Featured Coach: Ray Sanders of Central California Aztecs
Our Featured Coach series continues with an interview with Ray Sanders of the Central California Aztecs.
Sanders currently serves as the Director of Coaching for the club, which is based in based in Bakersfield.
You can learn more about Sanders and the club by visiting the official Central California Aztecs homepage.
1. Who is your favorite professional player to watch, and what is it about his game that intrigues you the most?
Ray: Lionel Messi! I know that seems like an easy answer but I truly love watching him play. I’m always amazed by his ability to dribble with such control and such speed at the same time. He seems to be the complete player, and he’s equally good with both feet. There's also his first touch, his vision, he doesn't dive, his ability to finish, and overall, he’s just an amazing player.
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?
Ray: Many characteristics are important but one all encompassing characteristic that breeds success is competitiveness. When a player loves succeeding they will love all the characteristics necessary to succeed such as work ethic, self control and coach-ability as well as the process of becoming successful.
Equally they will dislike the antithesis of what brings success. Players who are content taking the easy way out or have no self control usually end up quitting anyways. Creating the right type of competitiveness in a player is a challenging thing to do because people measure success by wins and losses.
We want to help define success by helping players reach their highest level and create an environment where they are driven to get there. That characteristic will go beyond the soccer field and stay with them for the rest of their life.
3. Is there a specific individual training drill that you would recommend for all youth soccer players?
Ray: A ball and a wall. This gives them the opportunity to work on a variety of necessary skills in a rapid, repetitive manner. A player can work on passing short and long distances, short range shots, long range shots, crossing, driving the ball low and high, volleys, receiving out of the air with variety of services, strong foot, weak foot, etc all the while your partner doesn't complain.
A player can go and work on their weaknesses for 30 minutes and get more touches then he/she may at most practices.
4. What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach in terms of player and team development?
Ray: To me nothing is greater then helping a player reach a level of play that he/she wouldn't have otherwise made it to without your help. I’ve coached players who were going to be great with or without me as well as players who just didn’t really love soccer, but there is a ton of joy in that player who you help go from good to great.
5. What is the most influential piece of advice that you've received that's helped you throughout your career?
Ray: You get what you deserve. I know there are always exceptions to the rule and trust me I’ve been on the short end of the stick at times when it comes to referees and politics of the youth soccer world. However, most of the time it will be an equal exchange of value.
It’s no accident that the players who tend to have the most success are usually the one who wake up early and train before school, at the gym on Friday nights. Those types of players are the first ones at training, last ones to leave, training on nights their team doesn't have practice, and monitor their nutrition.
I can think of a few lazy players that I’ve come across that have had some success through a college scholarship or other things, but I’ve never met the player who does some of the above and not succeeded.