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Ian Barker


NSCAA Director of Coaching Education

Ian Barker has been with the NSCAA as the Director of Coaching Education since 2012. Prior to his current position, he served as men’s soccer coach at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. He also has collegiate coaching experience at the University of Wisconsin, serving as an assistant coach from 1989-1996. In the eight-year span with the Badgers, Barker joined the squad in four NCAA tournament appearances. In 1995, the Badgers won both the Big Ten and NCAA National Championships.

From 1997-2007 Coach Barker served as the director of coaching and player development for the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA). As a state association, the MYSA represented over 140 clubs and 75,000 members.

Barker has served on the national instructional staff for the NSCAA, U.S. Soccer and U.S. Youth Soccer. His formal coaching qualifications come from the NSCAA, U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, the English FA, and the German DFB.

As a coach and coach educator, Barker has traveled extensively in Europe, South and Central America, and Africa.

Follow Ian on Twitter: @barkernscaa


How did you first get involved with the NSCAA?

I have been a member since the late 80s because I was a college assistant and also because I felt it important to "belong" to the coaches association as that was my chosen career. As well as attending Conventions, I took my NSCAA Premier Diploma and NSCAA Master Coach Diploma and greatly valued those experiences

Tell us about your favorite (or pivotal) NSCAA memory.

There have been many. As a member every Convention gives you a story or two, some that may not be fit for publication. As a candidate on a course I really enjoyed all the staff. Particular sessions that come to mind are a leadership lecture by Dr. Doug Williamson and field sessions on my NSCAA Premier Diploma from Schellas Hyndman and Barry Gorman. Also on the NSCAA Premier Diploma I was mentored by Mike Noonan and that was really positive.

As an employee the first time I had to do the opening session at Convention will always be memorable. Fortunately the session went well enough.

What is your favorite NSCAA course to teach and why?

I enjoy theory presentations, specially on the NSCAA Director of Coaching Diploma and I really enjoy leading field sessions on the NSCAA Premier Diploma when we work on formations and systems.

What was your favorite NSCAA course to take and why?

The NSCAA Premier Diploma was brilliant. The biggest single take away that no one told us how we had to coach, rather they shared their knowledge, insight and advice and then empowered us to apply what we learned back into our environment. The overall experience made it exciting to go back and use the new ideas at the college I was working at.

What is your favorite part about working as an NSCAA Academy Staff coach?

The favorite part is the same as a staff coach as it is for me being a coach under evaluation. That is a week of living, sleeping, eating, drinking soccer with peers and mentors. All the knowledge, debate, stress, tiredness are actually great, but the collegiality and friendships top it all and that has always been the case for me.

What does the NSCAA mean to you?

For me, the NSCAA means a community of like minded people. For sure competitive people, with diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences, but still a community in which the vast majority of people are sincere and passionate. It also means everyone is to be respected and valued. Anything which divides coaches hurts the game and the players. In my opinion none of us "too good" to help another coach.

Why is it important for a coach to advance their education?

Players deserve the best effort of the coach as getting to coach or teach people is a privilege. So the coach who stays up on the game and their coaching through formal education in diploma courses, or semi formal education like the NSCAA Convention, and most commonly informal education watching and discussing soccer will be doing their best for players.

Why is it important for a coach to get involved with the NSCAA?

I think involvement in the NSCAA can be important to a coach to remind them that they still have a lot to learn and that they are not alone in the stresses of coaching. In other words involvement with the NSCAA  I believe can center a coach and make them feel a part of something bigger.

In your opinion, what are 3-5 key characteristics of a “good coach?”

Compassion for their players
The ability to communicate
Competitive energy
Perspective, not making the highs to high and the lows to low
Understanding themselves and the context they coach within

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger coach self?

To try to have the wisdom, accumulated through experience of a 51 year old when you are 23 years old.

At a more practical level and in all seriousness, however, strive for good work-life balance. Be more aware of those around you who love you rather than obsess about the job.