Interview With Academy and Professional Coach Bryan Wallace

Bryan Wallace is a Jamaican American who played for the U17 and U20 Jamaican National Teams. As a coach, he has had massive success at the youth level including:  Coast Soccer League Cup title for 3 consecutive years, Far West Regional League fall and spring season, North South Premier title, Nomads College Showcase, Surf Cup, United Cup, NHB Cup,2012 Cal South State National Cup without conceding a single goal, Western Regional title a first in clubs history, Surf Cup, Dallas Cup, Far West Regional Spring league, SCDSL Tier 1 Champions, NHB Cup, Nomads College Cup, Albion Cup.   In over two years, one of his teams won an amazing 198 games competing against 200 opponents.   In 2012 Coach Wallace was awarded the California South Nike Competitive Coach of the Year.  Currently, Bryan coaches at West Coast FC in Southern California.

In addition to all of the team championships, Bryan has sent countless players (in some instances every player on a team's roster) on to play in college as well as sign contracts overseas for professional clubs.  He knows the game of soccer inside and out, and he sure knows success.  For his full bio see HERE

 I first met Bryan Wallace when he was the right hand man of Afshin Ghotbi, founder of American Global Soccer School.  Afshin eventually shut AGSS down when he went on to work for Steve Sampson with the US National Team and the LA Galaxy.  From there, Afshin worked with the South Korean National Team for Gus Hiddink, became head coach of a first team in Iran called Persopolis, head coached the Iranian National Team for a few years, and is currently the head coach of a team in the highest Japanese League (J-League) called Shimizu S-Pulse.  Bryan would drive over an hour each way from Riverside to Burbank  where AGSS trained nearly every day because he believed in Afshin and knew it was the professional environment he was looking for to become his vision of a top coach.

I played my final 3 years of club soccer at AGSS from ages 17-19.    In 2001 after my first season of college soccer, like many freshman I was young enough to still play in the National Cup, so I came home from Fresno to play with AGSS.   For much of that second National Cup,  Afshin was away with South Korea in the World Cup.  I always knew Bryan and thought he was a great coach, smooth player, and even smoother guy, but he was usually working with the younger teams in the club and would occasionally assist Afshin during some of our games.  Influencing Afshin to change his mind or do something different was like trying to teach a cheetah to run faster; you didn't.  So while I knew and liked him, it was during the time when he stepped into the head role that I really got to know him and see what he was all about.  

Going into the National Cup with Afshin gone, everyone thought it was going to be a poor outcome compared to what as achieved the year prior.  The year before we won the Southern California National Cup and ended up losing in the second round of Regionals to a very strong Colorado Rush.  Our team was incredible that first year and we smashed Irvine Strikers 3-0 in the final which consisted of practically all of the freshman from the UCLA Men's soccer team.  They couldn't compete with our lineup consisting of Rodrigo the Dunga-style holding mid from Brazil, Yoshi the deadly samurai dribbler from Japan , Victor the Mexican magician, Moro the Dutch striker from Ghana who was carved out of stone, David Johnson the young stud who would soon to be a youth national team player and play for Willem IIA in Holland, Carlos Menjivar the future El Salvadorian National Team midfielder and first player ever to successfully do a butt trap in real game (and subsequently get benched for it),  Noah Rosenblum the super athlete , and other guys who would all go on to play in college.  We also had the genius of Afshin Ghotbi.

               David Johnson, the young stud and also a player Bryan helped develop

              David Johnson, the young stud and also a player Bryan helped develop



With less raw talent than the year before and Afshin's absence, AGSS kept finding a way to win.  Bryan would have these incredible speeches and stories he would tell us before the games that were so intriguing and inspiring only a corpse wouldn't get goosebumps.  Before we knew it, we were in the semi-finals. Afshin was back from the World Cup and players started talking about how we wanted Bryan to keep coaching (in retrospect it was not just due to the success we were having, but because everyone was scared shitless of Afshin- but in a good way). Word got out to Afshin and it was then that I heard one of the most incredible speeches in my life about loyalty, respect, hard work, and with no shortage of profanity.  All you need to know is that it didn't take long for us to welcome Afshin back with open arms.  With Afshin back and his asking Bryan to take on a bigger role than ever before,  we won the CYSA-Cup again.  We ended up losing in Regionals again to the eventual National runner up, this time in the quarterfinals.

Ever since that National Cup, Bryan and I have remained close friends.  When the soccer program at Fresno State was on the verge of folding due to Title 9 just before my senior year (before we barely got it back via protesting and fundraising for the final season of the program's history), Bryan was on the phones trying to find me a place to play for my senior season.  When I was having some personal problems a few years ago and needed someone to talk to, Bryan was there for me every time without fail.   Bryan loves the game of soccer   more than anyone I've ever known, but even more so he also loves to touch other people's lives. He has definitely make an impact in mine. It is an honor to present you this interview with Bryan Wallace.

1. You grew up in Jamaica and have National Team experience for your home country. Jamaica has an abundance of athletic talent that seems to shine in track and field but has yet to reach the same levels in soccer. In your mind, what are some reasons for the massive success in track and field and what is preventing Jamaica from achieving similar results in soccer?

We need to produce better players. This has to first start with producing better coaches. It is in our DNA to run fast and jump high, but to join the elite few capable of competing at a World Cup level, more is needed.  Our players need to improve technically and we still lack the technical ability to create enough chances from combination plays.  While watching top European and South American players it is evident their feet are like hands.  They are able to do whatever they wish with the ball.  In Jamaica our ball possession is poor.  In essence, we need a complete overhaul of the current youth system as being better technically and tactically doesn't happen at age 30, it begins at age 12 and younger.   We need more teachers in Jamaica; the word coach and coaching should not be used with children, they come later. 

2. Who have been some of the most influential people on your coaching career and what was it about these individuals that grabbed your attention?

Without a doubt Afshin Ghotbi and Steve Sampson. Both men taught me that life is about leadership and being truthful to yourself.  They are living examples of that as the mandate for any relationship and for anyone who has the desire to lead and not be a follower.  They instilled in me the ability to embrace change, to operate from a transformational perspective which included always having a "to do"  list as a way of improving myself.  They demonstrated one must accept responsibility and create a strategy to turn your life into the way you envision it. From a soccer standpoint, both men taught me that it is my job as a leader to promote my philosophy and ideas to the players in a way that goes beyond the playing field. Ultimately, to take them on a journey.

3. You have been involved in coaching young players at various levels for several years now. Many of them have gone on to play in college and even professionally. In your experience, what qualities separate those who go on to play at higher levels versus those who don't?

A proper and professional training environment where players are held accountable for every action they take is crucial.  However, anyone who understands success, finishing first or winning on a consistent basis, understands that you never get there simply because you have talent. I believe that what sets successful players apart is  hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.  The ability to concentrate consistently at a high level is an underrated quality that can make or break anyone.  Making it to the highest levels in soccer takes  uncompromising desire to be the best which is directly related to being able to rebound consistently from failures.   You cannot be afraid to fail.  Living in fear means you'll never succeed. 


4. Coaches often talk about "speed of play". What are some things a player does both on and off the ball that exemplify speed of play and what are some ways players can improve their speed of play?

When referring to a player's speed of play many areas come to mind- physical speed (the ability to out-sprint your opponent to the ball), technical speed (ball handling ability-youth players should be able to do whatever they wish  with the ball), speed of thought (the ability to think quickly and solve problems before the ball arrives or before an action is needed).  To improve technique I always make sure that in training my players touch the ball anywhere from 1000 touches to 30000 quality touches within the first 45 minutes of a session.  During game related training exercises, the sessions are designed to ensure that they remain focus and forced to think and act quickly.   As a coach, I  avoid teaching players to react.  I  develop proactive players who dictate the way the game is played.  

5. I know you have mentioned being a fan of Tony Robbins and that you listen to his tapes and read his books. For other players and coaches, what are some things you have learned from studying his work that have gotten you to where you are now?

For one, I've learned to never get too carried away when my teams win and never get too disappointed when we lose.  Life  is simply a matter of how you perceive things.  Tony Robbins says  that the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself.  As challenging as it is, we must always strive to be honest with ourselves.  I've learned that by taking massive,  intelligent actions towards an end result that I make a practice of vividly imagining, great things are possible.   Find your identity, whatever that is, and try to align that with a purpose and a passion.  That is where you'll find happiness and joy. 

6. What advice do you have for younger coaches who are just getting their feet wet?

 My advice to young coaches is remain seated as much as possible during games. Call players to the sideline during games versus yelling at them.  Choose the right moments to give feedback from the sideline and do not make a habit of pointing out players mistakes immediately after they make them during a match.  During the match, take notes and discuss issues at half time.  I like to give players specific goals during a match such as I need you to complete 6 passes to our forward this half.  

Bryan, thank you so much for doing this interview.  Do you have anything else you would like to add?  Disclaimer: It could or could not be Mat pretending to be Bryan in the following response.  

Yes Mat, I would.  Of all of the players I have ever coached including professionals, not only are you the best looking and most charming, but you are also hands down best player I have ever coached.

Thanks Bryan!