Milwaukee native Billy Solberg had a tremendous playing career for Marquette University from 1993-1996, where he started all 87 games of his college career and earned All-League Honors all four years. In 1995, Solberg was named All-Great Lakes Region First Team, and in 1996 he was named to the NSCAA All-Midwest team.
Solberg’s coaching career began almost immediately after his graduation, and he has distinguished himself on the sidelines as much as he did between the lines as a player. Most recently, Solberg was the ECNL Director for Challenge Soccer Club in Houston, TX. Prior to that, Solberg led FC Milwaukee boys teams to 2 USYS National Finals in 2005 and 2006, losing the 2006 National Championship in a penalty shoot-out. Solberg was also the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at the University of Houston from 2001-2005.
Billy took the time to answer some questions about his playing and coaching career, with the perspective of trying to pass some experience and information on to the young players of FC Wisconsin.
You had a very successful college playing career. If you had to pick 1-2 things that helped you be successful as a player, what would they be?
"The two things that truly helped me throughout my college career were work rate and being coachable. Work rate was a constant theme in all of my playing days as I knew that it was something I could control, and something that I could do every day. I never wanted to lose my spot because of lack of work rate. I knew that, if I were fit, and worked hard on my own with technique, I would have the best opportunity to help our team. Beyond that, I tried to always be coachable. It is amazing how much you can learn and improve just by focusing, asking questions, and taking feedback. I learned an incredible amount by being willing to make adjustments, listening, and fully trusting my coaches."
Why did you start coaching, and why do you continue to coach today?
"I started coaching at a young age because I loved the game and I knew I wanted to stay involved in it when I was done playing. I continue to coach today because my passion for the game remains the same. I love to develop young players, push players outside their comfort zone and have them feel the success of reaching goals they never thought possible. That’s one of the reasons I moved back to Milwaukee - to surround myself with some of the best player development coaches in the nation who share my passion."
You have coached in the US Soccer Development Academy, the ECNL, and in Division I college soocer. What are the most important things you have seen at all of these levels that make players successful?
"Its been so educational for me as a coach to work at three different levels and ages of youth soccer. The USSDA, ECNL, and college soccer are all very different - but they each represent the highest level of soccer in the country for players in their age group. The biggest similarity between successful players at each of these levels is their work rate, not only on the field with the team, but also their work on their own - whether that be in the weight room, on the training field working on technique, or improving and maintaining fitness. All of the best players at these levels have also been coachable. They ask questions, absorb the knowledge around them, and then work at applying it right away. Those players are consistently the players who find the most success."
What is the best piece of advice you wish someone had given you as a youth player?
"Work a little bit everyday on your technique. The players that are most comfortable on the ball are those with the best technique. Those are players that have a proper first touch, can bring the ball down out of the air, pass with all surfaces ... the players who can drive a ball, chip a ball, bend a ball and place it exactly where they intend. Those players are always seen as something special. Technique is crucial to the game."
How do you think your experience in soccer, as a player or a coach, has impacted you the most?
"As a player, the teammates you have, the coaches who have impacted you, the friendships you develop, and the camaraderie with your peers and friends are irreplaceable. As a coach, its all the players you impacted that come back later in their career and are thankful for your willingness to push them hard and help them do things that they didn’t know they could do. I have been fortunate to work with a lot of players that realize the time, effort, energy and passion that great coaches put into their job. This is what helps us impact not just the soccer aspect of the players’ lives, but sometimes also a little bit of their everyday lives."