John Hackworth’s list of students is extensive. Frankly, it’s a wish-list for most soccer coaches. There’s Landon Donovan. There’s Freddy Adu. And there’s DeMarcus Beasley, too.
To that pecking order add nearly every other United States soccer player — from age 14 to 40 — that has passed through the U.S. Men’s National or U.S. Developmental Academy, which is housed in Bradenton and practices on IMG Academies campus.
Hackworth has taught them something about soccer.
And recently, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Hackworth the United States Olympic Committee Developmental Coach of the Year.
“I’m not the one to toot my own horn,” he said. “That’s big. I’m not the one for awards. If I was named soccer coach of the year people would be like, ‘Ah, big deal.’ But if you are the Olympic Developmental Coach of the Year that means you work with youth kids, and at least in our culture, it’s a little different.”
Hackworth is different.
Hackworth, who is soft-spoken and still appears fit enough to play with the best players in the country, coaches players representing the Red, White and Blue and vying for gold medals, with the pressure of the country on the weight of their shoulders.
In contrast, he also tutors players ages 7 and 8 with FC Sarasota/Manatee Area Youth Soccer Organization, who have zero knowledge of a cross pass.
That’s the joy of it all for Hackworth.
For the youngsters, it’s not all about winning. It’s about learning the fundamentals of the game.
You think Hackworth remembers winning a tournament or even owns a trophy from his youth soccer playing days nearly 30 years ago?
However, what’s important is he stuck with the game, won a national title at Wake Forest University and played professional soccer before diving into coaching.
He wants the same for the legion of soccer players he’s coached, whether it’s Adu or little Joey that cries when he isn’t passed the ball.
“It’s a win-at-all-cost mentality,” Hackworth said. “If you win you did good, and if you lost you did terrible. And that’s not the way anybody learns. Especially, with young kids and young coaches who really don’t know what they are talking about.
“We need to move this, so that it’s not about results, but it’s about the young kids learning the game and learning to love it.”
Hackworth is teaching more than the kids. His coaching assistants are learning a thing or two also.
Erik Barbon, assistant director of coaching for FC Sarasota Soccer Club, has worked with Hackworth for four years.
“He’s very good at reaching out to any type of player,” Barbon said. “He’s in charge of youth development in the whole country, so the United States Soccer Federation has entrusted him in doing so. He can pinpoint deficiencies in players, and he works with them for them to get better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seven year old or guys fighting for professional contracts.”
For that unique ability, Hackworth is considered the best developmental coach in America.
Ryan T. Boyd, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017.