Rod Underwood: Coaching across the globe

Photograph courtesy of Rod Underwood

I wanted to take you back to the beginning and the start of your footballing journey. How did your journey start on your road to becoming a footballer?

Yes it is quite interesting my story is unique in being in the U.S and at my young age and at the time football was really non existent and I simply got into football because my neighbour’s father was an American football coach and at that time you had to be a certain weight requirement and I did not weigh enough.

I was too small so I could not play American football and literally the very next day I went into school and I saw a sign up on the wall that said play football so I signed up and I did not know anything about that game and I don’t think I had even seen a football at the time. It was quite interesting and even at that point there was nobody to coach so my mother (Delois Grant) stepped up to be the coach of the team.

You were assistant coach at Portland Timbers for two seasons. Given the size of the club and the progression that have made in recent years and being one of the most famous clubs in the MLS. How do you look back on your time as assistant coach of Portland Timbers?

“Portland Timbers Match” by Ryan Harvey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It was great Gavin Wilkinson who is their president now brought me to the club and I felt like we hit it off. It was a great experience and I love the Portland Timbers. They are a really important part of my past and I still have lots of friends at the club. Merritt Paulson was coming in as owner when I was at the club and over the years we have gotten to know each other.

He is a really important guy in American football and Gavin Wilkinson too in the game in America so I feel blessed and honoured to have worked there and to have been part of that organization.

I have nothing but fond memories and it sort of propelled my modern career because prior to the Portland Timbers football in the United States was at a low point and there were not many options playing nor coaching wise at that time.

The Portland Timbers provided me with an opportunity that really was a springboard to my modern day coaching and it really lead to so many positive things that has happened since then.

You managed Montego Bay United FC in Jamaica. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any memories or highlights?

“Montego Bay” by sun dazed is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Yes, For me I look back on all experiences as positive because those experiences are what shape us and mold us into the people that we are at this moment and I look back on my time at Montego Bay United FC and I enjoyed my time.

My family and I got to live in the Caribbean and enjoy the island and enjoy learning a new culture. Montego Bay United FC are one of the biggest clubs in Jamaica and they have had success in the Caribbean club championship which qualifies you for the CONCACAF Champions League and a fair number of players have moved on from Montego Bay United FC and have gone on to have positive careers in the U.S and also abroad in other parts of the world.

However, for me two experiences really stand out for me when I arrived at the club mid season and the club where in the Caribbean club championship and I had the chance to lead them out in that and that was my first match for Montego Bay United FC.

That was important and it is important not just for Jamaica but also other Caribbean countries to do well because it helps to highlight their players because a part part of such countries is that they need to move players as it creates a revenue stream for them.

My second highlight came when starting my second season we had a lot of veteran players and once you start to remake the club you go younger so to give some young players the opportunity to come into the first team from the academy was really important and some of those players have moved on and done well for themselves during their professional career.

As an experienced coach and manager what do you believe are the key traits and skills needed for football management in this day and age?

Credit: Pexels

Great question. If I can give you a quick synopsis when I got into football and coaching the kids was the next best thing to do. My university studies were in physical education and sports science and I wanted to go on to be a coach and I knew I wanted to be a coach when I was still playing.

I then stepped right into coaching after I was finished playing and I had the player mindset as a striker that was just give me the ball and I will win the game for the team, that was my mentality and as a coach you realise that football does not work like that because the players are human and they have ideas and feelings. So, I believe that in today’s modern management to be a quality manager, you have to have the tactical knowledge and technique as well as physical and physiological preparation and all the jargon that you hear today about football and management.

I believe that the key component is leadership. Everything starts and ends with quality leadership because I believe you can get away with winning a championship and that you can be a poor leader and win one championship but I don’t believe you can do what Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti or Sir Alex Ferguson can do without being a top leader and you have to be able to connect with the players that is the number one priority.

Finally Rod, You have gained good experience both at home and abroad in your career so far and you are still young. Is there anything that you would ideally like to achieve during the remainder of your coaching and managerial career?

Yes, What is really important for me is that I really want to lead a big club and I would like to potentially coach a national team and have the opportunity to lead a country into a World Cup that would be a real achievement. I also want to continue to coach at the most elite level possible.

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