When you are driven by passion, a 20-year career feels like no time at all.
Phil Griffiths, Philadelphia Union’s new Youth Director of Coaching, started coaching as a 18-year old in Reading – England, not Pennsylvania – working part time in Reading FC’s Community Trust whilst also working part time in a sports store before being offered a full time position within the Trust. He immediately knew his future lay with the sport he loved and after stints with Reading FC and recently Penn Fusion, Griffiths has reached his dream of working with a MLS club to develop a new generation of young talent.
“Phil brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our Youth Department and will be an excellent addition to our Professional staff,” Union Youth General Manager David Pettican said. “In his role as Union Youth Director of Coaching he will be responsible for overseeing many key areas such as our MLS affiliation program, coach education and the highly acclaimed Player Pathway Program (PPP). He will work closely with our Technical Director Anthony Flores to continue to deliver the nationally-renowned Union Academy curriculum to the youth soccer community in our region. Phil’s forward-thinking ideas align perfectly with other like-minded professionals on the Union Youth staff and we are very fortunate and excited to have him on board.”
Griffiths has spent the past three years as the Zone 1 Boys Director for Penn Fusion Soccer Academy in West Chester, PA so he knows Philly soccer and the attitude its players bring to the sport. Before crossing the pond to join Global Premier Soccer out of New Jersey and then Penn Fusion, Griffiths worked in Reading FC’s Community Trust and Academy – a role that taught him how to draw on the love young players have for the game and turn it into something that helps them reach their dreams.
Working in the MLS has been Griffiths’ personal goal since he came to the US, and these past eight years he has interacted with the Union and come to understand the club’s philosophy around youth development and how it aligns with his own.
“Being in the MLS and working for such a fantastic organization, having spent 11 years with a pro club back home, it was always my goal,’ Griffiths said. “The Union are certainly one of the leading franchises for what they do both on and off the field. I’m really fortunate to have this opportunity to continue the excellent work that has been done here to date and really hope to drive the game forward.”
The culture that persists at all levels of the Union was a big contributor to his desire to work with the club. “The level of professionalism of the organization is first class,” he continued. “That culture of high standards, expectations, excellence. Everything that we do really reflects the brand.”
Griffiths is particularly excited for the opportunity to work with a wide spectrum of coaches and players. He knows how innovative the Union has strived to be with their academy system and looks forward to becoming a more creative coach as he trades information with some of the best and brightest in America’s coaching community.
Innovation is more than a buzzword for Griffiths, and it lies at the heart of his decision to join the Union. “Soccer is a game where if you stand still you get left behind,” he says honestly. “The only way to continue to be a leader and drive these programs forward is by driving that innovation. One thing I really like about the Philadelphia Union brand is that core value, that culture of no idea is a bad idea. The ‘try it and let’s see what works, what can we do to be the best that we can be.’ mentality will help me as an individual to grow.”
“How can we be the best in class?” Griffiths asks passionately. “Whatever you do, how you can be the best in what you do. If you just do camps, how can you be the best in class at camp? The same can be asked in programs, affiliate clubs, and the whole organization.”
Griffiths’ primary goal will to be building upon and aligning with the fantastic work done through the Union’s Player Pathway Program that seeks to streamline young players’ path to the professional ranks.
Knowing the Philly region’s wealth of talent, though, Griffiths won’t stop there. There is a hope to create a girls provision and build a more robust affiliate club program to ensure local club partners benefit from the knowledge and opportunities the Union Youth Programs are developing.
Knowing that the fruits of his labors could have a direct impact on the future teams that will take the field for the Union is an exciting prospect for Griffiths. “You have to look at it holistically,” he explained. “From the player, from the family, from the experience of the club. We have to look at the individual and what is best for them. How can we tie in the Union’s philosophy and the soccer to continue growing the game here. If you can nurture the next generation of soccer players and coaches then it’s only going to drive the game forward. Hopefully one day we see the fruit of our labor going on to see these players as a Philadelphia Union player.
“There are so many diamonds in the rough that are out there,” he continued. “It is a case of finding them polishing them up, getting them through our program, develop, educate and nurture them. Not just to be good players but to be good people. People that we want to have at the Philadelphia Union.
“The wider we can extend our net and work closely with local clubs across the tristate area the more diamonds in the rough we can uncover.”
Phil Griffiths will take the reins in his new role as the Youth Director of Coaching on April 1st. Expect him to continue driving the Union pillars of excellence at the youth level and to see his forward-thinking expertise push the program to new heights.