Former Red Bulls John Wolyniec coached the Red Bulls’ Reserve Team to its first win this past weekend in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Crew. We caught up with him briefly after Wednesday’s training session at Montclair State University to talk about his role with the club and the constant progress made by the reserves.
Your Red Bulls Reserves earned their first win this past weekend over Columbus. Must be a great feeling from where you stand.
Yeah it was great. Obviously we put a lot better effort forward in the second game than in the first, and that’s important to make sure it goes in the right direction and that we’re getting better each time. I’m giving guys an opportunity to show that they can play and also an opportunity to get better and push to be in the starting lineup, or the 18, or for Mike [Petke] to use in the first team.
Would you say that’s your goal with the Reserves, to give guys an opportunity to prove themselves?
It’s kind of multi-faceted. It’s to help guys that are either coming off the bench, or not quite in the 18 to show Mike that they deserve a little more time. It’s to help guys that might be coming back from injury, or guys like Brandon [Barklage] on suspension to make sure he’s staying fit. There’s a lot of reasons to have those games. It’s a little tricky to try and accomplish all those goals, but it’s also a development thing when we use the younger guys and make sure they get good quality games and to help them to keep getting better. Because that’s going to be important down the line for us.
For you personally, in a coaching role like that, is it still kind of fresh?
Well I had two years with the Academy and coached a lot of our college guys and stuff, so I’ve had some experience, but at the same time it is a bit of a new thing for me. I’m pretty hard on myself so at the same time I’m helping to do my best to help these guys get better, I’m going to try and get better as a coach and keep learning from all these experiences. To coach actual games helps me for sure, but I think my job is a little bit more on development and helping some of the younger guys or some of the guys that aren’t getting quite as much playing time to continue to get better and stay sharp.
Given your history with the Academy, would you say the development side is an area you like the most?
I do like it, that’s for sure. Having been on the Academy side, I do have an attachment with the younger guys on the club. And I do enjoy the idea of our Academy guys getting time with the reserve team. I take a bit of pride in that. It’s something that’s important to them and important to us as a club. So, I take that responsibility pretty seriously.
What would you say are some challenges you face with coaching the reserves? I’d imagine having new faces or invites every match or so might add a new dimension to it.
Yeah, it can be tricky. It’s a game, but there’s a little preparation time, so that part, the management part, and the preparation part is a bit tricky. We have to have, as a club and as a staff, we have to have some understanding of the fact that these guys aren’t always playing together and there’s little consistency in the lineup as you can see from the first two games. But at the end of the day it’s still an opportunity for the guys to get better. My job is to just make sure the environment and the situation I’ve been put in is beneficial to them and as beneficial as possible so they can do their jobs and get better.
One of the things Coach Petke talked about last season and even touched upon a bit this season is that separation from player to coach. Do you see the game as a player still? Have you developed more of a coaching eye? Or are you still fighting that itch to get back out there?
(Laughs) Yeah, it is tricky because obviously having played for a decent amount of time you still have that itch to get out there and play. But we all have to move on at some point and the transition to coach from player is tricky, but I’ve had a couple of years now. It’s a little more defined at the Academy level because the kids are younger, obviously, so that’s helped a little bit as far as adapting for myself. And I still get used in training sometimes as the odd number man, so I’m still playing a little bit. And I have played with some of these guys or against some of these guys that are still on the team, but at the same time I’m getting older and there is a bit of a difference between me and them. I’m sure it’ll still take some doing, but I do understand there has to be some sort of separation.