Dayton, March 14 2019 - Marco Pruis is entering his 8th year with Houston Dutch Lions FC. Since the start, Marco Pruis has been in charge of the Youth Academy and since 2012, he is also the Head Coach of the Dutch Lion FC NPSL team. We asked Marco about the development of the club and the youth academy as well as his own experience.
DLFC: What made you come to the USA at that time?
MP: Back in 2011 I travelled to South America for a month with my sister, enjoyed learning new cultures for a brief time and seeing new cities. That is when I read the article about the Dutch Lions FC needing coaches. I directly applied. My plan was to stay for one year (I came here in September 2011), which shows that certain things in life are often difficult to plan.
DLFC: How can you describe working for the Houston Dutch Lions FC? What is so special about it?
MP: Each employee works very hard in building the club, and over the years we have been fortunate to have had (and currently still have) so many quality coaches. Thanks to everyone’s effort we are now at the point of 300+ kids in the Youth Academy.
DLFC: You have been with the club since day one, how do you compare the early days to the current situation?
MP: Back in the early days we rented fields from the city, now the club owns two artificial turf fields with a club house. This has really given our club the opportunity to grow within the community. Not only did families realize we are here to stay and improve the quality of soccer, we also started offering pick up soccer and even run an Adult league on Wednesday evening. Because kids, parents and even grandparents (adult league has an over 30 division) can play soccer at the Houston Dutch Lions FC, you see families come to our fields every day. It is really great to see that soccer community, from where we were, to where we stand today (over 300 players, fields full every night of the week).
DLFC: What are the major differences in the Youth Academy looking at the development and quality of the teams compared to the initial years?
MP: Some great steps have been made (currently two teams compete in Division 1) and this has shown within the Elite & Select team (U11 and up). Overall, we have been able to make a lot of steps into the right direction through the help of local Coaches. Our combination of Dutch coaches and local coaches is a great one, the knowledge and experience each one of them brings is great to see together. The culture within the club is that when a player is good enough, we find ways to challenge this player (through training up one or two age groups) even more so that we reach their full potential.
DLFC: What are the main objectives of the Youth Academy for the coming years?
MP: Compete on a higher level with more teams. After the founding of the Super Summer League (league that runs in June & July: going into its fourth year in 2019) we really created an extra opportunity to train players for an additional two months
DLFC: The Dutch Lions FC clubs are known for the typical Dutch way of training and playing. How do you implement and safeguard that style?
MP: First, we try to create an environment where all coaches and players can benefit from. Our coaching staff currently consists of 12 coaches, a lot of them are Dutch. We have regular meetings to discuss our playing style, player development as well as team development. Official games within our club start at U7, at that age we want our players to try to build up so that the players mindset at an early age is to keep the ball on the ground and find that open teammate who can receive the ball.
DLFC: What are the major differences you see between the HDL FC Youth Academy and other clubs in the area?
MP: First, the coaches. Many surrounding clubs have volunteer Coaches, at Houston Dutch Lions FC we have many (UEFA licensed) coaches employed training “the Dutch way”. Also, we start coaching all teams at U7, so that we can give them our ideas of our way of playing early on. Besides that, there aren’t many teams in the greater Houston area with their own soccer facility, and none with two turf fields, so I would say that is a big plus as well.
DLFC: The Men’s team is taking a year off and will be back in action in 2020. The last few years you have been very successful with the Men’s team, what has changed towards the first few years?
MP: Our network of players has grown tremendously throughout the years, thankfully we have also welcomed a lot of top players who we first competed against that contacted us because they want to play for our club. The atmosphere at home games for the Dutch Lions FC NPSL team is fantastic, each home game takes up a lot of work by all our staff, but the progress has really shown. Overall our organization of each NPSL summer has improved a lot as well. We were also able to make a big step forward thanks to our partnership with CHI St. Luke’s. Having a fulltime Athletic Trainer available really helped the players and coaches.
DLFC: Looking back over the seven years with the club, what do you remember most?
MP: The Final Four weekend with our NPSL squad in Tulsa, Oklahoma back in 2016. We ended 3rd (out of 11 teams) in the regular season and faced FC Wichita on Saturday afternoon for the semi-final. In regular season we tied them 1-1, but this game everything went as we wanted with a 4-0 half time score (final score was 5-0). In the big final one day later, we faced the home team (Tulsa Athletics), and both sides really played one heck of a game. After a goal in the 86thminute by Carlos Acevedo we won with 1-2 and became the South Central Conference Champions. The party went on in the dressing room and the seven-hour bus ride home was the best one I have ever been on. Overall it was a great (but long) weekend!
DLFC: What are your personal goals for the coming years?
MP: Finding time for myself to take an USSF course is something on my list. Besides that, I will continue to do my best in improving the club so we can make another step forward as an organization. The progress we have made over the years is impressive, but I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.
We thank Marco and the whole Houston Dutch Lions FC organization for all their effort and wish him and the club a lot of success.