Up until the mid 1990's, soccer teams were coached exclusively by volunteers. Coaches had a wide range of athletic backgrounds,
a few played soccer at the college level, some at the high school, some only in middle school and some not at all. Some coaches
played other sports when they were younger. Almost all coaches were fathers of a player on the team (with the occasional mom
stepping up to coach). There was very little consistency in terms of the quality of coaching from team to team. Most coaches
would retire when their child stopped playing soccer so new coaches had to be "broken in" on a regular basis.
By the mid 1990's, a few of the more progressive clubs in the state began paying highly experienced soccer people to coach.
Several clubs would have a few of their 'A' travel teams coached by people who had been involved in the game at high levels.
Almost all of the other teams in these clubs however were still coached by well meaning "parent coaches."
With more and more players attending soccer camps in the summer and playing league select and / or state select (the Olympic
Development Program, comprised of the top players in the state in each age group), many teams found themselves in the unfortunate
situation of having their players possess a better knowledge of the game than the coach of the team. This often became
frustrating for the players (and even more so for the parents of the players) and it became commonplace for players to leave
their team and play for a team in a different club where they would have a much more experienced coach. The teams with the
experienced coaches wound up with the better players in the league. These teams would be able to play at the highest levels
of play in both leagues and tournaments whereas the teams with the inexperienced parent coaches would regularly lose their
top players and only be able to compete in the lower divisions of leagues and tournaments.
LMSC quickly realized that this trend was going to stay so we began hiring coaches who were not parents of the players to
coach our 'A' travel teams. These coaches would all have strong backgrounds in soccer as players and coaches. A few 'A'
level teams would still have a parent coach, but only if that coach also had a significant background in soccer. These
parent-coaches however had the additional problem of having the parents of their players accuse the coach of biased coaching
toward the coach's own child. We received many complaints from parents, saying that their coach's child was getting more
playing time, always getting to play center forward, was only on the team because the child's parent was the head coach, etc.
It soon became clear that even if the parent of a player was highly experienced in soccer, there would be significant
difficulties having that person be the head coach. Many coaches went out of their way to not show favoritism towards their child, but this
often caused their child to be slighted in terms of playing time. This "reverse prejudice" became a problem for some children of our coaches.
As time went on and more paid, non-parent coaches took over the 'A' teams, parents of non 'A' team players began to
complain that their children were getting inadequate coaching and would never have a chance to move up to the 'A' team
without better coaching. It became apparent that we needed to hire non-parent coaches to coach the 'B' travel teams.
Today, almost all of our 'C' and 'D' teams are also coached by professional coaches.
Our club had to try and determine a fair pay rate structure for our coaches. This proved difficult as very few other
clubs had fully implemented a professional coaching system. Eventually the club came up with what we consider to be a
fair pay structure, based on many factors, including the experience of the coach (as a player and as a coach), the age
group of the team (11 v 11 teams pay higher in general than 8 v 8 teams), the level of the team ('A' and 'B' teams in
general pay more than 'C' or 'D' teams) and the anticipated amount of time the team each team would be together during
the year (Will they train indoors and play in indoor leagues during the winter? Will the team play in the state cups in
the spring, etc.?) Our pay scale for travel team coaches will always be a work in progress, but by the mid 2000's, we
finally had an adequate system in place.
The results of the professional coaches policy quickly became clear as many of our 'A' team were reaching at least the
state cup semifinals each year and several teams won state championships. In 2003, the LMSC Hammerheads not only won
the state championship, but also won the Region One championship, a tournament involving the state champions from Maine
through West Virginia. The Hammerheads held the #1 ranking in the country for several years. I was very proud to coach
that team from Under 8 through Under 15. The last game that I coached the Hammerheads was in 2006 when we played for the
National Championship against Real So Cal from Southern California. We unfortunately lost that game, but taking second in
the nation was still quite an accomplishment. For the record however, in my eight years as head coach of the Hammerheads,
I never received a penny of compensation for coaching the team.
The 'A' team one year younger than the Hammerheads was the LMSC Velez, coached by Miguel Nuila. Under Miguel's leadership,
the Velez won the state championship the following year (2004) and reached the semifinals at Regionals.
Four years later, the Velez would become the second
LMSC team to win Regionals. Also that year, the LMSC Heart, under the direction of Casey Ichniowski, became the first LMSC
girls team to win a state championship and compete at Regionals. The Heart went 2-0-1 at Regionals, failing to reach the
semifinals based on goal differential.
Other LMSC teams would also have great success. The LMSC Magic, under the direction of Mark Weinmann, would win back to
back state championships in 2008 and 2009 and also win three consecutive Delco League division one championships. The
Heart would win four PAGS league championships in five years and the LMSC Cannibals would win four straight Delco League division one titles.
This past fall, our LMSC Sabertooth Rats won their third straight Delco League title, going undefeated all three years.
Our Under 15 boys team, the LMSC Lightning are currently ranked in the top five of the nation, thanks to the excellent coaching of Paul Ferreira.
Another statistic showing that the professional coaching policy has been successful is that 62 former LMSC players played
at the college level in the fall of 2011, several of them at the division one level. A few former LMSC players have moved
on to the professional level. Jimmy McLaughlin is now playing for the Philadelphia Union and Sarah Friedman is playing
professionally in Israel. Long time LMSC player Jon Conway just retired after 12 years of playing in the MLS.
One of the first paid coaches in LMSC was Michael Mark who took over running our five year old program in 1996. Mike
was a former player in our club as well as at Lower Merion High School. After playing at Long Island University, he
returned to the area and was put in charge of our five year old program. Mike brought a tremendous knowledge of soccer
and a huge amount of passion and enthusiasm to the five year old program. Many of our current travel team players got
their start in soccer under Mike's leadership. Making soccer fun and enjoyable for the young players has always been a
priority for Mike as he leads a staff of parent coaches and young referees in teaching the basic skills of the game.
Mike's ability to get so many young players off to a great start in soccer is another huge factor in our travel teams
having such great success the past 15 years.
When our club expanded to having four year olds in 2001, Justin Ceccarelli was hired to lead the new Pee-Wees Division.
Justin is the son of Bruno Ceccarelli who ran the Wynnewood Soccer Club for many years, then became the President of LMSC
when we finalized the merger of the four small clubs in the township back in 1989. Justin played in the Wynnewood club
and was an all state selection at St. Joseph Prep. He then played four years at Boston College and then played professionally
for five years. Similar to Mike, Justin brought in a tremendous knowledge of the game, as well as a tremendous passion for the game.
Justin ran the Pee-Wees for eight years. After Justin retired, the Pee-Wees Program was taken over by Matt Schwartz, another long
time LMSC player. Matt played soccer at Lower Merion High School and as well as at Hobart College (where I played many centuries ago),
a nationally ranked division III program.
In the late 2000s, LMSC began to offer separate training programs for travel team players and intramural players.
These programs were offered in response to the
high demand for additional training opportunities beyond a player's travel team or intramural team. The Summer Soccer Program,
originally run by club officer Nikki Posillico, became a huge addition to the club, offering training for travel team players in
the summer months with the training run by our more experienced staff members. The Summer Soccer Program led the club to form
additional training opportunities in the summer and winter for players of different ages and levels. Today we offer training programs
year round (spring, summer, fall, winter 1 and winter 2) to youth soccer players.
Our change from volunteer parent coaches to paid, experienced coaches has been a huge success. The level of play in our club has
gone up dramatically. The number of LMSC alumni that have gone on to play at the college level has shown that we are developing
some top level players. The number of teams reaching the state cup semifinals and beyond has grown as our professional coaching
program has matured. We will always be dependent on volunteer parent coaches in our intramural program, but parent coaches in
the Travel Team Program are now being phased out.