Featured Coach: Barry Ritson of LA Premier FC
Our Featured Coach series continues with an interview with Barry Ritson of LA Premier FC.
Ritson currently serves as the Executive Director of Coaching for the club and has many years of experience in coaching the game. He also competed professionally as a player for the youth clubs for Sunderland AFC and Burnley FC.
You can learn more about his achievements in the sport of soccer by visiting his official LA Premier page.
1. Who is your favorite professional player to watch, and what is it about his game that intrigues you the most?
Barry: My favorite player, being a Liverpool fan, is Steven Gerrard. A fantastic career at one of the most historical clubs in the world. His development from a young player into England captain was great to see.
He's tenacious, aggressive, with a quality range of passing that sets him apart from other top players I have watched over the past decade or so.
2. What are the major characteristics that you try to instill in your players in order to help them strive to become a complete soccer player?
Barry: For me there are two qualities I look for in youth players: The dedication to work and an appreciation for possession of the ball.
I believe that hard work and endeavor can close the gap between players developing at an early age technically and those that need more time to refine their skill set. Players that holds themselves to a high standard in terms of their physical outputs and continually push their limits in that regard will always rise to the top of their groups. Possession is so valuable and the confidence to maintain it under pressure from opponents is crucial in producing elite players.
Develping our team style of play hinges on whether the players are comfortable with the ball at their feet and the decisions they make are key. The top players in the world are said to be able to play at their own speed, and that's because they carefully choose how to use the ball.
3. Is there a specific individual training drill that you would recommend for all youth soccer players?
Barry: It really depends on the player. At the younger ages, coaches know there has to be a focus on technical training, ball mastery, etc. I think ball mastery with both the players dominant and non-dominant foot is key to set the foundation for the elite player.
I remember as a child using a wall to strike the ball at and then control it when it bounces off. Doing this and doing repetitive exercises with the players' weak foot is absolutely critical.
Development never stops, staying within the constraints of team practice and games will not maximize the potential of the player. Individual work is key to surpass other players in the age group and beyond.
4. What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach in terms of player and team development?
Barry: Winning!! How people define winning is different. For some its trophies, for some its overcoming hurdles in their development, but for me, I take pride when a player grows and overcomes hurdles that are naturally placed in front of them and surpasses expectations.
I've been fortunate to be part of championship winning teams and it feels good, I have also had the opportunity to work with individual players that have progressed to the elite levels of the game, both at college and professional, and that feels GREAT!
5. What is the most influential piece of advice that you've received that's helped you throughout your career?
Barry: Coach the Kid not the Player. I think its easy for coaches to relate to their kids as players. They see the uniform, they see the talent, they see them contribute to playing great soccer and winning trophies.
When players struggle, many coaches relate it to the game, or training, or just soccer in general. There are a multitude of reasons why players will struggle. You have to know the child, what their motivations for playing the sport are and what they enjoy outside of the game. I learned early that if I respect my kids as children first and a soccer player second they would give that little bit more.
If you know more about them you can set realistic targets and hold them accountable and in turn pushing them further in an age-specific and sensible manner.