Credit: ECC Athletics
We started with the manager, Frank Butcher, then assistant Casey Derkacz. Now we finish up with assistant coach John Grabowski.
John spent several years on the pitch for FCB, making 23 appearances for the club. A longtime assistant at Fredonia under PJ Gondek, he’s now the head men’s soccer coach at Erie Community College. John was named Western New York Athletic Conference Coach of the Year this season.
What are you most excited about when it comes to coaching FCB?
“I’m really just excited about being involved again and experiencing things in a different role. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be coaching high level players from all over the country and putting those pieces together to form a competitive product on game days.”
What qualities do you look for in an ideal FCB player?
“Obviously the first thing that we have been looking for while compiling our roster is the talent level. All of the players that we are bringing in have that talent, but what will set guys apart is the attitude they will carry with them this summer. We’re looking to build a group that will come to each session eager to get better both individually and as a group and to compete on game day. I think if the players are willing to come in and work hard for the summer, they are going to have a great experience this season.”
When it comes to thinking about the game, what’s changed the most for you since your playing days?
“The thing that has changed the most for me is the way I think about the game. As a player I was mostly just concerned with what I needed to do personally to prepare or adjust in order to be successful on the field. As a coach you have to zoom out and think of the big picture. Instead of thinking about how to beat the one guy across from you as a player, I’ve had to shift my thinking to countering what the entire 11 guys on the other team are doing.
“The NPSL has changed a bit since I stopped playing. Teams in the league were mostly made up of local guys that represented their areas whereas now, teams are seen more as a destination for high level collegiate players to train for the summer. I think this has resulted in a higher level and different style of play over the past few years.”
Who have been the biggest influences on your coaching careers?
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches throughout my playing career. I like to think that I have been able to take all of the positive aspects from their coaching styles and have incorporated them into mine.
“If I were to single out one, it would be one of my first coaches, Doug Zimmerman. Doug took over my youth soccer team when I was about nine years old and really taught me a lot on how to play the game the right way. Along with technical skills and tactical knowledge, a lot of what he taught us were those ‘life lesson’ types of things. I find that those have stuck with me throughout my playing career and are things that I try to pass on to even the college players that I coach.”
What’s your top memory from your time playing for FC Buffalo?
“I had a lot of good times playing for FC Buffalo. I loved being out on the field competing and often miss tha,t but the friendships and experiences we had over the years really stand out to me. Playing for FCB has introduced me to a lot of great people and has allowed me to see a lot of cool places that I wouldn’t see otherwise. I’m thankful to have been able to play for so long and experience those things.”
Is there a game or date you are most looking forward to this summer?
“I’m really just looking forward to the home opener. I’m excited about the roster that we have put together so far and to see how it comes together on that first day. I know that there will be a ton of fans there and the atmosphere will be incredible. It’s hard to look past that first game when you know what a great environment it is going to be for the players, fans, and coaches.”