International Soccer Network

"Your Source for the Beautiful Game"

ISN Stars of Coaching Presented by Korrio – January/February 2014

“You never know how far you can go in life unless you give it your best.”

“Take and treat each game as the most important game of your life.”

“Surround yourself with people who were there before you and respect the people who were there before you.”

Photo Credit: Atlantic Soccer Factory

These are the words of Aleks Mihailovic, one of the great innovators in the American game.  He is considered to be one of the best game managers and tacticians in the country.  His knowledge, coaching skill set, and passion for the beautiful game are second to none.

He has done just about everything in the sport, most recently being named the Technical Director for the American Soccer League (ASL).

“Aleks is one of the most respected soccer minds in the country,” ASL Founder/CEO Matt Driver declared. “His knowledge of the game and vision for expansion makes him the ideal Technical Director for the ASL.”

The ASL is a new league, but one with an exciting future according to Mihailovic.

“The ASL has great potential to be an outstanding league because of leadership, such as Matt Driver, Mike Wheeler, and many enthusiastic owners like Jim Antonakas who want to be involved in a league that is dedicated to unique style and effective play. Matt has done a great job in implementing the look and feel for the league. The key to success in any league is to make sound soccer decisions guided by what is best for the game and the league first.”

He has also served as National Director of Coaching for United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) and played professionally with the Washington Diplomats and Jacksonville Tea Men of the original North American Soccer League (NASL).

“It was a league dominated by some of the greatest players in the history of the game.  To be exposed to this environment was an incredible learning experience. Having the opportunity to be exposed to details of world-class individual greatness and high level improvisation was one of the greatest gifts the game has given me.”

Mihailovic played alongside and on the same pitch as some of the all-time greats including Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyaff, Carlos Alberto, George Best, Eusebio, and of course Pelé.

He is also a Jacksonville University Hall of Fame inductee and ended his career at JU as the program’s all-time leading scorer and was a two-time All-American.  He was the third player in NCAA history to amass 40 goals and 40 assists in a career. Furthermore, his 54 career assists still rank sixth in the NCAA all-time record books even after 30+ years.

Photo Credit: Atlantic Soccer Factory

Mihailovic boasts over 20 years of elite-level coaching experience at the youth, adult, and professional levels. In 2009, he was inducted into the Illinois State Soccer Association Hall of Fame. He currently lives in Chicago where he serves as President of the Chicago Blast Soccer Club, one of the premier soccer clubs in the Midwest.

Chicago Blast has won over 100 tournaments and league titles in less than 10 years against serious competition. A focus on player development has made this incredible accomplishment possible.

“Chicago Blast is a unique soccer club.  It has brought diversity and opportunities for players to be trained in a sound and positive environment. It has given many players the opportunity to be part of a soccer family that goes beyond just soccer. It’s a club built on sound values and principles such as respect, loyalty, ethics and the will to develop and improve individually and collectively. Many of our players have had the opportunity to compete locally, regionally, and nationally.”

He is also the founder of Soccer Made in America (SMIA).  Since 1984 the program has touched over half a million players and coaches throughout the country.

“The mission of SMIA is very simple, to elevate technical and tactical awareness and the acceptance of the game throughout United States.  Soccer Made in America is nationally recognized for presenting outstanding methodology for players and coaches.”

The USSF “A” licensed coach has been actively involved with educating coaches and players for decades.  He has authored coaching manuals, been featured in instructional DVDs, and served as a featured clinician at events across the country.

Mihailovic credits both Hank Steinbrecher and Bora Milutinovic as major influences on his career, something his players say about him.

“Hank came to our game when the game needed him the most.  I was also very fortunate to be introduced to Sepp Herberger and German football at the age of 20. It truly opened my eyes to the game and it served as the start of my coaching foundation, however I owe much gratitude to our USSF coaching schools for the education I was provided.”

What people love about Mihailovic is his passion and love for the game.  He believes in the work he does and believes in America as a soccer nation.

“I believe it is an exciting time in our game and in our country. We have our U.S. Men’s National Team going to the World Cup in Brazil. The acceptance level of the game in the United States is rising, and soccer is now the #1 played sport in America. We have cities with passionate fan bases starting to take hold and our youth and adult coaches are tactically and technically improving the game all over America.”

Photo Credit: Atlantic Soccer Factory

Mihailovic believes the U.S. is headed in the right direction, but improvements in the areas of environment and talent evaluation would go a long way.  He also suggests that coaches need to pay attention to detail in training and development.

“You can’t teach the game unless you know the game. I think the focus at the early ages starting at U-8 demands experienced coaches who can install proper fundamental blocks in young players. In most cases we have most experienced coaches working with older players and less experienced work with younger ages. We need to balance and re-evaluate this process in order to develop natural and fluent movements in our players at early ages, supported by precision in teaching technical and tactical areas.”

According to Mihailovic, more academy programs in large cities would also be a major step forward.

“Having more academy programs does not oversaturate talent pool; it becomes an opportunity to develop more talent in a highly competitive environment. When you have cities of 15 million people with two or three academy programs, only an average of 90 players are affected in each age group.”

High-level programs cost money and that is something that still needs to be addressed.

“Everybody expects us to be on the same playing level with the world’s best clubs. Until the financial situation is solved where development is fully funded for advanced players, it becomes a challenge to compete with clubs who have a true structure in place. For example, Manchester City has a budget of approximately $3 million for their U-15 academy program. Most MLS teams have a similar budget for their first team and academy programs combined.”

Creating a “winning first” attitude and changing the adult game are other pieces of the puzzle.  Even though he is regarded as one of the nation’s best soccer minds, Mihailovic is admittedly a lifelong learner when it comes to the beautiful game.

“As a coach you cannot stop learning, you always have to keep up with the newest methods and opportunity for new learning. I think if you put what is always best for the game first; the game will always be there for you.”

He knows how important his job is and not to take it for granted.

“Being a soccer coach has the ability to impact lives. Teaching life lessons to your players such as hard work ethics, discipline, and desire to never give up will help players develop on and off the field.”

What we need are more people like Aleks Mihailovic, a leader with tremendous vision, a sensible approach to the game, and literally a world of technical knowledge.

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.