The U.S. Soccer Coaching Education Department presents a new series of articles to introduce coaches to its National Instructional Staff. Each month, the department will feature a Q&A with a member of the staff that will delve into his or her background and coaching experience.
We aim to share with coaches a small glimpse of our instructors’ history, knowledge, and expertise that they provide at U.S. Soccer educational events. The National Instructional Staff consists of top coaches from across the country leading the sport in coaching education.
This month the series continues with National Instructor Thomas Durkin. Durkin has been on the U.S. Soccer National Instructional staff since 1985. He has a wealth of coaching experience at the highest level. His previous positions include assistant coach for the U-17 MNT, state Technical Director for North Texas Youth Soccer and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, head coach for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and IMG Academy Director of Soccer. Durkin resides in Massachusetts and is currently head coach for the Boston Breakers in the NWSL. He describes being a U.S. Soccer Instructor as “one of the most important things I can do to help the cause of player development in my life time.”
How did you first get involved in soccer?
Thomas Durkin: “My family moved to Brazil when I was quite young, so I spent my formative years as an athlete immersed in a fantastic soccer culture there. I saw a professional game that featured two average sides the first night we arrived in Sao Paulo. It was love at first sight.”
Where/when did you first begin coaching?
TD: “I started coaching at the ‘All American Soccer Camp’ for a summer job. The camp was my first experience seeing the game broken down by top coaches. I then landed a junior college position by default when the head coach who I had volunteered to help in exchange for a place to train, took another position. I really enjoyed the challenge.”
You were hired as head coach for the Boston Breakers of the NWSL in 2013. Tell us about your experience coaching the Breakers so far.
TD: “The Breakers job has been great. I really enjoy being back on the field and working to build a team again.”
What has been the most challenging aspect of your new position so far?
TD: “The most challenging aspect of the job so far has been working with the club to put together a good infrastructure and to create a culture that will tie our grass roots initiatives, the Breakers Academy, and our Reserve team to the Senior team. I like the direction in which our management group wants to head. Additionally, there are many experiences from my time at IMG Academies that I can draw from that will serve me well in this endeavor.”
What has been the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of coaching the Breakers?
TD: “I must say that it is refreshing to work with the Breakers’ players. From day one they have shown a degree of professionalism and a willingness to improve that makes the work very enjoyable. The players are keen on playing good soccer. They apply things quickly, and when you see the team begin to gel and get on the same page, it is very rewarding.”
What are your goals for the team this season?
TD: “We like our chances to make the playoffs. There are several challenges that we will face between National Team call-ups, some difficult away stretches in the schedule, and the rigors of travel in the regular season that we are preparing for. If we hit our stride at the right time and make the playoffs, then it’s just two games to a league tittle. Why not us, why not the Breakers?”
Who is a coach you look up to or admire and why?
TD: “There are so many coaches who have influenced me along the way and I am truly grateful for their contributions to my education as a coach. Walter and Gene Chyzowych, Bob Gansler, George Vizvary, Lothar Osiander, Nick Zlatar, Jay Miller; they are like the Himalayas of American Soccer.”
What is your most memorable soccer moment?
TD: “Well I have two. First is the 1994 World Cup. I was part of our technical study group and to gain that access and exposure to a sporting event of that magnitude was the greatest gift that I was given by U.S. Soccer. The experience had a profound influence on my view of the game. Second was working with our U17 Men’s National Team with Coach Miller in qualification for their World Championship.”
How did you first get involved as an instructor of coaching courses?
TD: “I started with the state licensing program in New Jersey and developed a good rapport with candidates. I found that the instruction of other coaches gave me a lot of insight as to how to present the game to players and it helped me find my strengths and allowed me to address my weaknesses. I was asked to join the staff by Karl Heinz Herdegot in 1985 when I completed the ‘A’ course, but it was Walt Chyzowych who gave me my first assignment in 1987 to do a ‘C’ course in Charleston, South Carolina.”
How do you feel the coaching schools have evolved since you began?
TD: “There have been so many changes to the structure, content and curriculum of the courses since I have been involved. Every Director of Coaching Education has left his mark on the schools. The schools have been adjusted to meet the needs of our coaching community several times as the game has evolved here in our country. The latest changes combined with the U.S. Soccer curriculum has embraced theory and practical aspects of some of the leading programs in the world and have been adapted to help mentor coaching candidates to work with a more player centered model. We are moving away from a content driven “what to teach,” to a more candidate focused “how to teach” and this has been very well received by our coaches.”
What does it mean to you to be a U.S. Soccer instructor?
TD: “It is a privilege and an honor to represent U.S. Soccer as a coach instructor. I enjoy sharing with other coaches. I hope that I can provide the same influence and inspiration that others provided for me. It is one of the most important things I can do to help the cause of player development in my life time.”