Ryan Brooks joined Red Bulls Academy in August of 2019, where he is currently the Senior Manager of Academy Business Operations. He played soccer up until college, where he attended St. John’s University in New York, and then went to Duquesne University. He received his Masters Degree in Sports Leadership there. Brooks would go onto coach in college and academy, until he moved into a role with USL League Two as a Senior Director. He moved into positions with Chicago Fire and Minnesota United FC before joining Red Bulls Academy.
What motivated you to get involved with working in sports?
Brooks: I was interested in a few professions growing up such as a teacher, coach, psychologist and lawyer. I guess my role with Red Bulls Academy ties all of those together!
What does your soccer background entail?
Brooks: I grew up in a soccer family and remember growing up attending MetroStars games at Giants Stadium, when I was young. I played the sport until college and starting coaching soon after. After a few years of coaching college and academy, I moved into an administrative role in the USL front office. This opened up MLS opportunities and transitioned into the team side with the Chicago Fire then Minnesota United and now New York Red Bulls.
How do you see your role?
Brooks: The role has naturally evolved as we continue building. In a nutshell, it’s overseeing the day-to-day operations and creating initiatives. Grant Findlay and Ryan Carter joined us in administrative positions beginning the first week of March and they’re great additions to the Academy. As they become more comfortable in their roles, my focus will move towards the initiatives that I describe below.
What upcoming events are you excited about?
Brooks: The events are a bit of an uncertainty right now. However looking back, the ICC Futures event in Florida was the best experience thus far. The games were on ESPN and the competition included MLS and top international clubs. We ended up losing in the quarterfinals to PSG, which was the best learning experience for any team in our academy.
What is your favorite part about your position?
Brooks: I enjoy taking ideas and bringing them to life. The club encourages innovation so it’s a perfect match.
Since joining Red Bulls Academy, what initiatives have you been working on for the organization?
Brooks: The homestay program was the first initiative put into place. We currently have four players living in host families in Kearny and has been a very positive experience so far.
When we first arrived, our oldest groups were training from 7:30-9pm each night. We felt like there wasn’t enough time on the front or back end of training to do more. This past January our U19 team began training at 2pm, while the 17’s will follow suit when we return. The players arrive before 2pm for treatment, train, work with our S&C coach, team coach for video and we also provide a meal for them.
Another initiative is a relationship with the Scholar Athletes Leadership Academy (SALA). There are two of our players who’re enrolled in their innovative school. It’s a combination of online and teachers onsite who assist in academic support. We’re looking to expand our relationship in a number of ways that we’re currently developing.
What is the most important lesson you want the players of Red Bulls Academy to learn?
Brooks: The club is bigger than any individual, so for the players to think about others, is an area of growth. We’re developing programming in the fall that will instill those life skills.
What is your most memorable moment in your position?
Brooks: When we advanced to the U17 GA Cup Finals. The winner of our game against Philadelphia, determined the team who will participate in the top GA Cup’s top division. We were behind in a shootout and they missed. Andrew Noel saved the last 4 shots to win. It was pretty incredible.
During this time, what have you been doing to stay busy?
Brooks: Most of the days are filled with video meetings. By about 4 PM, my puppy starts crying that she wants to play fetch at the park.
What would you say to parents and players who are thinking about joining Red Bulls Academy?
Brooks: The academy is here to support the families in ways that extend beyond soccer. The families become part of the club. We understand the family commitment and reciprocate with initiatives that move the needle.