Chris Harmon joins Red Bulls Academy from Barca Residency Academy, where he was the Assistant Academy Director. Harmon is a former Division 1 soccer standout at Old Dominion University from 2009 to 2012. He has coached at the collegiate level with Florida Southern College and with his alma mater of Old Dominion as both a men’s and women’s assistant coach. Harmon has a bachelor’s degree in health and physical fitness. He is the newest coach to Red Bulls Academy and will be the U-12’s Head Coach.
What is your soccer background?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia and played for FC DELCO as a youth player before playing collegiately at Old Dominion University. During my time at ODU, I was a two-year captain and finished my career as the 12th ranked player in points for goals & assists in program history.
After my time at Old Dominion, I had a short stint playing for Dayton Dutch Lions & Cincinnati Dutch Lions in Ohio and spent preseason abroad with the Spanish side UE Cornellà in the third Division. After returning from Spain, I found a collegiate coaching opportunity with Florida Southern College before moving back to coach for my alma mater. After coaching briefly on the Old Dominion women’s side for a year, I moved over to work with the men’s team as an assistant coach for two years. It was about this time that I ultimately realized that I could channel my life-long love and passion for the game into a career. As I had begun my coaching courses and youth coaching on the side, I wanted to continue to grow my knowledge and explore coaching opportunities working with youth players, so I connected with Sean McCafferty and began coaching with the Barca Residency Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona. I coached various age groups throughout the club and finished my time as the Assistant Academy Director under Ged Quinn. During my time at Barca Academy, I worked with many top players who have made the jump to the professional ranks both domestically and abroad. Players that I have worked with and that have come through the club include: Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls), Matthew Hoppe (FC Shalke 04), Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Bryce Duke (LAFC), and Diego Luna (El Paso Locomotive FC).
What motivated you to get involved with coaching?
I have been passionate about this game ever since my youth, playing in every corner and piece of grass of the Northeast and Tri-State Area. I have made lasting relationships with teammates and coaches throughout my years playing who have become family. The passion and enthusiasm that has developed around the game and through my community have grown and shifted towards helping youth players strive to define and reach their goals, grow their character, and develop their own love and understanding of the game. I am fanatical about learning from others, and I believe that I have the ability to bring personality and a sense of community to the organization because these elements are at the core of who I am. As a player, I embraced the diversity of a locker room and grew to love the ability to connect with others who were different than me. As a coach, I am keen to use empathy and self-awareness as a vehicle to bring teammates closer as they learn to respect and value one another’s differences.
What do you see as the most important part of your job?
The most important aspect of my job as a coach is to teach the game in a way that players will not only learn and execute, but ultimately cultivate their own understanding of. The game is so complex, and as they grow and move through different levels, it is critical that they know how to problem solve. With the U-12s, I have the unique opportunity to help my players establish the foundation for their youth soccer careers. I am looking forward to creating an environment that balances between learning, growing, and playing. These players are extremely enthusiastic and love the game so giving them the freedom to play and make mistakes along the way is extremely vital. Helping our players learn from these mistakes and watching them climb within the Red Bulls pathway will be my ultimate goal.
What upcoming events are you excited about?
I am honestly excited for just about everything, particularly the games and tournaments we have coming up. With all of the COVID cancellations and regulations last year, true games were far and few between for my previous academy and every player, coach, and fan knows how important and exhilarating that “game-day” feeling is. To be able to experience that here with Red Bulls Academy in such a professional and polished environment with so many talented players and staff members is going to be a lot of fun.
As one of the newest coaches on staff, what made you choose to work for Red Bulls Academy?
New York Red Bulls Academy is at the forefront of youth development in the United States. It is exciting to be a part of an organization that prioritizes development and gives opportunities to young players. I have always wanted to be an in environment where the player pathway is clear and gives all the Academy players a goal to reach that is attainable. Also, having worked for Sean McCafferty during my time at Barca Academy, I know the high standards by which staff members will be held to, which makes for a dynamic and positive working environment that fosters personal growth but also values comradery and collaboration. I am looking forward to adding to the culture here.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I think the most rewarding part of my job is seeing how players develop as people. We love to see players move on to play in the top tier at the professional game, but what is just as rewarding is to see a player realize their strengths, develop their character, and go on to positively impact their communities.
What is the most important lesson you want your players to learn?
I want my players to learn how to problem solve and ultimately become less dependent on us as coaches. Hopefully throughout the season the players learn to become autonomous and are able to find solutions independently, instead of looking to the sidelines for help. I am there to help guide and nudge the players but feeding them solutions when they face challenges will not help them in the long run, in terms of development. Teaching the players, the core values of the club will be as important as the principles on the field. I believe that we as coaches have an obligation to not only help develop great soccer players, but great young men who represent themselves positively within their communities.