Coach Jack Stefanowski has enjoyed some very exciting times since leaving DUSC this fall, and our disappointment at seeing a beloved coach move on can be tempered by pride and joy in what he is accomplishing. Hired as Assistant Coach for the new Carmelo Anthony-owned NASL squad Puerto Rico FC, Jack was also recently appointed as Interim Head Coach for the Puerto Rico Men’s National Team. He is approaching both roles with gusto.
Jack has been “a familiar face on the island” since Coach Colin Clarke recruited him to be Goalkeeping Coach, then Assistant Coach, for the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2008. Back then, the Islanders were the highest ranked team in Puerto Rico and Jack helped lead them to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champion’s League. Now Puerto Rico FC are the commonwealth’s top club and Jack and Head Coach Adrian Whitbread are even more ambitious. Currently in the midst of pre-season, they are training hard and scrimmaging as much as possible. Recently they played the Costa Rico Men’s National Team to a 3-3 tie. And this Saturday, June 11, they play Jack’s “other team”—the Puerto Rico Men’s National team—in what is being billed as the “Clásico de Futbol.” The game will kick-off at 7:30 at Belson Stadium on the Campus of St. John’s University, and is scheduled to occur the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day Pride Parade.
There are very acute differences between coaching a club team and a national team, differences that are probably more obvious when you’re doing both simultaneously. “Coaching a club is a job you do every day. You keep doing the work, keep plugging away, and you make things work better. Coaching a national team there is not much time. You need to get the most out of each player in a very brief period.” Apparently Jack is doing just that. Puerto Rico has advanced to the finals of the Caribbean Cup, a qualifier for the Gold Cup. Another highlight was scrimmaging against the USMNT; they lost that game 3-1, “entirely respectable given the FIFA rankings and population numbers.”
The Puerto Rican Men’s National Team is the second national team Jack has coached. Prior to joining DUSC he was Head Coach of the Nepal Men’s National Team. Despite the vastly different cultures, he sees many similarities in terms of their soccer. “There is a lot of potential for both nations. A lot of passion and many young and talented players.”
Jack’s success coaching at the youth, college, professional and national levels may be attributed to his general underlying philosophy. “It’s all about managing people,” Jack said. “The information will vary from one type of club, or one level, to another, but — in the end — it’s all about managing people. Managing people and building relationships.”