Coaches Spotlight: Kevin Brown

An in-depth look at Coach Kevin, his story and coaching background

Coaches Spotlight: Kevin Brown

There is a school of thought in sports that you don’t need to have played the game at a high level to be a successful coach. And there are examples of that: Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, even the great Jose Mourinho only played lower-level soccer in Portugal before becoming an elite coach.

But to most, becoming a good coach goes hand in hand with having played the game. Not with your buddies on Sunday afternoons, but on the pitch, where there was more than buying post-game beers on the line.

Kevin Brown has been on the pitch. Four years for Division I Marist College, to be precise. And there could have been even more, before and after, if not for the fickle hands of fate and decisions made as a teenager.

“I had opportunities to go overseas before college, as opposed to after,” said Brown. “When I was about 16, I went to a camp in North Carolina with a coach from North Carolina State, who was Argentinian, and I had some friends of his there who offered to take me to high school and to play in Argentina at 16. Different times, different thoughts, different language. If I could do it over, I would've. College, I went in, I played every game, was really impactful as a freshman, we had a coaching change eventually, and then it took me a good year-and-a-half for him to not hold a grudge because I was not one of his players. And I think that negatively impacted any sort of future playing after college.”


While that experience has not stopped Brown from being a success on and off the pitch in his post-college years, what it did was give him some important lessons that he has carried into his current gigs as a coach with BetterPlayer and the Grace Church High School Boys’ Varsity soccer team, who he recently led to the NY State quarterfinals. This, after inheriting a team that won just two games the previous season. Guess this Brown guy can coach a little bit, eh?

“There are things you learn about coaching from bad coaching,” Brown explains. “And when I coach, no matter what level, whether it's the high school kids or anything else, it's never personal and it's always about what needs to be done for people to improve and telling them the information they need to have and being direct and honest.”

That doesn’t mean the Rochester native is all business and no fun. Classes with Brown certainly deliver the goods when it comes to teaching the game and / or improving students’ skills at it, but that instruction also comes with a deadpan humor and the type of one-on-one encouragement that keeps players coming back. There is business to be taken care of, though, and he expects his players at BP and the high school to be ready to work.

“My big thing is that it's not about discipline, it's about accountability,” he said. “That's the thing I stress the most. You have to be accountable for what you do and how you perform and how you behave. And so my kids don't get the yelling disciplinarian very often at all. It's more about, I'm expecting something of you. Now when we go to the adult situation, I think, for the most part, everyone there wants to be there and wants to try and wants to get better. So, for me, the adjustment is just that I'm not in a position where you are forced to be there. You are spending your money, you can do as you please, but I still want the same sort of things. I want people to have fun, I want them to enjoy it. I want them to try, and I want them to get better. So it's not all that different in the end goals; it's just sometimes how you achieve them and your approach to individuals of different ages.”

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This approach has garnered Brown a loyal following of players who will go wherever he coaches. And in his time with BetterPlayer, he’s run the gamut of experiences, from seeing players with no experience handle themselves in game situations, to intermediate and advanced players level up under his tutelage. So what does he look for in each level of player when they show up on practice day?

“Beginner, we are working on some basics, and the activities and exercises, it's more about repetition of whatever we want to improve, whether it's passing, shooting, control, dribbling. It doesn't mean you always have to line up in a line and do that; it means that I, as the coach, have to set up an activity where you get a lot of repetition of doing that specific thing. As I get into intermediate, I hope and I expect that the execution level of some of those basics becomes a little bit better, so we add a little bit of complexity to those activities to achieve some of the same goals.

“And then when I get to the advanced level, it's a little bit more about problem solving. So I try to create activities that are definitely more game-like, whether it be a possession or transition or a different focus that’s more about the execution of the game because the players can execute the individual activities, but maybe not the sort of team things that they're used to or that they need to do between spacing, movement and things like that. So I try to set activities where it's difficult. Usually, it's ugly for the first five or 10 minutes, but people eventually start to problem solve on their own and get the hang of it. And my coaching is really less about getting in the way and saying do X, Y, and Z. It's more about I'm putting you in a position to challenge yourself, thinking-wise, and being able to execute the activity, thinking through it while using the skills that you have.

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Intimidating? It can be, especially when some of the drills can feel like advanced algebra before they get flowing. But Brown and his coaching peers aren’t preparing you for the World Cup (yet). 

“Look, we're all there to have fun and the goal of this is to have fun,” he said. “I'm going to take this even back further and bring up a question that someone had for me. One of the BetterPlayer newsletters went out, and it said, ‘Talk to your coach about what you need to improve and how you can be better.’ And someone came up and asked me a question about that and my response to them was to return with a question and say, ‘Well, what do you think you need to improve?’ Because your goal as a person and as a player and what you want to learn is what I think people have to re-center with themselves. I could stand here and tell you what you need to do better to become a Premier League player, but I don't think that's the goal here. It’s getting people to that self-awareness and comfort to say, ‘This is what I want to improve.’ We understand that professionals make mistakes. You are not professionals. We will all make mistakes. The environment is not competitive, like in a league. When we scrimmage and play, we try to create an environment where it's not just the coaches who are encouraging, but the players, and I think that's what BetterPlayer does really well to make it accessible. I think it's the culture of the entire program that makes the difference even more so than just me as an individual coach because everyone is there to learn and have fun.”

So those late college days haven’t made you bitter about soccer, Mr. Brown?

“I love the sport,” he said. 

I believe him.

by Thomas Gerbasi