Soccer Banter: You went from playing the game to watching the game, how easy a transition is that?
Rod Underwood: It was a fairly easy transition for me because I had always watched and studied the game. I actually coached my first team when I was 16 years old, so I guess you could say I always had an eye for the game.
SB: Since you finished playing you've managed, coached and scouted, what has been the most enjoyable role?
RU: The most enjoyable for me has been managing because you have contact with the players and the club in all aspects. You have an impact in the club both on and off the field and can influence the direction that the club moves. I enjoy being on the field with the players doing training sessions and games
SB: You worked as a scout in North America for SC Cambuur, how did the job opportunity come about exactly?
RU: I had been acquaintances with Alex Pama who became the general manager of Cambuur. He and I were both directors at a youth club in Atlanta, GA. When he left to take the job with Cambur he approached me with the opportunity
SB: What's the typical working day for a club scout?
RU: My role was always to watch a lot of games (be it online, television, or live), seeing which players would fit the soccer mentality that Dutch soccer strives for. It was an ongoing process; whenever there was soccer being played, scouting for the team was in the back of my mind.
RU: There were approximately 3 that went over on trial. Due to the strict regulations of Dutch soccer, the soccer skill of the player almost had to be matched by their citizenship or their ability to gain proper traveling documents. The program was successful because it led to some players from Cambuur coming to the states to play and allowed players to go to Holland. It began to give exposure to players from other nationalities to Dutch Soccer and Cambur through some of my connections.
SB: What's the most difficult part of bringing a young guy across the ocean to a new surrounding?
RU: It depends on the age of the player, the relationship the player has with their family, how strong their aspirations are to make it as a professional player, and how a player can adapt to new cultures and playing styles. It is really different individual to individual. The key is making sure that they have a solid idea of what to expect when they get there, contacts that they can reach if they need something, and strong family support.
SB: After a player's moved over how often will you liaise with them after that?
RU: I always try to stay in contact with the player as long as they are on trial (or their representatives).
SB: When you arrive to a game/tournament how inconspicuous do you try to appear or do you make it known you're coming?
RU: I never wanted to be seen because sometimes when a player knows that you are coming to watch they put more pressure on themselves or try to play a different way. You want to see the player in their most natural environment.
SB: Do you think you get a better assessment of a player if they don't know a scout is watching?
RU: Yes, because as I said above, if a player knows you are coming sometimes they will try to change their way of playing, or they will put too much pressure on themselves.
RU: I am looking for the most well rounded player; a combination of ability, technical, and psychological. I try to project if they are playing at their best or if they have more to offer in time. I look to see in the grand scheme of things how the player will fit into the team I am scouting for.
SB: And for those maybe wanting to be the next Rod Underwood, what skills do you think are needed to be a good scout?
RU: A scout needs to have attention to detail and of course they need to have a true love of watching the game. Lastly the scout needs to be cautious but not overly so because if you are you will lose the player from not acting quick enough.
SB: Is there any advice you would give for someone looking to get into coaching, management or scouting?
RU: All of the jobs are very consuming; you have to be a self-motivated and self-driven person. You should be a student of the game, always striving to improve and learn more. The person should always strive to be active in the game, not just sitting on the sidelines. Look for ways to improve, to become a better person in the game. The person should understand that the highs and low come in big swings with the sport, it is important to not get caught up in all of those but to keep an even keel. Realize that each of those opportunities is a way to grow and to learn. This is a very competitive business so a person needs to be prepared for many different things in the business before finding a place where you feel you are using all your strengths
SB: What's next for you and what are currently doing?
RU: I am spending a lot of time with my family and helping with coaching in the local area. I am speaking in different places (colleges, school assemblies, etc) and sharing my life and soccer experiences.