With Lutz Pfannenstiel out establishing initial contact with a variety of clubs in the region, he and St. Louis City SC have also initiated a formal search for an Academy Director. The listing went public recently on the website and has an extensive description and requirements for any applicants.
The Mission: To create an elite training and competitive environment that strives to reach all parts of the St. Louis region and achieve the highest level of success by creating a culture of excellence, providing life enriching experience that seeks to develop a complete player on and off the field.
Here is a short list of the Essential Duties and Responsibilities with some feedback on issues Lutz and his Director will face. After that is a section on Skills and Abilities and there is a significant component there.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIE
* Create and advance a top nationally recognized Academy program, that develops players so that advancement in our system is achieved.
* Establish and execute short- and long-term visions of the Academy through strategic planning, operational management and strong leadership and development of people, ensuring the Academy can deliver well rounded soccer players into the professional game.
* Conduct coaching education sessions.
* Ensure the goals, strategy and measurable short-term and long-term performance targets for all aspects of the work of the Academy are aligned with the St. Louis CITY’s vision and coaching/playing philosophy.
* Develop relationships with all soccer clubs, schools, the broader soccer community and establish satellite club locations.
* Conduct training sessions and coach the U16 team.
This listing has two items of interest – establish satellite club locations and coach the U16 team.
The best examples we have locally of satellite club locations come in two forms. Sporting KC with their Academy Affiliates, also part of their larger Sporting Club Network. The other path is the one SLSG has created with their Affiliate Program which is represented by the bottom row of the pyramid pictured below. Metro Legacy on the East side, SASA Spirit in Springfield (IL) receive coaching training and related resources including an affiliate day each Fall that brings players in for evaluation.
Sporting KC has established a broad reach and hasn’t received any significant backlash that I’ve heard of, allowing them to work with their clubs and offer a path to their Academy, including Sporting Blue Valley.
It will be an uphill path to establish anything similar locally with the competitive balance already established here. SLSG, with their Missouri Rush ECNL-RL relationship growing, will not be a source of players. Sporting STL may decide to move from their Sporting KC relationship to one with STL City, especially if they get in early. Lou Fusz is the other obvious play and Gargan will need to tread that path sooner than later.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
One item to examine here, the first listed on the job description – Must have experience in Major League Soccer, Youth Development and have completed the Pro License Course through US Soccer or UEFA A License.
It’s understandable that the team wants existing MLS experience, their ambitions are high and now is not the time to give someone new responsibilities they can grow into. However, there have only been four USSF Pro License Courses – ever – and therefor the hiring pool is going to be very narrow.
2019 Pro Course – eight graduates, all with positions with the MLS first team, not Academy positions
2018 Pro Course – twelve graduates, including Anthony Pulis who was with STLFC at the time and Steve Trittschuh. Six MLS assistant coaches, four USL Head Coaches and two NWSL Head Coaches. That includes Vlatko Andonovski, now USWNT Head Coach
2017 Pro Course – seventeen coaches. Two notables here – Mike Sorber (LAFC) and Pat Noonan (Philadelphia) with hometown roots. Would an Academy role appeal?
2016 Pro Course – eleven graduates that included Peter Vermes, one of eleven current (at the time) or former MLS Head Coaches.
So, a total of 48 coaches have earned the certificate over the past four years and it will be another 15 months before another graduating class due to the pandemic eliminating the 2020 course.
The incentives in cash, contract length and control, such as ensuring the Academy is fully funded for the players to differentiate from STLFC Academy, may be significant to attract a candidate with the necessary qualifications unless the team goes down the path of a UEFA-A license coach. That would offer high quality but at what cost establishing local relationships?
This town is insular, there’s an established competitor who will soon have a Pro License coach running their program – Steve Trittschuh. The club has had a caretaker Director in Dale Schilly since Blake Decker was released in the Spring. When the St. Louis FC playoff run ends, expect an announcement soon afterwards that Trittschuh will transition into the job he was initially hired to do. Unless Trittschuh decides to test the USL Head Coaching market again after his playoff success, once he wasn’t saddled with having to play Academy players like in Colorado.
That’s a good sign for St. Louis City SC in that it shows there are coaches who may have arrived at the point in their career where taking responsibility for building a new Academy program is incentive enough, rather than the MLS/USL Coaching carousel. It’s something I’ll be watching obviously.
One more thought. The job skills may have been written in a naive fashion, not considering the narrow applicant pool. Or, as is often the case, it was written with a specific candidate in mind. There is no reason for STLcitySC to do a public search unless they want the protection to say “see what we did” when they bring in a Director from outside.