Talk with Chris Sharpe for just a few minutes and his enthusiasm, dedication, and sheer love for what he does is apparent. As far as exactly what that is takes a bit longer, but one part comes out if you pay attention to the Rapids sideline prior to the match, or before a substitution is made for Colorado, where you’ll notice the Goalkeeper Coach going through pages in his trusty folder with the players. Sharpe is extremely thorough in his thought process and how he delivers his message to the players on what some might see as a small part of a gameplan. However, listening to Chris explain his approach, you realize the importance of paying attention to every detail the way “Sharpie” does.
“My primary role is the set pieces, so I have daily organization of set pieces both defending and attacking. When we make substitutions, there’s a lot of change in the set-piece setup,” Chris tells The Voice of C38. “So, that’s what my folder is: all those set-pieces and have everybody where they’re supposed to be and I’m just moving around those pieces to make sure it fits. There’s always moving pieces with a substitution so I’ve got to make sure those guys know exactly what they’re doing, where they’re going, if they have to move anybody else in the system because sometimes you bring on a small number 10 for a big number 9 so it changes the outlook drastically.”
Many fans probably think defending set-pieces is nothing more than staying with the nearest man like a game of playground shirts and skins basketball-they would be wrong according to the detail-oriented Sharpe. “I’ve been doing that since day one, but when you look at it holistically a lot of set-piece goals are given up in the last 15-20 min of games because there’s substitutions made. For me, I don’t want to be giving up goals in the last 15 minutes but hopefully we can be adding them and scoring them. It’s a constant verbal reminder, constant queue, and you’ve got to think ahead because you know there’s going to be more substitutions so I’m not moving that person again. In defending set-pieces the last few years we’ve been one of the best teams in the league so I take great pride in that.“
Along with another ex-Rapids player Conor Casey, Sharpe was retained from the previous staff upon Hudson’s appointment at the beginning of 2018. They along with Darren Bazeley, Neil Emblen, and analyst Jase Kim round out the current staff. Chris explains that each coach has a piece of the greater puzzle to which they all build to get an idea on opponents throughout the season and build training sessions here in Colorado.
“At the beginning of the year, the gaffer sets out every coaching staff member’s different role. Mine is set pieces plus the goalkeepers,” explains Sharpe very thoroughly but excitedly in his Aussie tone. “Conrad’s (Casey) is the forwards and he helps me with set pieces as well, Neil has the back four and the six, Baze (Bazely) is the midfielders, and we compile everything together and the gaffer can look at it.”
“It’s a combination between our game review and our upcoming opponents. I do all the set piece video, and then Con does three games previous for the opponent coming up, Neil does the game previous. So, we compile all that, it goes to Darren, Darren compiles all that, and it goes to the boss.”
Sounds easy enough, right?…..If your head is spinning like mine was, it’s amazing to think of the amount of man-hours that go into a week at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the 90 minutes we see every week. “It’s a brilliant system, it’s absolutely flawless,” says Chris. “We have it down to a fine art.”
Another thing Chris Sharpe obviously takes great pride in is his role with the goalkeepers throughout the organization. Chris has what many fans probably think an easy go of it. After all, his main job is coaching the greatest US keeper of all time, Tim Howard. However, that is so far from the end of his responsibilities and contributions to the club, that it needs explaining to those outside the Rapids organization.
“From Tim (Howard) to the academy, It’s all a process leading back to the first team,” says Sharpe with his eye on the big picture of the club. “At the end of the day, it’s a vision for me, the academy stuff is trying to get those boys ready.”
“We have one academy player train every day with the first team. The vision is from top to bottom those boys are ready for the first team should they come in. Lucky enough, we haven’t got a massive player pool here in Colorado, but I’ve got two boys, possibly 3, that have some amazing potential.”
Most fans don’t realize just how long Chris has been an integral part of the Rapids organization from the grassroots to the MLS level. “I started the academy with Brian Crookham, January 2008, the development academy started and Brian asked me if I wanted to help with the goalkeepers, so I said yes. This will be my 12th year from day one. The whole goalkeeper process, it’s my baby,” he says like a proud father. “There’s also the Rapids Youth Club I took over the goalkeepers as well. Now they’ve merged with (local club) Storm, there are 5 different regions and I’m the director of goalkeeping for the regions as well, on top of the academy and first team.”
As he explains how all of the areas he holds responsibility over are scheduled throughout his day, imagine a fast-talking, on-the-edge-of-his-seat, and face-lighting-up guy and there you have exactly how Chris feels about his profession. “My weeks and my days are set out purely on the work I’ve got to do with the first team in the mornings-whether it’s video for the gaffer, video for the goalkeepers, session planning-that takes up from 7:30 until 3:30 in the afternoon. That’s putting it together, executing the sessions, executing the video meetings, whatever I need to do on a daily basis. I try and duck upstairs to the academy as much as I can just to check on what the plan is for the night, but I’m on the field at 4:15 for the academy boys. I usually get off the field 7:15ish and come back in and work for half an hour and be home usually 8.”
“Every day is a different thing,” Chris explains as to why he enjoys the fast-paced challenges of his many roles. “One day it might be goalkeeper videos and meetings, getting what I need into that session for that day, helping the gaffer and the rest of the coaching planning for the rest of the session. After that, it’s planning for the next day, planning for the goalkeepers, video to be cut for the next day, preparation for the opposition coming up for the weekend. There’s no days off for sure but I love it.”