Picking up from where Part 1 ended AI asked Chris;
“So what is your core philosophy coaching kids?”
CH: Core philosophy I think probably enjoyment but instil them with a professional attitude and good habits and a proper technique at a young age. So a lot of them have a head start at their clubs and if they go onto an elite program with FFSA.
I have had a lot of boys, I got it all documented at home and I get it on my website which will be up and running pretty soon. I think I have over the years 40-50 boys who have gone into the Skillaroo program and NTC, 3 of them have trialled at AIS. I think that really tells a story. They have learned good habits at a good young age. I have had a lot of boys being with me from age 8-12 before they go into STIC level and U12 and then end up being top 6 to top 8 level. I have a lot of boys and girls going into to those programs. I like to think that I am doing something right.
AI: Absolutely, so how many keepers have you coached, it would be 100’s?
CH: Yeah it would be including club level and some come to my academy and some that haven’t but it must be a couple of hundred keepers that I have good contacts with over the years.
AI: and who are some of the those playing on a good level today?
CH: Yeah good levels, we got Stefan Willner and Declan Burchell U18 at Campbelltown City Soccer Club (CCSC), my son Mitchell Higgins former Skillaroo, same as the two boys I just mentioned. He is in reserves at Cumberland, Vasilios Tryfopolous in the 18’s/reserves at Raiders, that was a boy who was with me for 3-4 years and trialled at AIS, Jamie Signorelli who was at CCSC and trialled at AIS and now at Adelaide United reserves in NPL. He was with me for 2 years and during his Skillaroo time and NTC.
Luca Megetto have been in Skillaroos and NTC and trained with Adelaide youth team and U18 at Metro Stars this year. He has been with me for a long time too. I had him trial at Watford a year ago. Travis Brooks was another one who was in NTC and trialled at the AIS. That is another keeper of mine for 3-4 years. I had really good boys that went onto achieve some good stuff. Brody Galetti another one he is now in another academy in Serbia, trying to do something there.
AI: I saw Jackson O’Donell playing in Adelaide City reserves on the weekend.
CH: He is another one being with me for 2-3 years.
AI: He was close to success in England last year too.
CH: Yeah, he trialled with Derby but unfortunately it fell through with a change of manager. That was a real shame and Jack Bloxesome was another one of mine. He was with me for 3 years at Gawler on Monday nights at the age of 10-13 he then went into Skillaroo’s and he was at Aston Villa.
I get a little bit disappointed sometimes people say that a keeper was coached by such and such a coach instead of me. Most of the boys I mentioned, all of them was in my academy at any age from 8-12, 13 years of age before they go into the elite program. Which I have no problems with, some think I do but I don’t. Sometimes other coaches forget where the boys came from.
AI: Another interesting thing is that you have done 6 goal keeping trips to UK.
CH: Yeah 5 or 6 on my own now.
AI: Tell me a bit about why you feel it is good or why should parents send their kids on a trip like that?
CH: I feel its good first and foremost because it is an educational trip. Something may or may not come out of it but at the worst they been away often by themselves. Sometimes a mum or dad or both more often the dad travel with us.
AI: it’s a dream trip for any soccer dad [laughing]
CH: Yes, [big smile] it is too, it’s a fantastic trip and I still love it. To know I going to have 2 weeks away in the home of football every year and more importantly see the smiles on the boys faces when they see the proper facilities, proper academy’s and proper professional coaching, you know! I love it.
That’s why I do it and if anyone thinking of doing it, they should do it because the amount they will learn it’s not going to do them any harm at all. It will help them to grow up a bit and learn a bit of independence. We look after them properly but we give them a little bit of freedom. We are obviously not going to let them walk around on their own in London and places like that. But they will need to learn about responsibilities. They have to clean their kit and booths and organise and really learn to be professional. They will talk to coaches at other clubs and spend time with their friends on the bus. It just makes them grow up a little bit. It’s just an amazing trip for them.
AI: Yea I can imagine that but goal keeping can also be extremely lonely position in a team. Any mistake from a field player can be recovered by a 2nd or 3rd player. But when a keeper makes a mistake it is highly likely to be a goal.
CH: yes, it is and it can be catastrophic.
AI: So what do you tell goal keeper parents? Everyone will make mistakes and it is a natural progress in the juniors to make mistakes. That is very tough for a young guy or girl because you may get peer pressure from the team mates complaining. What is your advice to keeper parents?
CH: Yeah look! it can be very hard for young keepers, for young players on the pitch as well. It can be hard for a keeper when some of the team mates does not fully understand the position of a keeper and what is required. It’s sometime a split second decision but I just tell them to keep their head up and focus on the next save.
You can’t let one mistake dictate the rest of the game so first mistake becomes a 2nd and 3rd and so on. You just have to forget about it while the game is on. Don’t try to rectify it during the game, learn from it but learn from it after the game. Don’t go chasing the game, just do what you need to do and concentrate on the next save. You need mistakes to learn and move on. I say to parents not to criticise them too much. Wait until after the game and talk openly what they have done well and what they can improve on. Never shout at them during a game.
AI: What is the best thing a parent can say after a game. They may know that their child had a really challenging game with a lot of mistakes, which happens, what can they say?
CH: I think sometime not to even necessary lay blame, you just have to be honest with them. I know with my son when he was a youngster, but I think we are very lucky, I would open my line of enquiry more so with questions and try to get them to give you the answers. Then you know straight away if you deal with someone who are honest about their performance and is disappointed because of their pride and standard.
You know straight away if they come up with excuses and can’t handle the criticism then you need to tackle it a different way. I think as long as you are fair. I think most keepers tend to be hard on themselves. For me the days when parents are ranting and raving about their kids during a game just doesn’t cut it anymore. It just makes kids shut down verbally and mentally. Best to be calm.
AI: Being a goal keeping father myself, I have learned there are a lot of different believes about the benefits for a keeper to play futsal?
CH: Yes [smile]
AI: From a keeper perspective, what would you like to say to the non-believers?
CH: [Laughing] yeah look I ‘m…I’m probably biased obviously with what I have done with futsal when I was a boy and I have had the same argument with coaches at my clubs. Most of them are against it but I do know, having both played both and coached both, there are a lot of futsal type saves in the outdoor game. There are saves you make with your feet maybe the Peter Schmeichel “star” the Joe Hart “spread” when they come out and block. A lot of that has come from futsal. I know the grounds are hard but the compression gear you got these days, the padding for your elbows, hips and knees, padded shorts and whatever else.
I think most keepers are capable of playing futsal in the off season without too many injuries. It benefits your reflexes. Some people may think you are in a small goal and then you bring these bad habits into the outdoor game but I remember back at preseason training in my younger days I come back from futsal mode maybe struggle the first night you go down early to dive at the feet but you don’t do that at futsal these days. You stay up as much as you can just like the outdoor game. For me that is not a problem, some people talk about injuries but this is just an excuses. People complain the ground is to hard but these days the floor boards have more give and you really pad yourself up. I never really seen bad injuries on keepers. I am all for it.
AI: Yes, talking about futsal you are a National Champion Coach U16 2016 and runners up 2017 in Sydney. How did you achieve that?
CH: [laughing] with a lot of hard work [both laughing] yeah a LOT of hard work. I was probably lucky in that my old side, who over a 3-year span, got to the semi-final the first year, did not go so well in the 2 years after that. I took over a side which had the nucleus of probably 4 boys that had done futsal academy’s and played futsal during the season and it was a real focus for them. Then I still had to bring another boy and dropped one.
He was a bit disappointed but he probably wasn’t kept in the fold from the original five that had been in the previous state teams and I then brought another one back in that hadn’t been part of it for two years. I had to go and pick, in a process of trials and elimination, another 5 new players from scratch.
Yeah I did that and I believe I brought a good side together and we worked hard together for a good couple of years. 2-3 times a week before we went away to the January nationals in Sydney 2016. Yeah and we won it against NSW.
AI: It was a cracking game too, I was there and the atmosphere was unbelievable. That must have been one of your top career highlights?
CH: Yeah it was one of them. I was lucky at the same venue as a boy play two finals in our very first year away in FFSA futsal team and win it. I know how hard it is, same as this year, to come back the year after and we got knocked out in semi-finals. Back then I had a club championship and a state championship concurrent at the same venue.
This year, if I be honest, I thought maybe we get knocked out in the semi-final but we didn’t and lost the final 1-0 and that was the second game out of 10 in the whole tournament we lost. We lost the group play against NSW 8-2 in a game the boys dropped their heads. I knew in the tunnel before the final this year that we had a lot of respect. NSW was very quiet (in the tunnel). I knew that they knew that it would be a very hard game. I am really proud of my boys two years in a row in the final.
AI: That is awesome, I know we are coming up for Mitch debut game for Cumberland but quickly behind every successful guy there are a very understanding wife [both laughing]. Sandi must love you very much and be extremely understanding [both laughing] and supportive because you basically spend most night coaching and most weekends it’s game time. I did get some information from her [laughing]
CH: Ah okay she never told me that.
AI: [both laughing] She thought you were the most handsome boy ever but she claimed that you thought she was a geek [both laughing out loud] so what is the story there?
CH: Oh no [laughing] well you are right there I can’t be a hypocrite of what I did in the younger days. That is really funny because we grew up in the same street and knew each other. She is a few years younger than me and yeah lucky for me she has aged much better than I have. So she got the raw end of the stick there [both laughing].
So we knew of each other and our mums knew each other quite well. We used to walk to and from school together a lot of times. And yeah we met again when I came back from Darwin towards the end of 1997. She was 24 and I was 27 we were both single and spend a lot of time together, we just hit it off straight away. I was going to America to play the indoor and we had been together for 6 months before I went away so I proposed.
AI: So you proposed before you went to America? So you proposed and then said by the way I am off to America now [both laughing]
CH: No no! luckily she knew I was going because we had spoken about it. I wanted her to feel safe so she knew I wasn’t doing anything naughty while I was away. I wanted her to know that she was the one I wanted to be with.
AI: That is romantic, I was just about to ask you what is the most romantic thing you have done for her but that is probably it.
CH: Yeah that is one of them. We went to a hotel the Grand Radisson in North terrace once (which is one of our favourite hotels). I know she think that was very romantic and there is another time when I got rose petals, it wasn’t even Valentine’s day I am ashamed to say. I spread them out in the hallway like a love heart and a trail to….. and had some chocolate at the end of the trail. She thinks I am romantic a lot of the times but I don’t know if I agree with it but if she thinks that,
AI: well that is a good thing isn’t it [laughing]
CH: [big smile] she is very supportive and understanding and I really appreciate that. She is a good person.
AI: I know there is a game coming up. Mitch is following your footsteps. I see that he is also going to be captain (Cumberland reserves). You must be very proud of what he has achieved so far.
CH: Yeah he is a good lad he has got a good football brain and he works a lot harder at his games than maybe what one or two people would have thought. That is why I didn’t want to coach him at club level. I have always enjoyed it but I have only coached him as a junior keeper at Metro. They asked me to come on-board for the senior so he was in senior team one year. We may have a session on a Sunday sometimes because he wants to work. He never really wanted me to coach him in a club. Sometime in the system some people don’t realise how good of a keeper he is.
AI: He was a referee in Futsal nationals in Sydney as well
CH: yeah and he got a final too, be in charge of a U12 final at 17 years of age.
AI: That would show he has a good understanding of the game as well.
CH: yeah look he has been invited to Everton and Wigan in the past playing with them. They thought enough of him to have a look. He is at a good club in Cumberland and off to a good start. I don’t know if he will be the captain for the whole season they may rotate around a bit.
AI: it’s a great start on the opening game
CH: He works hard and he had 2 games with the first team against Blue Eagles and done well in both halves. Look! I am his harshest critic too. He never gets an easy ride. For me to say he played well and he always asked me to be really critical of him and honest. Hopefully that will continue but a long way to go yet.
AI: fantastic! Thank you so much for this interview I have really enjoyed it.
CH: Thank you no prob’s.
You can contact Chris Higgins Goal Keeping (CHGK) Academy
Phone 0419 809255
About Off the pitch with Active is a creation of Active Illustrated.
Interviewer: Ken Willner
Photos provided by Active Illustrated & Chris Higgins
12th Feb ’17 Lions do fly an interview with Paul Maio & Michael Crescitelli, founders of Adelaide Futsal Club. They talk about their success in their first year (2016) and the coaching philosophy behind it.
26th Feb ’17 A taste of the Big League Part 1 Chris talks about the start of his career and his experience in Glasgow Rangers and Middleborough. He also tells the story why playing in America inspired him to continue with coaching in Australia.
©Active Illustrated 2017