As part of its ongoing effort to develop world class players, coaches, and referees, the first U.S. Soccer Pro License Coaching Course was completed on Saturday, Dec. 17 in Chicago. A total of 13 professional coaches from Major League Soccer and U.S. Youth National Team programs completed the collaborative pilot course which took place over the last 12-months.
The U.S. Soccer Pro Course represents the highest form of soccer licensing offered in North America. Until Saturday, the previous highest level of licensing obtainable was the U.S. Soccer A license. The Pro Course was added to the U.S. Soccer structure of licensing to complete the pathway from the grassroots to professional coaching.
The two primary objectives of the Pro Course were for each coach to accomplish a custom, individualized plan and for the collective unit of coaches to set new standards for the next generation of coaches. The group accomplished the course objectives through a variety of processes including in-person instruction, club visits, final assessment, expert guest speakers and webinars during the year long program. Guest presenters included David Moyes (head coach – Sunderland), John Cone (fitness), Mateus Manoel (ftiness – Sporting KC) Juergen Klinnsman (former head coach - USMNT), Daniel Coyle (author), Gautam Mukunda (Harvard Business School), Doug Lemov (author and teaching expert), Cristina Fink (sports psychology), Mark Williams (sport science) and Ryan Raffaelli (Harvard Business School). Each candidate took on a tailored program based on an assessment of their needs, undergoing multiple group meetings and individual visits, while topics such as leadership and team tactical periodization were highlighted throughout the course.
Nico Romeijn, U.S Soccer’s Director of Coaching Education, said that the completion of the inaugural Pro Course is a significant step for the advancement of coaches in the United States.
“The addition of the Pro course helps raise the bar by setting a new standard for current professional coaches and coaches aspiring to be professionals,” Romeijn said. “We hope to continue to build on these opportunities and create a world class learning environment for our domestic coaches at the professional level and all levels.”
U.S. Soccer National Coach Educator Wim van Zwam, who spearheaded the course structure alongside Romeijn, recognized the new coaching education standard with a purpose to permeate through all levels as domestic coaches now have a new aspiration to target.
“This continuation and advancement in coaching education aligns with the long-term objective of U.S. Soccer, which is to develop world-class players, coaches, and referees” van Zwam said. “There is a large shift in our mentality and what we are emphasizing at a federation level is to help improve the level of our coaches who, in return, create better players.”
For 2016 MLS Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja, the course experience went above and beyond his expectations. Pareja noted the value in competing and learning, at times simultaneously, during the time frame of the course.
“It’s a great privilege being part of this pioneering group,” Pareja said. “I would tell the next group of candidates that this is a great step in your coaching education. The methodology is different. There is an evolution in the course as well towards the challenges that we face every day with our competition, development and management. All of these areas are covered in a way that is based on the experiences that we have and develops our identity, which is something that, in my opinion, was the highlight.”
Pilot Pro Course Participants:
- Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew SC, MLS)
- Jeff Cassar (Real Salt Lake, MLS)
- Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union, MLS)
- John Hackworth (U-17 Men’s National Team, U.S. Soccer)
- Jason Kreis (Orlando City SC, MLS)
- Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids, MLS)
- Omid Namazi (U-18 Men’s National Team, U.S. Soccer)
- Ben Olsen (D.C. United, MLS)
- Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas, MLS)
- Tab Ramos (U-20 Men’s National Team, U.S. Soccer)
- Sigi Schmid
- Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City, MLS)
- Richie Williams
One of eight MLS coaches in the graduating class, Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes was especially passionate in expressing his support of the Pro License Course. He emphasized the responsibility of the inaugural group in sending the message to the future graduates of how important it is to go through the course. The next class of coaches to take part in the Pro License program will begin its 12-month course in January 2017.
“This is a great initiative and it is pretty special to be the first group,” Vermes said. “We realized quickly that we are all doing the same thing and we all have the same challenges. The course itself, the lectures and the guest speakers were phenomenal. Going through a course like this, with ideas around leadership and problem solving, was very good. In the end, the better our coaches are, the better we are going to be at developing players.”
As the only organization able to license coaches domestically under FIFA standards, U.S. Soccer’s Pro License raises the minimum standard for an individual seeking to become a professional coach. Eventually, the new license will become mandatory for coaches in each of the four current professional soccer leagues recognized by U.S. Soccer: MLS, NASL, USL and NWSL.