Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls II
HARRISON, N.J. – Since becoming the Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls II ahead of the club’s inaugural season in the USL, John Wolyniec has had a simple message for the players charged to him.
“My dad always used to say to me when I was going to school that it’s not so important what you learn, it’s that you’re learning to learn, and I feel like that’s my Job 1,” Wolyniec said. “It’s my job to tell these guys, ‘hey, listen. I’m a coach. I only have so much time and so many words that you’re going to hear from me. The rest of the time it’s on you.’”
His charges have taken heed. After a season that saw the Red Bulls II set a number of USL regular-season records, the ownership of the team has been concentrated just as much among the players as it has Wolyniec and his staff. For the 2016 USL Coach of the Year, that’s exactly how it should be.
“I’ve always tried to do a good job of giving credit to the players, because they deserve it,” Wolyniec said. “They put a lot into it. Some of it’s the style of play – you can’t play our style without putting a ton in – but they’ve embraced that and learned it, and been able to gain so much out of every day we come to work. They can’t help but take it over in certain ways with the amount they put in.”
Having started his professional career with the Long Island Rough Riders in the USL’s A-League before going on to become a club legend with the Red Bulls, Wolyniec had the knowledge through his own experiences of what it took to make it into the top flight. As an Academy coach and MLS assistant at the club prior to leading the Red Bulls II, he’s passing those on to the next generation of Red Bulls players.
Additionally, his approach of using more one-on-one meetings than team meetings is allowing players to find paths to success on their own. That resulted in a Red Bulls II this season that lost only three times, and took a record 21 victories.
“I feel like it’s my job to not only tell the player to work extra time, but to make sure they understand here’s where you should do it, here’s how you should do it, come with ideas, or come to me with an idea of an exercise you want to work on,” Wolyniec said. “I might change it a little bit, or add to it a little bit, but that’s something you did, I’m just there guiding, and now the player’s thinking about it, which is a huge thing. Making sure when they’re away from here they’re thinking about how I’m going to get better tomorrow, today, the next day, but they also take ownership in it, they start to build.”
Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls II
The approach has paid off, handsomely. With a core of talented youngsters leading the way, the Red Bulls II swept to the USL Regular Season Championship behind a league-record 13 road wins, 61 goals scored and 69 points.
“He goes out there, and he understands that when we go out there, he’s more of a guide to push us,” said standout midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. “He says he wants this to be our team, and that’s something [Red Bulls Coach] Jesse [Marsch] says as well. We go out there, we’re on the field, he just puts the pieces in place and we bring it to life. That’s one of the best things, that he puts the team in our hands and he allows us to go and play the way we need to play.”
With new players emerging over the course of this season, like Academy signings Noah Powder and Kevin O’Toole to name but two, the Red Bulls II appear poised for continued success with Wolyniec at the helm.
“For me it’s great,” Wolyniec said. “I feel like I’m really in a spot where I can use the tools that I have as a person or a coach and give these guys as much as I possibly can to help them make that progression.
“I also feel like I have a nice, even-keel personality that allows me to be both honest with players, but at the same time encouraging of players. I try and work all that in, and I feel like I tick off a lot of the boxes that you would want in a coach that says, ‘all right, I’m going to take this player from A, to B, to C.’ I enjoy it, and anything you enjoy doing you go at it with passion and hard work, and usually you’re successful.”