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Paul James retires from Coaching

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Paul James leaves coaching, makes plea for more support for coaches


6/01/2010 4:50 PM

TORONTO - It's the first day of the rest of Paul James' life. The Hall of Fame soccer player is leaving coaching, no longer willing to pay the price that success on the sidelines demands.

James, 46, is a former Canadian under-20 men's coach who has spent the last six years as "master coach" of the York University soccer programs. He coached the York women all six seasons, leading them to a 66-19-15 record and four CIS championship appearances. The Lions, who had never previously made it to the national championships before James, were runners-up in 2007 when he was named CIS and OUA coach of the year.

He also coached the York men for three seasons, before turning the team over to Carmine Isacco in 2007. The men won the national title in 2008.

While James savoured his time at York, he says it's time for a career change.

"After 20 years of coaching, I've just come to the decision that I want to just move away from that career. In a way, I've lost a little bit of the passion for it," he said in an interview Wednesday. "I actually think, in part, the coaching career path I took has definitely been challenging and I think over time, in my experience, it can wear you down a little bit.

"In Canada I've found the only way to be successful, if you coach at a significant level . . . you really, really do have to be fanatical about it - fanatical in recruiting, fanatical with your tactics, and always having your eye on the ball. It doesn't mean that it would be the same for other people but for me personally I think over time it's wore me down and I'm just at this point to be happy to look to move in a different direction.

"I just didn't want to be a lifelong soccer coach. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed the past six years at York, it's been a great experience. But I feel if I wait any longer to move on from coaching then I feel like I'd be pigeonholed in that career the rest of my life."

Tracy David, head women's coach at the University of Victoria, understands where James is coming from.

"I think that most people across this country don't understand the demands of coaching - and particularly at the very elite levels," she said.

James is no ordinary coach. He has an MBA from the University of Liverpool, which is renowned for its "football industries" postgraduate program. A thoughtful observer of the game, he writes a column for The Globe and Mail and has served as an analyst for both The Score and GolTV.

He said he will miss the intensity and passion of putting together a team and a game plan.

"The enjoyment of leading group of individuals to achieve a specific goal, whether it be one game or whether it be a full season. . . . It's an amazing experience."

Also challenging. Under James, Canada qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2001 in Argentina. But the Canadians were overmatched, outscored 9-0 in losses to Brazil, Germany and Iraq.

A 3-0 opening loss to Iraq, targeted as the most beatable opponent Canada had in the group, remains a disappointment to this day.

"It's that lack of experience we had going on there was hard to overcome," he said. "Even myself as a coach."

James sees an irony in Dale Mitchell's team suffering the same fate six years later when Canada hosted the event, with home fans dismayed by the Canadian showing.

"The unfortunate ignorance as far as what that (elite) level is is extraordinary," he said. "It's not that we shouldn't aim to be better. It's not that we shouldn't demand that we make changes. But there needs to be more empathy for coaches that are put in that position. And we should celebrate much more the accomplishment for qualifying for events as opposed to lambasting (the coach later)."

James' team featured the likes of Julian de Guzman, Rob Friend, Iain Hume, Atiba Hutchinson and Mike Klukowski, all of whom have gone on to make their mark as senior players.

James, a member of Canada's 1986 World Cup team, played 44 times for his country. He was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003.

Asked to describe James' coaching style, player agent and fellow coach Barry MacLean said: "Demanding, uncompromising, totally ethical in the way he went about everything, intelligent, organized definitely.

"He was a professional coach. It's unfortunate I think that he grew up in Canada . . . I think he could have reached a pretty high level somewhere else."

MacLean, who coaches the Wilfrid Laurier women's team, served as an assistant to James when he was player-coach of the London Lasers in the Canadian Soccer League.

David paid tribute to both James' work as a coach and his endeavours for the CIS women's soccer coaches' association.

"It is a big loss . . he has a real passion for the game," said David.

"Not only has he done a good job coaching, he's done a good job convincing the university administration that soccer is important, soccer is here to stay, soccer is the world's game," she added.

MacLean also credits James for growing the game.

"I think his arrival in the OUA women's soccer realm drove the game forward," said MacLean. "He was so tireless in his work ethic, with his recruiting and building that program. And it basically drove a lot of other programs to push a lot harder. The women's game in Ontario has grown dramatically in the last five or six years and I think a lot of that is a testament to him."

James says his decision is final.

"I don't see myself coming back into coaching. I just want on to move to something else positive."

He quits the York sidelines with optimism for the university game, as long as soccer officials and media start appreciating its potential.

"I leave the CIS system and I leave York University with great hope that other people out there in the Canadian soccer industry see the potential that the CIS has."

Down the road, he sees growth for Canada's modest soccer industry. He just may not be involved in it.

"Hopefully something happens down the road but I'm certainly not banking on it," he said of his involvement. "I'm just going to explore lots of other areas."

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quote:Originally posted by tarnado

"He was a professional coach. It's unfortunate I think that he grew up in Canada . . . I think he could have reached a pretty high level somewhere else."

The only unfortunate think here is that he didn't have the courage to buy a plane ticket and prove himself somewhere else where football counts. It doesn't matter where it is that you grew up, what matters is what you do to grow as a coach once you're a independent adult.

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Yap it is all about coaching and that said,Paul and I go back to the middle eighties when I managed and sponsored(Hanover Kitchens and Sylvania) the Canadian Indoor dream team in Scarborough,with the likes of Colin Miller,Brian Budd,Bruce Wilson,Paul James,Dave McQeen,Garry Miller,coach,Vac Verikaitis,Gord Miller,Alf Deblasis,Billy Mackarel,Tony Oliver,Gord Sweetzer,Gordie Wallace,Mark Purdy,Billie Pagonis,Ed McBride,Cam Walker and Bobby I forgot his last name,great great goallie and sometimes me when a man short.

Paul was always there and his drive and enthousism was amazing.He was elected into the soccer Hall of Fame as were Colin Miller and the first inductee Bruce Wilson,all great guys and men.Most of these guys played for the Blizzard or Blizzard reserves,with Paul,Colin and Bruce playing for Canada.

Wow some amazing memory and honour.

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Always struck me as an x & o sort of coach. And I write coach and not "manager" as is my habit on purpose. Don't get me wrong, I've disagreed with James' opinions in the media over the years on more than one occasion but I think he has a pretty good head for the game. Just don't think he has whatever it is as a coach that it takes to deliver those book smarts to the playing field, for a number of reasons.

That may not be entirely his fault though, even if I subscribe to the school of thought that a good manager manages with what he's got not what he wishes he had. Funny thing is while it seems the "aloof, no nonsense task-master" characters are exactly what people expect and respond to in hockey circles they aren't exactly a commodity in the soccer community in this country. Funny county sometimes, isn't it?

Don't remember him as the most skilled player either but more as a part of the a-typical Canadian footballers of that generation. The ones who worked in a currency of contagious enthusiasm and unbreakable will. Yeah, they'd get beaten, and often, but it was never, ever because of the lack of honest effort. Everything was on the field after 90. You had to beat them on talent, they wouldn't allow it to happen any other way. Don't take that as an insult to their quality, it isn't meant to be.

Couldn't go on forever. It never does. Best wishes to Mr James in whatever future adventures he pursues. A worthy member of Canada's Soccer Hall of Fame.

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