Academy Director Tom Durkin has coached at every level from youth soccer to Major League Soccer and US National Teams. Currently the Bradenton Academics' (Premiere Development League - PDL) Head Coach, he has led the Academy's PDL team to over 100 wins and the 2009 PDL National Semi-Finals. Additionally, he has two Dallas Cup Championships and two PDL South East Conference Championships to his name and his 2008-09 USSF Academy League team finished third in the nation. He has also served as an assistant coach for both the U-17 National team and the Tampa Bay Mutiny, an Olympic Development Program Coach for both boys and girls, and Head Coach at Richland College, Union College, and Rutgers University.
Tom Durkin's lifelong obsession with soccer began at the age of 6 when he attended his first professional soccer game. Tom's family had just moved to Brazil and the excitement surrounding a professional game in a soccer crazed country was contagious. Tom returned to the hotel his family was living in while their house was being built and became known to the hotel staff as the hallway soccer player.
Unfortunately, the hallway didn't allow for much practicing of lateral movement so when he tried to transfer his new found soccer skills to the soccer field with his classmates, it was a less than satisfying experience. Fortunately for Tom, two things then happened; his family moved to a house with a wide backyard and a physical education teacher at school agreed to help him improve his soccer. From that point on, Tom spent every minute he could perfecting his soccer until at the age of 13, when his family moved back to the U.S. and settled outside of Philadelphia.
Upon returning to the U.S., Tom learned that U.S. kids weren't talking about soccer when they talked about football and they certainly weren't playing much soccer. Not to be deprived of the game he loved, Tom found a local German-Hungarian club and played soccer with the much older members of the club to keep his skills honed.
Tom's family moved to New Jersey, during his high school years and since his high school didn't have a soccer team, Tom used the speed and agility he had acquired through hours of soccer practice to become a defensive end on the high school football team. Before he could finish his first football season, the school announced it was forming a soccer team and Tom resigned from the football team (a decision that he was reminded of during every physical education class where the football coaches were also teachers). Tom's excitement at joining a soccer team was a little dampened by the elementary level of play but at least he was playing organized soccer again.
Tom received a college soccer scholarship to Davis & Elkins College, and then transferred to the University of South Florida to play on its soccer team. Before he could finish his college years at USF, Tom's father passed away and he moved back to New Jersey to help his mother. Tom finished his college soccer career at Kean University. Although not what he had envisioned, in retrospect, Tom feels the exposure to 3 different college programs and 3 different coaching philosophies helped to spark his interest in coaching.
The other event that sparked his interest in coaching was helping out with the All American Soccer camps. He loved working with the kids in a camp setting and remembers telling one of his friends on the way home from camp that he was going to coach for as long as he could. What fateful words those turned out to be. But, before those fateful words could become a reality, Tom spent several more years playing in the U.S. Soccer organization and in the professional soccer leagues.
His fateful words came back to him once again in 1980 when the professional soccer league he had been playing in folded. During that summer, Tom was working a summer camp and the same friend asked him what he was going to do next with his life. His friend went on to tell him that at his current age of 25, he only had about 5 years left to get started in coaching if that was truly the path he wanted to take and that it was time for him to make some tough choices between playing and coaching. Tom did take the necessary steps towards developing a coaching career but combined coaching with playing until the age of 32. At that point, he started coaching full-time with the U.S. Soccer Federation and helping them develop youth soccer and professional leagues.
While working in the U.S. Soccer organization, Tom found himself in the fortunate position of being mentored by U.S. Soccer Federation national team coaches and directors such as Bob Gansler and the great late Walt Chyzowych. Being able to study the game and learn how to teach the game through these coaches' eyes has made Tom the great coach that he has become today. Tom has been able to give back to the US Soccer coaching community by becoming one of the top US Soccer coaching instructors as well as becoming a mentor to hundreds of coaches around the world (including the 5 IMG Academy soccer program alumni he has hired as coaches once they graduated from college).
Tom's goal with his coaching career has been to do whatever he could to help develop soccer into a prominent sport in the U.S. so that the U.S. could one day make a legitimate bid to win the World Cup. Having benefited from growing up in a soccer powerhouse country, Tom wanted U.S. kids to also have the opportunity to experience soccer at the highest level.
One of the reasons Tom agreed to come lead our Soccer Academy in 1998, was that he was convinced that a premier player could be systematically produced given the right surroundings and the right coaching. Tom faced some initial doubt in the soccer community that such an approach would work, however, he was sure it would and his determination was contagious among the Soccer Academy staff. Thanks to their hard work and ground breaking coaching approach, 41 graduates of our soccer program have gone on to become professional soccer players.
It takes tenacity and vision to ignore the naysayers and break new ground. Fortunately for the Academy and for the students enrolled in the Soccer Academy, Tom has both traits. Fortunately for those who strive to make U.S. World Cup dominance a reality, Tom also instills that tenacity and vision into the students who will one day be the players and coaches who deliver that dream.