EL PASO, Texas – When one first meets Colin Herlinger, it’s effortless to fall into a conversation with him. He walks around with a smile on his face and looks to make others laugh, mostly at him and his own experiences. Yet, as conversations deepen, it becomes clear that Herlinger is a compassionate and honest man intent on making lasting impact in the local youth soccer landscape.
It’s been a little over a year since Herlinger arrived in El Paso to take over as the Director of Youth Soccer for El Paso Locomotive FC and what he’s managed to accomplish since arriving is impressive. He helped establish a Technical Academy in the Westside (with intentions to grow into the Eastside), provided a hand in the expansion of the Lil’ Locos program and has continued the growth of Locomotive Youth Club teams and programs, with over 500 youth players participating.
“I brought in my experience and knowledge from different clubs to expand our foundation,” Herlinger said. “El Paso has a large pool of hidden talent and passion, so I’ve focused on growing our club to tap into that pool and expand it via the programs we run.”
How does he do so? Herlinger clarifies that his approach is all about creating autonomy within his coaching staff, programs and teams. This allows him to have his hand in all things while simultaneously providing each with a sense of freedom from external control, allowing Herlinger to observe the way his staff and players interact with each other and providing insight afterwards on how things can be improved.
This goes a long way on the pitch when kids begin to transition from playing soccer for fun to playing competitively. At Locomotive, it is encouraged that coaches and staff adopt a “player-centric” mindset, in which they create environments where players are challenged to find solutions on their own without heavy reliance on their coach.
As Herlinger states, he and his coaches aim to avoid “joy sticking,” a term used to reference someone who directly controls the actions of players on the field. The Locomotive approach is different than what most are familiar with in coaching, which is usually that of a coach screaming at their players what they need to be doing and moving them around constantly.
“Typically, the coach thinks they are positively influencing a player because they know more, yet it becomes so detrimental that the kid can no longer decide on their own without the coach telling them what to do,” he said about the negative effects of a traditional coaching style. “Our younger generation is changing in what it needs. Training sessions, in my opinion, are the time to coach the child, change things tactically and physically. The game is the place for the kids to show what they’ve learned. To observe and see the perspective of a player on their own can be extremely helpful in their development.”
His ability to execute this approach comes with years oof coaching education and experience. As the highest licensed coach in Locomotive Youth Soccer and Programs, Herlinger can testify to the importance of coaches being licensed. With each license Herlinger acquired along the way to his "A” Senior License from the U.S. Soccer Federation, his appreciation for soccer education grew and he believes it made him a much more effective coach.
Hence, one of his goals for the year includes working to get all Locomotive youth coaches licensed with a USSF grassroots license, to further develop what they can offer to children in their development.
Herlinger acknowledges the impact he and his coaches have when they greet the kids every day. Often, a teacher or coach will spend more time interacting with a child than their parents, which means they can be a powerful influence in helping a child see more of their own potential and shaping their way of behavior.
Additionally, soccer is used by some to escape the struggles of everyday life and Herlinger wants to make sure that each time a child comes out to a Locomotive team or program, they get the best experience possible.
“You build trust with kids when you have meaningful interactions and conversations with them,” he said. “They enjoy you as a coach and as a person. Eventually, you’ll have conversations with them about their struggles and to make a better soccer player, you’ve got to help them with their struggles. It’s part of the reason I coach, to provide kids with the best experiences.”
MORE ABOUT COLIN HERLINGER
Alongside being the Director of Youth Soccer and Programs, Herlinger is also the head coach for the Academy’s U15 Boys.
He has coached for 12 years, which includes two years at the professional level in the USL Championship.
Herlinger has a Master’s in Recreation Development and Sport Sciences from Ohio University.