After the GameJul 16, 2018

Q&A: Seth Trembly on Transitioning to Coaching

Seth Trembly's career started with a selection to the national team at just 15 years old. At 16, he left his hometown of Littleton, Colorado to join the first ever U17 residency class in Bradenton, Florida. Before even finishing high school, Trembly signed a Project 40 contract and was allocated to his hometown Colorado Rapids. After appearing in the World Cup with the U17's, Trembly completed high school and joined the Rapids who he spent the next 5 seasons with. He would go on to stints with Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact of the USL, but ultimately stepped away from the game after struggling with injuries. 

Now, Trembly has forged a successful career coaching both men's and women's teams at the youth, and most recently, collegiate level. Trembly joined Utah Valley University as an assistant coach for their women's soccer team after four years as a men's coach at UC San Diego that included a CCAA Tournament Championship and NCAA Final Four run. We talked to him about the transition from player to coach and the importance of coaching with a player's perspective. 

Q: Were you interested in coaching while you were playing? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?

Seth: I grew up in a coaching family. Both my mom and my dad coached my team as well as my brothers' teams. We were always a soccer family, so I think that piece of it was always there. I knew that coaching was something I was passionate about pursuing after I finished playing. Obviously, everybody wants to play as long as they can and accomplish as much as they can as a player, but once I got towards the end of my career, after having injuries, I started thinking about what was next. I had accomplished so many of my playing aspirations with playing professionally and for the youth national team. Obviously, all of us had dreams of playing for the full team and playing in the World Cup, but you start to see that a lot more goes into that than just being a player. You start to see how much control a coach has over a team through your good experiences and your not so good experiences.  That’s when I started to look at what my opportunity in playing looked like versus my opportunity in coaching. It made sense, so I gave a career that had a lot longer lifespan a shot to see if it was something I enjoyed.


Q: What path did you take to become a coach?

Seth: I was fortunate that I was able to get the waiver for my coaching license since I had 5 years of professional experience, so I went right into it. It’s a lot like any other job. It’s a combination of who you know and then obviously going through that interviewing process. I got my first opportunity because our head coach Chris Lemay previously coached the San Diego Surf youth team that I took over while I was also coaching at UC San Diego. We went to the National Championship and won and then the next year went to the national final, and he was always checking in and staying in touch. So when he got the head coaching position at UVU and had an opening for assistant, he called me. 

The coaching world is small and the soccer world is small, so there’s a good chance that before you even get your foot in the door coaches are calling their friends that would have known you and getting their feedback. I think that’s a huge thing first and foremost, just understanding how small the world is and how treating everybody with respect and being professional goes a long way. It could be a job way down the road. They pick up the phone and call someone random and if it’s a bridge you burned than you could lose that opportunity. People really do value relationships and they value those opinions, so networking goes a long way. 

Q: Was it difficult to switch from the player mindset to the coaching mindset?

Seth: I always saw the coaching side through a player's lens. Once I got into the coaching side, you do see that it’s the same game, but it’s a completely different side of that game. Even if you know it at a high level, the intricacies of being a good coach versus a good player requires a different skill set. That passion for soccer gets reignited because being a coach is just a way different side of the game. You grew up only knowing the game one way for 20 or 30 years and now you see it a different way.That’s one of the challenging things, just being able to see the game through the coach’s lens but with the player’s perspective of how hard the game is, how difficult the athletic side of the game is in terms of fatigue and mistakes.

Q: Do you feel like it was beneficial to make the transition directly from playing to coaching?

Seth: Coming right from playing does give you that ability to empathize with how hard it is fitness-wise, how hard it is doing the same thing day in and day out. You can sympathize with players who are going through things that maybe I went through, maybe finding yourself on the bench. With stuff like that it definitely helps. 

I see a lot of people that go into the business world for a few years, and I think that is also beneficial. Especially returning to be a director of a club or a collegiate coach. There’s a certain business and organizational side to it that I think it would translate a lot more than you would think in terms of skill set. I think players that come back into the game in the management or the coaching side that have business experience under their belt can help accelerate the game. Having that business or professional experience and then bringing it to soccer is great because that’s lacking in a lot of youth organizations and different soccer entities around the country.

Those are the things that make it worth it, knowing you made a big difference in someone's life."

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of coaching?

Seth: I think the obvious answer is those moments like the Final Four or the National Championship where the whistle blows and you’ve accomplished something that’s very special and will be a lifetime memory. You see it like ‘Oh I used to be the one dog piling and now I’ve helped these kids have that dog pile moment.’ Those are the obvious things, but I also think like running into a parent who says ‘It’s so good to see you. My kid you coached went on to Columbia and graduated and is doing this now.’ Or, maybe it’s a player making the national team and getting to take part in some of the things that I got to do. Those are really special moments too, not just the national team players but even just the regular kids who went on to a great school and always thought you were a great coach and had a ton of fun playing soccer for you. Those are the things that make it worth it, knowing you made a big difference in someone's life.

Q: What advice would you give to guys in the league now who might be considering coaching after retirement?

Seth: My advice would be to stay active. I think there’s this perception, especially when you’re a young kid, of being a pro athlete that you get to go to practice and then come home and play video games because you’re resting and recovering. I always found it super beneficial to stay active in those moments even when you’re recovering. My biggest advice if you want to coach at the collegiate level would be to go to school. That’s what I’m having to go through right now because I didn’t go to college. I never took online classes when I was playing. Then once I was at San Diego I found there was so many good college coaching jobs out there that I needed to go back and get my degree to open up this sector of good jobs in this industry. Even if you don’t want to go into coaching, having a Bachelor’s degree when you get done playing is something that ends up being really huge. It’s the guys that went to school that end up being the smartest and have the best paying jobs and careers after soccer is over.

Q: What is something you have learned from your varied coaching experience?

Seth: I've seen that the ability for the MLS guys to impact kids' lives is huge. It’s something you see as a former player. I’ve coached both men’s and women’s, and it really opened my eyes working with the women’s teams to how there are these young women that are playing at such a high level and are yearning for instruction from high level players. Being able to be around former pros and people that can teach them techniques and things that maybe they don’t get exposed to with their club teams or their local town is a big thing. Maybe a lot of these guys aren’t thinking about it, but when you look at the opportunity from the coaching standpoint on the women’s side it's sometimes better than the men’s side in terms of financing and resourcing. So, I would encourage people to work with both men and women because it’s just such a fun and rewarding experience, and it helps you see the different sides of the game and the strengths and weakness of both sides. I think coaching both really helps you become a better of a coach. 

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