This is a Q+A with Alex Valles, our new DUSC Program Assistant. Inside the office, Alex helps with the staffing of coaches for classes and ensures the Recreation League runs smoothly each and every weekend. Outside of the office, Alex coaches a handful of our Classes & Clinics. We sat down with him to chat about his connection with soccer growing up, his move from Panama to America, and what he thinks is most important when coaching young players.
DUSC: You were born and raised in Panama City. How long did you spend there?
Alex: I lived in Panama until the age of 13.
DUSC: What was your transition like moving to America?
Alex: It was a bit difficult at first because of the language barrier and the sudden cultural change. I adapted quickly however and made friends through sports, especially soccer.
DUSC: Is there something specific that attracted you to work in soccer?
Alex: I wanted to be involved with it as much as possible. I got into coaching helping out with sessions in college with the freshman team and really enjoyed it. There's a good feeling knowing you can have a positive impact on the players and watch them apply the skills you've taught them.
DUSC: When you boil it down, what is soccer to you?
Alex: It's just a big part of my life. It revolves around everything I do. If I'm not coaching, I'm playing, reading/talking about it or watching on TV. I'm always eager to learn new things about the game as well.
DUSC: You spent 8 years with Super Soccer Stars / NY Stars Premier - what inspired you to move to DUSC?
Alex: I am very grateful for my time there but felt it was the right time for a change. I have several friends coaching for DUSC and they told me about how they were like a "family". To be honest, I sensed a feeling of unity and a great bond amongst these coaches. I was at Pier 40 a lot so I could see how they interacted with each other and how organized they were with their Academy sessions. I also loved what I read on the website from their core principles to their affiliations with NYCFC and Sky Blue FC.
DUSC: You have extensive experience working in the recreational soccer space, what do you think is fundamental to a great Classes program?
Alex: Plain simple, keep it fun and positive. Be organized, be prepared, and create a fun environment where players can learn at their own pace and can enjoy the social aspect of it as well. Spending time with their teammates, working together on the field, celebrating goals, high-fives etc. These things are fundamental. Of course, teach them the technical skills they need to know in order to get better as players, but always do it in a way where they actually enjoy it. Introduce fun games with the ball where they're mastering their footwork, using different parts of their foot, changing direction etc. Praise them, but also challenge them and correct their mistakes. Lastly, teach with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Players feed off of positive energy. The more positive the class, the better the class.
DUSC: Can you tell us a bit about your coaching philosophy?
Alex: I have an overall philosophy for whichever level of soccer I'm coaching. Ultimately, I want players to realize their full potential as players and as individuals. Stressing important values such as discipline, respect, and good sportsmanship are essential and a must for proper player development. My ultimate goal is for all players I coach to develop the soccer skills and self-confidence they need to be successful. And to also learn life lessons from the sport which they can apply later in life.
DUSC: Is this something that has changed over the years?
Alex: Yes, it has. Although it has remained somewhat the same, I have made some changes to it. I think is inevitable for a philosophy to not evolve throughout the years. I base everything on my own experiences as a player and coach.
DUSC: What are the steps you take to create a positive atmosphere in Classes?
Alex: I think it just starts with a positive attitude and the willingness to teach with enthusiasm. Creating a positive class/team culture is important and it makes a big difference on the field. Allowing players to share responsibilities where they have to work together in class, giving them individual attention when needed, communicating to them their progress and how well they're playing, also correcting their mistakes "Nice effort, but try this next time...", challenging them, praising them when you have to etc. These things work well for me when coaching and make for a positive class atmosphere.
DUSC: If you could run the same Classes session forever, what would you focus on?
Alex: Great question! I'll probably focus on sessions that maximize touches on the ball. I think dribbling is the single most important skill in soccer so it's important to develop sessions where players get a lot of touches on the ball and work on their first touch. Players enjoy playing games like sharks and minnows, pac-man dungeon, king of the ring, lose your marker, bingo gates, stuck in the mud etc. All of these are fun games where the ball is at the players feet and there is constant motion, change of direction, and need for awareness.
DUSC: Looking forward to our DUSC calendar, what aspect are you most excited for?
Alex: I'm excited about the Annual Benefit at SOB's. That should be a lot of fun. But I'm also looking forward to the coach trainings I'm helping put together. Looking forward to the Winter season as well for the Recreation league and Classes.