Director of the Girls Academy Foothills Soccer Club
General Manager & Head Coach of Foothills WFC, UWS Team (semi-pro team)
Head Coach of U of C Women’s Dinos
At 14 years old, Troye Flannery left home and headed to Ireland to pursue his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. He decided he wanted to get to the pro level, but shortly after he arrived, knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Flannery says he thought that’s what his father wanted him to do, but in the end, his Dad, his hero and role model, would have supported him regardless.
Fast-forward almost twenty years later, Flannery left his playing career behind and instead became a soccer coach. He now works with elite women from the UWS Team, a semi-pro soccer league, to the University level with the U of C Dinos.
From incredibly supportive parents to helicopter parents, to parents who want to live vicariously through their children, Flannery has seen it all. He’s been fortunate to travel the world playing and coaching soccer and continues to work tirelessly to improve the game as a coach and mentor. He is also the father of three kids that span the ages of 7-14, who all play sports and are or have been involved in soccer. Flannery has an incredible depth of knowledge and understanding when he talks about the game and knows exactly what kids should be focusing on in soccer from a young age up to the elite level This is my Q & A with Troye Flannery.
* This interview has been abbreviated.*
When it comes to parents getting their kids into soccer, what should they be doing to make sure their kids get a great experience to start?
Do your homework, research. I am a parent myself now so it’s easier to answer now, I’ve got three kids now. I want the best teachers, the best environment, the best support structure, the best environment, I want measurable objectives and I want to know where they’re going. It’s a clear pathway.
Look for those (clubs) that are licensed and certified. Look for those with the best curriculum, the best coaches. It’s no different than you wanting to have the best teachers.
I get frustrated as a full-time person in the game and have worked hard to get my qualifications, to see false advertising on websites about the qualifications of fictitious club leaders. It happens, unfortunately, but I hope this CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) helps parents determine who’s who.
It speaks for itself when you look at what’s going on in the city and who’s involved, ask questions, look listen. No club’s for everyone. Our club may be for you, but may not be for you. We are all different in our methodology and approach.
When it comes to coaches, should parents be looking for certified coaches?
I think at every level fun has to be apart of the pathway, but it depends on what you want as a parent. I can speak to what I want as a parent. I want my son and daughters to be around the best coaches possible and it’s not about playing their sports at a high level. It’s about the things they get to learn from being around good leaders.
Look for the coaches. There’s no perfect club per se. Every club has got some good coaches, some coaches who have some work to do. Just because you’re certified doesn’t mean that you’re a good coach, but just because you’re certified doesn’t mean you’re not a good coach. I think, in the end, we are all trying to get certifications and training so we can be more professionalized because you are paying fees.
What should parents and kids be focusing on when it comes to getting involved and or more involved in soccer between the ages of 8-12?
Parents – Ask the right questions of the kids, are you having fun, are you enjoying it? Not trying to coach them and or make it about winning or putting pressure on them I think the big thing is to ask questions of your kids first. Are you having fun? If you’re having fun, you’re in the right spot, I don’t care where it is. If they are having fun you’re in the right spot.
Kids – Look in the mirror, are you having fun? I would love to know from as many kids as possible, what could make it more fun? In the end, it’s a game and it has to be fun.
There are horrifying stats of girls leaving the game and nobody can articulate why. I think if you dig down, it became less fun because the more money you pay, the more you want in return and that puts more pressure on clubs to win so it all becomes this big slippery slope based on money and parents perception and parent’s ambition. What about the kid’s ambition?
They want it to be fun, I think we sometimes forget about that.
So I suggest parents, make sure your kids are having fun at that age. As a child that age, make sure you’re having fun and tell your coaches and parents what it is you need to have fun.
What about at the next level, youth athletes between the ages of 12-18?
At that age range there are three kinds of athletes:
1. Those who want more
2. Those that want less
3. Those that aren’t sure
Our club has a job for those that want more we need to give more. For those that want less, we need to scale it back and give them less, but still support them on their journey. For those that aren’t sure, we need to do a better job of articulating what is available for them and articulating what the pathway entails.
Those that want more, everyone assumes that’s based on your current ability today. I’ve changed over the years, I’ve coached at different levels. I am less and less concerned about how good you are right now. I want to know how good you want to be. And how much are you willing to sacrifice to get to as good as you want to be.
If you’re not quite as talented, let’s support those kids and it’s okay if you don’t want more. You are playing for that soccer for life experience. When you are older and you’re still going to your soccer practice and with friends, it becomes part of a healthy lifestyle. Those would be the three categories.
When it comes to playing time, what advice do you have for parents who want to see their son or daughter get their fair share of time on the field?
I have all the time in the world for parents who want to ask about what they need to do to get more if I am convinced they want more. When you start finger-pointing and blaming and becoming violent in words, that’s when it takes the fun out of it for the parent, the coach and most importantly for the child. It’s all about communication. You can’t go into a parent-teacher interview and lose your mind it doesn’t happen in the school setting, but it happens a lot in the sport setting.
It goes back to fun, if you’re going off like that it’s not fun. And I will challenge us (coaches) as well. If there’s a player that is not playing at all, maybe we are playing them at the wrong level. It feels like at times pressure (that) you don’t want to get that email about moving a child down a level so keep them at a level they shouldn’t be at then you get hammered all year anyhow. Sometimes it’s better to rip off the band-aid and say look this is the level they’re suited at to get the most enjoyment out of the game. Sometimes ego affects fun and we have to be braver in those players there sometimes.
What do you say to a young aspiring soccer player that wants to get to the next level. How do you get there?
What are you willing to sacrifice? I had a few meetings a few weeks ago. That same questions of young players wanting more. So you have to sacrifice some of those social things and some of the parties and so forth or family vacations. You have to understand going to two practices and an extra session a week isn’t going to help. What are you willing to do on your own? You do more, you get more and I just clearly articulate how much more they have to do physically. How much more physically, technically, how much more soccer they’re going to have to watch and just the time commitment needed to do more is massive. It’s all about sacrifice.