Jared Embick is the head coach for Men’s Soccer at the University of Akron. Jared previously served as the Zips’ associate head coach and recruiting coordinator and was the 2010 National Assistant Coach of the Year. His leadership has been a key component of the Zips’ dominant run in college soccer—culminating with the school’s first team national championship in any sport in 2010.
Jared was good enough to sit down with Winthrop’s managing editor, Ryan Matthews, to discuss the use of analytics and data in college soccer, leaders who influenced his coaching style, and the success he and Akron have had on the field.
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Listen to the interview:
What is the most critical characteristic or leadership quality required in your position?
Credibility has got to be up there. Not only with what you say, and who you are, but the guys need to know that you know what you’re talking about. You deal with top players, they can kind of tune out early, if you’re a guy who’s full of crap or you really don’t know what you’re talking about. If you do, you can help them achieve what they want to achieve and reach their goals.
What has surprised you most about working as a coach?
Probably how little time as a coach you spend coaching. A lot of it is the side stuff that goes with it. At the college level—the administrative work, the fundraising, meetings—all those things. Usually people think you’re a coach so all you’ve got is a two hour practice and that’s it. If you’re not in season, then what are you doing? In reality, the least amount of our job is probably what we want to do most, which is coaching.
How has the need for information and data evolved during the tenure at both your current position and in the span of your career?
There’s been a huge increase just in terms of stats that you can have on players; it’s become a big part of the game in the last five or so years. Now you can get information on how many passes a player attempted per game, how many completed, how many interceptions, how many tackles, how many headers, how many shots and where they are on the field.
You can get a ton of stats, whereas before maybe you just had a box score that’s shows 15 shots, your saves, their saves, your fouls, their fouls. Now you can break it down to very fine details and depending on how you interpret those details, and how you can understand their role in your game—that can help. And maybe in some case even hurt you. If you interpret those details wrong then it doesn’t help you.
Who are some other coaches or leaders today that inform your coaching style?
I think coach Caleb Porter is with the Portland Timbers now. He had a big influence on the way I approach leadership, style of play, running a whole program. My first coach, Juan Pablo Favero, who I worked with, was very influential. Now he’s on the women’s side, at San Diego State. He was just an unbelievable motivator, great character. I learned a lot from him on that side of the game. Soccer-wise there’s been club director Dale Schilly at St. Louis Scott Gallagher, Illinois, I learned a lot from him as well. Those have probably been the three major influences on my coaching style.
What are some success stories for your program and for yourself professionally?
For our program it’s about the number of players we’ve had rise to the highest level of major league soccer. Over the last six or seven years, I don’t think there’s been a program that has produced more professional players. In that same time, we won the most games in Division I, and we’ve done it at Akron. If you just mentioned the name to anyone they may not say, “We would expect them to be a major power in any sport.” You expect the big name schools like the North Carolinas, the UCLAs to be there.
But we’ve been able to do it here at Akron, which is a tremendous school and university, we just have to let people know that. Now we’ve created a place where, as a soccer player, if Akron recruits you to go to Akron, you go to Akron. That’s probably the most prestigious thing you can do as a coach. I think that in itself is a pretty successful story.
For myself, I didn’t play Division I. I started at a small school with about 1,100 kids, and worked my way up to the top, of college soccer at least. I think that’s a more minor story because I’ve had a lot of people help me and coached a lot of good players along the way. They all helped me get there. That would be one.