By Ryan Bailey

During a 17-year professional career, Patrick Daka played soccer across three continents, including seven seasons in the Queen City with the Charlotte Eagles. The former Zimbabwe International brought years of experience coaching in Charlotte to his role as the Head of the Discovery Program for U12 and U13 age groups.

Hi Patrick! What does your typical day look like?

Outside of game days, my role can be split into several buckets:

– I collaborate with the technical staff to compile post-match data for match reports.

– I provide video analysis to drill down on specific individual performances, based on players’ Development Plans. Along with the other staff, we then review game clips with individual players.

– During practice, I help with pre-session technical preparation in what [Academy Manager] Dan Lock has coined “The Daka Zone!” This is an individual and collective technical development tool we use for players to sharpen their technical skills. Players can also request time outside The Daka Zone to get some individual work on specific areas of their choice. Just like all the other coaches, we collaborate our efforts on position-specific work in which we all play active roles.

– On Mondays and Wednesdays, I lead the Discovery Program, which brings in U12s and U13s from in and around Charlotte. These players belong to local clubs, and they return back to their home clubs for weekend games. This program is an incredible tool in our talent identification and development effort. It is also a huge piece of our continued efforts to collaborate with local clubs and the community-at-large in player development.

– Finally, just as everyone else on the technical staff, I am always scouting players. One day I may be with Alex Martinez holding a talent ID session somewhere, or I may be watching teams play on the weekend.

You’re a busy man! What is your role on game days?

I am available to assist coaches with anything they need, from technical preparation to game analysis of our opponents. Sometimes, feedback can be directed at specific individuals or it can be to the entire team. I also record specific game stats, which coaching staff then use to compile match reports and provide post-game feedback.

I am always analyzing technical aspects of our players and areas we are strong in, and areas that may need a concerted focus.

You have coached in the Carolinas for many years. Is there something special about the talent here?

Over the years, North Carolina has been a market for other MLS teams to tap players for their academies. Several players over the years have come out of Charlotte, in particular, and moved out to join out-of-state MLS academies. That says a lot about the level of local talent. The Carolinas boast a deeply diversified community, with both pedigree and potential to produce some of the best players in the nation.

You played professionally in your native Zimbabwe and in Charlotte. Was it difficult to make the transition from player to coach?

It was difficult to hang my boots, for sure. No doubt about that. For a long time, I couldn’t watch any sport without feeling a haunting hollowness in my belly. Staying in the game as a coach made that transition somewhat bearable.

I always wanted to be involved in the game somehow, but didn’t know coaching was the way I would stay in the game. It happened organically and I fell in love with the idea of giving back what I have learned over the years to young players.

As a former player, I had to learn pretty early that coaching and player development is a process. Initially, it was difficult to have that patience to see the process play out as players developed and matured. Over time, I learned to put players front and center of the development process, instead of my own selfish gratification. I also accepted that players must see the game through their own lens, while providing guidance and the autonomy to solve problems. Learning those two things made a huge difference in my approach and my development as a coach.

We have some great personalities within our Academy teams. How enjoyable is it to work with this group?

This group is fantastic! I am so excited for them. What really excites me is their capacity to learn. It is also important to note that the coaching staff—plus everyone working behind the scenes and all the Homestay families—have put in countless hours to create an unbelievable platform for this group to chase their main dream.

It has been amazing to be part of, and witness the transformation of these young men—not only into exciting players, but also good human beings. The scouting team also did a wonderful job to recruit this first class of Charlotte FC Academy players.

Finally, how do you define success?

First and foremost, we have to get players into the first team. Simple. That’s our main goal. Once they get in the first team, they have to play and represent the Academy well. In addition to this specific goal, we also have to produce life-long students of the game, who are positive role models and good human beings. We cannot divorce ourselves from the community that created us.