HSE Women’s Soccer Coach, Greg Davidson, reflects on international coaching experience
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Greg Davidson has many coaching achievements under his belt – he’s won more than 275 games throughout his 19 years and counting as head coach of the Hamilton Southeastern High School (HSE) women’s varsity soccer team, holds multiple conference, sectional and regional titles and has coached 38 players who went on to play Division I soccer.
Still, one accolade that will always hold a special place in his heart is having had the chance to coach the USA men’s Under-18 soccer team at last June’s 2017 United World Games (UWG), an annual youth sporting event held in Europe with teams from all over the globe in more than 10 sports categories.
Last May, just as he began contemplating plans for his brief time off in the summer from coaching and guidance counselor duties at HSE, Davidson got an intriguing phone call from a colleague. Apparently the college coach who was scheduled to lead the U.S. men’s U-18 team at the 13th annual UWG had chosen to step away from the position due to a family matter.
Davidson was asked point blank if he would fill the role and learned that, should he accept, he would be the only non-college coach in the history of the UWG to lead a U.S. team at the event.
“I knew it would be a great opportunity,” says Davidson, who played four years of semi-pro soccer in Indiana from 1989 through 1992, and currently serves as president of the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association. “The U.S.A. organizational group did a one-hour phone interview with me, and the next thing I know I’m asking my wife if it would be okay if I went to Europe for 10 days. I was thankful they were willing to branch out and have a high school coach with some experience.”
After a meeting in New York where Davidson got to know his team, which consisted of soccer standouts from California, New York, Florida, Dallas and several points in between, the group boarded a plane for Munich, Germany, for several days of training and team-building exercises.
“One of the highlights was this really long team bike ride we did through Munich with a tour guide,” says Davidson, who had never been overseas prior to the event. “We got to know each other a little bit and got some fitness at the same time. It was a really good team bonding atmosphere.”
After only a few formal practices during which Davidson had an opportunity to observe his players and figure out game formations, the team headed for the Austria-based UWG, the structure of which he says is similar to the Pan American games. Despite limited time for practice and game preparation, Davidson says the U.S. team put in a reasonably strong performance, advancing past the first round with a 1-1-1 record before losing to Italy 2-1 in a close match.
“I think we played our best against Italy,” he recalls. “We got better every game, and I think if we’d had a little more time we could have shown better. But it’s surprising how quickly we came together.”
Davidson was struck by the level of sportsmanship and respect displayed by young athletes from 38 countries who participated at the World Games, both on and off the field.
“My team played hard, and I think we showed that American soccer is better than what it has been in past years,” he says. “What I saw after every game was a mutual respect. It was different than what you get sometimes in our environment here in America with competition – whether you won or lost, the respect was very mutual and all the kids honored the game.”
Looking back, Davidson feels the entire experience, from the initial gathering in New York to a post-tournament team sightseeing trip through Venice, Milan and Lake Como, Italy, before returning to the states, was edifying in both a coaching and a personal capacity.
“I’m now on the national board with United Soccer Coaches, which has afforded me some opportunities to do seminars and some coaching and clinics throughout America,” Davidson says. “So I’ve been privileged to be able to do some things in the U.S., but to be able to do it at an international level, I feel very privileged. It’s a feather in my cap that I didn’t think I would ever be able to place there.”