Photo by SC United Bantams
Ahead of the club's seventh PDL season, the SC United Bantams recently announced the return of Head Coach Lee Morris to the sidelines.
Under Morris' guidance, the Bantams had a successful 2017 season, posting a winning record in the brutal South Atlantic Division and guiding the club to its first U.S. Open Cup appearance in team history. Despite narrowly missing out on the PDL playoffs, the Bantams' winning mark stands out in a division featuring the PDL Champion Charlotte Eagles, division-winning Myrtle Beach Mutiny and recently-announced USL Division III founding member South Georgia Tormenta FC.
Morris' draws from a wealth of his own playing experience to develop his coaching style, having played nearly two decades in England and with the country's youth national teams. He also brings coaching experience from Derby City's Academy and Yorkshire-based club Loughborough Dynamo. In the pre-professional environment of the PDL, that experience in particular comes in handy as Morris aims to push the Bantams to new heights in 2018.
During his preseason preparation, Morris spoke with USLPDL.com on the Bantams' program, pathway from youth to the first team and hopes for the upcoming season.
PDL: You return this season to continue coaching the SC United Bantams, coming off a winning season in 2017 and the club’s first U.S. Open Cup appearance. What fuels your desire to build something special with the Bantams?
Lee Morris: We have had a great couple of years here at SC United Bantams and are proud of the progress we’ve made. We have a brilliant staff of coaches who truly want to give the players an enjoyable summer of soccer and give them every chance of progressing in their individual soccer careers. On the field as a team, I feel we want to offer the community exciting, competitive soccer games of the highest level, something that people from Columbia, South Carolina and beyond can be proud of and would like to keep returning to.
PDL: The Bantams played in a very tough South Atlantic Division in 2017, with the division-winning Myrtle Beach Mutiny, PDL Champion Charlotte Eagles, Nashville SC U23 and the newly announced USL Division III founding member South Georgia Tormenta FC. How were you able to find success against such difficult opposition?
LM: It was a really tough division to be part of last year, but because the opposition was consistently so tough, it was easy to motivate the players, because we all knew if we weren’t on our game we’d suffer! The players were a great bunch who were always willing to work hard to improve, and I like to think we got the best out of them in what were some really exciting knife-edge matchups.
PDL: The Bantams also partner with the USL’s Charleston Battery, and have contributed to the development of numerous future professionals for the team including Robert Beebe and Austin Savage. How do you create an effective developmental environment for young players with the Bantams?
LM: We are certainly proud of our associations with many players who have gone on to be professional and hope to have a hand in many more in the future. We have created a Bantams pathway through our club which begins at U8 ages and progresses all the way to the pinnacle of our club platforms, the SC United Bantams PDL team. We offer practices and camps which allow player progression through the stages to ultimately play for the PDL first team. A good example of this is Ben Gilligan, who started out in our Bantams 2 program last summer, was promoted to the Bantams PDL team and scored a hat trick in our last game away at Peachtree while still being in high school, showing the pathway can work exceptionally well.
PDL: You enjoyed an illustrious, decades-long playing career of your own, competing at the highest level of English soccer with Premier League clubs like Leicester City, Sheffield United and Derby County, as well as with the England youth national teams. How do you translate your own vast playing experience to the players under you?
LM: Obviously the playing experience helps in pressure situations, trying to pull on experiences I had during my career to try and understand how players may react in similar circumstances. Being a professional player also means you have to give your all every day, and as the guys we recruit all have the aspirations of playing professionally, delivering that message of what is expected at the very highest levels and how to apply themselves properly can hopefully help them with their own future goals.
PDL: You’ve also coached in England with Derby County’s Academy and the Yorkshire-based Loughborough Dynamo. What lessons from those coaching experiences did you bring with you to the Bantams?
LM: I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best youth talent in England while working at Derby County, with many players being recognized at international levels across all age groups. Being able to deliver high-level practices that meets players’ needs is something that definitely transfers to the PDL level. Being able to offer off the field advice on areas such as diet and nutrition, how to work on athletic development and the importance of rest are all key factors that are sometimes overlooked by young players.
PDL: We’re just a few months away from the start of the 2018 PDL season. What are you most looking forward to in the months to come?
LM: This summer will certainly be the biggest PDL season SC United Bantams has ever had. We have a new stadium at our own complex to play in, complete with our own Bantams Beer Garden, and also some great additions to the roster! I think this is a great time to be involved in our program and I can’t wait to get started!