U.S. Soccer chooses Sermanni, not symbol, as women’s coach

Tom Sermanni is, on paper, the most impressive candidate the U.S. women’s soccer team has ever had as head coach.

The U.S. women have never had an experienced international coach on the bench. After Anson Dorrance stepped down, the USA has had a steady succession of assistant coaches moving up — Tony DiCicco, April Heinrichs and Greg Ryan. That line of succession ended with Pia Sundhage, a head coach at youth national level in Sweden and a club coach with the Boston Breakers (WUSA version) and KIF Orebro in Sweden. (And, like Sundhage, Sermanni was a WUSA head coach.)

Sermanni was Australia’s head coach from 1994 to 1997, then again for the past eight years. That includes two World Cup quarterfinal appearances with a perpetually young team. As Julie Foudy put it:

Foudy also has tweeted plenty of compliments about Sermanni — “GRT coach and GRT human being” — and she elaborated by email: “I have known him for many years and think he is a great coach. And that he is a player’s manager type of coach. But is a strong personality who can also “crack the whip” (quote from many of current players) as many of the current players want.”

ESPN’s Adrian Healey had an interesting thought on how Sermanni might be able to deal with the large personalities on the U.S. squad:

Most other folks in the women’s soccer community seem happy with the hire. Then there’s Philip Hersh, veteran Olympic sports journalist for the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. His take:

That led to a few arguments with people in the WoSo community, such as our good friend-in-blogging Jenna Pel. But he stuck to it.

Hersh echoes Christine Brennan’s recent thoughts on the matter, though Brennan took more of a long-term view:

In a nation of 314 million people, with millions of girls and women playing or having played soccer, if not one of them is deemed good enough to lead the U.S. women’s national team in 2012, isn’t that a terrible indictment of the feeder system for girls and women in leadership positions in the game?

That’s a legitimate long-term question. That said, U.S. Soccer has now placed women — April Heinrichs and Jill Ellis — in charge of that very feeder system. Heinrichs, Ellis and Carin Gabarra are in charge of a sprawling effort to develop women’s soccer from the youth level up, with full-time youth national coaches on the way. They’re setting the tone for U.S. women’s soccer for years or decades to come.

Sermanni should fit well with both the long-term and short-term vision. He surely gets the long-term goal of developing players with breathtaking skill with ball at their feet. But, like Pia Sundhage, he surely understands that a team with the world’s best target forward (Abby Wambach) should make sure she gets a few chances to get her head on the ball in the box. (Hey, crossing like Megan Rapinoe is a skill, too.)

As for the importance of having a woman on the sideline in 2013 and beyond, I’d have to defer to those whose words and deeds carry a bit more weight. There’s Foudy, who isn’t exactly a Title IX opponent. Then there’s Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton, half of the coaching search committee.

The concerns about developing women’s coaching talent in the long term are legit. But for now, there’s one symbol far more important — the USA’s first World Cup trophy since 1999. (No pressure or anything …)

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9 thoughts on “U.S. Soccer chooses Sermanni, not symbol, as women’s coach

  1. Really severely agree with LT; looking at a female first solely because she is female smacks of tokenism and does no one any favors – neither the team, nor the the coach who may or may not be qualified. To advance women in sports on the coaching side, what we really should be looking at is how to get more women involved in coaching, period, and discussing what barriers to opportunity might exist. Putting a woman in a position of visibility can help, but if she can’t perform, it does way more harm than good.

  2. what LT said. honestly, the best thing that we can do for the future of the sport in this country is to keep winning and thank goodness sermanni accepted the job because he gives us a hell of a lot better chance at that than dicicco

  3. Is this part of a broader issue of the U.S. producing good soccer coaches for both the women’s and the men’s game?

  4. Do not mention Title IX with regards to the hiring or development of elite level women coaches. There is NO Title IX with regards to women sports administrators or coaches at any level. Title IX is only for college level ATHLETES at institutions receiving federal funding. I’ve been trying to find a little bit of information on this subject. Wikipedia for a while had text in the “Title IX” article stating that the majority of college and university athletic department administrators and coaches in charge of WOMEN’S TEAMS and ATHLETES were men and that the percentage of women administrators and coaches had actually DECLINED in the last thirty years. That text appears to be gone now. The thrust of the text was that more women’s teams and women athletes has meant more jobs for men coaches.

    I would say the USSF avoided the issue of the disparity in compensation between that for the USMNT head coach and that for the USWNT head coach from becoming explosive by hiring a man to be the USWNT head coach. I seriously doubt Sermanni was hired in at the same salary Jurgen Klinsmann is getting. I haven’t forgotten the little discussion on this issue on this blog a while back with a certain former WPS team owner in Florida who shall remain unnamed.

  5. I’ve been to Australia once. Met some extended family members who flew in too at Los Angeles airport for the night flight to Sydney. This happened to be the night the USWNT had played a friendly in Birmingham, Alabama vs Australia winning 5-4. Yes 5-4.

    Sitting in the waiting area for the flight lo and behold the Matildas line up against the wall for the flight and their coaches verify they are all there before they scatter to wander around. Being 38 at the time, I felt a bit weird walking up to Melissa Barbieri or Sarah Walsh and saying hi. Id have felt a bit creepy even though I shouldn’t have. DeVanna wasnt there. I did talk to Cheryl Salisbury about her crucial late goal vs Canada.

    I really liked the Matildas at the time. Still do. I’d bet on them in the recent World Cup several times and they had made me a lot of money. Really liked that team. I’m not outgoing but I walked up to head coach Tom Sermanni and said hi.

    He had said before the world cup that North Korea was an unbeatable team. Australia had lost to them in qualifying. USA’s first game was vs N Korea. USA got outplayed but got a 2-2 draw.

    I mentioned how I thought Greg Ryan had made a horrible error in that game. Ryan was a very calm coach. Easy to be when you have the best talent and win almost all your games. But this was a big pressure game and the USA was getting outplayed. Ryan I noticed was up on the sidelines all game SCREAMING at the USA team. I thought that was a terrible error. The last thing a coach who is normally very calm should do in a spot like that is add to the deer in the headlights way USA was playing by adding to the stress by yelling at them all the time.

    Ended up talking to Sermanni for about 15 minutes about women’s soccer until his assistant coach who was next to us seemingly needlessly interrupted and suggested he needed to go and get the team ready to board. Sermanni was incredibly nice and really enjoyed our conversation, seemed surprised to hear someone knowledgeable. He told me to find him on the plane to talk some more, I graciously said we must all be tired and need some sleep on the long flight.

    Having met him, my takeaway at the time was he is an excellent coach and very smart. Never seen anything to change that opinion.

  6. Christine Brennan is in a car accident. I doubt the first thing she says when she arrives at the hospital is “I want an American woman surgeon”. Just like the rest of us she simply want the best person available. That’s all the women of the national team wants as well.

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