Tuesday, October 29, 2013
A W-League veteran as a player, Cindy Walsh wore the Laval Comets colors as a player from 2006-10, as well as in 2012 when she was named to the W-League All-League Team and won the Defender of the Year award. She played in the W-League for 12 years on four different teams, the Laval Dynamites, the Toronto Inferno, the Western Mass Pioneers and the Comets.
Named head coach of the Comets prior to the 2013 season, Walsh promptly directed Laval to its first conference championship and spot at the W-League final four, with the team falling short in the 2013 championship game.
How did your involvement with the W-League begin?
CW: I started playing in the W-League in the summer of 2001, after my freshman year in the US. I wanted to play at a higher level and it was also encouraged by the national team coach at the time. After I retired from playing in 2012, the step up to coaching the team was a natural decision for me, since I already work in coaching soccer.
How beneficial can playing in the W-League be for elite college players, and those who want to play professionally?
CW: It definitely opens doors for them. It gives them exposure to pro team coaches that follow the league, and even helps players trying to get a shot with their national teams.
Why is the W-League important in the North American women’s soccer landscape?
CW: It’s a bridge between the young players in development and the professional leagues, and is a great melting pot of cultures, styles of play and quality players. It’s especially important for those university/high school players looking for a quality league to keep their game up while they aren’t training with their program. The college coaches are relieved that their players are still playing at the top of their game. Pro teams can always invite someone to play with them because they know the quality of the W-League is good enough to make the step up.
Overall, how do you feel the level of competition is?
CW: I feel that since the pro league opened back up there are less “star power” teams out there blowing other teams out of the water, and it levels the playing field. It gives new players coming in a sense of belonging and a chance to prove themselves and it keeps the competition healthy between rivals since there are no guarantees of who is going to win it all.
What level of player are you looking for while building your roster?
CW: Obviously, a player with international experience and someone that can handle big pressure situations. I like great practice players but they have to be able to step up when the time comes, especially in our division, where every game counts and you’re counting on them in those last crucial 15 minutes of the game.
Which team do you consider to be your toughest opponent?
CW: Ottawa has always produced a solid international lineup every season and has some strong individual players, but our toughest opponent last season was Toronto, with some great young players that have great feet and speed. Our blood-and-guts rivalry with Quebec is always strong, and we can never assume anything with them.
What’s your top W-League memory?
CW: Last season’s conference win in penalty kicks vs. Ottawa to clinch our first-ever birth in the W-League Finals. We finished first in the conference in regular season play, which was a franchise first as well. That, and unfortunately, my own goal in the W-League final vs. Pali. That memory will be forever burned in my brain!
If you could pick any player to build your 2014 roster around, who would it be?
CW: Geneviève Richard, our goalkeeper and one of the leaders of the team. She stepped up big time this past season and showed everyone why she deserved to be named W-League Goalkeeper of the Year.
What encouraged you to pursue coaching as a career?
CW: I started working soccer camps when I was 15; I loved teaching kids how to do different things and later on went back to it full time in 2006 after returning back from the U.S. I was working in sporting events at the time but it was an itch that I couldn’t get rid of, so I came back to Canada and started pursuing my coaching licenses. Now I coach full time with kids and love it. I’ve coached at the club, regional, provincial and even national level, and I’m constantly learning new things.
What differences do you see with soccer in general and player commitment/focus/goals today compared to when you started coaching?
CW: Too many players are obsessed with soccer and not focusing on the right things. Twelve months of soccer, seven days a week, is now the norm in order to reach the highest level, which I think is ridiculous. I see a lot more players suffering long-term injuries and burnout than ever before. We used to have more athletes that played soccer but there are less of them now. Players have more opportunities to go outside of their region or country because there is more exposure to other leagues, which can richen their playing and personal careers.
Who has been your biggest coaching mentor?
CW: My biggest coaching mentor is one of my closest friends and first elite soccer coach, Alexandre Da Rocha. He taught me early on that you can be demanding of your players but you have to be passionate about what you do as well. He has built so many different-level programs from the ground up, and I can honestly say that he is an inspiration to me and many others in the soccer world. I would love to coach a W-League team with him.