Monday, November 18, 2013
Vicki Linton joined the Bay Area Breeze in April of 2013 and was given the task of shepherding the club through its inaugural W-League season. A former Australian U17 Women’s National Team coach, the native of Sydney, Australia also spent two seasons as head coach with the Melbourne Victory of the Australian W-League, posting some of the best records in club history and remaining undefeated at home in the 2012 season.
Linton enjoyed a successful career as a professional player before becoming head coach of the New South Wales U17 State Team in 2000, where she won two National Championships. Linton spent one season in the United States as the assistant coach of the W-League’s Boston Renegades.
How did your involvement with the W-League begin?
VL: I was appointed as Head Coach/Technical Director of the Bay Area Breeze in April 2013. Moving into the W-League, they were looking to appoint a full-time coach. My other involvement in the W-League was as Assistant Coach with the Boston Renegades in 2003. I was working with Mass Premier Soccer and coached a number of their junior and youth teams, as well as my role as the assistant coach with the W-League team.
How beneficial can playing in the W-League be for elite college players, and those who want to play professionally?
VL: I think it can be very beneficial. There are many players coming out of college with the ambition to play at the highest level. With there only being eight teams in the NWSL, the W-League provides an opportunity for many players to continue to play at a competitive level. The W-League provides a high standard of training and competition with a mix of quality college players with more experienced club players.
Why is the W-League important in the North American women’s soccer landscape?
VL: The W-League provides an excellent opportunity for new clubs to break into the business of women’s soccer with stringent, yet achievable standards for entry. It affords clubs the chance to operate as amateur or professional under the W-League umbrella in an effort to nurture each club’s unique mission.
Overall, how do you feel the level of competition is?
VL: The Western Conference in which we play in is very competitive with a number of high-quality teams including the Pali Blues and Seattle Sounders. I would say that it is a good standard at present with the potential to be the true second tier underpinning the NWSL.
What level of player are you looking for while building your roster?
VL: As a professional team operating in the W-League, I am looking for players with real ambition to get to the highest level. With our ‘pro’ status, all players must be finished with their NCAA eligibility so we look at graduating seniors plus players who have been playing at a high level of club soccer in the U.S. or overseas as well as foreign players with National Team experience (youth or senior level).
Which team do you consider to be your toughest opponent?
VL: With only one season’s experience in the W-League, I would say the Pali Blues (2013 W-League Champions) were our toughest opponent – although we were seconds away from beating them at the end of last season! With the Pali Blues and the LA Strikers joining forces next season as the LA Blues, I imagine that LA will continue to be our toughest opponent.
What’s your top W-League memory?
VL: Beating the LA Strikers away from home last season. We came off a disappointing loss to Santa Clarita and then had to back up against a very organized and high intensity LA Strikers. Our players turned their form around and put in a great team performance, topped off with some great goalkeeping by Yiana Dimmitt to get the 1-0 win. It was an action-packed game with the game-winning goal coming from a Leah Morales penalty kick.
If you could pick any player to build your 2014 roster around, who would it be?
VL: I don’t know that it will be any one player but there are a number of players from our squad last year that we will look to retain as a core of the team to build upon for 2014.
What encouraged you to pursue coaching as a career?
VL: I had the idea of coaching planted into me as a 16-year-old by one of my coaches. In my early 20s, while I was still playing, I started attending coaching courses and was involved in State Junior and Youth Elite Training Programs in New South Wales (Australia). At 25 I was unable to continue playing due to injury and it was a natural progression to continue coaching and pursue that at a higher level.
What differences do you see with soccer in general and player commitment/focus/goals today compared to when you started coaching?
VL: With the number of opportunities to play at the international level (Women’s World Cup, U20 and U17 Women’s World Cups and Olympics) as well as the greater number of professional and high-level club competitions around the world, there are a greater number of programs that young players can be involved with, and at a younger age. This has encouraged a greater level of commitment and focus as players can see a clear pathway and have visible role models to inspire them.
Who has been your biggest coaching mentor?
VL: I have been lucky to work with and observe some great coaches over the years. There have been a number of coaches who have had a big influence on me including Tom Sermanni in his time as Head Coach of the Australian Women’s National Team. In my role as the U17 WNT coach, Tom was always a great support; not only was he open with regards to what he was doing with the National Team and willing to answer questions, he was always there at the U17 WNT games and tournaments and was a great sounding board. Working In the Australian National Training Centre Program and National Team system under his direction has had a great influence on me – for better or worse!
What aspects of coaching do you look at that define whether or not you’re successful?
VL: Do the players understand what you have asked them to do and have they shown that in the game?
Do the players show improvement from game to game and over the season?
Have the players as individuals and has the team performed to the best of its ability?
Have the players progressed in their career path after being in your program?