15. I was really lucky as I was able to train with Shay Given, Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop, Steve Harper and a ton of very good young GK’s. At 15 I signed with Hull City and spent the next two and a half season there. The complete other side of the spectrum - getting to be on the bench at 16 years old, training with the first team, playing 20+ reserve games - it was truly an education for me. I was then offered the chance to come to the USA by the players union (PFA) and decided to attend Wingate University (DII NATIONAL CHAMPIONS - just outside of Charlotte NC). The best decision I ever made. I was lucky enough to be coached by Coach Gary Hamill (a man I would do anything for). I also met my beautiful wife there!!!!
How long have you been involved with the youth soccer scene in Charlotte?
Even at University I was coaching youth soccer. I had two teams I worked with and also coached some GK’s. I dread to think how bad I was back then - thankfully I have evolved a little (I hope). All in all about 15-16 years now (wow that makes me feel old) with various clubs including Charlotte Soccer Academy, Lake Norman Soccer Club, Charlotte Eagles, and Charlotte Independence.
As a youth goalkeeper coach, what are your main points of emphasis during training every week?
I value and stress the basic fundamental aspects of the game and the techniques needed. Catching, diving, footwork, crosses/high balls, 1v1, positioning, distribution/passing range are all areas I stress. I really have evolved into trying to make the GK better in the decision making processes and ensuring the GK understands the ‘why’ aspect his/her decisions. Like most coaches I try a lot of new things and am always looking for ways to improve my GK’s but I keep finding my way back to the basic functions of the position. My take is if you are good at the basics - your grifts/super qualities will allow you to shine.
What was your experience like coaching at the professional level with the Charlotte Independence?
It was really great. I had 5 years of previous experience with the Charlotte Eagle prior to the launch of the Independence so I was familiar with the league (and some of the ups & downs associated with it!!!). The independence is and was a project. I learned so much from head coach Mike Jefferies and assistant coach Troy Lesesne (Both guys that have been in and around the league for sometime). There is nothing better than getting to work with good honest professional players everyday. I like that you’ve got to deliver everyday - pro’s know if you are ‘blagging’ it or making it up - it needs planning and thought on a deep and meaningful level. The other aspect I enjoyed was the fact its a results driven job - your GK HAS TO BE GOOD - or the buck stops with me. I was fortunate to get some good looks into MLS (with our Colorado Rapids partnership), player agents, loans, contracts, and so many more aspects that I was very uneducated on. The professional level is a lot of fun and it certainly keeps you on your toes.
What are the main differences between working with youth goalkeepers and working with professionals?
There is a big picture for youth players (or at least there should be). It is never about now - it’s always about improving, educating them, and making them ready for bigger/better things. The pros are about results. It’s that simple. I work on a season plan with a pro but need to go back and solve problems or issues in the previous game, look ahead and plan for the next opponent, keep tabs on them psychologically etc etc - with youth GK’s I stick to the plan - this week is all about crosses no matter what happened last weekend or who we are playing this week. The pro game can change quickly (loans, transfers, a GK being released, or coming on trial etc etc).
You've worked with a lot of goalkeepers that have gone on to play college soccer, what advice do you give them on the transition?
It’s always a tough transition. The gap is MASSIVE from youth to college (just as it is from college to pro). I know it is a line used by many - but - I say control everything you can and don’t worry about what you can’t. A GK can decide their attitude, work ethic, self education, etc etc - You have to dig in and do everything you can to be as good as you can be. GK’s must learn that they are now one of 3 or 4 GK’s and that the fight for minutes is DAILY - no sessions off or poor showings. It doesn’t always go well - I must try to instill that they will have to deal with some set backs (not in the team, not traveling, a highly recruited freshman etc etc). There is so much. It is a MASSIVE jump.
"I say control everything you can and don't worry about what you can't."
- Philip Poole
How has your experience, working with the youth national teams as well as full national team, helped you grow as a goalkeeper coach?
It has aged me for sure. There is nothing better than getting out of your comfort zone. There is so much work behind the scenes that no one ever sees. I used to think it was a nice easy job - no chance. It basically showed me a whole new world of professionalism. There is something amazing about competing for a world championship. The level of detail required is extremely high. I have had some very good mentors (Graeme Abel, Phil Wheddon, and Paul Rogers - who have all been awesome when working with me).
As a goalkeeper coach with a vast amount of experience at every level of the game, what would be your best advice for up and coming goalkeeper coaches?
Learn, knock on doors, ask, steal, beg, borrow, etc etc. If you want to keep learning you have to get out and seek information. You will be surprised how many people will help you. When I was young I would do anything to work with the next group of GK’s or work with a certain coach. Sometimes you have to foot the bill - I say ALWAYS invest in yourself and your craft. GK conventions or coaching education opportunities are vital. Phil Wheddon is doing really cool stuff right now.
Last question....will Newcastle survive the relegation battle in the Premier League this season?
We want to thank Coach Poole for taking the time to sit down with us and discuss a bit of goalkeeping! Be sure to like and share this interview on both Facebook & Twitter and keep your eyes peeled for more interviews and blog posts coming soon!