It is the dream of athletes and coaches in every sport to reach a higher level, be it from college to the NBA, Little League to the Bigs or putt-putt to the Masters.
John Hackworth is no different, and in March the USF men’s soccer coach took a step up the career ladder to serve as an assistant with the Under-17 national team in Brazil and France, winners of the last two World Cups.
And while Hackworth is committed to the Bulls, he said he has ambitions – as do most other coaches – to ascend to national stature some day.
“I guess I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I have through all these things if I didn’t have those aspirations to coach at the highest level,” Hackworth said.
“And certainly becoming a national team coach puts you on the international level, and it doesn’t get any higher than that. I think it should always be everybody’s goal to reach the highest attainable level.”
While at Wake Forest in the early 1990s, Hackworth met current U-17 coach John Ellinger. He later became involved with the state junior program in North Carolina and Florida, as well as the Southeast Regional Olympic Development Program team for players born in 1986, the same birth year as the current U-17 team members.
Hackworth said his experience with that group made him a good fit to be an assistant on Ellinger’s staff. He said the experience has been invaluable.
“I have a lot of respect for him (Ellinger), and it’s an honor to be working with him because I’m learning the game at a higher level, and I’m learning it from one of the best coaches in the country,” he said.
Hackworth got all he asked for on his trip to Brazil for the Mundialito Joao Havelange Tournament from March 2-10. On arrival at the airport, Hackworth said the team was taken in a bus with no English interpreter, and a two-hour trip to the hotel stretched into seven.
And that was only the beginning. After a change of hotels, the American team had to face Brazil in front of 20,000 partisan fans immediately after the opening ceremonies.
“We were in a stadium that was absolutely packed, and it was hostile – people yelling, throwing stuff, spitting at us,” Hackworth said. “We had to have security everywhere we went.”
The final score: Brazil 4, USA 0. The Americans, the youngest team in the tournament, finished fifth, posting wins against Panama and Uruguay and also losing to Angola.
They fared better in the Montaigue Tournament in France from March 24-April 1, finishing fourth, and Hackworth said the conditions were a pleasant surprise compared to Brazil.
“France was a fantastic experience,” he said. “You had all the hardships from Brazil. France was about the opposite. It was very organized. The people there were fantastic. They took very good care of us. You didn’t feel threatened at all.”
One of Hackworth’s main duties was to scout the other teams, and he may do so again at the Ballymena International Tournament in Northern Ireland from May 1-7.
With the Bulls’ spring season now complete, Hackworth can devote all his energies to the junior nationals for a while.