Featured Coach: Reggie Edu of Newcastle United FC
Our Featured Coach series continues with an interview with Reggie Edu of Newcastle United FC.
Edu currently serves as the Director of Coaching for the club, and also serves as the head coach for the GU14, BU15, and GU17 teams.
You can learn more about his experience in the game by visiting the official Newcastle United FC page.
1. Who is your favorite professional player to watch, and what is it about his game that intrigues you the most?
Reggie: My favorite professional player at the moment to watch is Neymar. I enjoy his skill, creativity, flair and confidence on the ball, and how he is able to play that style of attacking soccer and still be effective in the modern game.
I really appreciate players that are able to entertain while still being effective, which is what Neymar’s game is all about. I also respect his work-rate, humbleness and eagerness to learn.
I feel those personality traits combined with his skill and natural abilities will see him rival another player I enjoy watching - Lionel Messi - as the best player in the world very soon.
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?
Reggie: Technically, I emphasize mastery of the ball with both feet, as well as mastery of their body movements and movements with the ball. Mastery of the ball will as I say, “free their mind” from having to concentrate a great deal on their technical skills and performing basic skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, etc. Which will enable them to think about the game tactically and from a more advanced viewpoint.
I teach them to play with “purpose,” to have a purpose for everything they do with the ball and without the ball. There should be a purpose for every pass, dribble, movement, non-movement, etc.
I teach them that they have to compete, play brave and with confidence and belief in themselves and the players around them. I teach them they have to Work Hard and Work Smart, meaning to make the most of their effort and to not waste any unnecessary energy. I teach them to respect themselves, their teammates, team, club, family, friends, people in general, and in relation to soccer the referee, and their opponent.
But I also teach them to respect their skill, determination, and the work they put in to be able to overcome any opponent they face, and therefore to believe in themselves and their ability to win, no matter what happens, until the final whistle is blown.
3. Is there a specific individual training drill that you would recommend for all youth soccer players?
Reggie: I always assume players will have little to no training equipment other than a soccer ball when suggesting training drills for them to practice on their own. For that reason I often suggest for players to juggle the ball as much as they can as that is a simple way to develop a touch on the ball, comfort with the ball, timing, technique, coordination, concentration, balance and many other things simultaneously.
If a player has access to a wall or firm consistent surface, I always suggest for them to use the surface and to practice striking and controlling the ball using one-touch and two-touches passes with both feet with the player staying on their toes the entire time. The player will be alternating the amount of touches used to control and strike the ball and the types of touches used to control the ball. This simple exercise develops first touch, first touch with different parts of the feet, passing technique, passing and controlling in motion, timing, and much more without the need of a partner or any equipment other than a “ball and a wall.”
Lastly, using any two objects (cones ideally) set 5 meters apart, I suggest to my players to work on dribbling as fast and as controlled as they can in figure eighth formations around the two objects, using both feet, and increasing the distance between the two objects by 5 meters after completing a set of 3 for each foot at each distance.
A training session including those all or any of those three exercises would be great for a youth soccer player.
4. What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach in terms of player and team development?
Reggie: When it comes to player development, I love seeing growth. I enjoy helping the player that was overlooked by all the teams become the player wanted by all the teams through hard work, consistent training, and focus.
I love seeing players with tons of potential begin to realize it and to aid in the continual process of them growing evermore dominant and confident in their natural and developed abilities. I also find satisfaction in the simple and smallest examples of growth, like a young player mastering a new skill, or seeing a young player begin to bring their head up to survey the field and the different possible options as they dribble the ball. I love seeing a player that couldn’t use their left foot, score a game-winning goal with their left foot after a month of working on it. It brings me great satisfaction to witness continual growth in player development.
With team development, I enjoy seeing a group of individuals and strangers become a cohesive unit of friends that know each other in and out and play in a way that compliments everyone’s strengths and masks anyone’s weaknesses.
5. What is the most influential piece of advice that you've received that's helped you throughout your career?
Reggie: The best advice I’ve been given that has helped me in my coaching career has been to be confident in myself as a coach and to always look to be learning.
Similar to what I teach my players about being confident in themselves and their abilities, I myself have to do the same thing especially in the moments when things don’t go the way I wish or planned for them to go. I’ve had to rely on that confidence after suffering heavy defeats, which allowed me to view the game from the proper perspective, reflect on why the defeat occurred and devise a plan to prevent that from occurring again.
Confidence in my ideas and myself has also allowed me to make crucial decisions or suggestions that have changed games and enabled the team I was coaching to win. The confidence allows me to overcome the fear of making a mistake or choosing the wrong tactics and losing the game. The confidence enables me to view any loss as a learning experience and not as a direct reflection of my coaching ability.
Finally, the players feed off of the coach’s energy. If the coach is confident and communicates that to his players, then in most cases, the players themselves will be confident.