Mike Barnes, a coach for Johnston United Soccer Association’s ‘02 United Pride Red Classic girls team, was recently bestowed the honor of Girls Youth Coach of The Year by the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association.
Barnes, in his 12th year of coaching youth soccer, took some time to share his thoughts with our Michael Held on soccer, coaching and what keeps him coming back.
Q. Did you play soccer growing up?
A. “I never played. I loved baseball. My son didn’t like to play baseball. … It broke my heart. So my son took to soccer and I wanted some more father-son time instead of just standing on the sidelines.”
Q. When did you get involved with JUSA?
A. “I got involved with JUSA when it was called Carolina Soccer Club (in 2005). I followed my daughter up from the U5 program and then she (joined) the U9 Challenge team. That’s the group I have now.”
Q. What is your coaching philosophy?
A. “We’re developing individual soccer players in a team environment. So it’s not about the winning, it’s about making sure that each one of these kids is developing as fast as they can as an individual in the game of soccer. Winning is a result of playing well.”
Q. How important is continuing coaching education?
A. “It’s critical. I’ve seen it multiple times where you have a coach come in and say they played in high school or in college. But you can be a great player in every sport and an absolutely horrible coach. As a player, I think, you know how to do things intuitively, but you don’t know how to break it down.”
Q. What are your thoughts about receiving the award?
A. “I’m a product of the club culture. That’s what I think getting this award is: it’s a testament to the club. It’s the philosophy of the club that these kids need to feel good about themselves first, learn how to play soccer second and the whole winning thing is off in the distance someplace.”
Q. What’s something that has helped you coach more effectively?
A. “A trick that I learned is to break everything down into one or two word codes so at practice, we’ll develop a language or shorthand.”
Q. What is your favorite part about coaching?
A: “It’s the magical moments. When you see (the players) succeed and they’re playing so hard on the field and you see them have that special moment. That’s what makes you keep coming back. It gives you a juice to come back every time.”
Q. What aspect of the game is that you teach your players is the most important?
A: “The most important thing for a soccer player to learn is their relationship with the ball: one-on-one. That’s where the kids get the most joy; it’s making the ball do stuff, showing off, being able to dribble with the ball. You can make those things fun; you don’t have to stand in a line.”
Q. What’s your take on the state of soccer now and its future in this country?
A. “I really like Jürgen Klinsmann. I think he’s really special and he’s the answer for the U.S. National team He has changed that mentality of soccer of just kick and run. We’re becoming smart about the game. You can’t argue that there’s a rise in soccer. We have almost 20 million youth players now in the country; it’s massive. It’s continuing to grow.”
Q. What do you think of the National team’s chances in the World Cup this summer?
A. “They can definitely get out of that group as long as they’re on all cylinders. We have a little bit of an issue with the fullback position. I have faith in them, and if they get out of the group, we’ve got a shot.”