Austin Lloyd, NJ Youth Soccer
The New Jersey Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP) recently continued its winter webinar series with a discussion focused on tactical awareness. New Jersey ODP Coaching Director Lou Mignone moderated the webinar with featured guest, Bryan Harkin, who is an assistant coach for Harvard University Men’s Soccer.
“We were fortunate to engage within an insightful discussion with the coaching staff of Harvard University Men’s Soccer pertaining to player profiles within the team and the desirable traits and key qualities that relate to each position,” said Mignone. “Players were encouraged to build autonomous learning habits as they take accountability and responsibility for their own development with specific ideas for each position and roles within the team.”
Harkin, a Northern Ireland native, first came to the United States in 1999 when he accepted an offer to play at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Prior to his time at Fairfield, he played with Liverpool FC Youth and Reserves, while also representing Northern Ireland at various age groups on the international level. Before his current role at Harvard, Harkin spent four seasons (2017-20) as the head coach of the Emerson College Men’s Soccer Program in Boston following stints as an assistant coach at Loyola University and Tufts University. While at Tufts University, he had a hand in the program’s first-ever DIII National Championship in 2014, a Sweet Sixteen bid in 2015 and a second DIII National Championship in 2016.
During the webinar, Mignone and Harkin discussed the intricacies of every position and highlighted what high-level college programs are seeking from players at each position on the field. While they talked about the importance of understanding your position and knowing your role, they also stressed the importance of versatility.
“It can only add value. It is a very valuable asset to have,” said Harkin on whether players should learn more than one position. “If you are playing center mid for your high school or club, you may have to go to college and play right back. For any player, there are loads of benefits if you can play in multiple positions, and it also makes you more attractive to coaches.”
The Tactical Awareness Webinar was the second installment in the ODP Winter Webinar Series, with the first one featuring National Soccer Hall of Famer John Harkes in a discussion about mental toughness. The final webinar will highlight ODP Success Stories with New Jersey native Tab Ramos, who is a former ODP standout, National Soccer Hall of Famer and US Soccer legend.