ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 27, 2018) — On most Saturday nights or weekday mornings this time of year, you can find Michael Nanchoff in uniform for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The 28-year old with a machine of a left foot patrols the center of midfield like a metronome, helping to connect the offense and defense.
On weekday evenings long after the Rowdies have finished training for the day, you can still find Nanchoff on a soccer field, just one of an entirely different scale.
Nanchoff serves as an assistant coach for the U12 Tampa Bay United Rowdies Development Academy team in his downtime, working with Head Coach Russell Stirling to groom the next generation of Rowdies stars for their role in the spotlight some time in the future.
Or, maybe it’s the generation after the next generation, as his current crop is only 11 or 12 years old. The team he works with is the best group of players TBU Rowdies has at that age level. Competition to get onto the team is intense.
“There’s 20 players on the roster and they play competitive games just like any other league,” Nanchoff said. “Although they’re younger, it’s still a very professional setup. They play teams like the Jacksonville Armada, Clearwater Chargers or IMG Academy.”
This is only the first step in a potential second career for Nanchoff.
Before signing with the Rowdies in 2016 from the Portland Timbers, Nanchoff had already begun the process of acquiring coaching badges to certify himself for a career in coaching once the time comes to hang up his boots.
Now the holder of a B License from the United States Soccer Federation, Nanchoff is proud to work with Tampa Bay United Rowdies SC.
“I’ve always known I wanted to jump into coaching,” he said. “At what point, I had no idea. I knew as soon as I started earning my coaching badges a couple of years ago that I wanted to coach at the highest possible youth level. Given that the Rowdies have an affiliate in the Tampa Bay United Rowdies Development Academy, I saw this is a great opportunity to jump into the coaching scene.”
His short time with TBU Rowdies has already been a valuable learning experience for Nanchoff. He’s learning to look at the game a different way, which benefits not only the players he coaches, but also himself as a player.
“It’s two different worlds,” he said. “Coaching is extremely tough. I’m sure any coach would tell that from their experience, there’s a whole other set of factors that come into play that you don’t think about when you’re inside the white lines as a player. It’s important to make sure, at the age I work with, that you’re keeping it fun while teaching them the right things at the right time.”
When Nanchoff arrives at TBU Rowdies for training four or five times a week, he says he can sometimes see the kids’ eyes light up. Maybe they feel a little extra pressure to perform in front of an actual professional Rowdies player.
The pressure cuts both ways though. When Nanchoff’s players are in the stands at Al Lang Stadium to watch him play, he says he feels a little extra pressure to perform. After scoring against the Philadelphia Union in a preseason match on February 24, he received a warm welcome and some congratulations from his young mentees.
It would be easy for Nanchoff to put off coaching until later in his playing career and spend his free time relaxing, but when he thinks back to his time as a youth soccer player, he feels an obligation to help the future generations. He wants to make sure they have a good learning environment and are being taught to play the right way.
“For me, this is an added challenge,” he said. “I love doing this. It makes me feel young over and over and over again even though there are some headaches that go along with it. I remember that I was once in those players’ shoes and now is my time to give back. The sky is the limit for these kids and it’s super important for us as players to give back to these kids and teach them how to play the right way.”