Sigi Schmid

To Be A Sounder: Honesty and growth continue to define Sigi Schmid's coaching career

Sigi Schmid TBAS 0318

Everyone knows that Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid has had a remarkable career.


Everyone knows that he’s the all-time winningest coach in the history of Major League Soccer. He’s won two MLS Cups, three Supporters’ Shields and five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles. And of course there’s his three National Titles won by UCLA in his college coaching days.


It’s common knowledge that he is one of the most successful managers in North American soccer history.


He’s won everything. He’s seen everything. He’s done it all. And for Schmid, that isn’t enough.


“I always say that winning sustains me, and losing motivates me,” said Schmid of what drives him at this stage in his career in a sit-down with SoundersFC.com. “I don’t know when I came up with that, but it’s sort of a slogan I live by. So for me, it’s exhilaration of winning and the feeling you can have the next morning when you wake up and you say, ‘That was great.’”


A veteran of nearly 35 years of coaching experience, Schmid has never lost the desire to not only compete and win matches, but to get out on the training pitch and teach his players the game of soccer.

To Be A Sounder: Honesty and growth continue to define Sigi Schmid's coaching career -

With his seventh season as the Sounders’ manager just beginning, Schmid remains as enthusiastic about his work as he was when he started with UCLA in the ‘80s.


“I still enjoy being around the guys, enjoy making decisions and coming-up with a game plan,” Schmid said of the day-to-day requirements of his job. “You’ve got to make decisions that are not only for the moment, but also for the short-term and long-term future.


“All of that is still exciting, still exhilarating – developing a game plan, watching tape of the opposition, thinking about it at home, drawing things up when you wake up at 3 a.m. and having formations run through your head. Sometimes that can be a pain, but at the end of the day, that’s still what motivates me.”


Schmid is fresh off one of the most successful seasons in his career and certainly the most successful in the history of the Sounders FC. In 2014, the Sounders recorded a league-high 20 wins, won a fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy and claimed the Supporters’ Shield in the last match of the regular season.

<blockquote><em><strong><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">“Twenty wins is something that’s difficult to achieve in this league. It might be a while before a team gets to that level again.”</span></strong></em></blockquote>

Over the course of the year, Schmid reminded his players of how special the season could end up being, something that motivated both the team and coaching staff. When it came to a disappointing end, it only pushed Schmid forward heading into this year.


“We had a phenomenal season,” said Schmid of the 2014 campaign. “Twenty wins is something that’s difficult to achieve in this league. It might be a while before a team gets to that level again. Winning the Supporters’ Shield, I think, is always a great thing. That doesn’t get enough credit for what it deserves because it shows your consistency over 34 games.


“Obviously losing on an away goal [in the postseason] was disappointing because the goal we took at home was a little bit soft. We could have gotten a goal down there, so we were disappointed in that. Also, it was a series that we had three important players all miss for one reason or another. But at the end, we’ve got to play with whose ready, and this year we want to be able to jump over that final hurdle.”


That final hurdle, as Schmid puts it, is winning MLS Cup, something the Sounders have yet to do during their time in the league. Having made it to the Western Conference Championship two times in the last three years, Seattle consistently remains among the top teams in the league but without that last piece of silverware.


If he could, Schmid would trade in some of his league-record 208 wins for a few more MLS Cups, preferably with the Rave Green.


“It’s a nice accomplishment [being the winningest coach in league history] and it’s nice to have, but at the end of the day, I probably want more MLS Cups,” remarked Schmid of his ideal situation. “I’d take a few less regular-season wins to have more Cups.


“You want to achieve both. You want to do well game-in and game-out because that’s what drives the business, drives the fans to the stadium and shows them that you’re a consistent team.”

To Be A Sounder: Honesty and growth continue to define Sigi Schmid's coaching career -

Since joining the Sounders from Columbus Crew in 2009, his side has been just that: consistent. Making the playoffs in each of his six years in charge and averaging nearly 16 wins per 34-match season have made for a very successful endeavor for the 61-year-old German native.


It hasn’t just been his time with Seattle that’s been productive, however. All of his stops, whether it be in the college ranks with UCLA or in MLS with Los Angeles and Columbus, have yielded tremendous results and gained him tremendous understanding of the game.


“Throughout the years he has gained a ton of experience,” said Sounders captain Brad Evans. “It’s stuff that you have to listen to. It makes you a better player over time. And now I’m at the point where I can pull him aside and have a conversation, and we can both speak our minds and both respect each other. We’re in a good spot right now.”


A big reason for the club’s prosperity has been the connection Schmid has had with ownership. Open and direct from the beginning, working with the Sounders front office has been something Schmid has enjoyed and it’s only gotten stronger as the years have gone by.


The essential element in that ever-evolving understanding between veteran coach and experienced ownership group? Honesty.


“It’s been a special situation because of the ownership,” Schmid said of his time in Seattle. “Joe Roth and Adrian [Hanauer] have made me feel very comfortable. Drew Carey as well, because he makes you laugh. It’s a situation where I think there’s been a good working relationship. There’s been a good honesty that’s prevailed. You always go through little bumps and bruises along the way, but we’ve also had some success.


“The opportunity to work with Adrian and Joe has been phenomenal. It’s been a really open relationship, and I think that’s what has helped us succeed more than anything else.”


Owner Adrian Hanauer echoed Schmid’s thoughts on their relationship, saying that it’s been one of the most important parts of the dynamic since it began in 2009.


“Neither of us have any qualms about being honest with each other, disagreeing with each other or respecting each other’s opinions,” said Hanauer of how he and Schmid work together. “He’s a mature, smart, well-meaning, conscientious person. All of those characteristics lead to an honest, open relationship that for me – in the organizations that I like to be around – is paramount.”


That forthright bond with Schmid extends beyond just those who oversee the product on the field from a club standpoint, as it’s also crucial for those watching in the stands and on television.


Whether it was at UCLA or in MLS with Seattle, LA Galaxy or Columbus, Schmid has always made a point to have a strong connection with the supporters because of how much they give to the teams he coaches.

To Be A Sounder: Honesty and growth continue to define Sigi Schmid's coaching career -

“The fans are the lifeblood of any organization and the lifeblood of any team,” said Schmid of those who follow the clubs he’s coached. “I think it’s important for the players and for us all to have a relationship with those fans, to understand what the game means to them. They’re choosing to spend their entertainment dollar on us. Not only their dollar, but also their time, and the investment of their time.


“We have to be cognizant of that, be aware of that and be willing to give back. So for me, I always have time for the fans, always want to be able to give back to them, always want them to understand and realize that they’re a part of what we’re doing day in and day out.”


And so it has seen Schmid become completely engrained in Seattle’s sporting culture. His vision and philosophy have become that of Sounders FC and vice versa. But there is no resting on that success or those mantras of continued development and a strong moral center. Winning doesn’t come naturally. It is a progression, a maturation, a constant battle that takes place off the pitch just as much as on it.

<blockquote><em><strong><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">“You always grow. The moment you stop growing, you should stop coaching."</span></strong></em></blockquote>

Schmid continues to live by that creed and hopes that it’ll take Sounders FC to the next level as a team and as an organization.


“You always grow,” said Schmid after 35 years as a head coach. “The moment you stop growing, you should stop coaching. You’re always looking for new ideas. The change in technology, the fitness information that you have now, the analytics – you have to keep up with all of that. You can’t ignore it. It’s there, and how much you use it is up to you. But you can’t ignore that information. You’ve got to use it.”


When it comes down to it, taking away all the wins and all the trophies and all the circumstances with being one of the most reputable soccer coaches in North America, Schmid appreciates the game action and the thrill of seeing his team perform on the pitch on matchday.


“Being a coach is a different world,” said Schmid of his role. “Your product is evaluated, exposed and talked about, and a determination is made each week whether it was good or bad. It’s like taking a test in school and having a million people – those watching on television and the fans in the stadium – decide whether your test was good or not. It’s different. It’s always a great feeling.”


The next chance you’ll have to see the Sounders take the field is Tuesday, March 24 as they welcome Club Tijuana of Liga MX for an international friendly. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT and tickets can be purchased here.

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