Atlanta Silverbacks Will Not Have a Head Coach in 2014

The Atlanta Silverbacks will not have a head coach in 2014. Club Chairman Boris Jerkunica made the announcement Tuesday at the Georgia State Soccer Association (GSSA) headquarters: “We’re not going to hire a new coach. We’re actually going to eliminate that position.”

Instead, the club’s Technical Director, Eric Wynalda, will be responsible for the team in all phases, including preparation, strategy, and performance, but he’ll be doing so without the title or normal roles of a head coach.

In making the decision, the Silverbacks took a fresh look at what they wanted to accomplish and the best way to accomplish it. Jerkunica explained that the Silverbacks organization wanted to streamline their management structure, and starting asking themselves the question, “What if Eric just puts in the system and manages that?”

Team co-owner Henry Harden explained further, “The thing I like about what we’ve decided is really to keep it simple. Allowing the individual that has the passion and the vision for our system to execute it.”

Wynalda’s explained how he’ll perform his new role by going through a typical week’s schedule for the team. “You play a game, then Sunday you usually recover. Monday I will give my team off. Tuesday… we hit the weight room, trying to get stronger. Wednesday is the first time you’d have a practice that will prepare you for the weekend’s game.” Wynalda feels he doesn’t need to be there for those activities.

The plan is for Wynalda to fly into Atlanta (he lives in California) on Wednesday, and install the technical part of the game plan on Thursday. The team will train (and travel if necessary) on Friday, and play the game on Saturday. Wynalda will return to California on Sunday and start the process over again.

Wynalda’s philosophy is that communication is the key to effective team leadership. And with the technology available today, he feels it is possible to communicate effectively without being in the same city every day.

Although the team will have assistant coaches helping with the early week activities, the Silverback’s approach requires the players to take on a lot of responsibility on their own, which the team already expects of their players. “Basically what we’re asking them to do is be pros,” Wynalda explained. Boris Jerkunica added, “We’re not running an Under 16 team. Our philosophy is… if you can’t act like an adult, we don’t want you in our organization.”

This plan is certainly unconventional. But it seems to be consistent with the overall approach of the team’s front office. Jerkunica, Harden, and Wynalda all spoke about the fact that they don’t want to do something just because everyone else is doing it.

Whether talking about player evaluation, game strategy, or defending penalty kicks, the Silverbacks are trying to look at things with a fresh perspective.

Jerkunica explained, “Soccer’s been played for 100 and something years, and certain things have been done because everyone’s done it that way. What we believe is ‘question everything’. Just because everyone’s done it for 100 years, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.”

I don’t know of any professional clubs that have intentionally decided to play the entire season without a head coach. The Atlanta Sliverbacks have. With the respect this organization has earned, it cannot be dismissed as folly. The rest of the NASL, and professional soccer in the US and abroad, will be watching closely.

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