In Focus: Simon Eaddy
Posted on 21 July 2014 in Coaching
Simon Eaddy grew-up three minutes away from the Taranaki coastline—home to some of the best waves in New Zealand. But he doesn’t surf. “I also managed to avoid rugby,” he says, “which is amazing for a Kiwi.”
What does interest Eaddy is cricket and, of course, soccer. “Both were passions growing-up, and being able to dive around and jump and slide in the mud - things like that - created a cross-over, which led to goalkeeping.” But at 19-years-of-age Eaddy had to decide between them. “It was a tough choice, but I’m happy I went with soccer; it led to a whole lot more [for me] than cricket ever would.”
And, so began a 19 year professional playing career that includes two FIFA Club World Cups, three broken noses, one lost tooth and a couple of concussions—“minor injuries.” At the club level Eaddy –who has played in both New Zealand and Canada–has won team as well as individual honours.
But even with these achievements, Eaddy felt it was important to simultaneously pursue his education. “Looking at guys who had been overseas, most came back with nothing more than they left with and I wanted to make sure I had something to fall back on.” And once Eaddy decided he had reached the pinnacle of his playing career he turned to coaching, where his teaching degree came in handy, “because, really, as a coach, your job is figuring out the best ways to help players learn.”
Eaddy’s coaching career began at New Zealand Football, where, in 2006, he met John Herdman. Impressed by Herdman’s leadership, Eaddy decided to follow him to Canada in 2012 to help run the Canadian Women’s National Team program. Success came quick, with a bronze at the Summer Olympic Games, but Eaddy, like the rest of the Team, knows that greater challenges lay ahead.
Canada Soccer spoke with Eaddy at his office in Vancouver.
From his love of music, to the importance of high quality hours in player development, to the need for real in-game training scenarios we cover it all, including his role in preparing Canada’s Women’s National Team for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.
Canada Soccer: Let’s start with something silly?
Simon Eaddy: Hey I’m a goalkeeper mate; you can be as silly as you want?
CS: Well, we hear you’re the man to turn to for music recommendations?
SE: (Laugh) Okay, well a big favourite at the moment is Fat Freddy’s Drop. Not many people will have heard of them but they’re fantastic, check them out.
Fat Freddy’s Drop – Wandering Eye (Official Video), from the album Based on a True Story
There is also an Auckland DJ called Sola Rosa who I’m also into at the moment. But, I imagine, more people will have heard of Ben Harper. I also like a little Mumford & Sons. And if you want to go old school, I’d say Dylan and Bob Marley.
CS: That’s a diverse mix.
SE: I just like what I like
CS: Okay, let’s talk some footy. Tell us about your role as the Women's National Team Assistant Coach?
SE: Well my main responsibility is working with the goalkeepers, specifically Erin (McLeod), Steph (Labbé) and Karina (LeBlanc). I also have an eye to those coming out of college as well as on others who are accessible to the Women’s National Team.
In terms of technical support my main focus is set-plays. I’m also involved in team selection and, from time to time, opposition scouting. For the most part I keep things organized on the tech side so that John [Herdman], in particular, can remain focused on match preparations.
CS: What attracted you to the women’s game?
SE: Three things: the first was that I knew I had reached the pinnacle as a player. And the women’s game [starting with New Zealand’s national team] gave me an opportunity to experience more, first with the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship Russia 2006, and then, beyond that, the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007, followed by the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™.
The second thing was working with John [Herdman], because he is phenomenal. Outside of school [Eaddy has a teaching degree and a masters in social sciences], I’ve learned more with him than in any other stage of my life. And I would say that I’m still learning, which is really, really good. So the importance of the people that you’re working with is the next thing.
And third, and this will sound corny, is that there is a certain cynicism in the men’s game as opposed to the women’s. One of the best things about Canada’s bronze is knowing what every player has sacrificed - and I mean really sacrificed, whether it be career, education, family - to get to that moment. And from an intrinsic level it’s just massively rewarding.
canWNT: bronze medallist at the London 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – 9 August 2012
CS: Back in New Zealand you used to be a grammar school teacher. Did you know that your student’s have rated you on ratemyteachers.com?
SE: That’s brilliant. There is one kid who must have hated me.
CS: Don’t worry, we’ve been selective. Now, keeping in mind you were their geography and not their English teacher can you elaborate on the following comment:
“Great teach even though he was always [away] half the year he is [sic] still got us through, brilliant teaching techniques.”
SE: Okay, so away half-the year: no one was full-time in New Zealand not even John [Herdman]. So when I was working as a goalkeeper coach with both the [New Zealand women’s] U-20 team and the women’s national team, I was also playing while teaching and going to World Cups, Olympic games and making all the preparations towards the whole lot.
In terms of teaching techniques: some of it was old school cram but I also gave them the information they needed to study. This meant that the bulk of the lesson I could do a lot of different things to try and develop understanding.
CS: When it comes to teaching goalkeepers, how important are the psychological aspects of the game?
SE: I think it’s crucial. Once kids get an affinity for goalkeeping, and want to continue down this path, I ask them if they understand their job description? And they’ll usually respond: ‘yeah my job is to stop the ball from going into the goal.’
At which point I ask, ‘are you prepared to fail? Because goals will be scored on you virtually every day in training, and, at a minimum, every second game.’ I don’t do this in a mean way, but what I’m telling them is that they’re not going to live up to their job description, so that they have a reference point.
It’s important that they understand that mistakes will be made and if you don’t have this conversation, especially with young keepers, they tend to get into a pit because they feel disappointed. So yeah I would say … that psychological factors are an underlying issue that keepers must deal with, but they’re not necessarily the most important thing.
However, it’s important to talk about this because the public doesn’t hear it enough. Remember, one of the German keepers [Robert Enke] committed suicide about five years ago, partially because he found the job that tough.
But, the other thing I would say is that you also need to manage keepers that aren’t playing. Because if you’re a two or three you know that there is a very, very good chance that you’re not coming on [the field] if there is an established number one. So being able to work closely with those players to progress without having a cynical relationship is also important.
CS: You said that there is something even more important that the psychological aspect of the game to goalkeepers.
SE: Yeah, and again this is from a coaching development perspective: I think the most important part is actually creating training sessions for goalkeepers that look and feel like the game.
If you don’t coach goalkeepers within match situations it’s difficult for them to learn as quickly as they should. It’s like teaching someone to drive, but spending the entire time in a parking lot and then expecting that person to be able to manoeuvre without incident on the road.
And I see too much of that in goalkeeping. The coach is just volleying the ball at the player, or throwing the ball at the player, sometimes it’s not even near the goal – so there is no frame of reference. And it links to what we were talking about before. If you can’t create realistic situations in training it becomes difficult to deal with the psychological sides of the game.
So that’s why it’s the most important thing. It also makes it more interesting for the keeper because the situation changes, preventing things from getting stale.
CS: So is the advice to involve the rest of the team in the keepers’ training?
SE: It can be. But typically you would involve training staff that can either shoot or head from crosses. Or use all of your keepers: while one is in net the others can act as attackers, you just have to be creative around what you’re doing. Just take part of the game and make your training session resemble it as closely as you can.
CS: Which keepers do you recommend players watch?
SE: There are a few: Valdés (Spain/FC Barcelona) is very good. As is Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid CF), Hugo Lloris (France/Tottenham Hotspur) and, even though he got off to a rough start [this past season], Joe Hart (England/Manchester City FC). But if you can watch only one I would say Manuel Neuer (Germany/ FC Bayern München).
I think Neuer particularly with Guardiola is changing the way goalkeepers play in terms of his distribution and his ability with his feet. But, here in Canada, I think any kid who wanted to learn should watch Erin, Karina and Steph. I encourage kids, who are interested, to come watch one of our sessions and, no question, they’ll learn best practice.
Warming-up for canWNT friendly vs Mexico: Stephanie Labbé, Erin McLeod, Karina LeBlanc – 24 Nov 2013 at BC Place
CS: What do you see when you observe someone like Neuer?
SE: One of the things that I’m looking at is how quickly they [top class goalkeepers] respond to any kind of shot or cross or delivery. At the top-level, they need to be able to recognize a multitude of different cues. Cues they’ve learned to pick-up because they’ve not only accumulated enough quality hours but also seen them executed by the best players in the world.
So when I use our software to analyze players [breaking their movements down at 30 frames a second] I can figure out how quickly they respond to all of that information. I then compare this data to our developing keepers, or even keepers in the women’s game who haven’t yet accumulated enough quality hours, in order to figure out more effective training sessions to alert them to those cues and accelerate their learning.
CS: Is developing the player then really about generating quality hours as quickly as possible, from the earliest age possible?
SE: Yes absolutely, without a doubt. And that’s what Canada is missing. We don’t yet have a system in place that compares to the world’s best footballing nations. We need more informed coaching so people are aware of best practice. Until we create sessions that deliver high quality hours we won’t be producing high-quality players.
CS: So do we make progress by changing the national culture?
SE: I would say that it’s the culture within the game, rather than the external one that needs changing. But I think if you change the culture within the game then the external one will follow.
We’re in a position where we can change the culture of clubs and regional development programs. We have an engaged audience, who not only loves the game, but also has aspirations to play competitively. So let’s give them a greater understanding of what high-performance is without undermining any of the enjoyment of the social opportunities that soccer offers to those who chose a more relaxed route.
CS: Going back to the psychological aspects of the game, what do you say to young goalkeepers to help them get back-up, and keep getting back-up because, as you say, the ball will never stop going into the net?
SE: I think that’s where building a relationship with the players is very important. And to be honest that’s the most rewarding part of my job, knowing that you’ve got some responsibility … some part to play in somebody’s greatest moment.
In terms of what I say: it’s different from one player to the next. But what you’re looking at doing is a) providing some empathy, by recognizing that they’re feeling bad, b) giving them enough information to help them understand what might have happened and c) helping them improve so that it doesn’t happen again. So you’re giving a bit of hope.
But I think if you miss the empathy or the coaching then the problem is they’re more likely to make that mistake again; become disappointed and, with the young kids, potentially give-up the position.
CS: What do you say to the goalkeepers on the bench?
SE: The biggest thing with them is just being honest. The good thing about my playing career, and how it helps with coaching, is that I’ve been a one, two & three. And my … not my worse memory, but my most frustrating experiences were when coaches didn’t tell me why I was a two or a three or how I could become a one.
So, I think, the first thing is to be really honest with the player(s) about their reality and what they’ll have to do, but also, more importantly, explain to them what has to occur for them to become the number one.
CS: With just over a year to go until the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ what’s the team’s mind-set?
SE: It’s still about performing successfully. What I mean by that is that, as a group, staff and players have a good understanding of how we need to play and what we need to achieve on the pitch in order to be successful in 2015. The focus is not always getting a result but the focus is on producing a wining result.
CS: Can you explain the difference?
SE: If you think about a game … you need to score more goals than you’re opposition. But, to score goals you have to produce certain things. Obviously there needs to be shots, there needs to be crosses there needs to be players doing certain things in the attacking third that lead to goals. So although the game is about getting those goals, it’s also about what you do as a team to produce those quality-scoring opportunities.
Now, if you focus solely on the result then you may play a certain way that actually doesn’t help player’s learning. Which is not what we want to be doing a year out from a FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 2015 we’ll play to guarantee a result, but at the moment we’re developing performances.
No question we want to beat the USA, Germany and Japan when we play them this year at home. And, from my perspective, we want to record not only a win but also a clean sheet. But at the same time we want to make sure that the game provides us with an opportunity to learn from our opponents, so that when we play them, when it really matters, we’ve developed the greatest understanding of what we need to do to beat them. This doesn’t mean that winning isn’t important, but that how we play in order to win is important.
Coaching Staff Celebration (9 Aug 2012) – Andrew Olivieri, Dr. Ceri Evans, Simon Eaddy, Andrew Peat, Rob Sherman at the London 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
CS: But what would you say to those who ask, “if the team isn’t winning now, why will it be any different come the FIFA Women’s World cup Canada 2015™?”
SE: Sure, they could say that. But I think this is where people who are studying the game should go deeper. So yes we’ve lost games, but we’ve held the USA to fewer final acts - fewer shots or crosses than in previous games. And we’ve kept them to fewer [shots] than some of the best teams in the world (Japan, Germany Sweden – sides like that) have been able to do.
We’ve also spent less time defending and more time attacking. We’re developing the ability to win, and when you look at it this way, I would say that we’re in a better position to beat USA moving ahead than we were a year ago.
So if you look at it simplistically, then, yes, you can be cynical about it. But if people are prepared to actually look at what’s taking place during that performance then there is plenty to be optimistic about.