Relentless: Tim Schum on the coaches who helped grow the American game

Those of us who embraced soccer in the USA several decades ago are drawn to sharing stories about the lengths we once went to enjoy the sport.

One of mine is listening to the Bundesliga report on Deutsche Welle while my father maneuvered the shortwave radio antenna in hopes of decreasing the static as I wrote down the scores.

Sharing such memories, I imagine, is a way of celebrating with each other the magnificent growth of American soccer by recalling how far it's come.

Some of Tim Schum’s stories are literally about the lengths he went for soccer.

In 1974, he organized buses for his soccer camp attendees, family and friends from Upstate New York to Philadelphia — a 200-mile drive — to watch the World Cup on closed-circuit TV.

Schum’s stories are often about bringing others along.

East Rutherford, New Jersey — 170 miles down the road from Binghamton, New York — later in 1970s became a frequent destination for his bus trips, to watch the star-studded Cosmos, including Pele. Schum also managed getting his boys team to play in a Giants Stadium pregame.

“One of our players, the future Cornell captain Pat Price,” Schum says, “kept taking the ball from deep in our half and slaloming through the New Jersey boys until running out of gas at their 18.

“As the crowd came in, they noticed him, would ooh and aah, cheer and applaud. But it was hotter than Hades on the Astroturf and I thought he was going to collapse from dehydration. So, I subbed him out.

“And the crowd booed me [laughs].”

Other Schum accounts are about trying to optimize his players’ experience with limited resources in the years when college coaching also meant being promoter, scoreboard-builder, field-chalker — and trainer.

“I hate to tell you how many ankles I taped because we didn’t get a trainer for away games,"  says Schum, whose 29 years (1963-1992) as men's soccer coach at SUNY Binghamton also included stints as golf and baseball coach, physical education teacher and rec and athletic department administrator. 

"I watched closely how he taped ankles for home games and tried my best. I’m sure I wrapped them too tight lots of times, but the players never seemed to complain.”

Such efforts were being made by coaches around the nation and usually when Schum, a history major and part-time reporter in his college days, tells soccer stories, it’s about others. For 20 years, Schum served as editor of the Soccer Journal, the magazine of United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA), of which Schum has been a member for six decades.

In his new book — “Relentless: The Story of American Soccer and the Coaches Who Helped Grow the Game” — Schum brings the reader along from the very beginnings of American soccer coaching to the modern era. It also serves as a history of United Soccer Coaches, which first convened in 1942.

“I felt that somebody better capture the lives and contributions of the early and more modern coaches and their individual contributions to the growth of the game,” Schum says. “I wanted to capture American soccer history through the lens of all of those coaches.”

The journey begins in the early 1900s with immigrants such as Douglas Stewart, the Scotland-born Pennsylvanian who helped in the quest to get FIFA to welcome the United States Football Association into its membership in 1913 — a decade before Brazil’s CBF joined FIFA —  to create what is now U.S. Soccer.

* * * * * * * * * *

You’re organizing a soccer dinner party. Which four people, dead or alive, do you invite?

TIM SCHUM: Alex Ferguson, Dettmar Cramer, Pep Guardiola and Anson Dorrance.

Alex Ferguson is always interesting. Cramer revolutionized American soccer. Guardiola is the modern coach, whose teams play spectacular soccer. Dorrance is one of the great coaches of American soccer, and further he's a very intelligent guy. He asks good questions and he would stir up those guys.

* * * * * * * * * *

First USSF license course, 1970, Providence, Rhode Island: Back row: Bob Ritcey, Layton Shoemaker, (unknown), Lenny Lucenko, Tom Nevers, Dettmar Cramer, Bob McNulty, Hubert Vogelsinger, Joe Morrone, (unknown), Will Myers. Front row: Trevor Pugh, Joe Machnik, Gene Chyzowych, James Bradley, Manfred Schellscheidt.

In “Relentless,” Dan Flynn offers perspective on Bob Guelker and Harry Keough. Manny Schellscheidt recalls Dettmar Cramer’s influence. Jerry Yeagley recounts a pregame encounter with Walter Bahr — and the lesson he learned. Lou Sagastume recalls the Steve Negoesco approach.

Bob Gansler explains what made Lothar Osiander unique while Ralph Perez helps tell the Gansler story. The Bruce Arena, Bob BradleyDave Sarachan trio covers a significant and at times glorious part of American soccer’s modern era.

Like Arena’s, Sigi Schmid’s coaching tree and personal journey link many factions of the American game: pro, college, national team and youth. In Schmid's case, back to his boyhood AYSO experience and through to his assistant at Seattle, Brian Schmetzer, who is now a two-time MLS championship-winning coach.

Those names are just a fraction of the coaches covered by Schum in “Relentless,” a work that could only have been produced by someone inspired by being a part of that history.

“There was a never-say-die passion and commitment to ‘we’re going to make soccer an important sport in this country,’” Schum says. “The soccer coaching community was really united. We really helped each other out.”

"Relentless: The Story of American Soccer and the Coaches Who Helped Grow the Game Paperback," By Tim Schum (2022, Cardinal Publishers Group) 439 pages.

6 comments about "Relentless: Tim Schum on the coaches who helped grow the American game".
  1. Ric Fonseca, January 10, 2023 at 3:21 p.m.

    When Tim contacted me at the time he was researching for his book, and asked me about our sport in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, well, there wasn't enough time to try collect enough information since I first arrived in the L.A. metropolitan area in fall of 1970 to pursue graduate studies at UCLA, but was magnetically taken in by the vast soccer arena that is - and has been - my now adopted home town.
    Having been born and raised first, in Mexico City, and then by fate in East Oakland, then there wasn't much soccer other than the local "ethnic" teams, mainly Guadalajara, and other San Francisco teams, but I did manage to see Pele come to the Oakland coliseum for a game in the late 60's. But I digress as my being accepted to UCLA, for sure opened up a much, much more broad sports landscape that is Los Angeles. I shared with the author my experiences with the very personalities he mentions, from Sigi Schmid, Steve Sampson, Ralph Perez, Lou Sagastume, and then with Dettmar Cramer, et. al. and to put it bluntly, it is an unforgetable experience we all encounter and one that shall live forever. A very good read that I recommend to one and all.

  2. Kevin Sims replied, January 10, 2023 at 3:40 p.m.

    Got mine. Planned to read while flying to and from United Soccer Coaches convention. Could not put it down! Fascinating and interesting read that connects the dots across the landscape of American soccer. Thanks, Tim.

  3. Greedy Striker, January 10, 2023 at 4:43 p.m.

    Great piece! Informative for me as a young coach to read about the history beforehand!

  4. Mike Lynch, January 10, 2023 at 5:04 p.m.

    Ordered mine and arrived last week! Already gobbling up the many stories of the rich history, including the limited to no resources, the unwarranted negative treatment, etc, yet the persevered, kept their eye on the ball, and laid the foundation for what we have today! We all are indebted to them. Thanks Tim and Mike for sharing. 

  5. Tom Keene, January 11, 2023 at 2:50 p.m.

    You don't have Jay Miller on the list..WHY

  6. Tim Schum replied, January 25, 2023 at 1:54 p.m.

    Jay Miller's career is coveered as relates to his mentor, John McKeion as well as in a story about a handful of coaches that were raised and blossomed in the Harrisburg, PA area. The latter story is downloaded as a QR addition to the text. Tim S.

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