Sermanni says U.S. Women's National Team Job a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
Not everybody wants to coach a team where anything less than #1 is considered a failure.
But for Tom Sermanni, who spent the last eight years turning the Australia Women’s National Team into one of the most exciting teams in the world, that challenge is welcomed with open – and relaxed – arms.
“Coaching the U.S. Women’s National Team is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Sermanni said from his Sydney, Australia home. “It’s quite exciting to coach players that demand excellence of themselves every day … players that want to be successful every day. This job brings that.
“It’s an opportunity to take on a team at the top of the world with many of the best players in the world. As we know, most coaching positions involve taking over a team that is struggling on and off the field.
“I embrace these expectations. Every coach wants to coach the best players. When you are #1 (and we are there because of the great work of U.S. Soccer, Pia Sundhage and the great players) you still need to push to stay there. We need to keep the team where it’s at, but we also want to continue to look at ways to get better.”
Many believe Sermanni’s easy-going and amiable personality will help the team do that.
“I do try to stay even keel,” Sermanni said with a Scottish accent that brings a smile to your face (his first game as U.S. coach will be against his native Scotland, February 9, in Jacksonville, Fla).
“I don’t get over excited when things are going well and I don’t tend to get over anxious if they aren’t going well. I keep things fairly level and I am a great believer in trying to get the best out of the players on the team. I hope to be able to bring new competition into the team and grow the team technically.”
Sermanni will officially start his new position as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team in less than a week. Three short weeks later, Sermanni will take center stage as a featured clinician at the 2013 NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
“My first-ever NSCAA Convention was last year in Kansas City,” said Sermanni, who spent some time in the United States as a head coach of the WUSA’s New York Power after serving as assistant for San Jose. “To be quite honest, I was stunned. People had told me how big the NSCAA Convention is, but it blows you away. It’s an amazing few days, where the information that is shared is phenomenal. It’s practical information that is being delivered by some of the world’s premier coaches. The variety is enormous at all different levels. There really is something for everybody.”
Sermanni said that his Saturday, January 19, session at 12:45 pm will focus primarily on offense and it’s titled: “Receiving, Support Positions and Combination Play.”
His session will be a great example of how to progress through a practice building and advancing as you go. And, he said his session is for coaches at all levels, men, women, boys and girls.
“When I walk on to a soccer field, the coaching session I put on for a female team at the elite level wouldn’t be any different from the session I put on for a male team. The communication aspect is probably the biggest single factor that is different and then knowing what components to pull out for a youth team. I will talk about that in Indianapolis.”
Thankfully, Sermanni, who was among 10 candidates for FIFA’s 2011 Women’s Coach of the Year, was also willing to talk about many topics related to his new job. Here’s a few of his answers.
NSCAA: What are the basics of your philosophy as a coach taking over the U.S. Women’s National Team?
Sermanni: First off, I am incredibly honored and excited about the challenge and thank U.S. Soccer for their belief in me. Obviously, I hope to continue to make the team better. It’s going to be a challenge. I want to continue to develop the type of football the U.S. team plays. Pia has done a fantastic job over the last five years in developing the soccer style of the game. And, I want to continue to do that. I don’t have a particular formation, for example, but I have a philosophy of how I want to play soccer and the type of players that I like to have. I think in the modern game you are looking for players who have good technical skills and a solid understanding of the game. You are also looking for players, who are mobile and comfortable with the ball, players that are game breakers. I think as games get tighter now – and women’s international soccer has become a lot, lot closer … your top 12 or 14 countries in the world now are capable of beating each other on any given day - you need to find players that can make a difference and handle that pressure. You want to find players who can create goals, players that can really dribble and cause havoc in front of the goal, and, of course, players that can score goals become much more valuable. Those are the kinds of players we always need to have in the mix.
NSCAA: What are some of your top priorities as you get ready for your first day on the job?
Sermanni: The first thing will be to work with the players that are already here and in the squad. The second thing will be to actually increase the competition within the squad. That means we need to increase the player pool and get out and look at some of the up-and-coming players that haven’t had opportunities with the national team as such. We need to assess these players and see which ones can actually become international players. It will also be my philosophy to give the new players an opportunity in international games and see how they do on the international stage.
NSCAA: What intrigued you about joining the U.S. team?
Sermanni: Without question, the ability of the players as well as the character and the personalities on the U.S. team are amazing. They are unbelievable role models and they have a deep connection with the community and their supporters. That was very impressive and very important to me. Because I believe people and leaders in sports play an important role in society and I think having that connection with supporters, and particularly, young girls, is vital. This team does that, perhaps, better than any other team – men or women -- in the world.
Are you intrigued? Then, don’t miss your chance to listen and learn from the new head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2013 NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis. Click here to register today.