Jesse Marsch is working on a project, one that has well publicized in his three years with the New York Red Bulls. It requires a focus on youth development, taking talented but inexperienced players moving from being prospects to becoming important to the core of the senior team. However, players, like Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, are not the only ones in the midst of developing their skills.
“A big part of what we do here is challenging everybody to grow, to be better as people [and] as players,” Marsch said at the team’s end of season media event on Wednesday.
The head coach is also challenging himself, mimicking the development of his players by growing as a coach.
Part of his personal development involves getting his UEFA Pro License, with the process ending next fall, and U.S. Soccer Pro License, that course ending on Dec. 16. It something he received a lot of attention for over the summer, as have his visits to Leipzig and Salzburg last winter.
“I’m focused on doing the best job I can for this club, and that includes trying to get the best version of myself,” Marsch said. “That includes trying to get the best version of myself, and [continuing] to figure out ways to get better and learn and grow.”
He has the support and help of his employers.
“I have a club that’s even more committed to doing that for me and with me than maybe I am myself,” he says.
Thanks to his connections at Red Bull, he will be in Leipzig again this offseason, learning from the likes of Ralf Rangnick and Oliver Mintzlaff, two of the men responsible for RB Leipzig’s instant success in the Bundesliga.
That, though, is not the only way Marsch has changed as a coach this year. Right after the team’s elimination from the MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday.
“I learned more about myself and who I am as a person and who I am as a coach this year than any year I’ve ever coached,” Marsch said.
He has gotten more flexible, moving from a 4-2-2-2 to start the season and eventually opting for a shape with three defenders. He even flipped the script in the team’s last game of the season, going back to four defenders after months of playing with three.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we would have played three in the back, I never would have thought we would try to employ that,” he said. “The fact that we became creative and challenged ourselves to think more carefully, I think helped us find some answers and unlock certain things.”
“That’s everything from a tactical perspective, to a teaching perspective, to mentoring and leadership perspective,” he said. “I can say, for me, I’ve learned being here, it’s so much more than just me.”
He cited the regular season loss to New York City FC in June, when the team lost 2-0 at home, the first time they had lost to their rivals at Red Bull Arena. The loss took place at the end of a week in which Marsch was in Europe instead of in New Jersey preparing the team for the match, taking part in his UEFA Pro License course instead.
“I got too introspective [and] I got too on top of myself,” he said. “I had to release a little bit and invest in people around me, invest in the team and the players and invest in my relationships with everyone in the organization.”
Marsch caught a bit of flack for leaving his team the week of an important rivalry match, which he understands five months later.
“In theory … by spreading my time out in certain moments, I’m not able to commit myself fully to the moment of being here at the New York Red Bulls,” he said. “For me to be the best version of myself … I think it’s key for me to continue to challenge myself, to grow and get better, so this is what I’m committed to.”
Marsch said he’s gotten more philosophical over the last year.
“That’s truly, what I think I have become, as a leader, is somebody that tries to really look carefully at what we do and how we do it,” he said.
“That’s the key, in life … is not to just define yourself in one way and to continue to think of how to grow and get better.”