Taking the Game to Every Player
Mick Bowdler is a difference maker and a trendsetter in the game of soccer. He has repeatedly taken the game he loves to places nearly barren of the sport, starting numerous programs from scratch. The game in Eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania wouldn’t be what it is without Bowdler and his club, Keystone Soccer Academy.
Keystone is 160+ players strong thanks to a focus on the individual. There is a focus on the needs of each player, taking personalities into account when putting a team on the pitch.
“The best coaches recognize the personalities of their players and build their system around that,” Bowdler said. ”It’s not about putting numbers on a blackboard.”
Bowdler, a former professional with England’s Coventry City, has been a coach in the U.S. for over 30 years. His first coaching gig came in the early 80s, a formulative time for the American game. It was a time when the NASL was failing and MLS was over a decade away.
Bowdler would set up large programs in the youth soccer wilderness, starting in East Liverpool (Ohio) before moving on to Lisbon (OH) to start the Beaver Local youth program. He would also coach at one of Pennsylvania’s premier programs, Beadling Soccer Club in Pittsburgh, where he also played his way to an Over-40 National Championship in 1996.
Growing the game was always a priority for the English native. However, it hasn’t always been easy. For a period of time, there was no structured soccer pyramid here in the States and the national team program wasn’t up to par with the rest of the world. Today is a different story with over 18 million youth players from coast to coast and Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm of the men’s national team program.
“The level of coaching is getting better,” Bowdler remarked. “Coaches are a lot more knowledgeable than they were 20 years ago. They are trying to bring their passion to the kids.”
Bowdler is a big proponent on educating players to become students of the game. His players are encouraged to watch international games on TV, to find heroes in the global game, and to learn more about the beautiful game outside the U.S.
“Most players around the world learn the game by playing in the streets or by pickup games,” Bowdler commented. ”We don’t have any of that.”
Bowdler is a big proponent of a longer club season even though it will take away from the high school game, where he has coached for almost 15 years.
When asked about moves made by Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna, Bowdler replied, “It’s all good news. When you start playing 10 months of the year, you are saying you are committed to this sport.”
He says that the developmental academy system is something to watch in the next few years, but he was quick to point ou that the club structure underneath the academies is still vitally important.
“We both know that soccer is a middle or upper middle class sport,” Bowdler continued. ”That isn’t helping matters.”
He was also quick to share his thoughts on the international game, saying that Harry Redknapp is not his favorite for the English national team coach.
“There’s something about Redknapp,” Bowdler said. ”I watch Tottenham play and they have flair, but he hasn’t done anything.”
“I really believe it should be an English coach,” Bowdler added. ”We have a certain culture. The Swansea coach is doing a excellent job. “
On the club side of things, Bowdler is a fan of Manchester United and has a special affection for a certain player on FC Barcelona.
“Messi is on a different planet than everyone else,” Bowdler remarked. “We ought to be thankful that we are alive to watch him play. I think Messi is the best player I have seen in my life.”
That is quite a compliment, coming from someone that has seen a lot of soccer in his life.
Which brings us back to our first observation about Bowdler, that he is a trendsetter and a difference maker in the sport. With people like Mick Bowdler leading the way, soccer has a bright future in every part of the country.
The Samurai Sportswear Soccer Spotlight is a monthly feature that showcases the best of the best in the world of youth and high school soccer. This year-round coverage is made possible by the partnership between Samurai Sportswear USA and International Soccer Network, LLC.
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