An Interview with Arizona Soccer Club and Higley High School Head Coach, Jim McGinty.
Jim McGinty is a native of Scotland and has been living in Arizona for quite sometime now. He is the head coach of 3 teams at Arizona Soccer Club as well as being the Head Coach for the Higley High School Boys’ Varsity Program.
Jim has agreed to be interviewed by the Director of Coaching for Arizona Soccer Club, Paddy King.
Jim, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jim McGinty and I was born in Broxburn, Scotland. I moved to America in 2001, met and married my wife Michelle. We have two children, Carron and Calum.
Soccer has always been a significant part of my life and as my ability to play progressively deteriorated from sustained injuries I have found a true joy in coaching. At Arizona Soccer Club I am the head coach of the 2008, 2005 and 2003 Boy’s Teams.
What got you in to coaching? What and where have you coached?
In 2010, our local church required coaches for their recreational league. I was very reluctant to volunteer but agreed to coach 1st Grade children the first season. I enjoyed it so much more than I expected, and I have been coaching ever since.
I joined Arizona Soccer Club in 2014 as part of the recreation program and took the USSF E License course. During this time, I also served on the AZSC Board of Directors as the Director of Grass Root Program.
I joined the Academy program in 2015, coaching the U10 Boys. I then completed the USSF D License prior to becoming the coach for the 2003 Boys in 2016.
What would you say is your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosophy is to prioritize individual player development over results and instill confidence to try new things without worrying about making a mistake. I strive to encourage players to work out and make decisions in game situations themselves as well as create a fun environment to enjoy soccer, where players want to come back for more.
Arizona Soccer Club has been working hard to develop a player-development centered curriculum. While teams are always going to have a variety of development needs, the curriculum at AZSC strives to address those needs while offering consistency throughout the Club.
My personal goal is to continue to improve as a coach each season. This is do through continuous learning, courses, books and generally studying the game from a coach’s perspective.
What is your approach to winning vs development?
Everyone wants to win and that’s natural, I know I do too. However, all coaches know that there are shortcuts that coaches can take to ensure short-term results which to the causal or myopic observer, all looks good and well.
What happens when players on team's level out physically, athletically and in terms of speed? It's likely that players and coaches who took shortcuts along the way in the name of winning, could face real challenges.
Long balls may be less successful because the players can keep up with the chase, or better prevent the long ball from occurring. Big, fast, center backs who spent years bullying a technical striker might have a more difficult time because the striker is bigger and faster than he used to be.
I strive to build technical skills for my players and help players to understand how to tactically master the sport - not run plays. I believe this approach will better prepare young players for a future in the sport - instead of falling behind.
Tactics take much less time to teach & learn than skills.
What is your role at AZSC?
My current role at Arizona Soccer Club, is Head Coach for the 2008 and 2003 Boys Elite teams, and Head Coach of the 2005 Boys Sabener team. I also continue to serve on the Board of Directors, currently as Vice President.
Tell us about your High School coaching
In addition to my roles with AZSC, I am the current Head Coach of the boys Varsity team at Higley High School.
This is the second year I have been involved in that program, having been the Boys JV team Head Coach last season. It’s a fun coaching environment; having the talents of quite a few different local clubs along with those who are not involved in competitive programs and bringing that together quickly for the short High School season.
The Boys worked hard this year, and we did see some great success, making it to the State Quarter Finals (2nd in the Conference Standings with 10-2-1). Six of the thirteen boys selected for the 4A Desert Sky All-Region 1st Team were from our Higley Varsity team and two more made the All-Region 2nd Team. Higley was also recognized with the Region Player of the Year, as well as Region Coach of the Year for myself.
That’s not all though is it Jim? You were also recognized as Regional Coach of the Year, too?
Yes that’s right. A great honor and I am very grateful.
Whats your Favorite Team?
My favorite team is Hibernian from Edinburgh Scotland. While there are many other teams I enjoy watching, Hibernian truly is my home-town team.
Who is your Favorite Player?
My favorite player was George Best of Manchester United. Best was truly one of the best and was voted 8th in the World Soccer 100 greatest football players of the 20th century election in 1999. Beyond his incredible success with Man United, he also he played one season for Hibernian in the twilight of his career.
What is your Favorite Football Moment?
As a player, my favorite football moment is when my team who had lost a cup final 4-1 in our first season, played that same team the following season and won the cup 3-1.
As a fan, my favorite moment was when Hibernian won the Scottish Cup in 2016 after a 114-year gap. Here is a video of the end of the final, with the fans singing an emotional rendition of the club’s anthem, ‘Sunshine on Leith’.
Who are your Coach role models?
My role models as a coach are Stuart Sanderson and Jim Butchard from East Calder Colts. This was my youth team in Scotland. I admire them, not just because of the knowledge they shared, but because of the way they took care of everything: fields, nets, uniforms, indoor facilities, all out of their own pockets, and while being paid nothing. Everything was about the team.
Who or what have you learned the most from in coaching?
There is no particular person or media I have learned the most from. Taking USSF courses has certainly helped, but hopefully I have looked at all the other coaches I have coached with or against and tried to see that one thing they did a little differently or more successfully than I had been doing before. We have to keep learning – from peers, mentors, players – in addition to formal continuing education opportunities.
What should players and parents be looking for when choosing a club?
When families are looking to join a club, they should spend some time at the club. Ask to be a part of training sessions, go to game days to see how that team plays. Do you like the style of play you see? Does the team work together? What kind of game time do players have? Is the coach the kind of teacher that your child will be able to learn from? Does it look fun and well as competitive?
There is also a lot to be said for observing the dynamics of the parents involved. Parents will spend a significant amount of time on the sidelines together, where it should be a fun, bonding experience.
I would also strongly recommend parents take time to have a serious dialogue with their child about what their commitment to soccer is before signing up with any club. Every single kid today has pressures with school work, family commitments and more often than not, other sports they might like to sample. Soccer is a fantastic sport to stay fit, within a team environment.
However, joining a Club to be a competitive player is a much different experience than joining for recreational enjoyment. Competitive sports carry larger financial as well as time commitments for the entire family. Is this how all of you want to spend your time and efforts? Coaches can develop players technical skills.
Coaches can work to improve players awareness of the game, while also improving their speed and agility.
However, it is almost impossible for a Coach to get a player to play harder, run faster, have heart, play with passion, when that drive isn’t already within the player.
I would encourage parents to ask players why they want to play. Do they love soccer? Is it where they want to be or is it where the parent wants them to be? The players who are the most successful are the ones who are committed and are passionate about improving. Unfortunately, the players who are only there because their parents told them they have to have a physical activity, just don’t play with the same spirit.
Over time, parents will see these children earning less and less game time on a competitive team.
What is the biggest problem/deficit you see in young players in Arizona and how could they cure this?
Regarding the challenges of players in Arizona, I believe that soccer players aren’t putting enough time into learning outside of the confines of the organized 3 days a week practice.
Arizona is definitely not conducive to being able to play outside all of the time, but that means that players in other states and countries are getting better while we fall behind.
Ideally, it would be great to have affordable indoor facilities to allow for simple pick up style games where kids could go after school or for clubs to utilize, especially during the summer months when the Arizona sun is at the harshest.
In lieu of having an indoor facility, I would recommend players and parents investigate summer camps in areas with cooler temperatures as well as look at skills they can spend time on daily, within their homes or at a park nearby in early mornings.
Advice to young players?
My advice to young players would be to get down to the park with some friends and just play the game. Nothing makes you a better player than time and touches.
Watch games on television and watch what the players in your position do on and off the ball. Work hard but avoid being selfish.
Soccer is a team sport – end of story. Flare may earn you some cheers – when you’re successful. When you fail, your flare may have just let down the whole team.
Be respectful: to your teammates, parents, referees and opposing players, coaches but most of all, yourself.