The fledgling Fort Wayne FC soccer team has its head coach – Mike Avery.
Avery, 51, is the winningest coach in Valparaiso University program history and was the Horizon League’s Coach of the Year in 2011. He was 91-105-46 with well regarded defensive teams before Valparaiso discontinued soccer last year.
“I wasn’t so interested in the Xs and Os,” Fort Wayne FC general manager Greg Mauch said Friday. “Philosophically, yes, defense is where it starts. With my (Indiana University) background, that’s just where my brain works. But the most important thing for me was the ability to blend players into a unit.
“We’re going to be blending kids from all sorts of different (backgrounds), Division I, II or III, or NAIA, so we’re going to be blending a wide-range of kids. (Avery has) a lot of diversity in background, not just on the field, so Mike has a very positive way to him and a very respectful way with the kids. … You’ve got to be able to blend quickly and efficiently, and he seemed to be the kind of guy who could do that.”
Avery, who was attending a previously planned coaching clinic, wasn’t available for comment.
Fort Wayne FC opens its season 1 p.m. May 23 at Bishop Dwenger’s Shields Field against Toledo Villa FC. Fort Wayne will play in the Great Lakes Conference of the National Premier Soccer League, in the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid, and players will be primarily be of college age or slightly older.
“Mike has a great way with the kids and is a great instructor,” Mauch said. “He’s already working well with the assistants that I basically hired and hoisted upon him, but he’s developing a good team and there’s nothing about Mike that I don’t find to be first class.”
Fort Wayne FC had previously selected a coach with experience playing in the English Premier League, but that fell through because of immigration work visa issues.
Avery was with the Crusaders for 13 years and three of his players – Rafael Mentzingen, Kyle Zobeck and Stefan Antonijevic -- were drafted into Major League Soccer. Under Avery's watch, 47 players earned all-league honors.
Avery came to Valparaiso from the University of Louisville, where he was the top assistant under head coach Ken Lolla in 2006. While with the Cardinals, he helped the program to its first Big East Tournament berth. He also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
Prior to that, Avery was an assistant for six seasons at Notre Dame, winning Big East titles in 2003 and 2004. Avery helped recruit and coach 11 All-Americans there.
He has also coached at Cal State-San Bernardino, both the men and the women, and also at Bethel College, where he was the Mid-Central Conference’s Coach of the Year.
He played at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, from 1986 to 1989, and played professionally in the U.S. and abroad with Real Santa Barbara, Askims IK (Sweden) and the Indiana Invaders.
Avery’s wife, Carin, is the volleyball coach at Valparaiso.