Photo by Charlotte Eagles
While the PDL is well-known as a development platform for players, reigning PDL Head Coach of the Year Dave Dixon also believes the league helps the development of coaches, such as himself.
The Charlotte Eagles Head Coach led the team to a South Atlantic Division title in his first PDL season in charge in 2015. Prior to becoming the Head Coach of the Eagles, he spent two years as an assistant coach for the same club when it competed in the USL. In total, he has eight years of experience coaching in the PDL after previously leading Mississippi Brilla FC.
“The league has been great for my development as a coach,” Dixon said. “There are a lot of great coaches in the PDL, and each game I’m challenged to bring my best. Each year the team dynamically changes, so you are really challenged as a coach to be adaptable. It is also an exciting challenge to work with high-level players in an environment where you come together and have a game five days later. The challenge of getting a team to gel together is really exciting for me.
“The league has challenged me to be adaptable and creative within my coaching philosophy to get the most from our players individually and collectively. … There are a lot of great coaches in this league and I’m challenged daily to try and get to the same level as the other coaches, so the league has really taught me the benefit of preparation and hard work as well.”
In his time with Brilla FC, Dixon also led the youth club, Mississippi Brilla Juniors, as the director of coaching. He continues to have an impact on youth soccer, serving as a coach for Charlotte Soccer Academy youth sides during the offseason.
Despite facing challenges, such as limited preseason training with his players and a short summer schedule, Dixon has done well in his first two seasons in charge of the Eagles. His success comes as no surprise, as he recorded a 47-18-17 record in his time with Brilla FC, won three conference championships and was named a finalist for 2010 PDL Coach of the Year. Last season, the Eagles finished with an undefeated record – the only PDL team to finish the campaign with no losses. While Dixon has made a big impact on the teams he has led, he remains humble.
“We had some really good players [last season], and good players make good coaches,” Dixon said. “I tried to stay out of the way and not screw it up.
“The team also came together really well as a group and that makes a really big difference in my opinion on success. I learned a ton about coaching and team preparation during the season. As the league and the professional leagues continue to grow and develop, it is going to be very important to build teams that connect fast. I’m learning that is an art, and I’m working hard to become a better artist in that area of my coaching philosophy.”
The short season may be more difficult to navigate and plan for, but Dixon thinks the league is an important platform for college students who only play approximately four months with their universities during the fall.
“For us, we want to be another piece of the development puzzle for players. Adding to their college experiences helps complete the process. I think it is very important to get quality training and stay sharp through the summer. That is one of our goals here with the Eagles, provide a good training environment with quality players competing every day to reach their full potential,” Dixon said.
There are three current players under Dixon who are included in the top 50 of the 2016 PDL Top Prospects list. Jaime Siaj is ranked 48th, midfielder Marco Micaletto is 29th and Macauley King takes the 16th slot.
“We have some excellent players this season,” Dixon said. “If I had to pick one player to keep an eye on, I would say Macauley King, a defender from Young Harris College. He is a very good player with a promising future.
“From a philosophy perspective, we want to move every player forward on their path. We have a short amount of time with them, so it can be difficult. We give our players a lot of freedom to express themselves on the field, and for me, it is a great time for me to challenge them to step out of their comfort zone. That can happen in a lot of different areas – new role within a team, technical or tactical improvements and leadership development. We want to compete and win, and we think if we can move these players forward that winning can be a byproduct of that improvement.”