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MEETING OF THE MINDS
Six of soccer's best and brightest, their lives intertwined through the years, are now making their mark in and around Washington Youth Soccer
SEATTLE – Back in the day, the state of Washington wasn't anywhere on Terry Fisher's radar.
But when Fisher became head coach of the UCLA men's team in 1973, a young player named Sigi Schmid definitely was on his radar — and on his Bruins roster, too.
Dean Wurzberger might have taken his first professional soccer kicks in California — playing for Fisher with the NASL's Los Angeles Aztecs. He wound up playing in Seattle instead, only to find himself back in California a few years later — as an assistant coach to Schmid at UCLA, and later as a head coach for Fisher's San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the Western Soccer League. That league had risen from the ashes of the NASL, whose long roster of players, coaches and team officials included a talented, Pennsylvania-bred goalkeeper named Bill Nuttall.
When Major League Soccer came along, one of the charter members was the San Jose Clash. Its front office included Grant Clark, who was director of business and team administration — and was a former player for Schmid at UCLA, and a former scout for Wurzberger's Blackhawks.
Among Clark's co-workers was Fisher, the Clash's sponsorship director, who held that position until he returned as a team owner in what had become the United Soccer Leagues. There, one of his fellow owners was Bill Hurme.
Six men, intertwined by a long thread that has woven through many accomplishments, both with players just learning how to kick a ball all the way up to those who kick it at the highest levels of the game.
Suffice to say that Washington is now very much on all of their radar screens.
Schmid is the head coach of the Seattle Sounders. Their wildly successful 2009 inaugural season included the U.S. Open Cup championship, a trip to the MLS playoffs and the rewriting of numerous league attendance records. Clark is the team's administration director.
Wurzberger just finished his 18th year as the University of Washington men's coach, a tenure during which the Huskies have earned 12 trips to the NCAA tournament.
Fisher is well into his first year as the executive director and CEO of Washington Youth Soccer. And among those on that organization's board of directors: Hurme and Nuttall.
"It was not planned, but I don't think it is any accident that we have all ended up in the same state," Clark said. "For me, it always felt like the soccer community in Washington was open and welcoming to anyone who respected the game, [and] was willing to work hard to further the game. And [that community] had deep roots, which was similar to the love and passion we had all experienced in our previous zip codes."
Added Hurme, who owns a local real estate company, TeamBuilder JLS, and previously owned the Everett Bigfoot and Puget Sound Hammers franchises in the United Soccer Leagues, "Like a lot of industries, the people who do things end up being a fairly small circle. It's true in business and also true in sports."
Fisher is newest to the area, having been named to his Washington Youth Soccer leadership position last June after spending the previous 10 years in real estate with Coldwell Banker in Northern California.
Schmid, already well into preparations for his second season with the Sounders, isn't shy about saying that Fisher made an impact on him. While then-UCLA coach Fisher remembers Schmid as a "very skillful, technical, tactical, thoughtful midfield player who was far beyond his days," Schmid remembers Fisher as the first coach to put him on the bench.
"That might not sound like a positive," Schmid said. "But by being a sub, I learned a lot that I could use later as a coach. It also motivated me to stay another year at school and allowed me to consider going for my MBA in grad school.
"I learned to love soccer," Schmid added, "but I also needed to prepare for life in general, as well."
In their own way, Fisher, Hurme, Nuttall, Schmid, Wurzberger and Clark all know the finer points of planning — whether it's a game plan, a business plan or a scheduling plan. One thing none of them could have planned on — even had they tried — was all of them winding up in the northwest corner of the United States.
"It's more about friendships formed and about people you meet along the trail and form a bond with," Fisher said. "These are lifetime friendships. We're still trying to write history as we go."
Added Schmid, "The key quality all of these people possess is their passion for the game. They care about the sport, they care about the game and how it is represented, they care about the people they work with and about the people that the sport bring them into contact with.
"Passion and caring have come together in Washington."
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