The recent hire of a PDL and USSDA coach from North Carolina is not ground breaking news in and of itself. Marc Nicholls has a strong history with the Carolina Dynamo and NC Fusion, which is a good thing, but his hire is not about wins and losses. Instead it is about maximizing the learnings from the French Football Federation and Major League Soccer partnership.
Seattle Sounders FC Youth Technical Director Darren Sawatzky and Coach Nicholls first met when Nicholls interviewed to be the Washington State Youth Soccer Technical Director, but they spent many more hours together during their trip to Clairefontaine.
"When you look at France they've produced the most players playing at the highest levels in Europe," Sawatzky told Sounder at Heart on Wednesday. "This program is extremely comprehensive. This formation license is pretty much the equivalent of doing a Master's degree in player development in just 18 months."
Sounders Academy now has two of those future degree holders. Nicholls will focus on the new U-14 team as well as the U-15 squad (formerly the Pre-Academy) as well as helping out with the even younger players in the system.
"When you talk to coaches as they go through licensing and you watch them work it's pretty apparent who embraces developing youngsters and who wants to take a group of eleven and coach. Marc leans more to the development side. He's very good at the small details and making certain that the pieces are in place. Where we're headed in our Academy system is to really focus on the player development piece," Sawatzky said. "We always want to win games, but it is more important to get our players ready for the First Team."
Wins are clearly coming. This year both the U-18s and U-16s made the USSDA Playoffs. The U-18s advanced to Finals Week the first time. The current coaching staff will maintain their roles. As they continue to work with the First Team technical staff, the PDL side and the Academy to win games at all levels. But it is the development of players and people that excites Sawatzky, and eventually the fans at CenturyLink Field.
"Dick McCormick, Sean Henderson, Billy Crook and the guys coaching at the Academy you're already seeing the effects of the level of these coaches," Sawatzky said. "DeAndre is shining piece in that but you've got Jordan Morris and a ton of guys in college right now - Kovar, Michael Gallagher, Sean Okoli, others. These guys are all getting close. What we're trying to do here is take it to the next level."
Nicholls is going to help craft the next boys to become men through the system. They will not be ready for four, five, six or more years, but they will be from a system that solely focuses on development.