For our latest interview, we were fortunate enough to talk with Orlando Pride goalkeeper coach Lloyd Yaxley. He gives us his insight on the goalkeeping position from a high-level coaching perspective as well as his thoughts on the development of the modern goalkeeper in today's game. Read it all for yourself below!
You're a native of England, where you both played and coached at various levels. What lead to the decision to jump across the pond and continue your coaching career here in the United States?
I would say that i just needed a change. I had been trying to find my place at non-league level and honestly, i just wasn't good enough compared to who i was competing against. I felt like I could take my experiences and add it to my coaching, so before I landed in America I applied for jobs all over the world; ranging from Australia to Sierra Leone and obviously America. I came out to northern Virginia short term, loved it and then began to take steps in order for me to get a longer visa, etc.
You've worked with various youth clubs in the United States during your time here, what are some of the major differences in the youth systems between England and the United States? More specifically, how does the developmental path to the professional game differ (if at all) especially for goalkeepers?
There's a few major differences in my opinion. The first being, in America, I would say the majority of players' goal is to play in college or get a scholarship then potentially play pro. Particularly on the women's side, the idea of playing pro is a distance thought; especially when talking to younger players. Hopefully as the NWSL grows as a league then playing professionally in the USA will be a realistic goal. In England, you ask a young player what are their goals? The majority of the answers are "I want to play professionally.". The other major difference, I would say, is the way players make it into the professional teams. In Europe, you join a club and ideally make your way through the ranks and hopefully one day play for the first team. In America, its different. Play youth soccer, go to college for 4 or 5 years then potentially get drafted to a professional team. MLS has some incentives to develop their players prior to college as they will then get homegrown status. In the NWSL, we do not have that. So even if we do a great job of developing a player, 4 years later one of the other 8 NWSL clubs can take her ahead of us.in the draft.
In terms of the professional game, you've been involved with multiple NWSL teams for a number of years now. What drew you to the opportunity to coach in the NWSL and how has the experience been so far?
Honestly, the opportunity came before the league was even formed. I volunteered to work with DC United Women; a W-League team made up of girls playing over the summer to stay sharp for their college seasons and pros just staying sharp as there was no professional league at the time. The draw of that was just to work with hungry players and goalkeepers wanting to train hard and get better. A year later, the NWSL was formed. The owner of DC United women formed a new team; the Washington Spirit. The majority of the staff from DC United Women continued as coaches for the Washington Spirit. As far as the experience so far; like everything in football, its a roller coaster! I feel like I've experienced quite a bit. Finishing bottom of the league, 2 semi-final losses, losing the final to a PK shootout. So there have obviously been plenty of highs and lows. I love my job and love the goalkeepers that I get the chance to work with. They make me a better coach every day and if I improve them just a little then I'm happy!
You're known for your creativity in your training sessions. Explain the thought process behind that, both mentality-wise and the developmental approach? Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
I really try to draw from other sports and see their thinking towards movements and actions. If i can find a relationship between how they do something and how a goalkeeper keeps the ball out the net then I'm all in on trying it out. For example, you look at how an ice hockey goalkeeper use their legs in saves or how a baseball player moves their hand to the ball. If that gives my keepers an extra 1% to be able to make a save then why not try it! I like to keep my keepers on their toes and if they come out to training everyday doing the same exercises, I feel like it just becomes repetitive and flat.
People may see the work that you do on the field during training sessions, but how much work goes on behind the scenes to prepare for sessions (video work, session planning, etc.)?
I honestly feel like a large majority of my coaching is done away from the field. We will sit down and go over clips from the game; breaking down starting positioning and decisions that were made. We will watch training video and go over technical habits that are going on. Obviously each session is planned and i try to correlate our training session with what the rest of the team is doing so when we jump in with them the session flows. I'll also go over data from our games, or our season, to see if there are certain trends that are causing us to concede goals. That's a brief snapshot into "away from the training field"!
During your time with both the Washington Spirit & Orlando Pride, you've worked with a number of experienced international goalkeepers. How does your coaching philosophy change when entering new environments?
I would say that my coaching philosophy doesn't change much at all. I heard another coach explain his job once and he said "we as coaches are salesmen and our goalkeepers are buying a product, it is up to us to be able to sell our product to them". I think it sums it up pretty well. My philosophy on certain situations and the position as a whole will come out as the weeks of training roll on. Its mainly me saying; this is how i feel about that situation, this is why i feel like it should be like that and now lets see if you get success from it.
Speaking of new environments, you've been involved with the United States national team setup up at various levels. How have those experiences helped you develop as a coach?
Honestly, any opportunity to work with new coaches, new ideas and new philosophies is exciting for me. I would say that it made me realize that every small detail is valuable and even if it seems obvious, it has an impact on performance.
In addition to your professional and international coaching experience, you hold various coaching licenses. How important do you think these licenses are for coaches, especially goalkeeper coaches?
I think that coaching licenses hold great value; it shows that you are willing to invest in yourself and get around other like-minded people. It gives you a chance to showcase yourself alongside your peers. There are people I participated in coaching license courses with previously that I still speak to and would still recommend for jobs. I know the programming is expensive and time consuming but it is more important than the result of getting the bit of paper.
What are some of the major changes you've noticed in goalkeeping philosophy over the years during your time as a coach? How has goalkeeper coaching changed (either positively or negatively) as a whole for you?
Without a doubt, philosophies have changed. I look at how I teach breakaways, positioning, crossing, and even distribution. Its completely different to what I was taught. The demand on the goalkeeper to be a play-maker is greater than ever so ability with their feet is key. Just look at breakaways for example: do you come and go into a block (like a futsal keeper)? Is it a split save? Do you go hands or do you just stand! Varying techniques for varying situations to get the same outcome; hopefully keeping the ball out the net!
Final question...Who wins another World Cup first, the United States or England (Men's or Women's)?
Tough one...I think the USWNT have a great opportunity to retain their title next summer in France or the U-17 WNT they play in Uruguay in a couple of months for the U-17 Womens World Cup! So my answer (as their tournament is sooner) would be the US U-17 WNT to win the next World Cup!