NC Courage Coach Paul Riley is an Amazing Coach and Outstanding Leader of The Game
Paul Riley is an intelligent man and a force on and off the field. A strong power in the world of women’s soccer, Riley is one of the greatest leaders in the game.
Interviewing Paul Riley is always a pleasure. While some head coaches may be enigmatic, Riley is a straight-shooter and a deep-thinker. Not a man prone to being aggressive, Riley is impervious to the traditional pressures of the game opting to see the big picture and believing results come from development.
Awarded the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) 2017 Coach of the Year as well as earning his team, the NC Courage, the Supporter’s Sheild, Riley is living proof that great development equates to performance on the field.
At 54 years old, Riley has been around the women’s’ soccer game for decades — and his dedication to player development has never wavered.
The NC Courage reached the 2017 NWSL Championship — a year after Riley led many of the same players to the 2016 NWSL title as the Western New York Flash. While the team lifted the trophy last year, this season they fell to a 1-0 defeat against the Thorns in the final at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
But Riley considers this season to be a success. “Portland kicked the living daylights out of us in the NWSL Final — it was like a typical English club final with major injuries in the beginning,” said Riley in an interview yesterday. “It changed our rhythm. We didn’t win, and yet it is amazing how positive our players are. We kept to our core philosophy and we are fulfilled — and, we won the NWSL Shield.”
Taking the long view — and focusing on the satisfaction of his players, Riley believes his team was better this year than last when they won the NWSL Championship.
Riley is a coach who concentrates on stellar effort, not stellar results.
“We never talk about winning. There are no expectations. And, there is no finish line for anything, we just keep going,” said Riley. “We do not discuss goals — we are mission-driven and the culture of our club is really fantastic.”
NC Courage plays great soccer and has produced such a great record of wins because of Riley’s emphasis on player development — and that every player can become better. “If a player can improve 2% every day — with better technique or nutrition, or even sleep –that makes a big difference.”
It is clear — Riley is proud of the development of his group of players. And, he deserves to be proud of raising the bar in the game of soccer.
Taking great pride in working with U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Jill Ellis on occasion, Riley understands intrinsically how to create a dynamic training environment in which the players push each other to become better.
“Other coaches put results first — if you do the right thing, you will get the right results,” said Riley.
“Our philosophy is completely different than other teams — NC Courage is still a work in progress – everyone in the club can still get better, ” said Riley and he was quick to point out that players who were virtually unknown last season had become regulars this year.
“Our players always ask what they can do to get better and they want to embrace our plan. This is a very hard working team — almost workaholics. And, to be just average in our league, you have to work hard.”
“I hate to play the Boston Breakers — we don’t take anything for granted and Boston is as hard to beat as Portland,” said Riley.
Women’s soccer has signficantly matured in the USA and the NWSL has become a solid organization in the landscape of American women’s soccer — with the help of U.S. Soccer.
Related Article: NC Courage’s Paul Riley is Coach of the Year
“The NWSL is the most competitive women’s league in the world.”
Today, the NWSL is a proving ground for the national team— and it is the responsibility of NWSL head coaches to groom players for our country’s success on a national stage.
When players are devastated for not getting picked for a national team camp — it is a coach’s responsibility to just keep inspiring them to get better and remind them of how far they have come — and how bright the future could be. While it might feel like the end of the world to the player, what is important is to rise to the challenge — Riley advises players to just play better, to do a little bit more each day and show what they are made of.
“I always tell my players there is never a perfect plan,” said Riley who admits that success can be messy at times. “Stellar effort not stellar results — that is all I ask of my players.”
“At the end of the day, it is up to the players — they have to put the work in.”
The NC Courage enjoyed a great season this year, setting an NWSL single-season record with 12 shutouts and conceded just 22 goals in 24 games during the 2017 regular season – with their 0.92 goals against average the fourth-best in the history of the league.
Five of Carolina’s 12 shutouts in 2017 came away from home to equal the record for most clean sheets on the road set by Portland Thorns FC in 2013.
Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com