Q&A with new U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Emma Hayes


What attracted you to this job, and why now after a long spell at Chelsea?

“First of all, this is a huge honor to be given the opportunity to coach the most incredible team in world football history. No one ever knows what the right time is in life for anything, but it's the feeling I have for this team and for a country that I have a great connection with and a history with. I've dreamed about doing this job from my days as a coach in my early twenties. You can't turn the U.S. Women's National Team down.”

Can you speak a bit about the interview process you went through with sporting director Matt Crocker?

“It was an extraordinary interview process that made me really think hard about who I am, what my teams are about, and the importance of the things that really, really matter if you're going to compete at the highest level. I thought it was a challenging interview process that brought those things out. Most importantly, it showed how serious the U.S. are in getting things right both on and off the pitch so that the team can compete on all fronts for every trophy. It was an exciting and interesting prospect.”

We imagine it was a difficult decision to leave your club of more than a decade. Can you take us through that decision and what Chelsea has meant to you?

“I'm sure everybody can understand when you've been associated with a club for almost 12 years, a club built from the bottom up, they've become my family, become so much of my own identity. Without question it pulled up my heartstrings because I care so much for the players and everybody that I've built relationships with. But I'm all about challenge. We've won a lot at Chelsea and I'm very proud of that, and I'm proud of the fact that I can leave that club in a better place and one that I hope continues to compete. But for me, the challenge of competing for World Cups, for Olympics, the dream of coaching a team that I've always wanted to get the opportunity to, I simply couldn't turn it down.”

Coaching on the club level and coaching internationally is quite different, especially in the time you get with players. How do you view that transition to coaching international soccer?

“I'm accustomed to coaching on average about 44 games a year in domestic and European competition, so the preparation required to do that and the turnaround timings to do that I think have prepared me properly for this job because pulling the team together, especially off the pitch, to be able to maximize the minimal opportunities we get with the players has to be so spot on. That everything we train is done with specificity and clarity is so, so important because to win the biggest things we have to make the most of those moments. There will be intense periods in camp, I have no doubt about that. But it will be a fair and open competition for everybody to compete for a place in the team and I'm just looking forward to meeting the players and putting them in a position so that ultimately, we will get to competition where everybody feels they're in their best place possible to perform.”

Your thoughts about the responsibility of taking over this historic program? What does it mean to you to you personally to coach the United States WNT?

“I understand how important the team is to people and culture of the United States. This is not just about the soccer community and I fully understand the prestige and place that the team has in U.S. society. I've lived it. I remember being a young coach working my way up through the system in the U.S. and watching all those young girls aspire to play on the U.S. Women's National Team. For me, the honor of building on that legacy is part of my motivation, no question. I have watched all the teams endlessly since I was a teenager. I have coached players at different points that have been across the program. I understand what it means to the U.S. people, and I will do everything possible to make sure that we compete on the top end, because in the world game there's no denying the gaps have closed worldwide so it's important we work hard, but we work together because we're not going achieve that alone. It's the entire ecosystem and landscape that has to cooperate to make sure that the U.S. Women's National Team is at the top of the podium. That's our objective.”

You got your start coaching in the United States more than 20 years ago. Can you tell us about that experience and how it informed your development into the coach you are today?

“I've got so many fond memories of turning up in Long Island with a backpack and a thousand dollars and working for clubs across the whole of Long Island and Westchester and New York City. I've experienced everything from intramural soccer, recreational Sunday soccer, to the collegiate game, to USL, to the pro game, to state ODP, regionals. I've been a part of the entire soccer community when I worked there for 10 years and I totally understand the importance of the grassroots game and how lucky the U.S. are to have such a deep and rich pool of players to select from, and it's going to be my job to make sure I build upon the work that's already been done, and most importantly keep inspiring young girls to dream about playing on the best team in the world.”

Everyone who takes this job understands the expectations. What do you think about the pressure to win every game?

“I've been the manager of Chelsea for 12 years, and I manage a club of huge expectation and expecting to win is part of the DNA that I come from, but we have to be mindful to keep winning. We have to work hard at a lot of different things and have to earn that right because there are countries across the world that are performing at a top, top level. So for us, we have to make sure every one of our athletes understand the importance of what we doing for 12 months of the year - not just with the National Team, but what they're doing at a club level, and the importance of how professional everything has to be for them as well as for the team if we are to compete for the top titles, because worldwide the top players now are playing in year-round situations that puts them in an advantageous position. So, we've got work to do, because if we want to be there, it's important the players in particular demonstrate the commitment to their year-round development and that's something I will challenge them on. It's a healthy competition. Nobody has a right to play on the team. It has to be earned from day one, and I want to see those habits on and off the pitch from the players, and I look forward to setting them that challenge because I know for them it's a huge honor to play for their country and it's going to be my job to bring the best out of them and I look forward to that moment.

You are very much about coaching the person as well as the player. Can you speak to that a bit?

“They're human beings and I value that. I value them as people. I look forward to meeting them. I look forward to building relationships with them and find out what's important to them, what matters, what motivates them, what inspires them, and from there teaching them to understand the importance that if you want to be the best, if you want to be the absolute best, your devotion and dedication to that has to be better than anything you've ever done before because the very best, whomever they are, or whatever they do, it's not luck. It's not something that's just handed to you. It's something that you have to work so incredibly hard for, and in order to get the best out of people, something I work hard to try and do, I have to know what makes them tick to do that. Once I know what makes them tick, then it's my job to make sure I bring out their best behaviors to hold them accountable to the things that they want themselves because playing on the team is really simple for me. Everybody's goal is the same. Everyone wants to win, but what you do to make that happen, how you do that, that's for me to make sure that I pay attention to, I'm mindful of, and that I drive the standards in an environment that has already got a high bar. If we want to be there, we got a lot of work to do.”

You are coming from the Women’s Super League, one of the best leagues in the world. What are your thoughts on the NWSL, its growth and its importance to the U.S. Women’s National Team?

“I come from the professional game, and I've spent the vast majority of my career doing that, so I understand the challenges that come with that, and it's important they're our partners. We have to work together to raise the standards for our players to make sure we put them in the best possible positions for both club and country and my goal is to work with the NWSL, to work with the coaches and to communicate about the things that really matter, to listen to make sure that we can recognize the growing demands for both of us. Hopefully the NWSL can continue to push and aspire to be the biggest and the best league in the world. At the same time, our players are going to get better exposures with us at the national team but also with their clubs. Working together for me is the only option if the team is going to progress to become a winning team, and I look forward to those relationships, knowing especially as a former club coach how important those relationships are between national team and club teams.”

You are a mom. Did the support that the U.S. Soccer Federation has given to the moms on the team for so many years play a factor in deciding to bring your son to the USA and into the WNT environment, which enables Harry to travel with you?

“The U.S. Soccer support of moms was a major factor in my decision to come here. Every parent understands the challenges of that, not just with childcare, but doing something we love doing and also have those that we love with us. My son's at a great age, and I hope to mix with some of the young kids on the team and it was a big factor. Historically, what U.S. Soccer has done for players with children hasn't been spoken about enough and it was a big reason for me coming to join the team because I know that I'm not just a football manager, I'm a mom too, and I value knowing that the Federation values that and that certainly gave me comfort in the decision. I know that children around camp add value and I look forward to bringing the English flavor into the dressing room and I look forward to my son learning a lot of Americanisms.”

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