Charlie Naimo (left) alongside Red Stars head coach Omid Namazi before a game with Sky Blue FC this past Sunday (Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
Before Charlie Naimo moved to the West Coast a few years back, he spent his life growing up in the State of New Jersey. This past weekend, he came back to the Garden State for a game between host Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars, for which he is the Technical Director and an assistant coach. Coming home is something that is always a time of reflection for Charlie, and we asked if he could use this Resolution Sports exclusive to talk about his most recent trip to the place he built the foundation of his professional career.
It was great being back in NJ. Life was great there for me. Between PDA, Wildcats and my training business, there was much success and a lot for which I’m thankful. I really do miss coaching elite youth soccer. If I had to say what I miss most, it is easily coaching the U11-U14 ages at the highest level. They are talented enough to do more sophisticated things technically and tactically than most coaches give them credit. They are at the age where the focus is best, and you can really make a difference. I always think about my Power, Fire and Celtic teams because I had the chance to work with them early. Yes, they won a lot, but most importantly, played with such harmony. I always felt like I was doing my job. In contrast, as you get into coaching older players - late high school and college/W-League - you become more of a manager. I do not enjoy that as much, but it is still a challenge and I love challenges. Finally, at the pro level, it is a combination of player selection (knowing the player pool), management/communication and coaching (tactics being a priority). No coach can have success in WPS without a background in each of these unless you have Marta and Hope Solo on your team. ;-)
Anyway, that was a tangent. NJ makes me think of more productive days. It is always nice to play Sky Blue as well. I did have a small part in starting the club, and between Sol and my short time with Chicago, I have a pretty good record against them at 4-1-1. Unfortunately, that one loss is the game that mattered most - the ‘09 WPS Championship Game. At least my favorite player, Heather O'Reilly, scored the goal to ruin my year. She is like family to me, so it makes losing a LITTLE bit better. Seeing her succeed always makes me smile. She is in that group of players I coached that made me a better coach.
To end, it was nice taking a run from my hotel to the PDA grounds and playing a match at my alma mater. Just about the only thing I didn't like was seeing how this brutal summer ruined the lawn at my house in Milltown. It took me two years to make my landscaping look good.
See you next time. Big games coming up for Red Stars.
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