"Defense wins championships as they say!"
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Hello everyone, glad you could join us for this weeks new interview! I'm pleased to say that this is the second interview I've done with FC Knights. I'm pleased to say so because it means a non league team has made it to Year 2, which is an occasion for celebration. If you haven't read the first interview with Chris Glynn, you can do so by clicking Here. This will give you some history on context for what you read in this interview, and gives you a window the life of a soccer club. Check them both out.
You recently finished your first season in the Texas Premier Soccer League. How did it go for you?
Our first year had its ups and its downs, but despite it all we had a fantastic first year. We were honored to successfully host the TPSL's Texas Cup, where the winning team was fellow first year side Central Texas Lobos. The league decided to go with a tournament format and we were praised for doing a great hosting job.
Overall, on the field FC Knights made a huge impact as our roster did not consist of any professional or semi-professional player experience, so to play at such a high level in this league and succeed has meant volumes to what we are all about and to this community. We have started from nothing at the very bottom and each day we grow bigger and bigger. We have plenty to showcase and bring to this season in Year 2 of FC Knights: TPSL Edition.
Since your on field success this past year was limited, both in results and experience of your players, how are you planning to address that in Year 2, and what did Year 1 teach you on the field?
We have already begun the selection process and just overall adjustment to the Knights for Year 2. We know what to expect and are prepared more than ever. Immediately after the TPSL season ended, we began offseason training in general to better prepare. We have not stopped and have no plans on doing so.
Also during the season, our team became friends and contractually business partners with a German Team called SG 07 Guldental. We have begun an exchange of players program with them that has already seen 3 FC Knights players spend time training and playing semi-professionally and professionally in Germany and we now have 2 players officially signed to play in Germany. So a true testament of what the Knights are all about: We work hard and never give up!
In exchange, SG 07 Guldental will be here in July to help us host local soccer summer camps and tryouts (July 10-21) for not just our team but for players that may have the potential to play in Germany. We cannot wait to give this awesome experience back to our community and learn all the knowledge we can from our German friends. We will also have 4 German players on loan from their team during our TPSL season here with the Knights.
Germans coming to Texas. That should give you a nice boost! You mentioned hosting the Texas Cup. What did hosting that teach you about what FC Knights is capable of doing as an organization, not just a team on the field?
Hosting the Texas Cup was a huge experience for the Knights and our community. It taught our organization so much about what we could and what we can achieve going into Year 2.
We have found a formula for success through hosting and we actually planned hosting the Texas Cup as one of our team goals at the beginning of the season. Simply put, we strove to be able to have a good showing on the field and be fantastic hosts. Overall, like Knights, I believe it taught us unity and character beyond measure to go above and beyond. I believe you will see that from us in Year 2.
As you look back on the team's results on the field, how did the struggles of Year 1 shape how you've been preparing for Year 2?
The struggle from Year 1 for the Knights are what we considered "first year woes." We had no idea what to expect or even prepare for in this new adventure. To be honest sometimes we were in awe of the other team's talent due to their vast professional playing experience (We even got selfies to commemorate such occasions!) at times.
But despite all that it showed how resilient and strong willed the Knights really are. It showed our true character. All of our opponents commended are vast heart and effort to not give up and how vast our fitness was. We also play with the same amount of effort and determination every game until the final whistle.
To make sure we stay consistent in Year 2, we have increased our fitness from the get-go. Our other overall struggle was defense, which we've addressed with new players but more importantly training sessions designed around that as well as our style of possession ball. Simply put, our main struggles were coming together as a team against teams who have mostly been together for 5+ years. No excuses this year for the Knights as we believe teamwork makes the dream work!
How are you preparing for Year 2 in terms of fitness of training? And particular exercises you guys have found useful for building endurance?
Well, without giving too many secrets away our fitness is designed around interval training as well as general strength and conditioning. Simple yet effective. Our coach, Lance Carlisle, does an amazing job at this. At times, it's exhausting, but you see the result on the field as Coach Carlisle believes in an all-around athlete who can play all sports with soccer as our primary sport. So really anything Coach comes up with! He's got some crazy ones, too, including a drill called the "Death Drill." That in short pushes you to your extremes with various intervals and strength exercises. We've had military guys come to do PT with us and they think it's properly named as well!
Wow, sounds like you guys are going all in on the endurance side. You mentioned defense being an issue in Year 1. How have gone about strengthening the back line? Is it a focus on training, bringing in new players? A combination of both?
A combination of both. We've brought in some strong, intelligent Center-Backs for this season as we already had strong outside fullbacks. Our midfield has been strong offensively but defensively we have focused hard as a team to strengthening our understanding of our team defense as well as better organization when on that Defensive Third.
How do you anticipate fixing the midfield on the defensive side of the ball?
Our main focus to fix that issue is to continue to train hard on keeping organized shape as well as being able to intelligently build out from the back when we do win the ball in the defensive third.
Last season we just made things too complex and this season we feel we have simplified and know exactly how to organize our midfield as well as having our rebuilt back-line to give us that strong "spine" in games. Defense wins championships as they say!
Kind of this subject, I read a quote from John Cruyff earlier where he said Pep's Barcelona side could win the ball back so quickly because 'they never passed it further then 10 meters,' which reduced the amount of chasing the ball they had to do. Sounds almost like what you are trying to do. Does that sound similar?
I would to agree with Cruyff's comments on Pep and Barcelona. It is something we are trying to emulate and instill in our team, as well as a bit of blend from how the current game climate is going. We, the FC Knights team, are big fans of what Leicester City did in the Premier League to win the title and they used many of those tactics defensively as well I believe to help keep big time opposition at bay. But I firmly believe if you keep that distance you'll have positive results.
Since you've played a full season of games, what are two things about the TPSL that surprised you the most?
The first thing is that Texas is really, really big! You don't really realize it until you start to travel for the away fixtures to Houston, Austin, etc. And then there is Eagle Pass, Texas which is right by the Texas-Mexico border. Wow! A 6 hour road trip just to get there to play and then 6 hours home. Crazy experience and one that really bonded our team together.
The second thing that surprised us was really how well we did Year 1. We've already talked about our struggles and successes but we really didn't realize how well we did until about 2 weeks after we finished the season and had time to review. For such a small market starting from scratch to perform and showcase what the FC Knights are all about, I think shows volumes of how bonded as a team and community we are.
What exactly was the response from your local community like? Did you guys manage to draw a crowd?
We had our ups and downs with our community. Being in Texas and especially in our area, American Football and Basketball are King. So showcasing Soccer could exist on a bigger scale was the first challenge. After that, smoother sailing. We drew crowds from Game 1 and everyday we have people contact the team about sponsoring, about joining, and just simply to say how awesome of a job we are doing. We want this for all of our community. We represent everywhere we go so people remember and do not have to ask where we are from. I am in complete surprise when people ask where Killeen, Texas or Fort Hood, Texas are considering we live near the world's largest military installation!
Do you have any plans for community outreach heading into Year 2? Try and get even bigger crowds to cheer on the Knights?
Oh we do. Since the season ended we have gone out into the community more than ever. One of the reasons we are hosting summer camps this July is to give back to our youth and bring in more people to see what the FC Knights are all about. We have also gone out and simply talked to people and businesses to explore what they would like to see and what we could do for them. It's all about positive relationships being forged. I truly believe being face-to-face and among the people is the best methodology and it is already starting to pay dividends.
Are there two or three success stories you can share from your community outreach, whether with youth clubs or businesses?
I have 2 stories. One from during the season and one soon to happen.
The first one was our partnership with a local business called Breakthrough Nutrition. We partnered to spread the word and participate in their health, nutrition, and fitness for our community. Breakthrough Nutrition has been an awesome partner in helping to spread healthy lifestyles in the community while promoting FC Knights.
The other success story has to be what we have upcoming in July. For nearly 6 months, we have planned to bring to our community an experience like no other with our summer soccer camps for all ages. We want to show that the future of soccer is here and that it needs to happen for our community. Soccer is a BIG here in Killeen and Fort Hood, Texas and it can bring our community together just like it does in many other places in the country and in the world.
Let's talk about the Summer Soccer Camps for a bit. How did the process of making this camp get started? Or I guess you could say, what's the story behind the camp?
The process of forming these camps started at the beginning of last season with our German counterparts SG 07 Guldental. We had a few teammates that had played for them in Wiesbaden, Germany, and they said we know a team looking to maybe form a partnership. We of course said what a great idea.
Over the season, we brainstormed how we could give back to our community and show what FC Knights are all about. So we decided to host youth camps here during July. SG 07 Guldental loved the idea and offered to join us to host the event in conjunction with their Star Player Program and Player Exchange Program.
How it will work is we will have a camp on July 10-14, ages U6-U12. Then July 17-21 ages U13-U18 doing their sessions. It will be a combination of American and German styles. Similar camp format to like a Challenger British Soccer camp but we have made ours fairly affordable to our community as we want as many players out there as possible of all ages. If you love soccer, we want you there!
Towards the end of the camps we will hold our TPSL tryouts for FC Knights for players ages 17 and up. While doing these tryouts we also will be looking for talent as part of SG 07 Guldental's Star Player Program, and that will send 2 players on an all expenses paid trip to train and play in Germany.
Sounds like a great plan to not only get quality soccer teaching to more kids, but also to get FC Knights even more exposure. What do you expect kids at this camp to learn from the guys at SG 07 Guldental?
We expect kids to learn really 2 things:
1.) The more technical side of the ball while learning it in a fun manner. Kids won't have an interest if they are not excited about their learning. I'm a firm believer in that, being a schoolteacher myself.
2.) That as kids they are the future and that there are so many opportunities for them in their local community to play, learn, and experience soccer. In addition, we want to show kids there is higher level of soccer for when they are older as well. The opportunities are they if they choose to pursue them and take the learning and training process serious enough.
Would you say, then, that the camp has a longer term goal of producing potential players for Knights?
Absolutely. We expect a positive result from them. We've already gotten positive feedback and buzz just from sign-ups! So lots in store for the Knights and the potential future of players. This is just one of our many long term goals we are putting in motion to sustain the Knights for years to come. And there will be more, I can't say what those other goals and stages are just yet.
I'm really curious about your collaboration with SG 07 Guldental. You've already explained how it happened, but I'm curious about what the process of figuring out how the collaboration would work. I think what you have worked out could be hugely beneficial for other non league teams in the US, so if you can go into more detail about how you hammered out this deal, that would be awesome.
Our collaboration has been hugely successful already and it was really a lucky encounter just like how our Knights organization was formed. Our soccer community is small, and we realized the opportunity we had in front of us was unique when our teammates mentioned they had played with Guldental while stationed at various times in Germany with the military. If it were not for our military connections and the good luck that FC Knights seem to have, this collaboration would not have existed.
Since our initial meeting, we have discussed how we at FC Knights want to grow as an organization and what Guldental would want in terms of their goals for growth. Guldental have the same ideals and philosophies on soccer as we do, so it was really a perfect partnership from the beginning. We both believe in coaching all players and that all players have something great to offer. No player should be cut! They just need a home to develop and work their way up the "Pyramid."
Keeping that in mind, during the season we had extensive talks about bringing these camps into existence and SG 07 Guldental, along with their coach, Clair Austin and his management under CA Sports and More, have graciously help us develop a model for the youth that will really bring an experience like no other.
In exchange, we have begun our player exchange program between both teams. We sent 3 players over to Germany for Guldental's second half of the season and they could not believe how fit and well prepared they were to play. As a result, we now have 2 of those players signing player contracts to stay and play in Germany. SG 07 Guldental, of course, wants more Americans and more Knights to come abroad to train and play. As I mentioned before, Guldental will also be sending 4 German players for our TPSL season to develop them with skills that they might not get over in Germany. So really the best of both worlds!
Overall, as you said, it is something that is and will be beneficial to other teams in the US and as such, both groups are in talks with respective soccer federations to see if they would be interested in helping our initiative further. I cannot disclose too many details on that part but as you suggested it is in the works.
Very cool. And I'm sure you expect having some German players in the squad next year will create learning and growth opportunities for the existing players, correct?
100%!!! We look forward to creating that bond as well. Our players we sent over to Germany, they currently are here for summer, have raved about how much they learned as well as taught to players at SG 07 Guldental. At the same time, we at the Knights are excited to see what the German players can do, what they can teach us, and what we can teach them as well. You never stop learning and you never quit is what I was always taught and something we believe strongly in as a team. And on personal notes, we are just excited to experience some German culture and of course show them how it's done in Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas!
Maybe some triple sized portions of sauerkraut then?
Back to the TPSL, do feel like you developed any rivalries with other teams in the league?
As of right now, being the new team on the block, we were out to prove ourselves so all teams were rivals in Year 1. With new teams joining this season, we expect to develop a rivalry with at least one team for sure. Our location is not necessarily near enough for a geographical rivalry but I believe being more competitive this season will bring out at least 1 rivalry for us.
Do you think there will be any new teams close to you for this upcoming season?
There will be of course the established Austin ARC near us, as well as a new Austin team we are told that has decided to join. So our nearest opponents would definitely be in Austin.
In Year 2, what are you hoping to accomplish both on and off the field to consider this next season a success?
In Year 2, we have discussed and considered a mid-table finish as our highest team goal. Our first goal is to win one game and go from there. We really do take it one game at a time.
We are also hoping to have an impact in this year's Texas Cup. With an US Open Cup opportunity awarded to the winner of Texas Cup we are hoping to make noise in that competition.
Finally, for a complete success we are hoping the hard work in our community pays off. The camps, the player exchange, and everything else all comes together and people start to talk all things FC Knights.
As we wrap this up, is there anything else coming up in Year 2 that you want the people reading this to be aware of?
FC Knights have a lot to look forward to and a lot to prove this season. We considered ourselves the dark horse and odd man out as we come from less. We don't have huge money pockets or experienced players and coaches so we have more to prove this year. We always like to think of the scene in the film Rocky Balboa because it epitomizes the Knights:
"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"
Chris, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, click here and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.