Walnut Creek Surf SC Adam Cooper on The Challenges of the Pandemic
One of the top clubs in Northern California, Walnut Creek Surf SC has approximately 750 competitive players and usually 1,800 recreational players. Director of Coaching Adam Cooper is also the head coach at Saint Mary’s College in California.
Being a successful soccer coach in the middle of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic requires great leadership skills — and the ability to be compassionate as well as flexible. However, the most important factor is probably a deep passion for the game of soccer, and inspiring players to reach their potential.
Walnut Creek Surf SC, one of the 34 affiliates in the national Surf Soccer Club program. With approximately 40 competitive teams as well as a recreational side, Walnut Creek SC one of the largest and most successful Surf SC affiliates. With nine women on Walnut Creek Surf’s 28-person coaching staff, the club has one of the highest percentages of female soccer coaches in the state.
Adam Cooper is the youth soccer club’s Director of Coaching and he and his staff are working hard to meet the needs of his talented players in Northern California as the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact soccer on all levels. Adhering to the safety protocols established by the county, state, and federal organizations, Walnut Creek Surf provides a positive environment for youth players to train and develop.
Adam Cooper — called “Coop” by his players, colleagues, and staff — firmly believes soccer programs provide a vital role during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper is also the head coach at Saint Mary’s College in California, a top-ranking NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer program. A former UCLA Bruins men’s soccer player, Cooper is entering his 15th season with the ‘Gaels’ and is the most successful coach in program history. The 4-time West Coast Conference (WCC) Coach of the Year, joined Saint Mary’s College as an assistant coach for the men’s soccer team in 2001 and became head coach on December 29, 2005.
Interview with Coach Adam Cooper
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is it important for youth soccer players to be able to practice while we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic?
Adam ‘Coop’ Cooper: In my opinion, it’s vital for kids to be participating in soccer, or youth sports in general, in today’s climate.
With many schools being distant learning modules, the ability to be outside in a controlled, safe environment is very important.
Letting kids come to youth soccer training with their friends, and receive good coaching is so important for their mental health and development — just as much, if not more than their physical development.
Diane Scavuzzo: What, if anything, has the pandemic taught you?
Coach Coop: This pandemic is like any adversity — you can let it ruin you or strengthen you.
Are you going to fold in tough times or are you going rise up, face your challenge head-on, and tackle it the best you can?
Personally, I think what I’ve actually learned most from this pandemic is that there are some really great people out there. We have families whose parents have lost some jobs, or whose child is struggling with a little depression from not seeing friends regularly — and our coaches, and our community have really rallied around them.
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you believe the pandemic has impacted your coaches and players? What is the most important lesson we can learn from it?
For our coaches on the field, it’s like any game — you have to be able to adapt to your environment at the drop of a hat.
First, we had Zoom soccer practice. Then social distance soccer, then we could progress to contact, now we’re back to social distance. No matter the required protocols, we’re going to give our members the best possible experience we can and give them every ounce of us we can.
We’re prepared for any scenario thrown at us. My coaching staff has served as counselors, friends, or surrogate parents — and that’s probably what I’m most proud of, as well.
For players, it’s the same. They can either choose to sit at home in front of their devices, or they can choose to make the most out of the situation. Players can choose to improve their mental and physical health, get better at their craft, as well as smile and laugh with their friends.
Life constantly throws you curveballs. It can be an accident, illness, divorce, or even a pandemic.
Don’t make excuses, and be a winner.
Obviously, not winning in the athletic sense, but losers sulk and make excuses. They usually don’t work hard to improve their situation.
Winners put in the work, embrace change, and welcome challenges. They don’t waste energy on things they can’t control and don’t waste their time feeling sorry for themselves.
Although there is no guarantee, do what is hard and life may be easy. Do what is easy and life will be hard.
Diane Scavuzzo: What does it really take to be a great player?
Coach Coop: This is a great time for kids to be asking themselves this question.
Now is when kids have to choose to be self-motivated and disciplined or not. Before we were back out on the field, how many kids were out there practicing their 1v1 moves, juggling, working on their weaknesses, or even just going out for a run?
If you really want to be great, you have to take personal responsibility.
The great people in any sport, or any industry, put the work in on their own, when no one is watching, when there is no glory to be won.
My advice to young players is always know your goals. WRITE your goals down so you can see them every day. Work your butt off to achieve those goals. Then, once you do, set some new ones and go after those
Diane Scavuzzo: Is it hard balancing being the Saint Mary’s College (SMC) head coach and the director of a youth soccer club?
Coach Coop: In my opinion, as is everything in life, priorities, balance, and hard work are keys to success.
I actually think that both roles help me be better at the other. But, I know my priorities, I know I have the work ethic, and I’m sure I can always improve on the balancing act.
There are ebbs and flows to both the college and club seasons and that helps the balance. I love my SMC guys and will do anything I can to help them achieve their goals on and off the pitch. I love the challenge of Div I athletics. I love the challenge of directing a club with almost 3,000 members.
There are so so many areas where I need to improve as a director, coach, and person and I welcome those challenges. That being said, it starts with my two kids. They are and always will be priority number 1.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals for the youth soccer club?
Coach Coop: There were several goals I wanted to accomplish when I become the DOC of Walnut Creek. I felt our club needed a true identity and style of play. I love having a diverse staff, and I want my coaches to be who they are, coach the way they want to coach with their unique personalities — however, now we are all teaching the same principles and playing style regardless of coaching style. Today we have a solid progression for our youngsters all the way up to our older teams.
We still have more to accomplish. We have some youth soccer teams competing at the highest level possible in NorCal, but we have a ways to go to make sure all of our teams are at that highest level.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is your club a Surf SC affiliate? Is there a value in the brand name? And, is being an affiliate better than being an independent club today?
Coach Coop: There are lots of reasons why Surf.
Surf is more than just a brand, it’s more than just a name.
Yes, of course, those things help, but it’s about the network, it’s about people. I, and our club, have the privilege to work with so many wonderful people connected by Surf, not just to Surf. We get to learn, collaborate, and utilize a whole host of like-minded people who all want to provide the best possible experiences and opportunities to our young members.