By Ryan Bailey
After forging a playing career with several top-division South American clubs, Jorge Herrera arrived in Charlotte in 2007 to play professionally for the Charlotte Eagles and Charlotte Independence. In 2020, following his retirement as a player, Herrera joined Charlotte FC. As Academy Assistant Coach, he supports the coaching staff across all age groups, providing his expertise with position-specific training, individual performance plans and talent identification.
Hi Jorge! What exactly does your role with the Charlotte FC Academy entail?
I help and support the Academy team head coaches in any way they need, and have a lot of input on position-specific drills. For example, at training, I might work closely with a small group, like the attacking players, for a session.
I’m also very involved with the Discovery Program, which currently comprises U12 and U13 age groups. I lead sessions as their coach, rotating with fellow coach Patrick Daka.
What is your job on game day?
I help to set up the field before players arrive, and prepare warm-up drills. I’ll often take the lead on position-specific warm-ups.
From there, I take care of whatever the head coach needs, along with the rest of the technical team. We talk to the players on the field, and we talk to the coach about how we’re seeing the game. Sometimes, I will watch the midfielders or defense to keep an eye on them for the game and give feedback. Or, I might spend a game focusing my attention on the opposition attack to analyze their strengths, or their system.
Every game, we have different assignments to help the head coach and give all necessary support.
Outside of game day and training sessions, what does your day look like?
We come in to the office a couple days a week for meetings, and there is a lot of planning that goes into our training sessions. We might watch video, or find clips to show the players things we need to work on. A lot of preparation goes into our training sessions on a daily basis.
In terms of young talent, is there something that makes the Carolinas special?
I think it’s the diversity. We have players from so many backgrounds, and that’s a huge plus for the region and its soccer culture, for sure.
You made the transition from professional player to technical staff. Was that an easy process?
I think it was much easier than I thought it would be! To be honest, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had time to miss playing.
It was a bittersweet feeling to retire; to stop what I had done for so many years. But I was so excited to be part of something new, and I thank the organization for giving me the opportunity to be involved. Working in the Academy and doing something soccer-related has made the transition feel very natural.
We have some great personalities within our Academy teams. How enjoyable is it to work with this group?
It has been very enjoyable to create relationships with the players and get to know them—and for them to get to know me, too. Seeing their respect, their willingness to learn, and the way in which they take on advice has been very enjoyable to see.
The players must take their role seriously, but is it also important to encourage them to have fun?
Yes, this is absolutely one of the most important things. They mustn’t forget that they are still kids and they should enjoy the game. They are at the beginning of their journey, so it’s important for them to love what they are doing.
But, there is time for everything. It’s important for them to recognize when to have fun, and when to work and take it seriously. As a coach, it is vital to make that clear and give them guidelines.
Finally, how do you define success?
Success, for me, is to help people achieve their goals. That could be the players, my wife, my kids—if we achieve our goals together, that is success.