HOUSTON DASH MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 28, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We'll just start with opening remarks on being named the next head coach of the Houston Dash.
VERA PAUW: To me, it's a fantastic challenge. I've always been national coach. Although I've worked in training camps for several months, I've never been able to work at a club. To get this opportunity at this stage of my career is amazing because Houston Dash is a combined club, men and the women, together with Houston Dynamo.
Fantastic facilities, superb stadium, training accommodation with everything that a coach need, and players who are professionals, at the top of their career, in which we can truly work for top-level performances.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for Vera.
Q. Since you're new to the league, what steps are you taking to learn the rules and other things that make this different from other leagues?
VERA PAUW: I think the NWSL is the most competitive league in the world. That is because it's now in hands of the soccer association, U.S. Soccer. I'm a huge fan of that because by doing that you control that there's equal opportunities for everybody, that the strengths of the team are more or less equal. Of course, there's teams a bit stronger than others, but everybody can win from everybody. There's no easy game at all in the whole league. Every single minute it's competitive.
If you would compare that with other leagues, for example, where world class players are playing in France, where Olympic Lyon, Paris St. Germain, they are so good, they have so many world class players, that their league is not a challenge at all. The league is decided by the games amongst each other. The same Barcelona, they win 12-0, 10-0. For me as a coach, that would not challenge me.
The big advantage of NWSL is that the games are full competitive. I'm absolutely sure that at the end that will help the national team of USA, as well. For me as a coach, that's hugely attractive to come to the USA and be part of that fantastic journey.
Q. What about the different rules and the structure of the league in terms of acquiring players, salary cap, you don't see that a whole lot worldwide? What steps are you taking to learn those rules?
VERA PAUW: I am very much fond of it. Maybe that surprises people. But I think that is necessary for a competitive league that's sustainable into the future. But that means also that my salary is not what I got on other places. But I'm not coming for the salary, I'm coming for the challenge. That is why I think players want to be there.
You can earn a lot of money in Barcelona. But if you win every game 12-0, it will influence your career. At the end we're sports people. Sports people want to take the best out of themselves.
Although they probably can win the UEFA championships league, I'm talking about Barcelona, their league in the country cannot challenge them hugely. In the U.S. to have the competitiveness that there is, you need salary caps and you need those rules of the draft players, ruling if a player is leaving or wants to leave, what can you get back so that equality of the teams is guaranteed.
I'm a sports developer from nature, a player developer from nature. The (indiscernible) starting points for me are always more important than anything else.
Q. As you were making the decision to come coach in the NWSL, did you talk to any of the players? Obviously Janine van Wyk is someone you coached before. What was the process on your end?
VERA PAUW: What I said is actually why I came. Before deciding, I've not spoken with players other than Carli Lloyd. For me, the challenge is that the competitiveness of the league. I've followed that for years. I've analyzed for FIFA all the FIFA World Cups since '99. That was my first World. I've not missed one since. Many Under-20 World Cups, so I know what's going around.
To be able to coach at this level, it's just like a dream come true. On a weekly basis, we're challenged. That is something very special in women's football. Again, in other countries it's about a few games. Germany has a competitive league, but not as competitive as the NWSL, in my opinion.
Q. Carli encouraged you to come on over?
VERA PAUW: Well, it's not about encouraging. It's about I wanted to talk to her because my training methods is different, I think, than from several other coaches. I was not sure what they were used to.
I will build on where Randy and Omar have left the team. It's more like growing further from the fantastic work that they have done with the team. From there, we will go to, if I can call it training recovery time, recovery time between explosive actions. Soccer is an explosive sport. The recovery time between must become smaller so you can make more actions at the higher level. That's a different method that lays beyond that, training, let's say, endurance levels or explosiveness levels.
So every action in football needs to get at a higher level, plus you have to make more actions, and both of that throughout not only a game by throughout the competition. I wanted to know if I got support for that before signing because I need the support of the players, that they believe in the way that I'm coaching and training the players.
Although all the results are behind this method, because we've been successful in every job that I took, I still need to have the trust before we start because there's only four weeks of preparation time with the squad before the league starts. I really wanted to know if I got the support for this different system.
With the players after Carli, I've also spoken with a few other players when I was in Houston. I've spoken to a few players on the phone. They are all willing and happy to step into this new process.
Q. Most of your management so far has been national teams, as best I can tell. You've sort of alluded to this a little bit, but how different is it going to be managing a club team now?
VERA PAUW: On the daily basis, it will not be much different than what I've done in South Africa. For example, before the Olympics, for nine months, we were more or less in camp continuously. So the daily training sessions and the periodization of it will not be much different.
The huge difference is that coming to training and going home, what that means for teamwork within the team, it's a professional sport, so it's a job for the players. All the activities that we will do, they will do from home unless we will travel, then we will be in camp. That is actually the only difference.
It will give more rest for me as a coach. For the players also. They will have more opportunities to have a social life. That will be better than in South Africa. But training-wise and coaching-wise, there will not be much difference.
Q. If you don't mind my asking, there's now going to be three, I believe, female head coaches in this league that has not always had that many female head coaches. How important is that to you, to see female coaches getting these opportunities in this league which has such a high profile in the women's game?
VERA PAUW: Well, it shows that women are developing and women have showed that they add value to the teams in general. In Europe, of all the medals that have been won since 2000, so that means the European Championships, World Championships, and Olympic Games, 94% were won by teams coached by a head coach which was female, 94%.
It is not that women are better than men. In U.S. there's more or less equality between men's and women's soccer. But in Europe, the men coaching the women are more or less the men unless they have a special feeling, but in general it's the men who do not have a job in men's football. In men's football, you can earn so much more money in Europe than in women's football. In women's football, it's often amateur based or very small salary, unless you're coaching a national team, with those few exceptions of Barcelona, Olympic Lyon, Paris St. Germain, and Wolfsburg. Not many beyond that.
In that sense, in Europe, the best women, of course, have a higher level than the not-so-good men. Good men, like Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, they are not coaching women. In the U.S. it's a different story because in the U.S. there's more or less equality between the men's and women's game. That means the men appointed could also be appointed in the men's game, or coaches in the men's game could be appointed into the women's game. I think that is the reason why there has not been many females being appointed, because there were men with so much more experience available to the women's game.
Now it's starting to turn around. If I talk about myself, but also Denise and of course Laura, we have a vast experience and we bring as much if not more than the male applicants.
I think that is good. That's a good sign because it means there's a future for women in the USA to become a coach as a profession, not only at university level, but also in the pro league. Jill Ellis is a fantastic example of how you can build in your career towards the national team job.
I think to have these role models for young women who just stopped playing, to have a dream to become a coach, I think that's very important for the future.
Q. Can you talk about going into the college draft the top of the year, what your conversations for the club have been about preparing for that.
VERA PAUW: The conversations to prepare for that is most of all that we are looking for a very experienced assistant coach based in the U.S. who knows the system, who knows the players, who knows where the players are playing, what their qualities are, and knowing also all the strengths in the leagues. Of course being away, having coached South Africa over the last two and a half years, it means I do not have a clear picture of that.
The first thing that we are doing now is finding that experienced assistant coach. We're on track with that. Hopefully we can announce that soon. But you are right, it's crucial for the success of the Houston Dash that I have somebody from the country with me. That's why I always go to a country without a Dutch assistant coach, because I want somebody from the country itself.
Q. You talked about speaking with Carli Lloyd and other players about your system, particularly as it comes to training. What is your approach as coach coming into a team that's already been developed? How can you mold around what the players already bring to the club itself?
VERA PAUW: As I said, my starting point is where Randy and Omar have left the team. So my starting point is the fantastic job that they did. The players are there. From there, we are going to build further.
Let's say we're going to build the next level of the building. In that, for me, the most important thing are the talents of the players themselves. Not so much what they cannot do, but their talents they bring in the game. That's what we are identifying now. The players are helping themselves to make that clear to me. I've got all the links of all the games of last season. I'm halfway watching all the games already. I'm analyzing them all.
From there, we'll get balance in the team. We need to see, like, every year what draft players you can attract, what kind of qualities we need to get the balance further, a step further than where Randy has left them. From there we're going to work to create the teamwork on the pitch, especially that the players understand each other, and that we're ready with our team strategy and our playing system by the time the league will start.
Let's say parallel of that, of course, the players need to get fit. That last part, I've spoken with the players about if they could trust me to do it in that way. That's what they are going to do. They've expressed themselves that they do trust it. So we're going to work from there.
Q. Particularly when you were with South Africa, always truly have been an advocate for the women's side of the game, can you talk about what you think some of the advantages of playing in the NWSL, coaching in the NWSL market, will allow for the growth of the game but also looking at there are not a lot of female coaches, opportunities for you to be a mentor in the American market that might reach out to you?
VERA PAUW: The people that know me knows that I'm always open to share every experience that I have. That doesn't mean that that will help the other further, because I don't know if I can. But the experience and knowledge that I have I will always share with everybody. That's my philosophy. I would never keep something to myself, other than of course the game strategy, because that is part of the team.
What I can add to NWSL, that needs to show during the league, of course. I've got my way of work. Other coaches have their way of work. But I, of course, take my experience and my knowledge towards NWSL. I leave to judge that to others if that adds something.
I'm going to work with Houston Dash. Our goals are, well, to reach playoffs for the first time, and from there we'll see. It will be hard enough to get to those playoffs. To be honest, that first year is just working very, very hard, keeping my eyes open, learning a lot from my players, from the league, and adding my experience to them.
It should be a mutual goal, from players and staff, everybody with their own role, but everybody working towards that same goal, to get better football players, a better team, and with that hopefully to reach a playoff place.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Vera. Thank you, everyone, for joining us.
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