The championship mentality...an all-encompassing interview with NC Courage assistant coach Scott Val

From playing and winning championships at the highest level to doing the same as a coach, our latest interview with North Carolina Courage assistant coach Scott Vallow is definitely a must read! We were lucky enough to get some time to talk with the former professional goalkeeper; check out what he had to say below!

Let’s dive right in! You started out your professional career as a Project-40 signing. You’ve seen the program develop throughout the years to blossom into what it is known as now (Generation Adidas). Do you feel the program was beneficial for you as a young goalkeeper? And do you think the growth of the program (and MLS as a whole) over the years has been beneficial for young goalkeepers?

I think the most important thing for young goalkeepers is to play. You can only simulate game like situations in training and there’s no substitute for getting games. I was lucky because my pro-40 team actually competed in the a-league, so we got good training during the week with our MLS teams and the competitions on the weekend. We had 28 road games because all the various pro-40 players were coming from all over the country from our MLS teams. IF young goalkeepers are actually competing and getting minutes in meaningful games; then I’m ok with it, but most MLS teams have a clear #1 that will play a majority of the games. In this case, I think being a #1 in USL would be better for development than a #2 or #3 in MLS.

You’ve played at the MLS level as well as in USL; what were the main differences between the two leagues at the time? Level of play? Training? Facilities?

The biggest difference was the full international players…both foreign & from the USMNT. Apart from that, the remaining players from MLS and USL are pretty equal. That’s why several USL teams beat MLS teams in the US Open Cup when full internationals are sometimes rested for MLS league play. Several USL players were also able to make more money in the USL because their value to their USL team was greater that their value at an MLS team. I would say the facilities might’ve be slightly better in MLS when I played too. Times have significantly changed since my last year in MLS in 2005. Now MLS is the clear leader in every category.

During your career, you played with some great goalkeepers like Pat Onstad, Scott Garlick, and Joe Cannon. What was your mindset like when training and competing with goalkeepers of that quality? What as the goalkeeper’s union dynamic like in those environments?

The dynamic at training is very professional. My attitude was the same no matter where I was and no matter who I was training with: no excuses and train as hard as I could and continue to improve each day/week/month/year. This way, if the coach wanted to not select me to play on the weekend, I could sleep very well at night knowing there’s nothing more I could’ve done during the week. I also had a good personal relationship with both Joe & Scott, not so much with Pat. Training was fun and I think that’s important to keep in mind too.

You won multiple championships with the Rochester Rhinos as well as winning the Goalkeeper of the Year award for the league; How did you respond to this success? What drove you to continue developing as a goalkeeper and push for more success?

My main drive when I left MLS for the USL (A-League at the time) was to get back to MLS as quickly as I could. So after the 2000 & 2001 championship seasons, I found my way back to MLS in 2002, which was my goal. After I got waived from the Colorado Rapids in 2005, Rochester called at 8am the next morning and I was on a flight to play again for the Rhinos the next day. Then, after probably my best year as a pro in 2006, I had a chance to go back to MLS, but I decided to parlay that opportunity into a new 3 year deal to stay in Rochester. I was newly married and had my first son that year and the job security was more important at the time.

You’ve won multiple championships as both a player and coach; which was your most memorable?

Championships are all memorable. Playing in a final is so much fun, both as a player and as a coach. I think the 2016 WNY Flash championship was my favorite because we were big underdogs going into the season, but found our way into the playoffs. The semi-final game against the Portland Thorns in Portland with 20,000 people was the most amazing experience for me. That Portland team was so dominant the entire year, but our bad new bears of a team were not intimidated and we went into the game with nothing to lose. We ended up winning 4-3 in double overtime and used that momentum to beat the Washington Spirit in the NWSL final.

What led to your decision to begin your coaching career? Why did you decide to start in the women’s game?

Aaran Lines gave me my first opportunity in 2011. He was one of my teammates for the Rhinos and the current head coach of the WNY Flash. I still had 1 year left on my Rhinos contract, and that would’ve been my 13th year as a pro. I decided that getting into coaching with what turned out to be one of the best club teams ever assembled, was too good of an opportunity to pass up on, so I retired and took the job!

During your coaching career, you have worked on both the men’s and women’s side of the professional game. Is there any type of adjustment switching between the two?

No adjustment. I train men the same as women and the same way I train youth players. The big difference is that from my experience, women are much better listeners!

Throughout your coaching career in the women’s game, you have seen multiple leagues come and go. How has the NWSL developed over the years? Are the developmental environments & playing opportunities for young goalkeepers available in the league?

The NWSL is the best league for women in the world. No other league is as competitive from top to bottom than the NWSL. There’s always opportunities for young players. Most NWSL teams have 3 goalkeepers on the roster (usually 1 is developmental). It just depends on what is important to the player. Some environments are better for development, but just like I said before, training can only get you so good…you need games. I would check with each coaching staff to see if there is a clear plan for player development.

Why did you decide to start Train Like A Champion?

The business was set up to provide camps, clinics, academies & private lessons to young aspiring soccer players in WNY. Thousands of players have come through the program and I still conduct 4 camps per year in Rochester & Buffalo. Information can be seen at www.ScottVallow.com

What are some of the major adjustments to be made when switching from working with professional goalkeepers to youth goalkeepers?

Probably #1 is ball speed. With the professional goalkeepers, I literally hit every service as hard as I can. With youth goalkeepers, I obviously adjust my ball speed. Like I said before, most of my drills and games are the same for youth, high school, college & professional goalkeepers, it is just important to challenge each goalkeeper, so some of the professional drills are more complex and involve more complex decision making.

We both were fortunate enough to experience success with one of the most storied soccer clubs in the United States; the Rochester Rhinos. In your opinion, what was the greatest Rochester Rhinos team of all time?!

Most will say the 1999 US Open Cup winning side was the best Rhinos team ever…and that is hard to argue. That wasn’t my team because I arrived in Rochester in 2000…but my teams in 2000 & 2001 were also very solid. It’s fun reminiscing with all the old players and the fans in the community. Rochester will always hold a very special place in my heart and I think the Rhinos brand is still very strong and I hope for the team to return to play in 2019!

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