Spotlight Profile: Lee Hancock of LA Galaxy South Bay
Youngsters at LA Galaxy South Bay don’t just play soccer - they’re expected to become students of the beautiful game, as well.
As the club’s Director of Player and Coach Development, Lee Hancock has devised a comprehensive year-round curriculum to give everyone the best possible chance to succeed.
But while the program may help teach players how to become successful players, Lee’s focus for the club teams under his watchful guidance isn’t all about them winning matches.
“It’s a unique situation,” he said. “Our goal is to develop individuals in a team. Of course players, and of course coaches, love to compete and win, but sometimes you don’t have to do that to ensure development.”
Lee believes that soccer coaching, like life, is a lot about problem solving. “We are creating scenarios that allow the players to get to the point where they are solving the problems they are facing on the field. You are not going to have all the answers all the time but you need to have the tools,” he said.
There’s no doubt it’s a successful formula. The proof is in the 17 players from LA Galaxy South Bay who were placed in the LA Galaxy Academy's 05/04 and 03 teams over the past year.
The club is part of the LA Galaxy Academy Alliance and the long term goal is to offer players a seamless transition between the two organizations.
Three recent players, Gyasi Zardes, Oscar Sorto, and Jose Villareal are on the Galaxy roster, and alumni include Robbie Rogers; Kei Kamara and Shannon Boxx.
Lee also works as a High Performance Consultant for professional athletes, coaches at all levels, business and team leaders, students, parents and organizations, moulding the way they approach, think about and ultimately perform in their chosen field.
The curriculum revolves around four segments of the year - spring, summer, fall and the State Cup - and the training regimen is changed accordingly.
“We have parents in Club Soccer who are paying for what essentially is a private education in soccer, so they deserve to get a quality education for their kids,” said Lee.
Coaches at LA Galaxy South Bay are encouraged to play a kid up if they feel they should be at a higher level, regardless if that is going to upset the balance of a winning team.
The club draws most of its players from the coastal LA County south of the 105 Freeway – the South Bay, Palos Verdes, and San Pedro. However, some players come form as far away as Lancaster.
With about 40 teams, it is particularly fortunate that some of them train at the Stub Hub Center, home of the LA Galaxy, and the coaches have access to the MLS team’s staff. “There’s a good flow,” explained Lee. “I’m telling you right now that there are kids here who will play for the Galaxy’s 1st team at some point.”
Here, Lee tackles the football.com Q&A:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy in one sentence?
LEE: The idea is to penetrate when you can and keep the ball when you need to. It has got to be a quick transition from defense to attack minded. Play the ball on the ground and play out from the back. It’s very much an elective effort from the group.
2. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
LEE: The hard work has to be there. Just as important is the ability to problem solve. Can you think and can you think quickly? You need to have the mental toughness and confidence, focus and perception.
3. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
LEE: I’m a big fan of Messi and Barcelona but I’m also a huge Manchester United supporter and Zinedine Zidane is my favorite player of all time.
4. Sum up your own background in soccer?
LEE: I loved soccer as a kid and played semi-pro but I have always loved coaching. I have a USSF ‘A’ license, have coached for over 20 years, and have had an assistant coaching role in the MLS. I have also developed and implemented complete soccer curricula and coach and parent education programs for MLS and youth soccer clubs throughout the country.
5. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
LEE: I think you need to learn to love soccer and you need to find a good plan to develop to the level you want from the game. It’s important to find the level that’s right to challenge you.