The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off this weekend in Qatar. Most Canadians are holding their breath in anticipation of Canada’s first match on Wednesday, Nov. 23 against Belgium. This will be the first World Cup game for the Canadian men’s soccer team in almost four decades, with many crediting head coach John Herdman as the mastermind behind the rise of Canada’s soccer success.
John is the first coach to qualify both a women’s national and men’s national team for the World Cup. Born in Consett, England, John first moved to Canada to coach the women’s team after their devastating performance in the 2011 World Cup where they finished last. He helped them win two back-to-back Olympic bronze medals before taking over the men’s team.
In an interview with CBC Sports, Christine Sinclair, captain of the Canadian women’s team called John “the best coach I’ve ever had, hands down. He is life changing. He helps you rediscover your passion. And within a team he creates a culture of unity, one where your egos are left at the door. You are doing this for the team and for each other.”
“You spend 10 minutes in a room with him,” she continues, “and you’ll be ready to walk through a wall for him. He’s just that charismatic and that passionate about what he speaks about.”
And John has certainly brought that same energy to the men’s team. He took the position of head coach in 2018 with the public goal of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. On Sunday, March 27, that goal was realized when the team clinched their spot after a 4-0 win against Jamaica.
In the lead-up to Qatar, Sportsnet produced an exclusive four-part interview series with John, conducted by well-known Canadian sports journalist Stephen Brunt. From Consett, England to Qatar, each episode takes a deep dive into the defining moments of John’s personal and professional life that led him to this moment. Each the series below!
Episode 1: How John Herdman’s Upbringing Shaped Him in Soccer and Life
John shares how his youth in Consett, England shaped his love for soccer and who he is as a man today.
“None of the jobs I’ve been in have been easy. I’ve learned how to fight, to push, to convince, to drive, and I think a lot of it came from those tough years [growing up].”
Episode 2: Finding Purpose
John explores the stigmas he faces early in his coaching career, and how his work with the New Zealand women’s team caught the eye of Canada Soccer.
“It was an ex-England player, and he said ‘ya, you’re a great teacher-coach. Just a shame that you’ll never coach at the highest level because you’ve never experienced standing out there in a semi-circle in front of 50,000 people.’
It was like a pat on the back and a slap on the face at the same time and reminded you of your place in the game. And I was like, ‘nah, I’m not having this.’”
Episode 3: Changing the Game
John discusses his start with the Canadian women’s national soccer team and how this led him to become the head coach of the men’s team.
“I walked into the hotel and this woman comes up to us and she gets right in my face, and she went, ‘you must be John. This team is effed, this is the most toxic team you are ever going to work with. Good luck.’”
Episode 4: Making History
In the finale episode, John discusses the culture shift his leadership initiated with the men’s team and how, together, they were able to make history.
“I think for the first time in a long time I’ve come to a place where I really want to be as a coach, which is the underdog.”
Contact us to learn how you can bring John Herdman to your next event. In his riveting talks, he shares his proven performance philosophies and shows the importance vision, passion, and discipline play in achieving success, whether it’s on the field or in the office.