Youth Soccer Spotlight: Chris Murray of San Clemente Surf
As you will read, Chris Murray, the Director of Coaching for the San Clemente Surf, has a rich soccer pedigree.
Before moving to the United States, Chris was a professional with the mighty Celtic in Scotland and his father was also a legendary player for the club.
Now he is running a magnificent program in Orange County, California, that is the envy of many clubs aroundthe country.
Here, Chris gives us the benefit of his experience in our Football.com Q&A:
1. Can you sum up your soccer philosophy in one sentence?
The difficult thing is to keep the game simple.
2. Tell us a little about your coaching career and your involvement with the Surf.
I have been coaching both in Scotland and the US for a long time, grew up around professional academies in clubs in Scotland such as Celtic, Dundee United and Dundee as a youth player and then coached for around 10 years. I have been coaching in the States primarily in San Clemente for over a decade. I originally came to San Clemente to assist Steve Leacock who was the Chelsea Ladies coach and worked with the older players.
As time went on I worked with both boys and girls and various ages and then progressed to Director of Coaching, also helping with the day to day running of the club. For a few years I helped out at San Clemente High school which was a great experience as the town really gets behind it's local high school, we had a sustained period of success with several league, CIF titles and a State Championship, which was very rewarding and memorable.
My role at Surf is to work with SD Surf and all the affiliates to create the best opportunities for our teams and players, create a positive, supportive and learning experience for our coaches and help our players reach their goals through the program and with several players committing or doing well at college and a high player and coach retention we are moving in the right direction which is both rewarding and exciting.
3. What are the most important attributes you look for in a young player?
Enthusiasm, intellectually curiousity re the game and someone who is willing to work for their team mates to make them and the team better.
4. What are your goals with the club?
To make sure we provide a rounded positive experience for our players. Our players hopefully enjoy the experience, improve as players and grow as young people through the journey. As they age, our goals are to give them the best possible experiences and opportunities and our relationship with San Diego Surf and professional clubs in the UK certainly helps this. Surf re collegiate opportunities and we have also sent over 10 players for professional experiences in both the EPL and SPL.
5. Who is/was your favorite pro player and pro team?
Growing up it was Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool and now it's Robert Snodgrass of Scoltand. Teams I support both Dundee and Celtic who represent where i came from and my family have been or are still involved with.
6. Can you give us some details of your playing career?
I grew up playing for my local club team who were coached by my dad - where most signed with professional clubs - and also spent a few years with Dundee United's academy in my formative years and then I signed for Glasgow Celtic as a youth player and spent years there which was a great experience given the stature, professionalism and standards of the club which I thrived on.
Living in Glasgow at an early age for periods was tough at the time but helped me when I moved to the States as I had already moved from home at an early age. I was unfortunate with some bad injuries, particularly a leg break when I was 17, but rather than look back I really appreciated the experiences I had and used them to help me as a coach and person.
7. Do you have a favorite drill or exercise?
I love exercises which force the players to think and play at a high tempo. There is a game called funino with multiple goals which is great for younger players and then Rondo's and one and two touches for older players is great as it represents the demands of a game and training should always be about relativity.
8. What’s the best advice you can offer to a youth player?
To work hard, study the game, express yourself and put yourself into every training session and game, you always get out what you put in. Failure is part of the game and should be embraced as you ask more questions and often come up with the correct answers during this period. Finally you should always celebrate your successes and look out for your team mates on and off the field.
9. Is there a coach that was a particular mentor to you?
There were many great role models for me. I was fortunate enough to be signed for Celtic by Billy McNeil who was the first player in the UK to lift the European Cup (Champions League) and nicknamed Ceasar due to his leadership qualities. What struck me was although a lot of these coaches had won the highest prize in World Soccer their humanity was equal to their leadership and presence and this always stuck with me.
My dad is someone I speak to weekly if not daily about the game, he played and coached at the highest level of European soccer, is a great leader and person and sees the game at such a higher level than most, so much so that he can simplify almost everything. He was signed by legendary manager Jock Stein for a record amount for Celtic as he made players around him better and he always preaches this to me that the blend is more important than the system. He is incredibly enthusiastic re soccer and learning and thankfully this has been passed down.
Eric Macmanus, who was a goalie for Ireland and a UEFA A licence coach, also was a great mentor to me. He played over 300 games in the top flight in England and built the Walsalls academy himself which was really inspiring, he never moaned about anything when he coached and always focuses on solutions not problems. This ideology is fantastic and something hopefully I've incorporated. He always put the club first and was a team player and this is why he was such as great mentor and role model.
Finally, I am fortunate enough to call Terry King my friend, Terry in an English FA mentor who works with clubs such as Crystal Palace, Chelsea and comes over from time to time to share his latest ideas, his organization and attention to detail plus his knowledge is something I greatly admire so am always asking him for advice on situations which arise at the club, sometimes just to reinforce my beliefs but it's very reassuring to have a mentor like this.
10. What’s the best advice you can offer to a parent with a child in your program?
To be parents as opposed to supporters. We are all role models and should be thoughtful that we are dealing with kids so always focus on their potential, reinforce effort ahead of talent and enjoy the journey.