John Kowalski is the recipient of the 2018 Walter Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given each year to a coach with “a lifetime of dedication to preserving the spirit of the game of soccer, advancing its level of play and promoting its growth among youth and adults nationwide.”
“It was overwhelming and I was taken aback that I was deemed worthy of the award,” Kowalski said. “I was overwhelmed with emotion and really pleasantly surprised.”
Kowalski truly has dedicated his career to the advancement of soccer on all levels. Following his time as a player, Kowalski went on to coach for New Haven University. Kowalski then was a player/coach for multiple teams, including the New Britain Falcons in the Connecticut State League, where the Falcons won the state title all five years. From there Kowalski coached the Tampa Bay Mutiny and later went on to become the first head coach of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 1999.
Kowalski was the interim head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team in addition to serving as a coach for the U.S. U-20 National Team. Additionally, Kowalski was the longtime head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Futsal Team. Kowalski led the futsal team from 1986-1996 and coached the team to bronze and silver medal finishes in the FIFA World Championships. The bronze medal finish in 1989 was the first medal a U.S. Soccer team won in a FIFA event. The second-place finish in 1992 was the highest of any men’s national team in any FIFA-sanctioned event. The silver medal achievement is also Kowalski’s highlight of his career, though it was not easy for him to pick just one.
After coaching Robert Morris’ men’s soccer team from 1989-1996 and leading them to four regular season titles and two NCAA tournaments, Kowalski moved on to become head coach of the women’s soccer team at Robert Morris. Kowalski led the team to their first-ever NEC tournament in 2015, and garnered NEC Coach of the Year honors as well. Kowalski also coaches the NPSL’s Fort Pitt Regiment and on the youth level in the Pittsburgh area.
For Kowalski, the NPSL provides great opportunities for development in young players, and a great opportunity to play on a high level for others. On that thought, Kowalski focuses on combining development and quality of play.
“I try to combine development with playing together on a high level,” Kowalski said. “The NPSL is a great situation for player development.”
Having Kowalski is a great situation for Fort Pitt Regiment as well, and Business Operations Manager Tim McCoy is happy to have Kowalski at the helm.
“When we started discussing the idea of joining the NPSL John Kowalski was the only coach we considered,” McCoy said. “He brings instant credibility because of his accomplishments and knowledge and we knew he would have an interest in helping each player on the team.”
Though Kowalski has already accomplished a great deal over his career, he still has goals he wants to accomplish.
“I would like to win the NEC tournament and qualify for the NCAA Tournament,” Kowalski said. “And with the NPSL, I want to qualify for the playoffs and win a couple rounds. Our division is very good, so I think to qualify for the playoffs would be a great accomplishment.”
Given his wide range of coaching across all ranks, Kowalski’s suggestion for the advancement of
youth soccer in the U.S. likely won’t come as a surprise.
“Coaching,” Kowalski said. “It has to be a different approach to coaching. We have some very
good teams and some very good coaches, but not enough. A lot of teams are playing with
tactical skills, and I think more have to change (to that approach).”
Kowalski has had and continues to have success on every level of American soccer, with a commitment to player development and tactical development. These qualities led to the deserved honor of the Walter Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award, and his impact on hundreds of players across his career, with still more to come, cannot be understated.
Photo Credit: FPR Staff, Mike Drazdzinski, Danny Doherty/RMU Athletics, Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics