Each month, NewYorkRedBulls.com will catch up with coaches and staff from the Red Bulls Academy.
Patrick Dolan is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Red Bulls Academy and he joined the Red Bulls in 2018. He attended DeSales University, where he received his undergraduate degree in sports and exercise science. He received his master’s degree in human performance from Lindenwood University, where he was a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach. Prior to arriving at Red Bulls, Patrick was the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at Santa Clara University, where he was mainly in charge of both men’s and women’s soccer teams. He then accepted a position as the head strength and conditioning coach at Manhattan College, and was also a Network Sport Scientist for U.S. Soccer. He is responsible for the physical development of all academy teams in conjunction with their head coaches and works closely with academy athletic trainers on rehabilitation programs for players with injuries.
What is your soccer background?
I was a multi-sport athlete growing up, but soccer was always the priority. I have three older brothers and soccer was always the main sport in our family. I grew up loving the game. I played for FC Copa in Philadelphia growing up, and ODP for two years, but did not play in college as I wanted to get into coaching. When I got into strength and conditioning at the college level, soccer is often not the priority among athletic departments and goes to sports like football and basketball as you can imagine. I was lucky to find my way to Santa Clara where the soccer programs play a big role in the athletics history there and was fortunate to renew my love of soccer and passion for coaching strength and conditioning. That eventually led me to seek out this role.
What is your strength & conditioning background?
I came from the college ranks, most recently Manhattan College as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, was Assistant Director of S&C at Santa Clara University responsible for Men’s and Women’s Soccer and was a graduate assistant coach at Lindenwood University prior. My first work after receiving my Bachelor’s of Science in Sport and Exercise Science was for the Detroit Tigers, assisting with the major league team during spring training and leading the Gulf Coast League Tigers through their rookie ball season.
What motivated you to get involved with strength & conditioning?
I always had a passion for sport and working hard through exercise. My original plan, as many in our field, was to pursue physical therapy as I had to unfortunately attend some clinical sessions as a patient myself as a kid. This opened my eyes to exercise science as a profession. However, I was lucky to have an amazing advisor in college, he pushed me towards performance the summer after freshmen year. By the time I graduated college, I had four internships under my belt, three at the Division I collegiate level, and one in the private setting working with home-schooled kids, to NFL combine prep hopefuls, to middle aged men returning from suffering a stroke. Although all the populations were exciting to work with, growing up I was always involved in sports and being part of a team. I knew S&C in sport was for me once I discovered it. I love training, I love working hard because it is the all-time equalizer. You don’t need to be given any talent, skill, or resources. Working hard to get better is just a decision. My dad had a big influence on my work ethic growing up.
How do you see your role with the club?
A bridge. That sounds pretty strange, but when I just read the question that was the first word that came to mind. Usually I answer that question as “teacher” but here at Red Bull, I play the bridge between many areas/personnel. Between the players and the coaches to make sure when we are planning and executing the tactical/technical training, we are getting the appropriate physical adaptations we want. Between trainers and players during return to play as well as identifying and executing preventative strategies. Between the academy and first team to assist from a physical standpoint, and even mentally, that we are beginning to develop the type of players that fit our profile to be successful.
What do you think is the most important part of your job within the Red Bulls player development model?
Obviously, developing physical capacities that can sustain and even thrive through our style of play. As everyone knows, we play aggressively, with and without the ball. So physically, that takes a toll. Finding the balance during the training week to make sure we properly recovered from the hard weekend matches, sometimes two in two days, while pushing the strength and fitness of the players throughout the course of the season to continue developing and peaking as we get through to showcases and playoffs. In addition, there is such importance in making sure the experience for these kids is second to none. It takes all hands-on deck, regardless of title or responsibilities within the academy, we all take pride in making sure we are giving these players the most professional, developmental and engaging experience throughout their adolescent years.
What upcoming events are you excited about?
Just the growth of the academy in general. We have meetings each week to discuss the direction and vision of our academy. We continue to add resources in personnel, equipment, pushing to get more international competitions for all of our teams instead of one or two a year. Most recently, you have seen the host-family opportunities appear on our social media accounts. I would love to see one day, for us to get a residency program, which would give my area great contact time to further develop the physical capacities more frequently.
How do your objectives change from preseason, to mid-season, to end of season?
At this stage in their development, the season does not have too much undulation from preseason through to end of season. Speaking to my area anyway, I am always trying to teach them and progressively overload them small doses at a time from month to month. If we constantly pulled back to always feel great because we are in season, you wouldn’t see much progress or adaptation from year to year. This is the definition of development. The older teams lift just as often and frequently from preseason through to the end of the year. Some weeks or sessions are harder than others, but generally we try to always move forward. From a pure fitness standpoint, we may do a bit more running in preseason without the ball than with the ball, but the way we periodize training through the year, we try to incorporate our physical goals within the training session as we play soccer. We will do more testing and screening in August as we return, retest in November, retest in January following our down periods, and if possible retest in the spring to see how we have progressed.
What is your most memorable soccer moment as a coach?
Going back to Santa Clara Women’s Soccer, either beating Stanford 1-0 with a huge penalty kick save from our keeper or beating Kansas in golden goal overtime 1-0. Those come to mind as I just remember the energy on the sideline of the players and staff was incredible. I am sure I have lots of soccer specific memories yet to build.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the players grow into leadership roles. A coach holding a player or team accountable will never carry as much weight as a fellow teammate doing it. So, watching a player grow into a confident and humbled leader willing and able to make sure his teammates stay on the right track, and having the self-discipline to do what they need to do first and foremost. That is probably the most rewarding because we set them up for success in life not just on the field. With that comes relationships. No win or loss can ever replace the relationships forged between a player and coach. They’re not all the same, but there are some to be cherished for a lifetime.
Q: What is the most important lesson you want your players to learn?
“Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there” is a quote by Bo Jackson and one I’ve lived by the last 10 years. I want kids to set their goals high, I would say most do in their head. However, it is only those who relentlessly attack them day after day and year after year who find what they are looking for. Most people underestimate what relentlessly means, or how long it takes for success to be achieved. No matter the goal.
Q: What would you say to parents and players who are thinking about joining Red Bulls Academy?
We are continuing to build something special. If you want your kids to not only be in a professional soccer playing environment, but to have an opportunity to grow holistically into a young man to be proud of, we are developing that environment over here. We have great people, that is the foundation of our success as a club.