Brandon Ponchak is always up for a challenge. He has gained a reputation as the go-to coach in non-traditional markets. We are talking about places where soccer is still gaining ground, in markets without professional teams, and in places where people say soccer can’t grow. You might as well call him “The Johnny Appleseed of Soccer” for all the work he has done to push the beautiful game forward.
“I really enjoy going to non-traditional markets because there are always hungry minds and desire for getting better,” Ponchak stated. “Sometimes the biggest struggle is trying to implement something new and different with the area soccer development because many people don’t like change. It is easier to continue what has always been done, but it’s important for the leadership to know that development should be the number one aspect.”
This journey has take him from different parts of Ohio to the Dakotas, and now to Kansas. Ponchak recently left his position with NPSL side Zanesville Athletic to become the head men’s soccer coach at NAIA Sterling College.
Ponchak has gotten it done at every level. He served as an assistant at Dakota Wesleyan University and Bluffton University.
His time at Dakota Wesleyan was particularly memorable for Ponchak. He worked with both the men’s and women’s sides with the latter having incredible success. The women’s team went 21 games unbeaten, winning their conference in the reglar season before winning the conference tournament. They even made a national tournament appearance in what Ponchak described as “a fun season.”
But who actually goes to the Dakotas for soccer? Ponchak did and it changed his perspective on the beautiful game.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that if you are involved in soccer there, you know every soccer person and player.”
Why you might ask? Because roughly 30 high schools in South Dakota and less than 20 high schools in North Dakota actually offer soccer. South Dakota was the last state high school association to sanction high school soccer.
Kansas is clearly a bigger market, one with an ever popular MLS franchise and a beautiful new stadium. But soccer across the state is overall still a work in progress, something Ponchak knows all about.
“There are positive aspects to being in non-traditional soccer markets, and the biggest one for me is the impact on kids’ lives.”
Ponchak even spent time at the middle and high school level at Lexington Christian Academy (KY) and with youth clubs like Dakota Blue SC (Mitchell, SD) and Bluegrass SC (Versailles, KY).
He also was on the staff of the USL PRO Charlotte Eagles as a camp coach and director. This was in addition to his work with the Dayton Dutch Lions, where he evaluated players at tryouts and worked on broadcasts.
It is easy to say that he has seen the game from many different perspectives in many different places.
His own experiences as a player growing up in Southern Ohio were paramount to his development into an exemplary coach.
“Southern Ohio soccer is ripe with talent, but sometimes it may not be the prettiest. The players always work hard though. That’s the culture there. It is more rural and blue-collar, so the players grow up hard working in everything they do.”
Ponchak had success of his own as a player. He remembers several events quite fondly: helping his high school team get its first-ever shutout while recording 33 saves, traveling to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup, and helping his college get their first-ever conference tournament championship.
But who influenced him and ultimately inspired him to build a career in the game he loves? Ponchak credits his father for building a mentality and work ethic that has driven him as both a player and coach.
A quote from Bill Shankly rang true for Ponchak: “Coaches do not make great players; mothers and fathers make great players.”
Former teammates and players have also been a driving force for Ponchak.
He spoke fondly of former teammate Seth Dille, who was born with cerebral palsy.
“He has the biggest heart of anyone I know. Nothing negatively affects him and he doesn’t let anything hold him back. He is in the U.S. National Paralympic Soccer Team pool. Everyone needs to be around Seth; he’ll put a smile on everyone’s faces.”
Former DWU player Jason “Jay” Roddy is another source of inspiration.
“Jay had a stroke in his 3rd day with the team. He was in incredible shape and then the tragedy happened. The positive thing is Jay lived and has made a near-full recovery. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.”
And not a day goes by where Ponchak doesn’t have an impact on the game we all love. Inspiring players, providing a quality training environment, sharing passion, and developing players on and off the field are all parts of his game.
Korrio understands it is your passion for coaching kids that drives you. We also know that the less time you spend dealing with administrative, communication and automation hassles, and the more time you spend on the field, the happier you’ll be. And because you play a crucial role in our children’s lives, we want you spending as much time as possible coaching our kids. Korrio offers a modern approach to coaching by allowing new ways to communicate and develop a community on and off the field. Congratulations to the ISN Star of Coaching this month.