Coming off of two conference championships, NC Fusion’s USL-W team is looking for their third this season. Leading the team throughout the victories is head coach John Pardini. With the season almost underway, I met up with John to find out when his love of soccer began. It all started when John was two years old. He first began as any soccer player did, by just kicking the ball around. His older brother was in soccer and so his parents decided to put him on his first team when John was just three years old. John played all sports as most kids do, but found that soccer just stuck with him. He began learning new skills around ages three, four, and five which drove his youth career. Along the way John had great coaches such as Chris Linn, David Price, and Todd Lippes who helped him develop throughout his youth career.
John started out by playing for his local recreation team. By U11, he had moved on to a bigger club, which then led to him playing for Albertson Club in high school. John continued to grow in skill and as a result his team went to two national finals. John had the aspiration like all kids to play collegiate soccer. He participated in showcase events and found the interest of 7 or 8 colleges at the beginning of his junior year. With a connection at Fordham University and it being close to home, John decided at the end of his junior year/ beginning of senior year this is where he wanted to be.
Collegiate soccer is a big achievement for any athlete. Your game goes to a whole new level. When asked what John’s favorite aspect of collegiate soccer was, he said the travel. He enjoyed going to other universities and visiting exciting cities like South Florida and Daytona. He also had a great connection with his head coach Jim McElderry (who is now the head coach at Rutgers University). McElderry understood John’s personality and was able to reign him in and help him channel his energy to soccer. When asked what John’s greatest achievement in his soccer career was, he said personally “winning U20 Red Bull Player of the year” and team wise “getting to two national finals in my youth career.” With his college career coming to an end, a new chapter opened for John when he began coaching.
When John was young, he always loved watching any sport because each one had strategy involved and you have to be a thinker of the game. Part of his love is the strategy, influencing a game, and how a player thinks. Another aspect of coaching he loves is the relationships he gets to build with people. You spend so much time with other coaches and players. He explained how humbling it is for him to watch a kid grow in their skill and help them achieve their goal. Even watching a kid go through a tough experience, come out on the other side, and go onto reaching their goals has been one of Johns’ favorite aspects of coaching.
As John has watched many kids come through the program and grow, he also has grown himself and learned new things. John has learned how to have great emotional regulation. He “learned that kids need a ton of support and someone who always has their back in tough moments.” John described how every kid needs something different at different moments in their lives and how you share your communication with them in that moment can stick with the kid for the rest of their life. Kids hang on to every word you say, so John works on bringing the best version of himself so that the kids have a great experience. It has taken time for John to get to and properly prepare for the conversations he has with these kids as he sometimes feels like a guide for them. When being part of a team, kids are working their hardest to grow their skills, but ultimately throughout your playing career you also develop mentally, and John really takes this into perspective.
With any sport, you win some and you lose some. When asked what the most challenging aspect of coaching is for John he said “dealing with failure.” Not just the failure of losing a game though, but also when a player fails. The devastation of missing the final shot to win a game or not being able to save a goal, as athletes everyone goes through failure. As a coach, John feels this responsibility to the players, parents, and everyone involved to try and help them succeed. A way he does encourage and help players that might be dealing with failure or disappointment is by getting around to them and giving them extra help or encouragement. He makes sure he is getting to every player and making sure they know it’s okay.
I asked John what he believed his greatest impact is on NC Fusion, he noted helping create a regional program in the conference Carolinas, establishing a player platform, and connecting Fusion’s youth program to the U23 program. In addition, he has continued to try and build a culture around women’s soccer where kids know they have the opportunity to turn the sport they love into collegiate or a pro experience. John also hopes a big impact he has had has been on every kid that comes through Fusion making them feel valued and have a sense of belonging to Fusions community. Lastly, John’s greatest achievement in his coaching career has been leading the USL-W team to win two conference championships. On May 18th the USL-W team begins its journey for its third title.
Story written by Jenna Parker