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Management Spotlight: Edition Two

10/09/2018, 2:30pm EDT
By SYL Staff

Boys Super Y Director Shirah among those featured

Significant amounts of time and effort go into the lives of coaches and administrators across the United States to make Super Y League a success, including during the ongoing 2018 season.

In our Management Spotlight series, we take a look at three individuals that continue to exemplify their expertise in developing young players both on and off the field.

Here are the featured coaches and administrators for the first edition on Oct. 9, 2018.

Kelly Shirah

Georgia Revolution, Boys Super Y Director

Q: Why did you decide to become a soccer coach?

A: When I was 16, I chose to stop playing youth club soccer and pursue coaching. I wanted to help and mentor kids younger than me and pursue a different avenue in soccer. This fall was the start of my 20th year coaching.

Q; What are some of the biggest challenges of being a soccer coach?

A: Finding a balance of being a mentor and a soccer coach. Many coaches today take this as a job. We can not lose sight of what matters the most. Finding the fine balance of teaching and helping these young men and women reach their full potential as a player and as a young adult. The youth today needs us as much as role models and mentors as they do coaches.

Q: What advice would you give players looking to raise their game to potentially make the pro ranks?

A: Continue to work on your own time. As coaches, we can push you to a certain level. If you do not have the drive and passion to go to the next level in your heart, a coach will not find that for you. You have to put the extra work in on your own to make it to the next level. Coaches are there to teach you and guide you.

Q: What do you enjoy most outside of soccer and why?

A: My family and my career. I am a full-time paid firefighter in one of the busiest departments in the Southeast. I have been a firefighter for 17 years and I have loved every minute of it. I want to help people and be there for people when they need us the most. I have been married for 15 years and I have 16-year-old and 14-year-old sons. Being there for my family and watching them grow is one of the greatest joys you can ever be a part of.   

Q: What hobbies do you have outside of soccer?

A: Hunting, fishing, and anything outdoors.

John Ross

Kalamazoo Kingdom, Under-17 Boys Head Coach

Q: Why did you decide to become a soccer coach?

A: I get asked this question often, and it is a tough one to answer.  The easiest way to put it is simply that I did not choose coaching; it chose me.  I was actually a biomedical science major in college getting very good grades and was accepted into some very prestigious institutions for medical school.  But towards the end of college something didn’t feel right about it. I decided not to pursue medical school and instead went into a Doctoral program in Physical Therapy. I discovered a year into it that it wasn’t for me either. What I was doing at that same time was coaching high school soccer and having some decent success. That seemed to be the only thing that I really enjoyed doing. So I quit PT school and came back to Western Michigan where I started my Master’s in Sports Management and began coaching full time. I even went overseas for a year to Scotland with a former player and now great friend of mine and played and coached there. When I came home from that trip I knew this was what I was meant to do. That next year my current boss at Western Michigan -- Chad Wiseman -- saw something in me and gave me an opportunity to join him at Olivet College, a small Liberal Arts Division 3 school here in Michigan. That was 10 years ago now and I have never looked back. I met my wife there and started my career and Chad and I are still coaching together at our alma mater WMU which is pretty incredible. The same time I started at Olivet I began coaching with the Kalamazoo Kingdom, where another mentor and friend, Chris Keenan gave me an opportunity to lead and teach young players and people. I love the game and I love the people. The relationships and bonds I get to create with so many players is what I love most about my job. When I realized how much of an impact I can have on so many young people, it hit me like a truck; THIS is what I need to spend my life doing.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges of being a soccer coach?

A: There are many challenges to being a full time coach. Especially one that coaches both college and club year round. The two schedules don’t always mesh well with one another and it is very difficult during some periods of the year to make sure I am finding time to spend with my wife, family and friends. Then add in recruiting trips and camps, it can be difficult to keep an eye on the work-life balance which is important. In that same light, I think another difficult thing about what we do is making sure I keep my home life a priority. It sounds easy, but when you feel responsible and devoted to so many different players all at once, which for me can be upwards of 60 between club and college, your mind is often elsewhere.  Your brain is constantly wandering. It may be on practice plans trying to get the best out of a group, or at the college level constantly looking forward, game planning and breaking down film for your next opponent.  Remembering to make sure you call all those other college coaches to promote your club players because you know they’d be great fits and you want them to be taken care of when they move on. With all those thoughts and constantly trying to help others, it can be easy at times to forget to also care and devote as much time to those closest to you. There’s a lot of emotions all mixed in there together and you come home mentally drained. It’s difficult, but it’s also a byproduct of why I love what I do so much, and I think that is maybe the toughest thing about coaching that many coaches would agree with.

Q: What advice would you give players looking to raise their game to potentially make the pro ranks?

A: Fall in love with the game. Its very easy to say, but almost impossible to do unless it is completely natural and what you truly want to do. However, much of the time you spend at training with your team, it isn’t enough. You have to always be willing to make sacrifices that your other friends probably are not, to train on your own. And just juggling in the back yard won’t cut it. You need to train. Whatever your position is you need to be willing to dedicate extra hours away from training honing those skills.  Whether its hitting shots, driving balls, 1v1 skills, speed & agility, shot stopping, throwing or punting. Whatever your position needs you to do on the field, you have to commit to those skills. You also need to learn to know your game better than anyone else. Be realistic and understand exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are. Train to be the very best at your strengths and work to elevate your weaknesses. Always keeping in mind however hard you are working, there are hundreds or thousands more working just as hard or harder. So what sets you apart? Taking advantage of your opportunities when they come along. That is probably the hardest piece.  Being at your best when your best is needed. You combine all those things, the players that make the above things everyday habits are the players that will become pros.

Q: What are a couple of your favorite moments from the Super Y League season?

A: I have had many great moments as a part of Super Y over the years. I have been fortunate to be a part of 4 North American Finals either as a head or assistant coach. Those are memories I will never forget and just remember being so happy and proud for my teams. This season, in particular, there was one game I think that defined the team. Many teams have similar days given the time of year where you just don’t have your full team. Vacations or camps or whatever it is, there’s usually at least one day where you know you are going to not have your full complement and have very few numbers. This summer, of course, it was the game we needed to clinch the division. We had 12 guys, one field player sub and it was 95 degrees out and humid. We had many regular “starters” out of the lineup and I had to move guys out of position. We were playing a very good opponent and the team easily could have made excuses why not to turn up. They did just the opposite. They really turned up and found five goals in the first 20 minutes. It was a testament to their willingness to compete and step up when called upon. Also, it was a fine display of pure mental toughness to battle the elements and low subs and still be who they are and play well. It was a proud moment for sure as the coach. And when it’s with a group you have spent the better part of five years with, it’s one of those moments where you can see 50 different messages you’ve given them over the years all coming together at the same time. It’s special to watch.

Q: What are your expectations for your team at SYL Finals?

A: This is a really good group once again that have earned their right to compete for a championship, and I believe they will do that at a very high level. We have a good mix of guys that have been here before, won here before, and also some new players hungry to get a taste of the North American Finals. We are solid and all areas and I know how much it means to these guys to have this great opportunity in front of them. You have to remember also, December is a great time to head to Florida when you’re from Michigan, so they are all excited.

Kim Lavin

Club Administrator, Oak Brook SC

Q: How did you start working with Oak Brook Soccer Club?

A: I started as a team manager for Oak Brook Soccer Clubs in 2011. When the opportunity for OBSC to play in Super Y League came along. Chris Karabatsis came to me and asked me to help Oak Brook Soccer Club with the Super Y Program.  

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges of managing so many players?

A: The biggest challenge in managing so many players is the roster. With vacations, other activities and school it is always a challenge.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Super Y League?

A: I have truly enjoy meeting and working with the Super Y staff. They are a great group. Jordan Rouse has been so helpful with everything from rosters to gameday questions. The enjoyment of giving this incredible opportunity for the OBSC teams to play other teams from all around the Midwest and helping us continue the players development individually and as a team.

Q: What are your expectations for your team at SYL Finals?

A; My expectation is for the OBSC team to have the time of their lives as they play at the SYL Finals. This is an incredible opportunity for them as a team to continue growing and developing.

Q: What hobbies do you have outside of soccer?

A: For me soccer is my hobby. My family keeps me very busy though.  We have four kids, two who are still in college and one of them is a goalie so we spend weekends in the fall watching games throughout the Midwest. Our family has been blessed to be involved in soccer for over 20 years.  The practices, club games and travel all over the country has been truly a lifelong dream for my family.

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