Men’s soccer coach studies coaching abroad

Kyle Howe

Even though the soccer season is over, Men’s Soccer Coach Mike Washington is hard at work preparing for the upcoming season.

For the first few weeks of February, Washington traveled to Manchester, where he was enrolled in a course for the education of coaches. There Washington, who is originally from England, worked with one of the biggest clubs in soccer, and one of his favorite teams, Manchester United.

Mike Washington. Photo contributed by Washington.
Whitman soccer coach Mike Washington (right) is studying coaching with Manchester United. Photo contributed by Washington.

“In soccer there is a lot of coaching education required as far as coaching licenses. Every once in a while we get an opportunity for a special course, and this is exactly what this was. A special topics course with Manchester United,” said Washington.

Washington continues to educate himself by taking different courses to reinforce his coaching strategies and learn new ones.

“I take a course every year. [Manchester United] was a huge experience because it is one of the top clubs in Europe and just to hear what they do with younger players was really interesting because it is very basic. It was all about discovery and letting the players play. It has great correlation to our older players. I think we are missing some of that here at the collegiate level as far as tactical knowledge and mental knowledge,” said Washington.

Rene Meulensteen, left, and Mike Washington
René Meulensteen, left, and Mike Washington

In Manchester, Washington worked with René Meulensteen, the first team coach of Manchester United.

“[René Meulensteen] was Dutch, so there was a lot of information coming from the way the Dutch look at the game. He brought a format where the players would learn things about the game themselves,” said Washington.

Through the course Washington worked with children, and he was able to see the impacts of the mindset being taught by Manchester United.

“We worked with six-, seven- and eight-year-old boys––just watching them train was unbelievable. They are very skillful. It was amazing watching the kids play and [do] stuff that we do,” said Washington, who was surprised to see children pushed at such a young age still enjoying the game.

A large part of the work they did was focusing on player development, something very transferable to Washington’s role at Whitman with new players coming in every year.

“[The program was] regarding player development and youth development. It gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the professional club and how they work with little kids up to adult players,” said Washington.

contributedByMike Washington-locker room

The course stressed that players need to start developing their skills at a young age and should be allowed more freedom. This mindset is something the coaches in Manchester implemented more strongly in their country to improve soccer on a national scale.

“[The course] reaffirms that younger players need to play more. Soccer is not a game that is controlled as easily by coaches as some other sports, which is great if you’re a player. Too much of the coaching in the U.S. is about the coach rather than player development. Educating the younger players [is important] so that when they get to be 16, 18, then the national team for the U.S. is in a better position,” said Washington.

Washington has already been using the techniques that he learned in Manchester on the men’s team at Whitman.

contributedByMikeWashington-theCliff

“Since I have been back, what we decided to do with that spring training is just let the players play, so we are setting up environments for them to play, and what they called it was ‘discovering the game again.’ So we are letting our players discover the game again without hearing my voice,” said Washington.

After the course, Washington and the other coaches who attended were treated to a Manchester United match against Everton.

Over the summer, the men’s team will travel to Europe for 19 days to play soccer and learn more about the game before getting back to Walla Walla early to prepare for the 2013 season.