Matt Mittelstaedt, Director of Coaching - Girls at Virginia Rush is a seasoned pro within the Rush organization. Having been part of Rush since June 2007 both at Arkansas Rush and now at Virginia Rush, Matt is also a Rush Regional Technical Director. Tasked with helping clubs on the East Coast grow as organizations 'The Rush Way'. In 2014, Matt was the lead coach for the U13 Rush Select boys team who traveled to Italy and became the most succesful US based team in the history of the tournament. Recently, Colorado Rush DA player Kevin Peterson, who played for Matt in Italy, had the chance to interview Matt about Rush, his favorite clubs and more.
Kevin Peterson: What drew you to Rush? What sets our club aside from others in your opinion?
Matt Mittelstaedt: “What drew me to Rush was reading about the coaching opportunities. There is not any other club in the world that lets me work from Virginia and work with kids from Colorado like yourself and kids from Arizona and Alaska. That was what really drew me to Rush. This helped to better myself as a coach. To be honest with you, that is what sets our club apart; the coaching opportunities for us and the playing opportunities for you. Being able to travel around the world to play soccer is a pretty big thing.”
Having coached many players from several different states, what do you think makes a good player?
“There is really just one major thread that we noticed. The work ethic in training. You can’t replace that. You can be a good player in the game, but you can’t replace that in training.”
Tell me about your career as a player. How do these experiences affect the way that you coach now?
“I played in college and then went after college and was lucky enough to play in some reserve professional leagues. This helps me as a coach, to really be honest with you, by what I learned along the way. Not only what I did right, but what I did wrong. What I missed as a player made me realize that I don’t want the players that I work with to miss out on the same opportunities that I did. Did I work hard enough in practice every day? No. So I have to make sure the players that I work with do and they understand that.
How do you choose the destinations for international trips and form the relationships for teams to take part in these once in a lifetime tournaments?
“The destinations that we choose are based on the relationships that we form with people. Like how we got to go to Italy last year. We had a great relationship with a guy who runs Connecticut Rush (John Salvatore). He is best friends with a guy who works in Italy and helped us out with that trip. We went over to check it out before and it was everything that we needed it to be. So it is one of our trips and it is one of our partnerships that the boys U13 will always go to. Which I think has helped you boys a lot.”
What is the process to plan trips both internationally and domestically?
“The process is definitely balance. Because we have to make sure that you guys are taken care of. So it’s a lot to do with the schedules of the club since we try not to interfere with big events, the cost of the event, and just the partnerships that we have with these people. Do we want to continue our relationships with these people? Is it a bad time of the year? Are we going to have our best kids? A lot of those things go in. Which works great for the Italy trip because it was during Easter, with most of you guys on spring break, a good time to get away. It worked out great.”
The infamous Barcelona- Real Madrid rivalry. Who do you support?
“I’ve been a Real Madrid fan since I was a little boy, so I will always be a fan. We were actually lucky enough to see the El Classico, me and some of the other Rush staff. Unfortunately the bad guys won 4-3, but I got to see Messi score a hat trick which is pretty cool.”
Is there a professional team or club that you strive to model your own teams after?
“I don’t think that there is one club that we really strive after. There are many clubs that we steal ideas from. I have been lucky enough to visit Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, a couple clubs in Italy, AC Milan. We have taken a piece from each one of them to see what would really help you guys back at home. So it isn’t really one single club, it is just taking bits and pieces to bring back to our club.”
Are you currently playing soccer in addition to your coaching position?
“I do. I still play. I play indoor and outdoor in adult leagues. Even sometimes if I don’t have a session back at home, I will jump into somebody’s session and just play. I like to play with the 16 boys.”
Name some players that have made an impact in the evolution of the beautiful game. Why?
“I would start with Messi for sure. How he impacted the game? Enjoyment, one of our core values. I believe he just enjoys what he does. He enjoys waking up and getting on the field. He enjoys playing the games, enjoys training. He plays with enjoyment, one of our core values for sure. I am a big fan of Zidane and thought he really changed the game through tenacity. He was getting into a few things after the play once in a while, but you knew you were always going to get his best effort and he would give everything that he had. Sometimes he went a little too far, but that’s ok. For passion, to be honest with you, I would go with Henry who is with the Red Bulls now because just the fact that he is not going to retire. He keeps playing. I mean… a great career. He has changed the game a lot. He helped bring it over to the MLS for sure, but also his games at Arsenal, his youth at Juventus, it’s the passion that he has to get up every day and keep playing no matter what and give his all. It’s huge to me.”