By Ryan Bailey
After a playing career that included stints in Major League Soccer and Europe, Edwards has served as assistant men’s soccer coach at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which has won multiple titles during his six-season tenure. Now, Charlotte FC benefits from his proven track record of success in both individual and team-oriented coaching initiatives.
Hi Brian! What exactly does your role with the Charlotte FC Academy entail?
As Goalkeeper Coach for the Academy, my role encompasses all aspects of the position. I plan and execute the curriculum, organize the periodization of the training loads, and provide feedback from training and matches. Essentially, I work to provide anything the goalkeepers need, in terms of development.
How different are goalkeeper training sessions to those of outfield players?
The goalkeepers typically begin each training with me, away from the outfield players. We begin with a physical focus, which varies each day, combined with a technical warm up. We then move into the session’s focus from the curriculum. For example, it may be a shot-stopping session, where we work on recovery movements across the goal. Most days, we also include an in-possession exercise as well. The goalkeepers will then join up with the outfield players and I will continue to coach them within the session.
How much does your playing experience inform your coaching?
I rely on my playing experience in terms of how I see the position being played currently and how it’s evolving with the modern game. I also would say that my experience with a number of different goalkeeping coaches influences the way I coach, too.
What does your day look like on match day?
Goalkeepers tend to begin match prep earlier than the rest of the team— typically, this is around 40-60 minutes prior to kick off. We build up from technical handling work with varied movements and short passing, then introduce hitting the ground. We move into shot-stopping and service from wide areas, and finally a wide range of distribution. Once the match begins, I am tasked with assisting the head coaches in the defensive phase of the game, as well as set-piece organization.
You have coached in the Carolinas for many years—is there something special about soccer in the region?
Not only have I coached in the area, but I was raised in Charlotte. I’ve witnessed the growth of the game here first-hand. A huge factor in the growth is that the climate allows for outdoor play year-round, whereas a number of regions in the US will go indoors in the winter. While I think having young multi-sport athletics is crucial in development, especially for goalkeepers, being able to do both at the same time provides great balance.
We have some great personalities within our Academy teams. How enjoyable is it to work with this group?
I really enjoy working with this entire group. From the technical and support staff, to the players, there is a great energy on a daily basis. There is an excellent balance of focus on the task at hand, and the camaraderie that makes up the fabric of a great organization.
It is such an exciting time to be a part of this organization as we prepare to introduce a first team and build an Academy from the ground up. I consider myself lucky to be a small part of it.
Finally, how do you define success?
In this role, you define success in terms of development both on and off the field. Certainly, we want to create the best possible environment to produce top players from all over our region. However, we are working with young men at critical stages of their lives. As they move through the Academy, they are trying to navigate who they are—both as athletes in a highly competitive environment and, as importantly, young people who are future leaders in their communities. We have a responsibility to try and instill in them a wide range of life skills through the vehicle of sport.