Quinn Khouri, Program Director at Thunder SC was interviewed for the first MSYSA Coach Spotlight. Quinn has been with the club since 2016, after finishing up his playing career with Centenary University in New Jersey. He grew up playing with Freedom Soccer Club and is an alumnus of the Maryland ODP. Quinn is currently a social studies teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School where he also serves as the head soccer coach for the Boys Varsity team in addition to coaching three teams at Thunder SC: 2011/12 Girls Dynamo, 2010 Girls Stars, and 2004 Boys River Plate. Quinn is regarded highly within the Thunder SC soccer community, so we are excited to connect with him!
Why did you start coaching?
I grew up playing soccer for my dad, and he always taught me to give back to the game. Soccer always gave me joy and happiness, so it has been my goal to share that with younger kids. After playing in college, Stefan gave me the opportunity to coach with Thunder SC, and I haven’t looked back.
What or who were/are your major coaching influences?
My dad was a huge influence on my coaching career, as were the club and ODP coaches that I had along the way, but Stefan was my main influence. He has so much knowledge and insights on the game; he sees it in a completely different light.
In my first year at Thunder, I worked directly with Stefan and his teams. This is where I gained an unbelievable amount of knowledge. Stefan has so much experience as a player and coach at the highest level; he is a phenomenal mentor and influencer.
Growing up as a Barcelona fan, Pep Guardiola was also a major influence in the way that I want my teams to play stylistically.
You mentioned Pep Guardiola’s influence on your style, what specific philosophies and tactics do you then implement within your teams?
I try to implement possession within my teams' style of play. It is the best way to teach your players the game because you must rely on every player on the field. Each player is a piece of the puzzle. You will have pieces that are bigger than others, but you need every piece to complete it.
Teaching possession is great for younger age groups because it teaches a team-first philosophy. It also teaches them to be patient in their play and not always having to go forward.
What are the top skills and/or key qualities you look for in a player?
When I’m looking at players, I look at their technique and creative capabilities. A player’s dribbling, passing, and ability to complete skill moves can overcome a lack of physical qualities. Younger players can’t control their physical attributes, but they can always work on their technical ability.
Players will eventually grow and get faster, but they need to continually work on their technique, or else they will only get so far.
I want players that can play soccer like chess, always be two moves ahead in the game, and can think creatively in the future. I want to see how they can adjust their game to their opponent.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
It is all about the little victories and when your players finally get what you have been trying to implement in practice. It’s so rewarding seeing the team play effectively within your system, when a player uses a certain technique or skill they have been working on, or when your team has been struggling to play out of the back all season, finally being able to succeed at it.
These experiences are more enjoyable than winning trophies!
What’s your coaching philosophy?
The idea of implementing a team-first environment, playing for the people around you rather than for yourself. When my players show up to practice, everything they do is to make the team better. This embodies what Thunder SC is all about - creating a community and family within the game.
In addition to creating a strong family environment, I also want to teach my players about life. Every aspect of playing a team sport is transferable to many facets of life, such as community and working together to achieve a goal.
What's the best piece of advice you give to your players?
Be understanding that no one player is bigger than the team. In all sports in America, there is a superstar mentality, but to be successful in soccer, you need the help of the other 10 players.
Also, sacrifice the player’s wants and goals to instead focus on bringing the rest of the team with them.
Best moments as a coach so far?
Tournament wins are great, but it is far more important to impact the kids' lives off the field. My worst and toughest experience as a coach was having one of my players pass away, but the whole response around the situation became the best experience. The way I saw the team come together and look after the family was incredible. You could see how much the team meant to everyone. It was the most heartbreaking, but it was most fulfilling to see how much it meant to those kids. In the darkest times, light really does shine the brightest.
How do you measure or define success as a coach at the end of each season?
I have three teams, so success looks very different to all of them. My high school-aged boys' team is more focused on results, while my younger girls' teams are focused on learning the game.
The main determinant of success for me is at any point during the season... Did my players give up? Did they stop enjoying coming to practice? Even though we may have lost every game or struggled to score goals, do they still want to come to practice, games, and want to put on that uniform?
Get your players to love the game then you can push them more. When players are not having fun with the game, you can lose some of your best players.
What advice would you give to new coaches?
Listen to your players, get them to love playing the game, whether they are 10 years old or 18 years old. Ask them what they want from their experience, then you can adjust your coaching style to cater to the players you possess.
What is your coaching dream?
I am exactly where I want to be right now, working for a great organization and family that values the community that we serve. It matches up with my values. I also teach in high school and coach varsity soccer, so I want to see players continue to achieve their goals, whatever they may be. I want to continue to grow and get better for my players.
I’m so happy with my situation right now, I am living the dream.