2017 Pro License Grads
U.S. Soccer

Seventeen Coaches from the U.S. National Teams and the Professional Leagues Complete Second U.S. Soccer Pro Course

CHICAGO (Dec. 16, 2017) — As part of its ongoing effort to develop world class players, coaches, and referees, the second U.S. Soccer Pro License Coaching Course was completed on Friday, Dec. 15 in Chicago. A total of 17 professional coaches from Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, National Women’s Soccer League, United Soccer League, and the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams completed a 12-month journey that began in January.

2017 Pro Course Graduates:

  • Paul Buckle (Sacramento Republic, USL) Colin Clarke (North Carolina FC, NASL) Steven Cooke (Colorado Rapids, MLS)
  • Jill Ellis (U.S. WNT)
  • Jim Gabarra (Washington Spirit, NWSL)
  • Jay Heaps
  • Dominic Kinnear (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS) Jesse Marsch (New York Red Bulls, MLS) Pat Noonan (U.S. MNT)
  • Caleb Porter
  • Darren Powell (San Antonio FC, USL)
  • Brian Schmetzer (Seattle Sounders, MLS) Daryl Shore
  • Mike Sorber
  • Greg Vanney (Toronto FC, MLS)
  • Josh Wolff (Columbus Crew, MLS)
  • Kerry Zavagnin (Sporting KC, MLS)

Added to the U.S. Soccer structure of coaching education to complete the pathway from grassroots to professional coaching, the U.S. Soccer Pro Course represents the highest form of soccer licensing offered in North America. One year after the pilot Pro Course was completed, the 2017 graduates went through the course curriculum with the same two primary objectives: to accomplish a custom, individualized plan and for the collective unit to set new standards for the next generation of coaches. 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.

The group accomplished its course objectives through in-person instruction, club visits, final assessment, expert guest speakers and webinars during the year long program. Guest presenters included Bruce Arena (former head coach – U.S. MNT), Jill Ellis (U.S. WNT Coach / Pro Course Candidate), Frank Ludolph (UEFA Head of Football Education Services), Gautum Mukunda (Harvard Business School), Daniel Coyle (Author of Talent Code), Thomas Schaaf (Manager - Hanover 96, Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen), Mark Williams (University of Utah Professor of Kinesiology), Cristina Fink (Sports Psychology, Philadelphia Union), Bob Bradley (LAFC, former head coach – U.S. MNT), Wade Gilbert (Coaching Scientist and Performance Professor, Fresno State) and Doug Lemov (Author and Teaching Expert, Uncommon Schools).

Upon completing the course, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis became the first female to obtain the U.S. Soccer Pro License. Ellis, who also served as a guest speaker for the cohort’s first meeting in January, reflected on what the accomplishment means to aspiring female coaches across the country.

“Certainly I took this course for personal reasons,” Ellis said. “But I think it is important for young females out there, to see role models that commit to this learning process. I would encourage every coach out there to be an advocate for themselves, for their personal growth. To be the first female to complete the License, it’s great. But now I hope that more and more females will want to continue in coaching education.”

For 2017 MLS Coach of the Year and MLS Cup Champion Greg Vanney, one of the highlights of the course was the engagement and interaction with fellow candidates. Through open communication and peer to peer learning, Vanney found the environment to be a safe space for sharing and listening to the challenges professional coaches face every day.

“It’s one of the highlights of this course,” Vanney said. “Coaches around our leagues are willing to share, willing to open up and are trustworthy in that way. To listen to their experiences and to have guys share how they went through things, how they dealt with things, what you find is that a lot of us go through very similar things. There are best principles when it comes to dealing with things and it’s great to hear and talk to guys. Along the way, you find little tidbits you think are valuable that you use within your own setting.”

Alongside three collective meetings and a final presentation, the 17 candidates experienced two week-long club or national team visits from a U.S. Soccer Coach Educator. At each site visit, the Coach Educators observed the candidate within their performance environment structured to lead up to a competition. While on site, instructors observed a variety of coaching variables including the coach’s relationship and interactions with players, staff, assistant coaches, and others involved in the team development process.

Lead instructor Wim van Zwam reflected on what made the cohort a special group to work with and his gladness to see how every coach bought in and challenged themselves and their peers.

“What made this group immediately special was the diversity of coaches,” van Zwam said. “With MLS head coaches and assistant coaches, a USL head coach, a NASL head coach, a NWSL head coach, a U.S. Men’s National assistant coach and our Women’s National Team head coach in Jill Ellis, it made for a very interesting group to work with. From the beginning, this group learned to be very open in sharing information. They bought in to the club visits, an environment where they are not used to someone looking over their shoulder. This group made sacrifices in order to make themselves better and those around them.”

As the only organization able to license coaches domestically under FIFA standards, U.S. Soccer’s Pro License seeks to raise the minimum standard for an individual seeking to become a professional coach in MLS, NASL, USL or the NWSL. 

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