After arriving in Tampa last Friday, Head Coach Ricky Hill sat down to answer a few questions submitted by the fans about coaching, being back in Tampa and what he is looking forward to this season. If you have a question for Coach Hill, submit it to email@example.com and it could be answered in next month's Q&A with Coach Hill.
1. What is your coaching philosophy?
I like to play an attractive style of football, encourage the team to play with expression whenever possible but at the same time know that we all have important responsibilities when we are not in possession of the ball.
2. How did you get into coaching?
I actually started coaching when I was a player. While I was president of an amateur team in London, on my days off from playing, I would go to the club and try to replicate certain training sessions that I had been exposed to in my professional environment. So I’ve always had an interest in coaching. But my first real opportunity came thanks to Rodney Marsh when I joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1992 initially as a player then as a player/coach.
3. What is the hardest part about coaching soccer?
From a coaching perspective it would be how to try to include everyone within the squad and make all members seem as important as the next even when we all understand that only 11 can play. I believe it’s important that all the players on the squad believe they are of high importance to the team.
4. In your opinion, what type of person makes the best coach?
I don’t think you can really categorize a coach, although if you’re asking for my opinion, I believe a coach that has empathy, understands that each player is an individual and one who can bring all different kinds of personalities and characteristics and mannerisms to become a collective unit and perform as a team win, lose or draw.
5. You played soccer in several different countries; did you find any differences in the approach/style?
Yes. In England, the game was what I was familiar with and what I was used to. There were no real surprises, although from a personal perspective I was extremely fortunate to spend a large part of my playing career working with top quality coaches. One would consider it to be a small club but the coaching there was at a very high standard thanks to Danny Bergara, David Pleat, David Coates and all the other coaches within Luton. I then experienced French style of soccer and again it was a life changing experience for me because, although I had spent 15 years at Luton as a player, I then became aware of the real benefits of sports conditioning. The French philosophy on fitness was far superior to the methods that were prevalent in the UK at that time.
6. How does it feel to be back in Tampa and coaching your “former” team?
It’s an exciting feeling. I’m very, very happy to have been given the opportunity to lead the team. The club as it stands now, in the short time since I’ve been in the US, I’ve been really impressed with the ambition and the professionalism of the organization.
7. What do you like best about Tampa?
I like the fact that it is a sporting city with a number of high-class organizations in different fields of sports. From my previous experience, I know the fans are passionate about their sports and I know that the youth population is very competitive in the sporting arenas.
8. What trait do you look for in players?
I think with all coaches one of the first traits that they look for in a player will be a good worker and a good work ethic allied to technical ability, temperament, and focused determination.
9. Do you have any advice for players hoping to make it to a professional level?
Yes. In order to become a professional in any sport you have to be prepared as an individual to make certain sacrifices for your own talent to come to the forefront. Be respective, whether you play as an individual or as part of a team, you have to be prepared for the necessary changes for your talent to be enhanced.
10. Talk about some of FCTB’s players:
It might be a little bit unfair of me to talk about the current squad at this point in time. I can only say that through my brief introduction of all the players currently on our squad they all seem to be of good, sound character.
11. Who is your favorite original Tampa Bay Rowdies player?
I am kind of biased because I remember one player in particular who helped me a great deal, although he has probably never realized it himself. When I was at Luton Town as a 15-year old we had Peter Anderson, currently residing in the Bay area, who was a first team player at Luton. After playing for the Rowdies he helped me a great deal by encouraging and allowing me, although I was young, to be treated in a respectful manner even if I occasionally made errors during training. That encouragement obviously helped pave the way for me to go on and have the playing career that I have had. A special mention to Ron Futcher, who also was very supportive and generous for me as a young player coming through.
12. Who were your biggest influences when you began your soccer career?
Initially it would be my brother because he was a couple of years older than me and he had the jumpstart in regards to actually kicking a ball around so I guess that’s where the competitive sport of the game began. As individual icons and heroes for me I would say they are: Bobby Moore, when he won the World Cup in 1996, Bobby Charlton, Pele, and then finally the whole Leeds United team during the 60s and 70s.
13. What has been your most memorable moment as a player?
I guess it would have to be walking out at Wembley Stadium in my first international appearance against West Germany in 1983 -that was a combination of boyhood dreams and aspirations to one day play for the country of my birth. I was very pleased and proud to have achieved that.
14. As a coach?
Possibly while I was coaching Trinidad and Tobago in their professional soccer league we played the MLS champs, the Chicago Fire, in the knockout stages of the CONCACAF champions league. We managed to win the first leg by five goals to two, which was an achievement from my team (NCL Financial San Juan Jabloteh). Unfortunately the Chicago Fire won the second leg and we were knocked out due to goal average.
15. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
No, not particularly. I like to speak to as many individual players as I can just to perhaps plant certain seeds in their mind that they can go out onto the field with a positive frame of mind. But basically I like to gather my thoughts, reflect on the mood of the players and the atmosphere before the game, and then add whatever ingredients I believe necessary to get the team to be ready to compete from the first whistle.
16. What are your goals for the 2011 season?
Of course our aim is to win as many games as we possibly can. Every game we go out first, with the intention of winning and secondly, try not to be beaten. We will obviously approach each game and treat each game with the ultimate respect because we know there will be no easy games, in any leagues, whatever standard, while two teams are competing. Our aim is to be prepared and ready to play at our maximum level as often as we can and hopefully by being a cohesive unit we can go on to have success throughout the season.
17. What team do you think will be our greatest competition?
Once again, all teams within the league start at the same level. Futbol is such a suggestive game that on any given day any team can beat any one team. I don’t believe there are favorites but of course we may look at certain rosters and those certain rosters may have the makeup of some players with high reputation. But again that’s no reason for us to feel inferior and we will compete to the best of our abilities throughout the year and I would imagine that all the franchises in the league would be able to do the same.
18. What do you think will be the greatest challenge for our squad in the 2011 season?
I guess the greatest challenge will be to try to find a level of good or high consistency in the team’s performance -that is my ultimate aim right now. My future goal is to be so extremely confident later this season that whatever team we field, all individuals within our team will be able to perform at a consistently good level.
19. What do you think are the greatest strengths in our 2011 squad?
It’s pretty early for me to really be commenting on the marriage of the squad as it stands now. I currently haven’t had the opportunity to get on the field with the team to evaluate them as individuals and players on the team. So I will reserve judgment on that. Perhaps in six weeks time I will have a clearer picture of each individual’s merit.