Q&A with Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner

On Monday morning, Orlando Pride announced Englishman Marc Skinner as the Club’s newest head coach. Just hours after his appointment, Orlando-Pride.com chatted with the new gaffer about his vision, ideologies and what fans can expect to see from the Pride in 2019. 
Supporters, better have a place saved for him in an upcoming march.

First of all, congratulations on the new position – we are really excited to have you join the Club and get the season started. Tell us, what was it about the Orlando Pride that attracted you to this position?

Well, that’s a really good question because, actually, and I’ll state this quite clearly - I wouldn’t have left the job I was in for any other job. We built something special at Birmingham that I was going to continue, but it was this project that replicated one of the biggest challenges for me. I look at the values of the Pride and Orlando City SC in general and they are almost identical to Birmingham but on a grander scale. For me, it’s the challenge of this league, the NWSL, the challenge of working with the players and getting the best of them to find winning solutions. 

I think the biggest word that comes out of me is the “challenge” of the project because I think we can be the best. I stated that in the announcement. I think this team can be the best and that’s what I want to do. I want to make sure of that. I’m so, so ambitious. I’m coming over here to make an impact, not just to fit in. I know it will be difficult because there are some very, very good coaches and some of the world’s best teams in the league but I think we can achieve great things with the Pride. 

So that was the biggest thing for me. As soon as I found out that there was interest, my head was into wanting to get this job. It’s mesmerizing, if I’m being honest. It’s something I absolutely believe I can do and long may it bring us success. 

In the grand scheme of things, the Pride are still a very young team that seem to be finding its footing. What type of team do you see your Pride being? 

I see them being a “together team”. For me, the word “team” is really, really important. I think the teams that have been successful in the NWSL era have been the ones that have been the most together. I have to get this team fighting for the same goal and, for me, that is winning. It’s being successful but it’s also doing it with character and charisma. It’s not just winning at all costs. It’s winning with quality, with style. 

I work every day on the training field; I work hard to make sure my teams don’t just go out on the field and look like a bunch of individuals. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that we are a team and, by doing that, that will be a great start for me. Once we can do that, then I can put everything in place to make sure that tactically we are where we need to be, technically we are where we need to be. 

And the other thing I’d say is, my job isn’t to just come in and improve the team. I work now for these players; I work for the Club, but I also work for the players. So if they give me everything, then you’ll not only see the team improve but the players will improve too. 

You’ll know from the league, some of the best teams have built a solid team. We have some of the world’s best players and we have to build the team mentality to support that. Everyone will have to do their part within the team because it doesn’t matter how good you are as an individual, if you don’t play as a team you aren’t going to win anything. I’m going to give this team a direction. That’s what I’ve been brought in to do. 

That leads me to my next question - you were praised at Birmingham for really turning that team around. You didn’t make many changes to the roster but were able to find new success. On paper, this is a very talented Pride roster. Do you plan to keep this roster intact or do you anticipate changes?

The first thing I’ll say is that I will assess all of the players. I’ll work with the players to see the key ingredients needed and the details needed to take the vision that I see forward. If that needs changing I’m not scared to change that but, at first, I want to get to know the people. I want to get to know the players. You’d be surprised but this is a little bit of a secret to coaching: it’s people before players. If you can work with them and understand them, you start to get the best out of them. They start to accelerate their learning, they start to accelerate their qualities. 

So for me, no wholesale changes. I’m coming in to see what works, what doesn’t work and then I’ll make my assessment as to what needs to happen. I’m sure there will be some changes in the future or adaptations but for the first part, I want to come in and get to know the players. I’m going to give everybody a fair chance to prove they’ve got what it takes to play for the Pride. 

The 2019 Women’s World Cup also poses a little bit of a hurdle for every team in this league. As the roster stands right now, the Pride could lose double-digit players for international duty – how do you plan to navigate around this?

That’s one of the things we’re looking at now, actually. I’m speaking to [goalkeeper coach] Lloyd [Yaxley], [general manager] Erik [Ustruck] and the rest of the staff and we’re looking at ways around that now. We’re lucky enough to have players that are going to represent their country and our Club in the World Cup and that’s a big credit to the work done previously to attract those players. 

But what we need to do is look at what we have, who we’ll have to use during the World Cup, and then we as a coaching staff will work everyday to make those players better. So while our players are out representing in the World Cup, we’ll make sure those holding the fort will be doing their best, keeping us competitive and winning games. I think the World Cup is firing up everyone, not just those going to the World Cup, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about including everybody, and everybody has to feel like an important piece of this team because they are. 

You mentioned it a bit before with your “person over the player” approach, but what is your general coaching philosophy? What type of coach are you?

For me, I think football is an entertainment sport so I want to entertain. I said it at Birmingham, but some performances bored me and I’ll be quite honest in saying that. I think we have a duty to entertain our fans and win, of course. There’s still an element that we need to turn this into a winning team but I want to do it with style. I want to ensure that we control the game and manipulate the opposition as much as possible. We’ll face a challenge with the styles of play - there's lots of different styles of play in the NWSL - but I’m absolutely convinced that what we do and my coaching style will work effectively in the NWSL. 

That’s what I’m looking forward to, that challenge of adapting. The one single skill that everybody needs to have in my teams is adaptability. If they can adapt then I’ll be able to teach them principles that they can move position, they can rotate, they can make it really simple things and that makes it difficult for the opposition to know what we are going to do. So control, manipulation of the opposition and entertainment. 

One thing I have to make sure we do is that we don’t concede goals but you do that by controlling the ball and controlling the game with possession. I know fans will enjoy the style of football we put out and I know the players will too. If you told a player that you are going to control the game, you’re going to play with the ball and you’re going to work up the field to score goals and entertain, there’s not many that would turn that down. 

Lastly, and it doesn’t have to be soccer-related, but what are you most looking forward to in Orlando?

It’s going to sound so cliché but everything. I honestly think life is about challenge. I’m going to move a young family across the world. My partner, Laura [Bassett], is used to it. She’s an ex-England international footballer. We’ve chosen to move our young family out there because, not only is there a challenge of putting out a football brand in a different country, but I’ve watched the Pride fans and the passion that they have and the way that they attend games. I’m looking forward to doing the march with them. It’s something like that, that I just couldn’t say no to. It’s a wonderful opportunity but I’m looking forward to everything. 

It will be very, very challenging but I’m sure that we can build a team that is worthy of having the Orlando Pride name.