Like many, I was (and still am) very excited when on January 6 of this year US Soccer put April Heinrichs and Jill Ellis in charge of efforts to stay at the forefront of womenâ€™s football.
If ever there was a country that needed a long-term strategy when it comes to womenâ€™s football, it is the USA. In the last decade, the USSF has been in stagnation, refusing to modernize, living on its 1999 success.
Like many, I assume that when interviewing and eventually hiring Ellis and Heinrichs, US Soccer discussed with both candidates their vision, master plan and methods of how they plan to take the American game forward. Surely, these two experienced coaches have a detailed vision and plan of how to lead the USA to stay on par with Germany and other countries.
I hoped that both would communicate that vision early on in order to galvanize support.
Two months in and I am not sure if US Soccer is involved in a job creation program or in fulfilling its mission of growing, developing and supporting.
Leading a US national team program is similar to leading a team.
When a new coach takes over, whether during the season or in the off-season, the first team meeting, the first communication is so important. Players begin forming their opinions immediately, so it’s critical that the new coach clearly communicates his/her vision, style of play, and overall coaching philosophy. Players must understand what’s expected of them, on and off the field, from the start.
Most coaches and their assistants spend an entire week working on their first team meeting, making sure season goals are clearly identified, defined and communicated. The key always is to identify goals that are both aspirational and achievable, making those goals clear, communicating them daily and developing strategies to achieve them.
We all are aware of what the challenges faced by Ellis and Heinrichs are: technical deficiency, tactical naivety, lack of facilities, lack of investment, lack of leadership.
To avoid steady decline, Heinrichs and Ellis must provide vision, leadership, methodology and results. They need to outline wider plans, including how they intend to bring the WWC trophy to the USA in 2011 and beyond.
The USA womenâ€™s football tradition and history demand that aspirations should not be downgraded. Based on its participation numbers alone, the USA, at all age groups, should finish in the top 2 of every competition.
It’s obvious that Ellis and Heinrichs require authority to implement desperately needed reform. After forming and communicating their vision, Ellis and Heinrichs need the power to implement changes. On the technical side they should have 100% control of things.