US Soccer C License
Photo by Mark Nelson

Timbers and JELD-WEN Field host US Soccer "C" License training program

Arriving late to several Timbers home matches this season, Pacific University men’s soccer assistant coach Steve Piercy pulled up to JELD-WEN Field just in time to hear the roar of the crowd following a home goal.

“I keep coming late because I come straight from coaching and every time I’ve been parking my motorcycle I’ve heard an eruption that they’ve scored,” said Piercy, an ex-Timbers player who featured for the team’s 1990 American Professional Soccer League incarnation before playing four years of indoor soccer for the Portland Pride. “I thought I might take an extra lap and park again to see if it still works.”

Piercy, who assists Timbers Alumni Ambassador Jim Brazeau with the NCAA Division III Pacific University program in Forest Grove, is one of 29 soccer coaches who arrived at the field Sunday night to begin an 8-day coaching course through the United States Soccer Federation with the hope of obtaining a National “C” License.

While college coaches aren’t required to hold a national coaching license, the National “C” License course is a way to help coaches grow their knowledge of the game’s methodology, principles of play, team management and modern trends while taking part in both classroom and on-the-field sessions at JELD-WEN Field.

Timbers Youth Academy Director and Oregon Youth Soccer Association Technical Director Mike Smith is serving as the lead instructor during the course with the help of three other coaching directors from the Northwest.

All four instructors hold their National “A” Licenses — the highest level on the National coaching license ladder.

“Most (of the license candidates) are coaches, a good proportion of college coaches who are just trying to move up the ladder in terms of their knowledge and education and licensure,” Smith said. “We view it as a professional qualification. Not many other sports in America have such a good, quality-structured environment for teaching coaching as soccer.”

Piercy, for one, views it as a chance to refresh his coaching skills while obtaining the license he never had time to obtain earlier.

“I’ve been coaching a long time and I just never had the time to get my license. I was always busy coaching or playing,” he said. “I got back into coaching about a year-and-a-half ago and I’m trying to get caught up. There’s been a lot of changes to the game since I coached and played, so I’m trying to get the new and better ideas for coaching kids.”

While nearly half of the 29 candidates hail from Oregon, Smith noted several have trekked a long distance for the course — which includes several written examinations as well as oral and on-field exams. Alabama, Georgia and Florida are all represented in the group, Smith said.

“I think the biggest thing is just to grow as a coach,” said Pacific University women’s soccer head coach Morgan Crabtree. “We have a lot of fantastic instructors that have a lot of knowledge about that game. It’s just about refining my skills as a coach, getting some new ideas on how to coach different topics and also just to meet other coaches from the area and build that network.”

Match analysis is also a portion of the curriculum and Smith said he hoped the coaches will be able to meet with Timbers’ coaches Amos Magee and John Spencer during the course. Attending Saturday night’s match against the Columbus Crew is also on the docket.

For the Oregon coaches, Smith — who runs the Oregon Olympic Development Program that will eventually dovetail with the Timbers Academy — said the National “C” License will help make them available to be engaged in that ODP structure. In order to coach at the Oregon state ODP level, Smith said the National “C” License is a minimum qualification. To move up to the ODP regional and national levels will require “B” or “A” licenses.

The hope is that by hosting a national licensure course at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers are helping develop a solid network of contacts to help cull the best talent from around the state for the Academy.

“I think it benefits the Timbers in a number of ways,” Smith said. “Obviously, it’s great exposure to coaches from across the country to what we have here and I think what we have here is very, very special. Being able to use the classroom setting and then coming down and playing on the field, there’s no better environment for coaches to feel like coaches when you’re coaching and playing in an MLS stadium.

“We’ve got a number of coaches from Oregon here, and now having that “C” license will allow them to be eligible to come and coach with our Olympic Development Programs at what we will call the “pre-Academy” age groups,” Smith added. “The hope is that they’ll be able to spread the word locally and help us unearth these young players that are very good in their communities across the state. It just adds to our network of people who can help us find good players to come play for the pre-Academy and the Academy age groups.”

Crabtree, a former standout at Eugene’s Sheldon High School and Oregon State University who currently holds a National “D” License, said — despite being sore from a few days of on-the-field training — that advancing up the national coaching ladder is of strong importance.

“I’d like to go on and any course like this you’re going to learn new things, you’re going to grow,” she said. “I’d like to go on and continue to grow as a coach.”