Interview with a coach: Mark Thomas
Executive Director and ECNL Staff Coach at Penn Fusion Soccer Academy
Q: What is your coaching position/experience?
Executive Director and ECNL Staff Coach at Penn Fusion SA
Full time at the club since 2007
USSF (United States Soccer Federation) ‘A’ License
former NCAA and NAIA collegiate player (Oakland University & Tiffin University)
former Liverpool FC (England) Youth & Reserve Team Player / Former Wales Youth International
Q: How long have you been coaching at the High School level?
Coaching since 2002 (18 years)
At Penn Fusion-WCUSC since 2007
Youth Elite level, coaching boys teams that compete in the ECNL and USYS National League
Q: When it comes to either recruiting athletes, or overviewing athletes, what do you look for that is outside of skill in their sport
For our top level of play (ECNL) we require players to participate in 4-5 team events per week, year round. We need players that show a certain level of commitment, work-rate & intensity, consistency, and passion for the sport. It is just as important that all of our players embody our core values: Integrity, Commitment, Sportsmanship, & Community
Q: What do you look for when athletes are coming to the season from a break/Offseason?
During the off-season we stress the importance of taking a physical and mental break from the sport, while maintaining a certain level of basic fitness. We want players returning to activity hungry and enthusiastic to be back part of the team environment.
Q: What qualities do the best athletes have (outside of skill)?
The top players that have progressed through our club seem to possess a natural internal drive for excellence with regards to developing the technical and tactical aspects of their game. Additionally, these players never have to be told to work harder, they manage to maintain their own standards of motivation week in week out through the season.
Q: As a coach, what is one thing you wish every athlete knew?
How simple the game can be if they listen to their coaches 🙂
Q: What would you recommend ALL Athletes do before going into their next season?
All players need to designate a fixed period away from the team environment to take a mental break from the game and pressures that come with it. This can be a period for reflection, rehab, and a focus on individual performance/improvement.
Q: For athletes that want to play at the next level, what do they need to do in order to succeed at a higher level?
One of the most important things to do is to find an organization that has qualified, experienced staff, that have a proven track record of assisting players progress to the collegiate and professional level. The top clubs in the nation will have a long-term development plan that is geared towards style of play, college placement, and team/player development; as teams progress, winning becomes a byproduct of the environment. Seek honest, constructive feedback from coaches on what level of play is realistic long term.
Q: What is the most important factor for an athlete that is looking to get noticed by a coach at a higher level?
Consistency. The top college coaches will try to observe players 20+ times over a period of a couple of years, consistent high-level performers will make the grade at the NCAA level.