Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Soccer in America: An Interview with Jim "Snoop" Schneiderhahn

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An Interview with Jim Schneiderhahn
Jim “Snoop” Schneiderhahn is in his third year as the Emporia State University Woman’s Soccer Head Coach. I sat down with him and talked about his soccer career, coaching soccer, woman’s soccer, the Women’s National Team, coaching overseas, the Men’s National team, Eddie Johnson, and goalkeeping.

Today I’m bringing you the first part of the interview. Monday I will publish part two. Enjoy.

Soccer Basics

What is your first soccer memory?
It was probably when I was five or six and we were moving into a new house. I was outside kicking the soccer ball in the back yard with the neighbors.

Right after that we were downstairs in the basement with the kids of the family we were buying the house from and we were kicking the soccer ball around the basement. I think my folks were signing the papers when I put a soccer ball through the window downstairs.

Did you play youth soccer?
I loved baseball and I went to catholic grade and high school. Particularly in Catholic communities in St. Louis you would play for your parish team. I played soccer, baseball, and later on basketball. I didn’t start playing club ball until I was 12 years old. The goalkeeper on our team had gotten hurt and I had played a little bit of goal in second grade.

In about 6th grade I stepped in and played goal and in my seventh grade year I was asked by a coach to play for a club team, a bush team. That’s when I was hooked.

Did you play high-school and college soccer?
I went on to play high school soccer in St. Louis. I was cut one year I was there, and then got an opportunity to play college soccer at a NAIA college, Benedictine College, just outside of Kansas City. I played and had a blast there. I got to play for and against some pretty good teams and had a chance to go the National Tournament. I graduated in 1990.

Did you ever think about playing professionally? Was there any opportunity at that time?
I thought about it certainly, every kids grows up thinking they want to play professional sports but I recognized that I was a 6’0 goalkeeper and the majority of goalkeepers who got opportunities to play professionally in the ‘A’ league were several inches taller than I was.

I started having ideas about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t put forth the effort I should have. I went back to St. Louis and played in a lot of indoor tournaments, paid tournaments where if your team won they won a couple thousand dollars which was normally used to pay the bar bill. That was as close to professional soccer as I got as a player.

How did you make the transition to coaching?
I kind of fell into it. My father runs a small service company in St. Louis. I worked for him for about three years and worked for myself for three years as a photographer and a photographer’s assistant in commercial photography. You would be in the studio at 6am and leave at midnight. What started to get me was in January and February, the short days; I could go three or four days without ever seeing the sunlight. That got to me. I went back to Benedictine to get my education degree and worked there as the Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach.

After about a year of coaching college I [realized I] liked college coaching from the standpoint of dealing with the players along with putting together a team. To me it’s a multidimensional puzzle. It’s not just about getting the right number of forwards and backs. It’s also the other dimensions and probably the more important dimensions, the personalities and the way people are and trying to fit those personalities into one cohesive whole.

I said I would give it a chance and gave myself four years to get a college job. I figured I was already broke and I didn’t want to get in a high school position and start making money and say “Hey I’m comfortable doing this." Within that time the Women’s Coach at Benedictine resigned and they came after me to take that position.

Coaching and Coaching Accreditation
I think a lot of people are in the dark on how the coaching accreditation process works. Can you fill us in?
The United States Soccer Federation has, and this is something all of the developed nations have, a licensing procedure. In the United States there are essentially six total grades.

You start at the State level and can get 'F,' 'E,' or 'D.' They have pretty much done away with the 'F' and the 'E' and they call those youth modules. Those are for dealing with kids 12, 10 or younger. If you pass the 'D' you can go through and get your 'C' which is the first level in the United States National Federation.

Essentially it is a school you go to for ten days, normally in the summer, where you have to demonstrate your ability. You learn and you have to turn around and demonstrate your knowledge of the game and your ability to play, you have to prove you can play as well as demonstrate, and you ability to teach the game. You actually run a training session with all the other candidates. You do this in front of staff members who grade you.

If you pass you can go on to the next level within a years time or you fail you have to go back and learn and come back at least three months later and try again. The ‘C’ is primarily the smaller numbers of the game, 1v1 to 6 v 6 and dealing with kids from about 10-12. Your ‘B’ is kids 12-16,6v6 to 9v9. ‘A’ is 9v9 and 11v11. You’re also weeding people out through the process.

Do a lot of people fail?
Generally the failure rate for ‘A’ is about 70-75 percent. I wanted to learn the game so the stressor didn’t hit me until afterward. Not going to lie, it is stressful. The Soccer Federation creates that atmosphere. I’m happy I’m through and got my ‘A.’ Once you get through every four years you must audit a course or go to various continuing education units. If you build up enough of those you can maintain the ‘A’ license.

Who leads the clinics?
It is a little bit of everyone. Other college coaches who have gone through and passed the testing procedure to test. Youth coaches who have gone through. Coaches from the national team. Even coaches they bring over from other countries. It’s a little bit of a hodgepodge of everything. Male, female, whatever.

Women’s Soccer

Why do you coach women’s soccer or do you have a preference one way or the other?
You know I don’t know if there is a reason I stayed with it. The simplest reason was it was a job. When I was initially offered the job (at Benedictine) it really didn’t make a difference to me. The women bring a different skew and view of the game and athletics in general than I was use to in an all male environment which was very refreshing.

They aren’t going to kill their friends on the other team for the sake of the game. In some respects it’s easier and in some more difficult. They want to succeed and learn where guys tend to be more hard headed. With girls there is a huge communication factor. You have to have the ability to communicate with them and establish a trust. If they can’t trust you and what you are doing then you are lost.

What struggles do women face playing soccer in America?
I think it depends on what the ultimate goal is. For those at the elite level there is a shortage of opportunities to play after college. Starting this year the new women’s league (WPS) is starting up and I think that is fantastic. There are other opportunities. My assistant has played the last three years in the W league which is professional, maybe a little semi pro, for those who have the ability and want to continue playing.

There are struggles from the outside world looking in at women trying to play a sport at the highest levels. One of the great things that was an outcome of the 1999 World Cup was we saw a boom of young girls who wanted to be the next Mia Hamm or Brandi Chastain or Briana Scurry. They had this tremendous ad campaign of team building and we get along and that was great but ultimately when you get into the top levels its about competition and can you compete. There are struggles there.

One of the things we talk about with our girls all the time is being happy. Some of this is not necessarily fun. It’s not all puppies and sunshine. Fitness for some people isn’t fun. Going into a fifty-fifty ball and risking getting hurt isn’t fun. For other people it is. There is somewhat of a identity crisis of what exactly is the game. Is it fun and participation and everyone gets to play or is it a sport where competition is at its premium and who is the best player?

Finally, the acceptance of the sports community at large. We have a double whammy in that we are soccer. Soccer automatically is still the commie foreign sport where it’s always the butt of the jokes. I don’t know why that is. Maybe people are afraid we are going to “take their athletes.” We have the double whammy or soccer as the commie sport and as women’s sport. We have to gain credibility through all that.

How do you think the new Women's Professional Soccer League will do?
It looks like they have a decent plan in place. They aren’t sticking them in big stadiums. They are getting the help of MLS. That is one of the reasons the WNBA has lasted so long is because the franchises in the WNBA are helped along the by the same people who own the NBA franchises. You can share the same marketing people and front office staff plus one or two more as opposed to hiring the whole staff. You can share resources. I certainly hope it will do well. I would like to see more publicity. The soccer community knows about it but who else? I remember when MLS started up; they did a lot of things wrong but they also did a lot right. They had the ads on TV and on ESPN, and I’m not really getting that from the new women’s league.

Why it the United States Women’s National Team so dominate?
The same reason why our baseball team has always dominated until the recent years. We started it, we embraced it more. In a lot of the soccer playing countries of the world, Women’s Soccer is looked down and frowned upon. Maybe women’s sports in general are. Soccer is seen as a man’s game. The England, the Germanys, the Brazils didn’t embrace it immediately.

We’ve been able to give our young ladies a chance to play since the 80s and early 90s, we were able to get ahead of the curve. Now you are seeing many of the soccer playing nations catch up and even pass us. Brazil is tremendous. The flair of the men’s team has caught up and gone over to the women’s team. You would love to be dominate forever but in the growth of the game and how it is played more competition is better.

Monday
The rest of the interview will be published on Monday, stick around folks, more great stuff to come.

Contest
Today is supposed to be the last day of my supporter pictures contest but I haven’t received many submissions yet so I am going to keep it open until Monday. Please submit to grahamfox[@]gmail.com so I can hand out the Bumpy Pitch T-Shirt and the 25 dollar gift certificate to SoccerPro.com

3 comments:

yours truly said...

i can't wait to read the next part!

The World Wakes Up said...

He played at Benedictine! I can't say I approve.

Graham said...

I smell a William Jewel fan!