Monday, August 2, 2021
With a life working and playing with stars in New York, hometown success story John Palladino is relishing the opportunity to be back in Spokane giving back to the soccer community while continuing his vibrant acting career.
Two years ago coach Palladino was working alongside Rose Byrne on the set of Mrs America (available on Hulu), the latest in a series of appearances on marquee television shows such as Bull, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife (Paramount+) and Orange is the New Black (Netflix). At the same time, he was still fully committed to guiding the youth of New York on the pitch in a sort of dual-identity life that he had built after a successful career locally in club, high school and college with Gonzaga.
“Coaching is in my blood. In many ways soccer it’s how I first understood beauty and truth in the world. I believe it is a microcosm for life – how the world works – and I could not imagine my life without it. I was fortunate to have a coach who invested a ton of time in me, and I’m just hoping to give back what was given to me.
“It can be tough balancing it with acting. But so far so good. I don’t ever see myself quitting coaching, no matter how demanding my profession becomes.”
The coaching bloodline includes his father, who was his own coach in the early years with the Falcons back in the day.
“Tim Seely started coaching me at age 12, and that’s when I really started to grow as a player. Eventually I was playing for the Shadow Men’s team at 15 years old and was varsity as a freshman, working hard to become the best player I could.
“High school was kinda crazy. I spent some time in Boise with a very good team, came back and ended my senior year as the top scorer and GSL MVP, Player of the Year and starter for the Shadow PDL team – so I was happy.”
That hard work and success led to Palladino becoming one of the few local players to move onto Division I soccer.
“Signing for Gonzaga meant a lot. Einar (Thorarinsson) showed a lot of belief in me, and I committed very early in the recruitment process. I got offers from other big programs later, but ultimately I wanted to be a Zag.”
Palladino’s success continued through his college years despite what he felt were limits on his progression to becoming a professional player down the road.
“College was an interesting part of my career. Obviously it was an honor to captain GU, and some of the top PDL teams in the nation. I loved getting to play with and against some of the best players in the country at the time.
“However, I don’t really feel that the collegiate/PDL system was, or is, very effective in helping players who want to be professionals. I did play for some top PDL teams, and GU was a top 25 team when I graduated, but I don’t feel like this system is as effective with soccer as it is with American sports. I was frustrated with the NCAA limits on games and training hours, and ultimately, frustrated with my growth as a player.”
Those limits – which have and are still changing since his playing days – did not stop him though.
“I wanted to be a professional. Without a doubt. I had trained hard all my life and played with many professional clubs, in the US and in Italy. Shortly after my graduation I was offered a contract for a USL A-League team (Cincinnati Stars), but turned it down because it wasn’t a livable wage. The professional climate in the US has changed a lot since I was a player, and I believe that soccer in the US is now nearing justifiable compensation at all levels.
“Ultimately, if you want to be a professional at anything, which we all will be, you need to know that you are being paid to perform your trade. So be the best you can, and strive to improve everyday. I applied this when I was a soccer player, I apply this now as a coach, and I especially apply this in my career as a professional actor.”
As his search for a professional career narrowed, the window for his other desired profession opened as Palladino moved to the Big Apple looking to launch his career on a much bigger stage than he had experienced before.
“I acted in elementary school and high school. I would have acted in college if I had the time. It’s always been a passion of mine, but I was very shy about it.
“I honestly don’t think that anyone knew I was into it. But I wrote and performed in an adaptation of Spoon River in high school and wrote my own Memorial Day one man show in elementary school. I always had the acting bug. In fact, I tried to drop out of college my sophomore year to go to New York to pursue it, but was convinced to continue with soccer and college.”
That move to the big city sparked a two-fold career that has blossomed on the stage and the pitch.
“Acting takes hard work. HARD WORK. And a never give up attitude.
“So I’m very proud to have carved out a little career that is just now getting started. It’s been an incredible honor to work with some of the best talents in the game. Working with Rose Byrne on Mrs America was special. She is incredibly kind and creative and we had a great time on that set.
“But I think I’m most proud of the last project I did, Skelly. It’s a family film about a father and son mourning the death of the patriarchal grandfather. In many ways it’s about the power and importance of youth – in age and spirit – and how it can be a True North when you are in tough times. Skelly (which features legendary actor Brian Cox) comes out on Halloween of this year.”
While chasing opportunities in front of the camera in New York Palladino could not ignore the pitch and that coaching blood was beginning to really pulse. When not on set, in auditions or reading scripts he was playing with and against other stars around the Big Apple in its storied Cosmopolitan Soccer League.
“New York is insane. The amateur level, which many players are paid to play in – myself included – is easily the best “amateur” league in the nation. Our teams would play against the Red Bulls, and would get a berth into the US Open Cup.
“But the best was the street soccer. Thierry Henry would show up randomly at the Nike Field in the Bowery, or we would get veteran famous pros at Pier 40. I simply cannot explain how rich the soccer is in New York. People of all walks of life and from every corner of the globe who love the game were there.”
While experiencing a new birth to his playing career in the city’s amazing soccer scene he used his coaching pedigree – combined with a bit of practical experience he garnered working for the Shadow while in college and as a GU assistant from 2011-13 – to start the Palladino Academy of Soccer in the heart of one of America’s hotbeds of the sport. And he found success with that as well with PAS teams winning numerous youth championships in recent years in the NYCSL.
“It’s been a constant juggle, managing my love for soccer with my profession. At the beginning I saw them as opposing forces in my life. I didn’t realize that my love, passion and talent for one could spread to the other. In the end, my training as a soccer player has helped me as an actor.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic put the brakes on all of that with the severe rates of the virus in the metropolis shutting everything down. With soccer in a timeout and the television and movie industry at a halt things completely changed for Palladino. The good news is that the internet became increasingly important part of both professions, particularly in Hollywood where online casting and auditions became the norm. That allowed Palladino to return home to Spokane.
“We decided to take some time to be around my family for my kids to get to know their grandparents,” he said of the opportunity.
The really good news… He’s now coaching with Spokane Sounders!