The GO! Learn Howe series is found within the Coaching Survival section of GO! It contains a variety of writings from Bobby Howe’s 50+ years in soccer. This is an introduction and overview of his career and experience in the game. It is based on a 2006 introduction written by journalist Stanley Holmes when Bobby returned to Seattle, Washington to become a Director of Coaching at a youth club. Revisions have been made with permission from Stanley Holmes.
When West Ham United hotshot Bobby Howe first arrived to coach and play for the Seattle Sounders in 1976, nobody in the Puget Sound region knew who he was. It didn’t take long for fans to get to know the affable player-coach, a former midfield maestro for one of England’s top-flight Premiership teams.
After the North American Soccer League collapsed, Howe became a popular coach and a fixture in the Seattle area, spreading the word of soccer to anyone who would listen. Howe is one of the original Sounders – along with coaches Alan Hinton and Jimmy Gabriel – who helped to popularize youth soccer in the Northwest and raise the standard of play.
Howe’s influence has been felt across the state. He left the Sounders to become the coaching director for the Washington State Youth Soccer Association. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, he championed the move to small-sided games which has been instrumental in raising the quality of play across the state. He also helped train many of this state’s top youth, college, and professional coaches. “He’s had a tremendous influence on coaching within Washington state,” says Dave Schumacher, former director of coaching for Washington State Youth Soccer Association. “One of the things Bobby will do is take the current coaches and make them better. Most coaching directors don’t necessarily do that. They hire the coaches and leave them alone.”
Years later, after coaching the US under-20 men’s national team, serving as the Director of Coaching for US Soccer, and coaching the Portland Timbers of the A-League, Howe returned to his adopted state in 2005 as the coaching director for Emerald City Football Club.
Howe believes clubs and associations should seriously consider how they can create a stronger competitive playing environments that focus on the player – not the coach or the parent. “We’re all there for the development of players and developing them for the next level,” Howe says. “Whatever level that might be.” He promotes in creating clear and appropriate levels of competition for players at all levels to ensure players of equal ability compete against each other in an effort to maximize their potential for growth. In addition, he also believes that the primary responsibility of developing players lies with clubs, not states or associations. Howe’s fundamental goal continues to be focusing on the player and making him/her better.
“I believe the responsibility of youth development rests with the clubs,” Howe says.
“It’s a responsibility we must take very seriously.”
Howe stresses that it’s very important for coaches and parents to realize that soccer is a “player’s game.” And whenever coaches or parents make a decision about a player or their child, “we have to ask ourselves ‘what is best for the player’,” Howe says. “That’s really important.”
If there is anyone who can bring some fresh ideas to improving the soccer experience here in the US, it is the affable Englishman from Essex. Howe learned how to play the beautiful game on a vacant grass field near his home. Later, as a teenager, scouts from West Ham United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Southampton all had their eyes on him. He signed with West Ham and played for legendary coach Ron Greenwood, who was a big believer in skill-based training. He made his debut for the first team, at 21, against Coventry in 1968.
Howe finished his playing career with the Seattle Sounders, but he really never stopped playing or coaching. He went on to author several books and videos on coaching younger players. He helped create the curricula for the state and national coach licensing program and was the Director of Coaching director for the United States Soccer Federation for four years. He understands American soccer about as well as anyone in this country.
We are honored to have him as an expert contributor to GO!