Dion La Foucade is a 20+ year veteran coach who simply loves to spread the game. The18 caught up with the Trinidad and Tobago native who has traveled the world and is a true ambassador for the sport. He has coached youth programs at Liverpool F.C., Manchester United, Newcastle F.C. and F.C. Victoria-Brazil. He also has served as head coach of the U15 and U17 National Teams in his native homeland.
1. Where are you from?
I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean.
2. How old are you?
I am forty-four years of age.
3. What teams have you coached?
In the past, I've coached with youth programs at Liverpool F.C., Manchester United, Newcastle F.C. and F.C. Victoria-Brazil. I was also head coach of the U15 and U17 National Teams in Trinidad and Tobago. I also has the opportunity to serve as part of a technical study group during the 1994 World Cup.
4. How did you start playing?
I started to play soccer from the age of 4-years old all the way up until 17. I was player of the year for my high school. And then right afterwards, I tore my ACL and I couldn’t afford at that time to do a surgery, but I still wanted to stay involved in the game and somebody suggested coaching. And I said why not try some coaching and I have been coaching since I was 17.
5. What’s your signature move when you played?
I was actually really known for my defending, although I did a little bit of goalkeeping. I played a little bit as a forward, but I was really really difficult to pass as a defender. I was really good at reading forwards and all their fancy moves, and a lot of times I was anticipating what move they were going to do. And I got in and won the ball quite a few times.
6. What’s one skill you think any player needs to cultivate?
I wouldn’t just say one skill or one technique. The game is made up of different tools so it has do with receiving the ball, passing the ball, dribbling the ball, turning the ball, heading the ball. These are things that you have to do in terms of the ball manipulation. I am a firm believer in that if you can’t make the ball do what you want, then the game is much more difficult. So you have to be able to master the ball on the ground, the ball in the air, even striking the ball and shooting the ball. You’ve got to make the ball do exactly what you want.
7. Who are your soccer heroes?
Well there are many players at the higher level today who have again, as we just talked about, mastered the ball. Who have a very high level of technique. If you want to call the techniques tools, it is a matter of when to use what tool, actually having that tool in your repertoire. And also in terms of coaches, I look at the best coaches in the world: Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wegner, Louis Van Gaal, the guys that have been there. One of the things that I have picked up from them that is a little bit different from some of the lesser experienced coaches is that they leave no stone unturned. The things that the average coach would not look at, they look at and make sure is also covered.
8. What was your favorite moment of World Cup 2014?
Actually for me, it had to do with the game between Holland and Argentina. I was just so impressed with the pure tactics, both tacticians there, and in terms of how to defend properly as a team. A lot of the World Cup was based on counter attacking. So it was really about defending well and hitting teams on the break.
9. What’s your greatest moment as a coach?
For me, to be honest, the greatest moment for me as a coach is when a player comes back to me and says, 'Coach, it’s not only the things that you taught me about the game that I am grateful for, but the things that you have taught me about life.’ So I think that when the player is on our charge, can we still teach them about the things of life? They are only going to play for a relatively short period of time if you look at a lifespan and it’s about the things that we can help them learn about life when they come on the soccer field.
10. What’s your worst moment on the pitch?
Oh, your worst moment as a coach is always losing. And you’re getting the blame. Sometimes you have no control of what the players are doing on the field, so sometimes when the fans come down on you and the team has lost, you have to take that as the coach, and sometimes it’s not your full responsibility.
11. How do you get past bad moments like this?
Well you just have to know that what you’re doing is the right thing as the coach and believe in your philosophy. Coaches must have a philosophy. If you don’t have a philosophy you can’t show what it is that you are going after. Once you have a sound philosophy that is tried, proven, and scientific you just have to believe in it.
12. What’s the “ultimate soccer experience” you’d like to have?
One of the best experiences that I had was at the 1994 World Cup. I was a guest with the technical study group and watching the best coaches in the world, analyzing the best players in the world, and it really opened my eyes up to what really happens on the field. So you are not really looking at the game as a fan, but looking at the game as a technician and looking into the game and seeing the things that make the game so varied in terms of different styles, different philosophies and watching top coaches using their strategy against each other and seeing what works.
13. What music do you listen to before a big game?
For me, because of my belief in God, I like gospel music. To me it is very inspiring and stuff so I like my gospel music.
14. What soccer or coaching talent would you most like to have?
The ability to look and to identify extremely quickly how to correct a player's particular weakness. Because when a bunch of players come to us they are going to have different strengths and weaknesses. We can’t give everyone the same medicine so to speak. So we have to do a proper diagnosis and say ‘this is what this player needs,’ whether it’s confidence, whether it’s technique, whether it’s to be a better tactician or whether it’s to work with him mentally. To diagnose who needs what.
15. What do you most value in your teammates?
Well, there’s a saying that I use, ‘the less that you think in terms of me, it should be about we. Not me.’ So the players that come and it’s about them, that tends not to work well. When you come and try to make the player next to you the best that you can, that is one of the best qualities to have. Try to make the player next to you look as good as you can. It’s not about you, it’s for the team.
16. What advice would you give to someone new to soccer?
When you are completely new to soccer you have to be very careful. That could be for parents or a player who is making the decision. Be very careful of what environment you put yourself under. You don’t want to put yourself under a coach or an organization that has winning before development. Then it is going to become very frustrating. So look for the environment where you are able to develop technique, you are allowed to develop creativity and then know how to apply that within a game.
17. What sports and activities do you enjoy off the pitch?
I like to hike a little bit sometimes. I like to play table tennis, and just hanging out with friends. Because there are times, to be honest, that I do not want to see a soccer ball because I am so engrossed in it. But just enjoying life, listening to music, and watching different television shows. Just things that take your mind off of the game but still keeps you lively and enjoying life at the same time. And actually traveling and seeing many different places.
18. Where will we see you in 5 years?
I am hoping, as a young coach, to be at the highest level possible. So if it is not with a World Cup team, a top club team, and really being around top players and top coaches where you are constantly being challenged to improve and become better.