By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
January 13, 2016-Kenichi Yatsuhashi, formerly a coach in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), is now coaching a top professional team in the Ghana Premier League in Africa. Hearts of Oak is a club with an impressive history that includes 20 Ghana league titles, 10 Ghana FA Cup titles and the CAF Champions League title as Africa’s best team in 2000. But since 2009, they have not earned any hardware at all, and when it came time to find a new coach, the 46-year-old Yatsuhashi was the man tasked with the turnaround, signing a two-year contract with the team that has a very demanding fan base.
“It’s crazy from an American perspective to say the least, but that is why you go abroad, to broaden your horizon,” commented Coach Yatsuhashi. ”That is how it is in Ghana, so I am enjoying all support and criticisms.”
In 1989, Yatsuhashi came to New York to study art, first at ESL, then at the Art Students League on West 57th Street. He went on to study at Barry University in Florida, then returned to Manhattan to conclude his studies at Hunter College. But during this time, he was also studying soccer. He eventually earned his US Soccer “A” coaching license and a US Soccer “National Youth” coaching license, as well as various others from CONCACAF, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. At one point, he traveled to Qatar to work with several prominent European coaches in a quest to learn.
“Most of my coaching education happened in the United States, but I did not come to the US to be a coach,” Yatsuhashi said. “I started coaching during my college days in 1992. The national youth coaching from Eastern New York and US Soccer were the most influential courses I’ve ever had, in particular what I learned from Nick Zlatar, as if it was not for him, I would not be coaching. I am still using a lot of what I learned in that course—a more player-centered approach—not only for young kids but also for older kids and senior players.”
He lived in New York City for 23 years. As a youth coach, he directed the Elmont Ravens girls team in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL), the Brooklyn Patriots boys team in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) plus the Gotham Girls Chargers of the Eastern New York Premier League (ENYPL) as well as coaching the goalkeepers in Eastern New York’s Olympic Development Program (ODP). He served as an instructor for the Eastern New York coaching education program and also as a referee.
Yatsuhashi coached the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) men’s team to a third-place finish at the 2005 junior college national championships and was honored as Junior College Coach of the Year that same year. He started the BMCC women’s program and finished his long stint coaching in New York with the ASA Community College men’s soccer team four years ago. Proving that nice guys finish first, he received the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NYMISOA) Sportsmanship Award for his good work with the BMCC men in 2005 and the BMCC women in 2009.
Yatsuhashi returned to his native Japan in December 2011, taking a role with the Japanese soccer federation. Then through this role in Japan, from 2012 to 2014, he had a prominent position with the soccer federation of Kyrgyzstan, coaching the Boys-Under-16 National Youth Team and then becoming Technical Director in Kyrgyzstan. Then Yatsuhashi was hired by the Aspire Academy in Qatar to coach their Boys-Under-16 team last year before receiving the offer from Hearts of Oak.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.
Kenichi Yatsuhashi training Hearts of Oak