FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the New England Revolution launched its USL League One side for the 2020 season, its primary purpose was to advance the club’s player development program by creating an all-important bridge between the upper echelons of the Academy and the MLS squad. To aid the Revs’ elite young prospects in that journey, the club tabbed coaches with proven success shaping young talent, beginning with head coach Clint Peay. A short time later, in need of an experienced hand to direct the second team’s sports performance program, the Revolution turned to Daniel Kirwan.
“The culture that Bruce Arena and Curt Onalfo are building here is something I really wanted to be a part of,” Kirwan said. “I have been a part of a winning culture and a part of a losing culture and what is happening here in Foxborough is a winning culture. It’s also allowing me a chance to develop by working with new coaches.”
While earning a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Clemson University, Kirwan cut his teeth in the school’s nationally renowned football program as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach for the Tigers. At first, Kirwan was interested in becoming an Orthopedic Doctor, though medical school and its costs were both daunting. His determination to help student athletes on the health side persisted, leading to an internship with Clemson’s football team in Strength and Conditioning.
“I learned a ton at Clemson about building a winning culture, the basics of being a coach, the scientific foundation of human performance, and the groundwork of strength and conditioning,” Kirwan said. “Everything I learned from Clemson, I use with soccer. I do make tweaks here and there to cater to our athletes and what Clint [Peay] wants them to be able to do on the field, but the general principles are all the same, across all sports.”
After graduation, and a trip to the College Football Playoff championship in 2015 with Clemson, Kirwan finished his studies and stayed close to his hometown of Bethesda, Md., by taking a job with D.C. United as a Performance Analysis Coach. He occupied a number of positions during his time with the Black and Red, working with players from the MLS squad through the youth ranks.
“The development side is what makes it really fun,” Kirwan said. “At the MLS level, it’s about winning matches and championships. With us at the USL level, we are striving to develop these athletes to be the next big impact player for the first team and MLS. We get to experiment and push the boundaries on what can work for player development. All that being said, if we can accomplish that and also win USL League One, then we have done our job correctly.”
During his final year with D.C. United, Kirwan expanded his development horizons by accepting a job as a Sports Scientist for the United States U-15 and U-16 Boys National Teams. So far, Kirwan has traveled abroad with the team to tournaments in Europe and even to premier events domestically.
“With U.S. Soccer, I do the same things I do with Revolution II,” Kirwan added. “When the Youth National Teams have a camp or a tournament somewhere, I get called in to help assist or lead if [Youth National Team Fitness Coach] Patrick Mannix is with another team during that time. It’s amazing and such a blessing to represent my country and help build the future of US Soccer. It’s also an amazing way to see the world.
“I would not trade this experience for anything and I’m truly grateful to Patrick for trusting me with this role.”
Now with Revolution II, Kirwan has run into some unprecedented obstacles during his first few months, as a global pandemic put a halt to in-person training and Revolution II’s inaugural season. Nevertheless, Kirwan has taken this new challenge in stride, hosting weekly yoga sessions alongside Revolution II athletic trainer Harrison Hall on Zoom with the team every Wednesday, and designing at-home training plans to keep the young players in shape. Every week, his plan for the players includes elements focused on conditioning, core, mobility, strength, and power. So far, the players have responded well to Kirwan’s program.
“This team was just formed this year, so I did not have the opportunity to give them an off-season program to match the demands that I see a soccer player goes through day in and day out, so this time has allowed me to implement an off-season type plan,” Kirwan said.
“We are at the point now where I can’t wait to get them back and see how the ‘off-season’ program worked for them. If it did not work then I know I need to change some things for next off-season. If it did work then I can just build off it. I also can’t wait to see these guys back playing the sport we all love.”