Featured Coach: Matt Morse of AC Brea
Our Featured Coach series continues with an interview with Matt Morse of AC Brea.
Morse currently serves as the Director of Coaching and Technical Director for the club, and has been with the organization since 2007.
You can learn more about Morse and the Brea Soccer Association by visiting the team's official page.
1. Who is your favorite professional player to watch, and what is it about his game that intrigues you the most?
Matt: Most often people ask me who my favorite team is. I don't like that question because for me, it is more about who is playing than what jersey they are wearing. If I come across a game that has a player I like, I will watch the game and learn from, evaluate, and enjoy that player's performance.
When I was 8 years old, I wrote a paper for school about Pele and how great he was. There wasn't much access to him back then and since I have done what I can to see as much of him as possible - not just the goals but the way he takes players on - his quick first step and his intelligence is amazing.
In my high school days it was Ian Rush (and a lot of Liverpool). Ian amazed me with his finishing abilities and how he worked to get himself into scoring positions.
Then in college I was all about Lothar Matheus. I even carried a picture of him in my wallet! His work rate in the midfield was amazing, his approach to training was superb, and his focus and leadership were inspiring. There was a long time spell I had with Maldini and AC Milan, I have always followed Steven Gerrard's career and there have been too many players from Argentina that I will always watch.
To truly answer your question what intrigues me most about a player is someone who has a long career and who plays with the same club for most, if not all, of it. There are players with certain leadership characteristics and a will that can drive their team to be at the top for a long time.
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?
Matt: I tell players that the ball has to be your best friend. The ball is like a loyal dog...it will always be there for you but you have to spend a lot of time with it to really create that special relationship with it. You want to teach the ball how to "sit" - sit on your foot, sit on your head? Spend time training it to do so. You want to tell the ball where to "go" - hit the crossbar, find a target 40 yards away, go through your opponents legs? Spend time doing that.
Most kids today do not spend enough time alone with their ball or with friends and a ball. This is what makes my job difficult. My players are amazed when they see me juggle or strike a ball but it was those 10,000 hours spent trying to figure it out how it was done that led to perfection.
On every team there are a couple players who take this to heart, but no one will ever become a complete player without spending just as much or more time on their own as they spend at training with their team and coach.
3. Is there a specific individual training drill that you would recommend for all youth soccer players?
Matt: Simply learning a proper instep drive can completely change a player's game. Once a player learns to properly "kick" a ball then they can do what the game requires. Any activity that causes players to develop intelligence is tremendous. Repetition is necessary of course, however, when there are decisions to be made that is developmental.
One I like is 4v4v4 where each group of four has different vests - red, yellow, blue. Two colors posssess against one color (ie, red and yellow keep away from blue). If red loses the ball or blue intercepts a pass from red, then blue & yellow keep possession against red.
This is a mentally draining game because you really have to focus in on which teams are in possession and which team is defending. Players struggle with this because many do not pay attention to what is going on in the game.
4. What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach in terms of player and team development?
Matt: Similar to the question above, when I watch a player go through the difficult steps to truly learn how to strike a ball I am very satisfied. When I see a player start to play with intelligence I am thrilled.
Proper decision-making in a game brings much satisfaction
5. What is the most influential piece of advice that you've received that's helped you throughout your career?
Matt: I took the job at AC Brea in 2007. In 2006 I was approached by both AC Brea and another club to apply for jobs they had available. At the time AC Brea, then known as Brea Blaze, was a club in turmoil, no real structure within the age groups and the 3 different levels within the organization, rec, signature and club, did not get along very well and fought over resources and players.
On the other hand, this other club approached me to start their "North" program. It was a nationally ranked top 10 club in the country out of South OC (Orange County) that wanted to develop in North OC. For some reason, I was having a tough time making the decision. You would think it would be obvious - go with the nationally ranked club with tremendous resources, produced many MLS and even national team players, or go with Brea Blaze, a club in turmoil looking for help.
I sought out the advice of people I knew and spent much time in prayer over my decision. In the end the advice I received was this: The club that wants to expand into North OC has no teams and no players yet and Brea Blaze had a community, 12 club teams, 10 signature teams and about 50 recreational teams and also fields. It may be a mess now but you have 800 players to work with already.
That made a lot of sense to me, instead of going straight for the prestige of a big name club and build something based on the brand, I took on the challenge of an organization that needed a lot of work but that had the numbers and the infrastructure. That and I didn't feel right about starting teams for 7-8 year olds and charging them $2,500+ a year.
Looking back now almost nine years ago, I am happy to say I made the right decision. I love working for AC Brea and seeing the fruits of my labor and those who have labored with me to bring this club to prominence in Southern California. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Dallas waiting for our first game of the tournament of the Dallas Cup.
I am amazed that we are in a place to be able to have a team good enough to compete in the Dallas Cup. There isn't anything that we can't accomplish.