Spotlight Profile: Kraig Chiles and Garry Martin of Cardiff Soccer
Most coaches never get the opportunity to show the club soccer kids in their charge how they played in their prime.
More often than not, the best they can do is tell their youth players about their careers and pass on their wealth of experience on the training ground.
But the boys and girls at Cardiff Soccer get to watch their Director of Coaching Kraig Chiles play with the San Diego Sockers in the Professional Arena Soccer League, where he is a three-time MVP.
Kraig, who also used to play in the MLS with Chivas USA, regularly arranges for his club teams to travel to home games in their team strips to watch him play.
Although Cardiff is a comparatively small “boutique” club, it has 7 coaches who are current pro players. One of them, Nick Perera, captains the U.S. Beach Soccer team.
“We are relatable,” said Kraig. “We’re still young and fit. The kids understand. They come to watch us play on a Saturday night and they see that we track back and defend just as we ask them to do. It’s a great opportunity to show them what we talk about in training.”
Three years ago, Cardiff had just four competitive teams - now they have 22 to 23 teams in their Mustangs program. “We are trying to pump on the brakes,” said Kraig. “We don’t want 80-100 teams; we don’t want to be a massive business. We want to cater to individual players and individual teams. There are currently about 225 kids in our competitive program and I can walk around the fields and I know them all on a first name basis.”
Director of Education Garry Martin began coaching rec. soccer at Cardiff in 2008 and molded his side into a successful competitive team. As a member of the board, he helped bring in Kraig and a team of young, enthusiastic coaches to create “a phenomenal experience for Cardiff kids.”
Garry, a former youth program player for West Ham United and longtime semi-pro in England, said most of their players come from the Cardiff and Encinitas area. “We are trying to give our kids Academy-style training while still keeping the club small,” he said. “We’re not into becoming a mega club; we want to retain our community feel. We try to play the game the way it is supposed to be played and, at the same time, ensure the kids enjoy it.”
To keep the training sessions cutting edge, Cardiff encourages its coaches to take their coaching badges and funds the courses. There are also summer camps every year to allow the players to bond with their teammates in readiness for the season ahead.
Here, Kraig and Garry, take on football.com’s Q&A:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy in one sentence?
KRAIG: It’s important for everyone to enjoy the beautiful game at all levels. It’s all about getting your foot on the ball and having fun.
GARRY: My philosophy is that I am totally aware that I am developing soccer players, but I’m also aware that I am developing young adults. One quote from the great Johan Cruyff struck me - “Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
2. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
KRAIG: Personality and technique.
GARRY: Be coachable and be a student of the game. I want players to have a love and a passion for soccer.
3. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
KRAIG: Frank Lampard/Chelsea.
GARRY: George Best/Manchester United.
4. Sum up your own background in soccer?
KRAIG: I’m a local San Diego kid born and raised in the area and my soccer was entirely developed here. It’s what separates me from most other DOCs. I played for 10 years with the Nomads and I was with San Diego Surf. I captained the men’s team at San Diego State University and spent 2 years at Chivas USA in the MLS before moving to the San Diego Sockers. I’m also captain of the U.S. National Futsal team and captained the U.S. National Arena Soccer Team during the WMF World Cup, leading Team USA to the tournament championship.
GARRY: I was in the youth program at West Ham Utd. I suffered a serious knee injury at the age of 18 but I still went on to play semi-professionally in the UK South-East Counties league for 14 years. I got my FA coaching badge in 1992 and coached youth and adult soccer in the UK before moving to the US in 1997.
5. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
KRAIG: Never stop learning. Always adapt and evolve your game.
GARRY: Always strive to be the little fish in the big pond. As you become one of the best, move up at every opportunity because playing with better players is the quickest way to improve your game.