Former U.S. Soccer MNT Player Eddie Lewis Transitions from Player to Coach: “I think players assume becoming a coach is easy … it’s anything but that.”
You had a long and successful professional playing career in the MLS, overseas, and for the U.S. MNT. What are a few of your most memorable moments
Eddie Lewis: “As a player, I think the moments that always stand out are historic moments, moments that impacted your career. I was fortunate enough to play in the first ever MLS game, which was a major milestone in U.S. Soccer history in terms of finally establishing itself as a soccer nation. Certainly the first games I played abroad were very special, my time with the National Team, the World Cup in Korea. Being a part of such a special group that not only was a wonderful team, but also made history in U.S. standards was something I’ll never forget.”
Is there any particular moment that is the proudest of your career?
EL: “I’d say my proudest accomplishment as a player without question was representing my country in the World Cup. There are a lot of feats you want to achieve as a professional player but playing in the World Cup is about more than just soccer. It is about representing your country, it’s about being surrounded by the best players in the world. It’s the apex of any soccer player’s career. I will never underappreciate that accomplishment.”
What motivated you to first get involved in coaching?
EL: “I think for any former player coaching is a natural extension to stay connected to the game. It is a big undertaking. I think often players assume that becoming a coach is an easy transition. Although the experience helps, it’s anything but that. I have been quietly addressing some of the requirements that are involved in being a good coach. If I decide to fully take that route, I want to commit to it in that way.”
Are there any coaches that you looked up to as a player throughout your career?
EL: “I’ve been fortunate to play for some very good coaches and under some wonderful managers. You take bits and pieces from different managers and coaches and try to apply those things as you move into that position. One particular coach that stands out was a first team coach when I was at Fulham. His name is Christian Damiano. He changed my whole mindset about how the game should be played from my position specifically, and what the requirements were. That was a pivotal moment in my career.”
How do you think your background as a professional player can help as a coach?
EL: “As a former professional player, it certainly lends a great deal of credibility to the next step in coaching, but it stops very quickly after that. The benefit of being a player is that it allows you to see things within the game, but the requirements of a coach are very different. The fact that you played at a high level doesn’t really mean a whole lot in terms of how you do as a manager or coach. I’m certainly cognizant of that and beginning to understand the requirements to be a good coach. It’s not easy.”
During your professional years, you spent nine years overseas in England. How will that experience affect your style as a coach today?
EL: “As a player, I was fortunate to play abroad for a number of years. I played under European managers that had a different style than American managers. The players I played with and the culture that surrounds the game there offered benefits. My time abroad will certainly be of great value as a coach, but it is one small part of a very big puzzle as a manager.”
You earned your U.S. Soccer “B” license after you retired in 2010. Do you feel that coaching education is important even for those that have played at
the professional level?
EL: “I am very strongly in favor of Coaching Education for anyone interested in coaching, and certainly former players are no different. In the U.S., we must continue to strengthen the coaching requirements in terms of the academic and professional licenses that are required to hold high-level positions within the game. These requirements exist in many other countries, and as the sport becomes more competitive in the U.S., I think they will become crucial.”
: In September you spent time in camp with Javier Perez and the U-18 Men’s National Team.
Tell us about how that opportunity came about.
EL: “Javier Perez reached out to me and presented the opportunity to spend the week with the current U-18 team. Although I wasn’t in an active coaching role at the time, he knows me well enough to know that I’m interested in the future of our country from a soccer standpoint and that I’m actively involved through my business. I was very intrigued by the opportunity and excited to be there. I think very highly of Javier as well as Carson Porter and Brian Johnson. The time spent not only on the field, but off the field as well, has been a valuable experience.”
Given that you have been in their shoes, what advice did you try to give players at the U-18 age group?
EL: “Part of the role in camp was to provide some experience to some of the younger players. They are extremely talented. I reminded them many times that they are technically much further ahead than my generation was. At the same time, they are young men and they are on the verge of entering a professional environment. Certainly, I think I can lend some experience and help in that department while still having a good time along the way.”
Describe how soccer has evolved since you were their age.
EL: “The game has evolved enormously since I was a child. When I was a young player it was a very fragmented system in terms of how U.S. Soccer tried to identify players and develop them properly to be successful not only in our nation, but to compete internationally. We still have a ways to go, but this week has been wonderful evidence of how far things have come in terms of preparation and professionalism, not just from the coaching staff, but also from the players in their mentality. They are already very professional at a young age. It has been a very positive experience.”
What are your goals as a coach and where would you like to go after working with the U-18 Men’s National Team?
EL: “Truthfully, I do not have any specific goals as a coach at this point. This week has been a good opportunity for me to get a taste of the coaching experience. In some ways, I think it is an inevitable path because I have an incredible love for the game. Coaching is a great way to stay connected to the new generations as they are moving into the game and moving forward. There is something to be said about being able to put on a pair of soccer shoes and get out and move the ball around and watch the players and enjoy some of that soccer culture that was a part of my life for so long but is not at the forefront anymore.”