The Cincinnati Dutch Lions recently named Paul Nicholson the team’s new head coach. Nicholson, who announced his retirement as a player in November, competed professionally in the USL for seven years. He spent the first five years of his pro career in Wilmington, helping the Hammerheads reach the championship match in 2012. Over the past two seasons, Nicholson bolstered the midfield and back line for FC Cincinnati.
“Getting into coaching and being able to stay in Cincinnati has been like a dream come true,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson, who began coaching at the age of 18 in his home country of England, hoped to find a coaching position following his playing career. Securing a job in the Cincinnati area is perfect for him and his young family.
Nicholson’s wife, who he met while attending the University of Rio Grande, comes from a town in central Ohio. They find it helpful to live close to her family, who provide a trusted support structure as the Nicholson’s raise a young son and try to advance in their own careers.
Nicholson credits Mike Mossel and Terry Nicholl for helping him get the opportunity to fill the coaching vacancy with the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. Nicholson got to know Mossel, an investor in both FC Cincinnati and the Dutch Lions, at various FC Cincinnati team functions over the past couple of years. Nicholson and Nicholl, an assistant coach for CDLFC, both coach youth soccer for Kings Hammer Soccer Club.
It appears that Nicholson, who is in the final phase of earning a USSF National B coaching license, has been preparing to become a coach for most of his adult life. Before coming to the United States he earned a Bachelor of Technology in sports science, an academic discipline primarily geared toward coaching and managing players. At Rio Grande he earned a bachelor’s degree, also in sports science. Nicholson went on to serve as a graduate assistant on the Rio Grande staff while obtaining a master’s degree in education with a concentration in athletic leadership.
Nicholson brings a wealth of practical coaching knowledge to the Cincinnati Dutch Lions to go along with his formal training. In addition to coaching at Kings Hammer and Rio Grande, he was on the staff of Cape Fear Academy, a position former Wilmington Hammerheads coach David Irving helped him land. Nicholson also coached at other various youth clubs and camps during during his playing career.
There was a time Nicholson viewed coaching as a necessary means to continue his dream of playing professionally. In the early years of USL, seasons and contracts were shorter. Nicholson needed the income from coaching to support himself and his wife. It didn’t take long, though, for necessity to grow into love.
“It became a huge passion of mine to improve and develop my own coaching. I was almost putting as much into my coaching development as my playing development,” said Nicholson.
So far as the head coach for the Cincinnati Dutch Lions, Nicholson has been planning the schedule for the team and working with General Manager Brandon Ponchak to find and sign players. They have already received commitments from several players they feel will be excellent in the USL PDL, the league in which CDL participates.
Sunday January 28, 2pm to 4pm.— Cincinnati Dutch Lions (@CincinnatiDLFC) January 17, 2018
Meet & Greet with Head Coach Paul Nicholson at @HouseOfOrangeSB. Sponsorship announcement and player signings too! See you there. #cdlfc #Path2Pro pic.twitter.com/F45K5EgLKR
When it comes to identifying players, Nicholson hopes to find those that will fit into the system he hopes to employ with the Dutch Lions. He understands, though, the need to flexible and adapt the system to the best players that can be signed. He also understands what fans want to see on the pitch.
“We want to play an attractive style of soccer that will be fun to watch. We want to play possession soccer, but we’re not going to be keeping the ball just to keep it. We want to play with a purpose, get it forward, and get in behind and create lots of chances because at the end of the day that’s what people are going to want to come out and watch. They want to be entertained when they pay money to come sit in those stands,” said Nicholson.
The PDL has a strong track record of developing professional players. In fact, the Cincinnati Dutch Lions have had 5 former players move on to the professional ranks. Nicholson sees player development as his responsibility, but his primary focus is to bring a championship to the club.
“The main aim is to win a championship, but we’re obviously, day by day, working to develop players, not only for ourselves, but when they go back to their colleges we want them to be better players than they were before this summer,” said Nicholson. “Hopefully that gives them an opportunity to go on and play at the next level.”
If Nicholson is to win a championship, the Cincinnati Dutch Lions will first have to get past perennial powers Michigan Bucks and K-W United in the Great Lakes Conference. It is a tough task, but Nicholson is optimistic about his new club.
“It’s a fantastic setup. It’s definitely an organization that is doing the right things and has given the coaches and the players every opportunity to do well, develop, and succeed in the league,” said Nicholson.