Transition Plan: Vancouver Whitecaps defender Andy Rose ‘grateful’ for opportunity to juggle playing for the first team, coach U19’s

Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder/defender Andy Rose recently started his duties as assistant coach of the ‘Caps U19 team, while also juggling his responsibilities of playing for the first team. Last week, he spoke about how the adjustment to this new routine has gone so far, as he’s been very thankful to Vancouver for allowing him to embark on this unique journey for an active player. 

With a new year, often comes new responsibilities. 

For Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder/defender Andy Rose, he took that mantra quite literally at the start of 2021, as he joined the Whitecaps U19 team as an assistant coach, on top of his usual role as a first-team player. 

It’s not often that we see an active professional player start coaching at a level like that, as most players will wait until retirement before making such a move, but for Rose, he wanted to get ahead of the curve, hence why he made this decision. 

But while it was a unique decision by Rose to join the ‘Caps academy coaching staff in this manner, this felt like it was coming for a while now, as Rose completed his UEFA A coaching license last summer, giving him the second-highest level of coaching certification in Europe. Having done that so early on in his career, as he only turned 31 last month, you had to imagine that he was going to find his way into coaching sooner rather than later. 

And for him, that opportunity came this offseason. 

With his contract up for 2021, he didn’t re-sign with the ‘Caps right away, as they negotiated over the terms of his new coaching role, which now allows him to continue to play professionally on a full-time basis, while also giving him this part-time role as a coach. 

Having first come up with the idea last summer, when he spoke to then-assistant coach Vanni Sartini, who is now overseeing the ‘Caps youth set-up as the ‘Director of Methodology’, Rose was very excited to see the pieces of this plan start to come together, leading him to this point. 

“Yeah, I think it probably really started to come about when we were in Portland,” Rose told reporters last week. “I sat down for dinner with Vanni (Sartini) one night, and he was kind of going through the opportunity that he was going to be having moving into the director of methodology role, and that kind of coincided around the same time I finished up my UEFA A license. When I went over to play in the UK, I jumped on my UEFA B pretty quick and within two and a half, three years, I’d finished the UEFA A.”

“Finishing that, it was brilliant to be able to do that as a player. I think I learned a lot about the other side of the game from just being on that course, but at the end of the day, you only become a good coach by coaching. And so I’m really happy that I’ve finished that and I’ve done it, it’s kind of a necessary evil to do your courses if you want to go into this profession, you have to get those licenses if you want to coach at a high level, and that’s what I want to do.”

From there, having had the certification and the idea of being able to coach and play at the same time, he and Sartini had some encouraging discussions, allowing this to happen. 

“And now it’s a case of, alright, I want to coach, and obviously I’m really enjoying my playing career, I certainly don’t want that to end anytime soon, so if there’s a way I can combine the two, that’s perfect,” Rose continued. “And obviously, when Vanni moved into this role we had some really encouraging conversations about that.”

“So I’m very grateful to the club for allowing that to happen. I think it’s a really cool role for first-team player to be able to interact with our academy and kind of build that bridge, make sure they understand what that pathway is all about, and if I can play a big role in that, and make sure these players are coming through year after year, then I think that’s brilliant.”

But while Rose seems more than suited for a role like this, one has to wonder – how does it impact his role in the first team? 

The answer is pretty straightforward, however, as he confirmed that his role will take a backseat to his first-team duties if and when they ever conflict with each other, as his main focus, for now, remains on playing professionally. 

That’ll unfortunately mean that he’ll soon have to take a pause from coaching while the ‘Caps are down in Sandy, Utah, where they’ll likely spend the first 3 to 4 months of the MLS season due to travel restrictions with the pandemic. 

In normal times, however, he’d likely be juggling training with the first team and coaching the youngsters on the same day, as he got to do these past few months. 

“There’s no real change in my role in the first team, obviously my first and top priority is to play as big a role on the first team as possible, play as many minutes, be as good a teammate as I can, push the guys in that position as much as possible, and the competitor in me wants to play as big a role as possible,” Rose said. “So, in terms of training and what I bring to training and the intensity and the concentration and the things that I try to pass on to the whole group, none of that has changed.”

On the other hand, when he has been able to coach, he’s gone in full tilt, trying to soak up as much information as possible. It’s a new role for him, one he’s not used to, but he’s making sure to do what he can to learn as fast as he can on the fly. 

There’s so much that’s different between coaching and playing, with the main one being how you communicate, especially when you’re thrust into a role as a brand-new coach. 

Rose has never had an issue of communicating in Vancouver, as he’s always an active voice on the first team in their training sessions, but it’s still an adjustment to get used to using your voice as a coach, something he’s quickly learned. 

“Obviously, in the afternoons when I’ve been able to get out with the U19s, it’s just been learning that role because it’s so different,” Rose said. “I think a lot of players probably come towards the end of their careers and think it’s easy to just pop into coaching because they’ve been around a professional environment for so long. Obviously, that experience is massive, but it’s almost a completely different industry in how you’re able to communicate with players and planning sessions.”

But as he knows very well from his playing career, when you’re adjusting to a new role, there’s no better way to get stuck in than to put your head down and work as hard as possible, which is something he did to make sure he’d be as prepared as possible to overcome any early struggles he might have. 

“Right before we officially started our preseason, I was obviously taking on the first couple of weeks with the U19s and wanted to jump right into it,” he continued. “So I was spending hours planning sessions and wanting to be meticulous with everything and organized, because it is very different than being a player and just turning up and focusing on yourself, making sure your body’s right and going and training hard every day.”

“It’s very different when you’re suddenly focusing on 15-20 players, trying to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how you can help them as individuals and as a group. So, yeah, nothing’s really changed, it’s just more and more thinking about football, which is great.”

Rose looks on with Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola not far behind him in a 2020 clash between Canadian rivals (Keveren Guillou)

But although Rose will feel like he can bring a lot of knowledge to the U19’s already, he also knows that he’s far from being done learning about soccer, as you can never really stop learning about the sport. 

He’s got a hunger for the game and to learn more about it, as he showed last year when he was asked to convert from a defensive midfielder to a centre back, which was a transition he made seamlessly. 

You can see that hunger to learn whenever he trains, or even when he speaks to the media, as he is always comfortable diving into the details of games, so you can only imagine those attributes should help him in his coaching career now. 

As he made sure to point out, he’s far from done learning, and he’s making a point to keep on soaking up every bit of information that he can now, knowing that it’ll only help his ability to coach. 

“Yeah, definitely. I mean as a player, I think you never stop learning, you should never stop learning,” Rose pointed out. “Certainly for me, in the last couple years, kind of moving into a new position as a centre back, learning the game from that position all over again, that’s something that I’ve really really enjoyed, kind of taken in my stride. Every day I try and get better at it, and try and learn something new. Everything I learned from (head coach) Marc (Dos Santos), I’m always kind of taking those and going back on our sessions with the first team, what went well, what didn’t go well, and of course, I can pass that onto our academy players.”

“Eventually, some of these players hopefully are going to come up with the first-team and there’s a link there that I understand exactly what Marc wants our team to look like. If I can pass some of those things onto our young players, it’s only going to help them to eventually impress enough to get up to the first team, so like I said it’s busy, it’s full-on, but I absolutely love it, I’m very passionate about it, it’s what I want to do. So to be able to kind of start that now and just gain this valuable experience has really been awesome.”

But while a lot of focus will be made on Rose’s coaching career, and rightfully so, he’s not yet done writing the book on his playing career, of which he’ll add another chapter to this season. 

After having played 13 games out of 23 for the Whitecaps in 2020, he showed that he’s far from being ready to hang up the boots, as he still feels that he can play at this level. 

And to be fair, with the ‘Caps being the youngest team in MLS last year, they’ll be happy to have Rose still around in 2021. A popular leader in the locker room, Rose was a key voice for players to lean on, so he’ll be able to provide that now. 

Plus, he’s a leader in the community, as he’s been a very outspoken diabetes advocate, which is something close to his heart having been diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic 5 years ago

So although he’s already focusing on what he wants to do when it’s time to hang up the boots, he’s far from finished as a professional player. 

As he slowly nears the 300-appearance mark as a professional, he’s just making sure to enjoy every moment possible, knowing that he’s starting to get closer to the end than the beginning. 

That’s why he’s made a point of spending a good chunk of his time in Vancouver this offseason, returning 2 months early for preseason, allowing him to prepare his body for the new season while starting out in his coaching role. 

With the Whitecaps looking to build off of what was a tough but character-building 2020 season, he’s excited to see what this year offers, as he juggles his new responsibilities as a player of today and a leader of tomorrow. 

“Yeah, absolutely,” Rose said when asked about his excitement level heading into the start of this season. “I mean, I’ve been here for a while now and through January was doing workouts with a few of the guys, going through our programs with (head of physical preparation) Jon Poli and everything, so I was just so excited when the rest of the guys finally came back and we started up properly, so it’s been brilliant.”

“It’s been really enjoyable, obviously excited to meet the new players, once they’re finished their quarantine and they’re in with the group, we’re all really excited about those signings, but for the guys that have been here it has been picking up from where we left off last year which has been really important.”

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