Assistant coaches must wear many hats
and he was one of the toughest guys in trade talks.
Peter Wilt cares about the fans, who are the lifeblood of any sport. I understand the business side. I have an MBA and worked as a CPA for six years. The business side is vital to all organizations in sport and their eventual success. But, Peter is a soccer guy who cares that the emotion of the game is true and followed. Bill Shankly, the famous Liverpool icon, was at one with the fans on the Kop. That is what made Liverpool so special. Peter was at one with the Barnburners.
I hope that soccer has not lost a person who cares about the fans and the game as Peter did. He did not wear Armani suits well, but he had the Fire logo tattooed on his heart.
But as I said, every coach faces a tough decision when picking an assistant coach. He needs someone who will complement him but also be independent at key moments. In my years of doing this, there are certain things that I look for.
My first criteria is to have an assistant who has the capability one day to be a head coach. The day might not be tomorrow, but it has to be someone with ambition, knowledge and talent who one day will be able to go out on his own.
The person must be knowledgeable. When I first came to the Galaxy, Ralph Perez had a great first-hand knowledge of the league. He knew the players, the stadia, how the organization and travel worked. His knowledge helped me do my job better. Soccer knowledge is also vital -- especially that you look at the game nearly the same way. However, I do not want a yes man as an assistant. Having stimulating conversations and discussions behind closed doors is something I welcome.
When you step on the field you need loyalty. No matter if you disagree behind closed doors you need to present one picture as a staff. Backstabbing is something that cannot exist. The assistant needs to relate with the players but support the head coach. This is not always easy and requires a solid character. Loyalty is a vital quality.
Energy is something all coaches need to bring everyday to training. The assistant is the one who often will warm up the team and his enthusiasm sets the tone for the training. Coaching and playing soccer is a great job. We all have ups and downs, but going outside to train everyday has to be a high point of each day.
As I get older it is more important to have an assistant who can still play on occasion with the players. Someone who can demonstrate and work extra with the young players is important. I know some coaches who play everyday with the team. I think some of that is good. But I was too competitive as a player and my assistants are also competitive and as a result it is not always good. There are things you can see easier when you observe. Other aspects of the game come to light better when you can still get in there and play, especially with younger players.
Finally, an assistant in the MLS must wear many hats. He is a coach, he does video, he scouts players and coaches the reserve team, to name just a few jobs. He must also be a liaison between the head coach and players. There are times when he is a confidant and advisor to the players. That's a lot of jobs for one guy.
Remember: Behind every good head coach is a good assistant. In front of every organization is a good leader. But I hope passion and love of the sport always prevail as we look for our leaders of soccer tomorrow.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.