From Standup Comedian to Soccer Coach – Jeff Illingworth’s Journey
Soccer News: If one could turn back time, one might walk into a crowded nightclub and see Jeff Illingworth perform a comedic routine. Now, the former English school teacher turned Southern Californian soccer coach is more of a legend on the field than elsewhere.
The internationally-known youth soccer coach, scout and always entrepreneurial Illingworth has coached more than 6,000 youth soccer players since starting to help America’s youth develop in 1983.
Perhaps it is his love of delivering a good line or his wisdom inspiring players to reach for their dreams, but Illingworth has succeeded were many others have failed.
Illingworth, or Coach Jeff as he is often referred to by a few generations of players, is off to train in Hawaii and hold camps for some of the islands most elite players. Whatever level and ages of the players, Coach Jeff can help improve their game.
There are so many people who sing Illingworth’s praises. Taylor Easley, former President of Kona Crush SC says: “Coach Jeff is dedicated in teaching players how to get to the highest level of soccer. He is an amazing coach and friend to have around and with his vast youth soccer experience domestically and internationally, his player guidance to help kids get to the next level is priceless.”
Diane Scavuzzo: You leave for Hawaii soon to hold a series of elite youth soccer camps. When did you first start coaching at camps?
Jeff Illingworth: I first started working at camps in 1982 in Bakersfield, CA. Remember, I have been coaching a long time.
Jovan Kirovski, Frankie Hedjuk and Steve Cherundolo are just three of the many great soccer players I have helped develop.
Diane Scavuzzo: You have built a huge following on the West Coast — can you share a few fond memories with our readers?
Jeff Illingworth: I remember winning Dallas Cup in the late 90’s when I coached at the Nomads, and of course launching CV Manchester in 2001.
I was a fan of small sided games and Futsal before it was trendy — and I enjoyed introducing Manchester City coaches to San Diego and running special ID camps for them.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the difference between coaching youth soccer in England and America?
Jeff Illingworth: Youth soccer in America is big business. And, in the USA, parents are heavily involved, even if they do not know a lot about the game.
Yet, if you look at the progress we have made since I arrived here in 1981, it is truly amazing. And the future looks even better.
And, youth players in the USA have earned respect from their peers across the ocean. Big name clubs from Europe are picking up American players and these players are making a big impact on the field. No one would have thought this was possible last century, but now I am dating myself.
Diane Scavuzzo: You have trained youth soccer players all over the globe – what advice can you share?
Jeff Illingworth: Find a great coach. Listen to him or her. Pay attention to the details and let your passion for the game show.
And, if you can, come to one of my camps!
Diane Scavuzzo: If you look back at your career, what is the one thing you would change, if you could?
Jeff Illingworth: In the early 1980’s I was honored to meet Charlie Cooke, a Chelsea Legend, now famous for the Coerver program. One day, he offered me a position as the West Coast Director of Sales for a new sports brand. I thanked Charlie for the offer but because the position was based in San Jose, and I wanted to continue to live in Mission Beach, I declined. The company was Nike!
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the best soccer joke you can think of?
Jeff Illingworth: Ah, here is one of the best soccer jokes ….
US men’s National team play a friendly in Africa against the all star animals team. USA is winning 3-0 at half time. In the Second half the animals sub in a centipede which scores 5.
Animals win 5-3
Leaving the field Landon says courteously to Captain Lion, “I would have had the centipede start the first half”
The Lion replied, “So would I, but he was still tying his cleats!!”
For more information or to sign up for his camps, please visit Coach Jeff Soccer