Youth Soccer Spotlight: Abner Rogers of Strikers FC Orange County
As one of the world’s foremost coaches in girl’s and women’s soccer, Abner Rogers knows better than most what it takes to reach the top of the female game.
During his distinguished career, he has coached many of the best ever female players, from Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Carin Jennings of the all-conquering US teams and Marta Vieira da Silva, who many believe to be the best female player of all time.
Marta was nicknamed ‘Pele with skirts’ by the man himself.
But while Abner has so much experience coaching girls at all levels, he is adamant about one thing; he doesn’t push his players to play any one way or system.
It’s noticeable that when asked in our Q & A if he has any favorite drill or exercise, Abner says he doesn’t.
The reason is that he believes in the talent of the individual; he understands that skills need nurturing, not necessarily defining.
Micro-managing is one of his pet hates in the US soccer set-up. His favorite pro team is the free-flowing Tottenham Hotspurs, a club with a tradition for flair, and the players he likes best, George Best and Jimmy Greaves, were both natural born talents - Greaves for sniffing goals out of the air and Best for being, well, the best. (NB: Younger players check these guys out on YouTube.)
“I remember talking to Marta once and asking her how she got so good growing up in Brazil. She said she played in a dried up creek and she played with the boys,” he said. “That’s a very different experience to that most girls have playing in the US.
“You have to be allowed to makes mistakes as a player. You have to be allowed to develop your skills without being afraid or held back.”
It’s not a philosophy parents always understand in a nation raised on the importance of winning.
“For many parents, it’s all about, number one, winning, and number two, whether their kid is playing,” said Abner. “I have just stuck to my principles and they have served me well.
“Girls’ soccer is in many ways a completely different game and it took me a little while to adapt. I really enjoyed it and there was no need to go back to boys. I feel like I’ve been spoiled.”
Abner started his own club, Laguna Hills Eclipse back in 2000 and decided to join forces with the mighty Strikers program two years ago, taking over the Strikers ECNL program and forming Strikers Orange County.
He’s watching with interest to see how the new US Soccer girl’s academies turn out. He has seen many new ideas come and go during his time in the game. But one thing has never changed - he still gets goose bumps when he sees a player do something really special with the ball.
Here’s our football.com Q&A with Abner Rogers:
Q. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy in one sentence?
ABNER: Create a happy and competitive environment that allows players to reach their potential.
Q. Tell us a little about your coaching career and your involvement with the Strikers.
ABNER: I started at a youth sports center in London after I obtained my F.A. Preliminary Badge, which is now the UEFA B License. I coached various boy's teams and spent 6 months in Vancouver in 1979 and coached an U23 semi-pro team as an assistant, as well as a men's team in the Metro League Div 1 as a player/coach.
The early days were camps across the country and Canada, including British Columbia and Alberta in separate years. I spent two summers in New York with the Cosmos as a staff coach with Pele and Beckenbauer, and at that point I knew I wanted to coach full time.
In 1990 I was asked to coach the Cal South State Team which included Julie Foudy, Carin Jennings-Gabarra and Joy Fawcett. After competing at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and meeting Anton Dorrance, the coach of the US National Team, I decided to coach women and girls full time.
My first youth club, Fountain Valley Sting, won State Cup in it’s first year and produced many talented Div. 1 players, including Jennifer Lalor, who was selected for the 1995 World Cup Team in Sweden.
I got involved in the youth ODP at State and Regional levels while still being involved with the Women's ODP at State, Regional and later at the National level.
I relocated to Orange County after taking the DOC role at Mission Viejo Soccer Club. I was very lucky to have so many good teams all fully capable of winning state cups. After 5 years, Mission Viejo Soccer Club was going in a different direction so I decided to start my own Laguna Hills Eclipse Soccer Club in 2000.
In 2014 I took over the Strikers ECNL program and Laguna Hils Eclipse became Strikers Orange County.
Q. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
ABNER: I look for a good athlete with natural talent who has potential to be a good soccer player. She needs to be self motivated, work hard and be coachable.
Q. What are your goals with the club?
ABNER: To have a positive impact in players lives, as well as to develop players to their maximum potential and help get them into college programs and beyond.
Q. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
ABNER: Tottenham Hotspur - Jimmy Greaves and George Best
Q. Do you have a favorite drill or exercise?
Q. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
ABNER: Work hard to reach your goals and don't let anyone deter you from your dreams. Make something about your game special.
Q. Is there a coach that was a particular mentor to you?
ABNER: Clive Charles
Q. What’s the best advice you can offer to a parent with a child in your program?
ABNER: Just be mom and dad and enjoy watching your kid doing something she enjoys without coaching her.
Here’s a quick look at Abner Rogers’ impressive bio:
2011. Head Coach OC Waves/WPSL National Champions
2009. Head Coach LA Sol Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). League Champions, WPS Finalists.
2000-2014. Laguna Hills Soccer Club Eclipse. Founder and Director of Coaching. Developed program philosophy, curriculum and guidelines, including coaches’ education. Directed College Showcase for Elite Teams from the US, ages U15-U18 for recruiting purposes. Hire, supervise and evaluate staff of 14 coaches, includes 6 full-time with 26 teams.
1996-2004. Head Coach Region IV Women’s ODP Team. The team won Gold Medals at the US Soccer Festival in 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2002. The team also won the Silver Medal in 1999 and 2001.
1995-2001. Mission Viejo Soccer Club Elite. Director of Coaching girls program. Coached MVSC Mirage to State Championships in 1997, 1998, and 2000. Regional Champions and National Finalists in 1999.
1995. Head Coach Nightmares Women’s Club USWISL (Nike W League) to Western Pacific Division Championship and National Finalists.
2004-2008. United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) Head Coach Women’s National Team.
1993-1995. GU15 Valley United Wildthings. Playing up one age bracket, won the GU16 State and Regional Championship and finished 3rd at Nationals. 1994 won State Cup and Regional Finalists. Seven players from the Wildthings signed professional contracts and played in the former WUSA League.
1992-1998. Western Region youth ODP staff, 1996 GU17 Regional Team assistant coach. 1991-1996. Olympic Development Program (ODP) for Cal South. 1991-1995 GU16 assistant coach. Head Coach 1995-1996 GU14. 1990-1994. Head Coach Beverly Hills High School.
1989-1996. California Soccer Association-South State Women’s Team (ODP). Trained and selected players to compete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for purposes of Regional and National Team selection. Team won 5 Regional Championships. Joy Fawcett, Carin Jennings, and Julie Foudy was selected to US National Team for 1991 World Cup in China.
1987-1990. Head Coach Ajax Manhattan Beach Women’s Soccer Club. Won 1988 and 1990 State Championships.
Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) LA Sol League Champions 2009
WPS All-Star Coach 2009.
WPS Coach of the Year 2009.
National Championship OC Waves/WPSL 2011.
WPSL Coach of the Year 2011.
USASA-National Hall of Fame September, 2010.
USASA-Region IV Hall of Fame January, 2009.
Won Two National Club Championships in 2002 & 2005 with Laguna Hills Soccer Club Eclipse.
Coached International games against Mexico, Australia, and USA, as well as several U20 National Teams.
California Youth Soccer Association (CYSA) Coach of the Year 1995 and 2005.
Guided 17 players to the professional ranks, 31 players to Regional teams, 23 players to National Teams, and 5 players to World Cup competition.
Groomed Amy Rodriguez to become 2005 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. Women’s USA National World Cup and Olympic Teams.
City & East London College, City & Guilds Parts I and II Electrical Installation.
Football Association Full Badge Lillishall England 1984
USSF ‘B’ National Coaching License
UEFA ‘A’ License