FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps watched from the broadcast booth as his beloved New England Revolution stumbled to a last-place finish in 2011.
As the Revolution’s color analyst, Heaps had a unique vantage point from his perch high above the field, and the former New England defender found it easier to identify specific holes in the team’s performance. But there was nothing Heaps could do from the commentary booth besides helplessly watch it unfold.
So he took the next logical step and moved to the bench, where he’ll take over as the Revolution’s head coach.
In his new role, Heaps will have the ability to implement the changes he’s envisioned for the past two years since his retirement in 2009. During his introductory press conference on Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium, the 35-year-old outlined his extensive plan for innovation, beginning with a new culture of accountability.
“From a locker room perspective, you have to have good character in there,” said Heaps. “Fundamentally, there are a few things that need to change right off the bat and one of them is game preparation. I think that’s something that I bring to the table immediately, day one.”
During his playing career, Heaps was a staunch proponent of video analysis to examine both his own team and upcoming opponents. It’s a tool he plans to utilize heavily with the Revolution.
“What we do as a team throughout the week, we’re going to look at ourselves internally and we’re going to see what we’ve done wrong the past week and how we can change that,” Heaps said. “Then we’re going to implement the game plan and see what advantages we can take from video and impose our will on other teams.”
In order to best position themselves for success, the Revs will also need to remain healthy and at their physical peak for the full 90 minutes, something the team struggled with in 2011 en route to conceding eight game-winning or game-tying goals after the 75th minute. Conversely, the Revolution scored just three game-winning or game-tying goals in the final 15 minutes as fatigue – both physical and mental – took its toll.
While injuries certainly can’t be eliminated, Heaps believes they can be limited with the proper approach of prevention and maintenance.
“Strength and conditioning – that was something I prided myself on as a player,” said Heaps. “You have to be able to play as much as you can. If I need to check on a number and you’re always injured, I want to make sure we’re remedying that and making sure that those things are taken care of. That’s huge.”
Heaps also dispelled the notion that he’ll approach the game with a defender’s mentality, having played the majority of his professional career on the backline.
“I was a fiery player and I was a defender, and I think that was my role to go out there and motivate and kind of lead from that fiery, passionate position,” he admitted. “But my whole life, I was an attacking player. That was how I played the game.
“So tactically, I want to have talented, attack-minded players who have a vision for getting forward,” Heaps continued. “If you’re in the back, I want you to help out the attack. I don’t want you to sit back and play too conservative. I want to make sure that we have the mindset that we’re going to go forward and we’re going to attack.”
The changes Heaps has outlined are extensive and will undoubtedly take a tremendous amount of effort and acumen to implement, but the Revolution’s new leader wants it made clear that his vision is not long term.
Heaps wants results, and he wants them in 2012.
“We have to make sure this team knows that we’re not thinking three, four years (down the road); we’re thinking now,” he said. “We’re thinking how do we add the right players and the right chemistry to build this team from day one? That’s the challenge. That’s what I’m excited about.”