Meet: Ross Struel – Clarke
Qualifications: FAW UEFA B Licence as well as Youth Modules 1, 2 and 3
MA in Sports Broadcast Journalism
Experiences: With Swansea City and Cardiff City Development Centers within various countries such as UK, USA and China.
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
I am Ross Struel – Clarke and I am 28 years old. I have coached professionally in the United States, the UK and recently China. I currently hold a FAW UEFA B Licence as well as Youth Modules 1, 2 and 3. My coaching experience started with Swansea City coaching in the community and in their development centres. This was where I developed my love for coaching.
My main coaching experiences have been abroad. When I was 21 I went to America and started coaching travel teams. For four years I went back to the states coaching players at grassroots level and also players as old as 18. When I first went to the states I was based in Ohio and then in 2013 I moved to New Jersey and later coached in New York. America was great as even as a young coach I could be a lead coach of my own team and this experience was invaluable.
I completed my B licence and then accepted a job with Cardiff City football club in China where I lived in Beijing for two years. Here I coached in schools and also had a Cardiff City development centre for the more elite players. This was a fantastic job. Experiencing a completely different culture like China was difficult at times but amazing. I not only grew as coach but as a person in China. If anyone has a chance to work/visit China I would go!
How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports?
A parents role within youth sport is critical. Lets be honest, if there weren’t parents involved then there would be no youth sport. Parents are the ones that take their sons and daughters to practice, games and often have to juggle work commitments. It’s interesting to see differences in cultures also. In America parents make a huge thing of their child playing football. Even for an under 12’s game the parents would be so enthusiastic. Some parents are more concerned about winning, rather than development. I am a great believer that the parents should encourage their children and not put too much pressure on them. Especially at a young age it’s so important for players to love the game first of all and have fun, whilst learning!
What are the benefits of being a positive youth sports parents?
There are huge benefits. It is important the parents and coach are on the same page as well as the players. Before every season I would often gather the parents to explain what we will be expecting from them in the season and also what I as a coach will do to try and make it as fair as possible for all the players. I think it’s important to have an honest, open dialogue with parents as a coach.
Being a positive parent on the touchline is very important. For example if all week in training I have been working on playing out from the back and unfortunately in the game the centre back lost possession and it resulted in a goal, it’s important the players parent doesn’t shout at the player as this is what I asked the player to do. Instead of shouting at the player, you’d encourage him and say he was trying to do the right thing. I think at times it is often wise for Parents to watch the game and not shout too much on the sideline. Too many voices can put the players off.
What advice would you give any youth sports parents, with a talented son/daughter and ambition also drive to reach the highest level?
a) Advice to the player
I’d say is to keep working hard, practice and stay humble. Yes the player maybe more talented at an earlier age, but if the motivation and drive to practice lowers then other players will catch up. I know from experience in an academy the pressure to perform in each season and game is high. I would always remind the player of enjoying the game. At the end of the day that is why you wanted to play football in the first place.
b) Advice to the parents
I would say for them to encourage and not put too much pressure on the child. One of the number one things I would say is ensure your son/daughter gets a good education and grades in school. We all dream of being a footballer, but if at 18 years old you are released by a professional team and you don’t have good qualifications then it can be hard to move on. If you get good grades in school then if you do get released at 18 at least you can go to university or even look to play football abroad in America on a scholarship scheme.
In your experience as a coach, how does negative approaches from the parents, affect the player?
I’ve seen some things in my time of coaching. One incident in particular was a Goalkeeper I coached. His dad used to stand beside the goal the whole game and shout at his son. You could see the goalkeeper was a bag of nerves every time the ball came near him. Everytime he did a bad kick or made a mistake he would look at his Dad beside the goal and I felt very sorry for the child. Short term wise this effected his performance, but also long term as his Dad was making the decision for him, or giving him too much information which clouded his mind.
Players need to make their own mistakes and then they will learn from them in the future and it is important parents and coaches identify this and create an environment where players can make mistakes. In this incident I did speak to the parent individually and he stopped standing behind the goal. I explained the reasons behind it and to be fair he understood. That’s why it is important to have an open and honest dialogue with parents as a coach.
What advice would you give coaches regarding youth sports parents?
I would say be open and honest. Make sure everyone knows where you stand. Parents must feel they can communicate with you and come with you with any problems they may have. Everyone must be on the same page. One of the things I would suggest if your coaching a team is having a parents code of conduct and maybe get them to sign. Within the code of conduct would be how you expect them to behave. Something like this.
- Have fun
- Celebrate good play from both sides.
- Always respect the referees and coaches from both sides
- Stay behind the touchline when the game is being played. Let the coach, coach
- When players make mistakes, offer encouragement.
- Never use offensive language of abusive language.
These are just guidelines. Parents must also understand that even coaches are human and can make mistakes. As long as you’re fair as a coach then most parents will understand.
What advice would you give youth sports parents for the car journey to and from youth sports practices and/or games?
To sport games I wouldn’t put too much pressure on the child. I would maybe briefly talk about the game coming up, but then I would just talk to the child about different things just so you don’t put too much pressure on the child. At the end of the day, the coach at the game will talk about the game and what is expected from the players. It’s important not to cloud the childs mind.
After games, my Grandfather was always excellent at this. I would often get in the car and the first thing he would ask me every time was how I think I played in the game. This was quite a good way to start as it gives ownership to the player and makes you think about the game you just played. My grandfather would then always start off with a positive point about how I played and then would give me something I could improve on next time. It was constructive feedback and would always finish with a positive comment. It would literally be a 5 minute interaction. He would also ask what my coach said about the game and often we’d discuss the coaches feedback.
What types of behaviours/mannerisms/comments would you encourage parents to demonstrate?
I would want the parents behaviours/ mannerisms and comments to be the same pre, during and post match. I’d want them to show encouragement and for them to create an atmosphere in which their child can thrive and feel as if they can express themselves on the field. If their child has made a mistake I’d want them to support their child. One of the best comments that was made to me was by my Grandfather after I had a shocking performance one time he said “Ross, don’t worry. It’s not whether you fall, it’s whether you pick yourself up from the fall. That’s what defines you”. Those words have always stuck and I often say this to my players and parents should have the same attitude.
What is next for you as a coach /club /organization?
I have just accepted a job as a Senior Coach for a football academy in Singapore. The job will start in August and I will be in Singapore for two years. I have just completed my masters in Sports Broadcast Journalism and alongside my Senior Coach role, I will be carrying out some media duties also such as reporting and promoting the academy on social media so I am excited for the new challenge.
Massive thank you, Ross for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.