Brendan Grady, a four-year starter and two-year captain for Swarthmore, returned to his alma mater in 2013 as an assistant men’s soccer coach. His responsibilities include recruiting, video analysis, tactical analysis of matches, and he assists with all other aspects of the program.
Grady is also beginning his third year as a program director with Soccer for Success, a mentorship program for youth in nearby Chester which helps children fight obesity through staying active and playing soccer. He also spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons as an assistant coach with the Widener University men’s soccer team.
Before coaching, Grady enjoyed a decorated career with the Garnet men’s soccer program between 2004 and 2007. He was named the 2007 ECAC Tournament MVP after leading Swarthmore to the team title and also earned places on the NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region and All-Centennial Conference teams, as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Team.
Grady earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Swarthmore in 2009 and his Master’s of Fine Arts in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers in 2012. He holds a USSF “B” coaching license.
Why did you decide to become a college soccer coach?
BG: As a former centerback, I was a bit of a coach on the field. I've been addicted to the game since I was a kid. Once my playing career was over, I needed a way to scratch the itch. Over the years, I’ve come to value the team-building process as one of the most valuable there is. Getting 28 players pulling in the same direction as a cohesive unit is infinitely challenging, extremely rewarding work.
Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching career? What did you learn from them?
BG: I've been lucky to have multiple influences. Coach Wagner (Swarthmore College) drove home the value of work ethic and discipline needed to reach the next level as a player and then as a coach. He’s also taught me the difference between building a team versus leading a program. My club coach, Tim Martin had a massive influence on my formation as a player, particularly how to view the game strategically -- to take away the opponent's strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses.
What are the three most important skills you try to instill in your players?
BG: 1) Collective decision-making 2) Composure on the ball 3) Willingness to take calculated risks.
What training exercises do you find yourself returning to again and again?
BG: Boxes, 5vs2, Rondos whatever you want to call them. To quote Cruyff: "everything that goes on in the match, except shooting, you can do in the rondo." I use varying rondo exercises to teach different facets of the game. I'm convinced it is the single most powerful exercise to improve decision-making and speed of
What were your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a player?
BG: My greatest strength as a centerback was anticipation. If you lined me up in a 20 meter spring against pretty much any forward, I would lose based upon speed alone. In the game, though, I tended to beat forwards to where they wanted to go and hardly put myself into a straight foot rate. Secondly, I had a knack for finding the outlet early in transition to help build the attack. On the flip side: I was short for a centerback, slow as molasses, and certainly could have improved more technically -- particularly the ability to break lines with 20-30 yard driven balls on the ground.
What is your ideal system of play? Why?
BG: I believe in matching the system and style of play to the qualities of the team. That being said, I have an affinity for the 4-4-2 diamond shape. The system requires a strong back line and #6 with outside backs who can get forward to provide width; a quality #10 who can change the rhythm of the game; two #8's who are comfortable centrally and in wide areas; and forwards with a high IQ level to coordinate their movements and recognize when to make runs into the channel.