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Academy Staff Q & A: Jonathan Rhodes

Jonathan Rhodes was born in the United Kingdom and began playing soccer when he was really young. He played college soccer at Harrogate College, where his team won a national championship. He has coached at Leeds United AFC, Continental FC, and Penn Fusion Soccer Academy. He spent the last 17 years as the technical director for Penn Fusion. Rhodes joined Red Bulls Academy back in August and currently is the head coach for the U-15’s.

What is your soccer background?

I suppose to one extent or another my entire life has been devoted to soccer. My first memory of the game was watching the 1990 World Cup in Italy and from that moment, I don’t remember a day I have not loved watching, playing, or coaching the game. My playing career took place back in the United Kingdom, where I was a youth professional and then moved on to college. College soccer in the United Kingdom, certainly doesn’t hold the same weight as the professional game, but I am proud to say that we did win the national championship in one of my years at Harrogate College. The majority of my coaching experienced has happened in the United States, however I got my start at Leeds United AFC as part of a work placement with my college studies. Working in that professional environment really inspired me to work with the best youth players and help them achieve the goals. Over the last 17 years, I have worked in the Pennsylvania soccer community as a youth soccer coach / college assistant coach and most recently as boys Technical Director at Penn Fusion Soccer Academy.

What motivated you to get involved with coaching?

As a player, I always spent time thinking about why different coaches used different techniques to teach the game and evaluated what I felt worked for myself and my team. So really, I always thought when I was finished playing that I would want to go into coaching. There has really been an evolution in my motivation for why I coach. At first it was just the thirst to understand more about the game, but the more you get involved in the game you quickly realize it’s all about the players and simply how you can help them be the best version of themselves as a player and person.

What do you see as the most important part of your job within the Red Bulls player development model?

Instill the mindset that there is no substitute for handwork and effort when it comes to their individual development.

How do you see your role?

As the U-15 Head Coach, it is really about teaching the Red Bull philosophy and helping the players transfer that into effective on-field performances. At the same time, setting the standards for what is required of them at the next level. The more we can expose the young players to the next level and that environment, the better chance they will have to succeed when they reach those tiers.

What upcoming events are you excited about?

The group has already had a very competitive fall schedule participating in the new US Soccer initiative, the DA Cup, and the GA Cup. We travel to Florida next month for an exhibition event with six other top MLS clubs. In 2020, we will conclude the second phase of the GA Cup in Utah. All designed to expose our players to top competition and challenge them to continue to improve.

What is the one soccer session that has impacted your teams the most?

I’m not really sure I have one session or activity that I believe impacts players more than the others. However, I will say shooting and finishing activities tend to be the ones the players like the most.

What is your most memorable soccer moment as a coach?

Easily my most memorable moment as a coach was taking part in a TOPsoccer program a few years ago. This is an outreach program designed to bring soccer opportunities for athletes with physical, emotional needs. The absolute joy on the faces of the players taking part in this program is something I will never forget.

As one of the newest coaches on staff, what made you choose to work for Red Bulls Academy?

Having been involved in the soccer community now for over 20 years it’s been difficult to ignore the success NYRB have had in the field of developing players to play at the professional level. When the opportunity to be part of an organization with that history came available, I couldn’t refuse.

What have you enjoyed most about your time here?

Aside for the on-field component of my job, I have really been impressed by the people involved in the organization as a whole. They have been incredibly welcoming and helpful, Including the entire staff around the first team and NYRB II. They have been very open to assist in my education into the club philosophy.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The group I have are extremely dedicated to their development and this really motivates me to provide them the absolute best environment possible. Red Bulls Academy gives the coaching staff the time and every possible resource needed to effectively create development plans for the team and individuals. Allowing all players willing to work hard enough the opportunity to grow and improve.

What is the most important lesson you want your players to learn?

Consistent improvement is not an easy process, but the dedicated pursuit of excellence and that single-minded focus is a non-negotiable if they want to reach the highest levels of the game.

What have been some of the best moments so far this fall season?

The teams consistent practice intensity. Their collective response to the challenges we place in front of them and ability to deal with the inevitable adversity the a season will bring. On an individual note: Dreni Idrizi and James Cintron, have both saved penalties at crucial moments in games which is always an exciting thing to be part of so to happen twice is incredible!

What would you say to parents and players who are thinking about joining Red Bulls academy?

As simply as possible every family should asses two major factors when looking into the organization their elite athlete is going to part of. Does the environment the organization provides allow the player every opportunity to be successful and are the people involved with the organization truly dedicated to helping players holistic growth? The answer to both is an emphatic yes in my opinion.