Monday, November 8, 2021
In the late eighties, his mother was looking for a way to get Kevin Moon off the island. Little did the two of them know that attending Whitworth would lead to a life’s passion for the eventual coach and a change in culture for Spokane soccer.
You only have to be in Spokane’s soccer world a brief time to realize coach Kevin Moon is one of the staples of the community. He’s built a reputation as one of the leading individuals in developing players on and off the field through club and academy settings with an occasional dabble in the collegiate world.
A lot of that work and passion derives from his move from Hawaii to Whitworth, where being a player was just not enough.
“Soccer became an obsession in college for me. I didn’t get much formal coaching growing up. It was pretty much parents and once in a while a former player but nothing close to what we have now.
“Einar Thorarinsson – my coach at Whitworth – opened a new world for me. I mean when you TRULY get the bug you don’t think about much else. We played every day, even in the snow. It was non-stop – we arranged every waking moment around soccer all year long. I like to joke that I majored in soccer because we poured more time into that than anything else.
“Once I got the soccer bug, four years of a pure soccer life was not enough. I had to stay connected and was fortunate that Einar let me be an assistant with the men the year after I graduated. After a few days I found myself helping the women’s side. The new head coach for the women’s program was having a difficult time so he asked if I could help him for a week. He gave me so much to do I ended up asking Einar if I could just stay on with him because I liked the responsibility. That’s how I ended up on the women’s side of the game.
“Years later Einar offered me the assistant position with the men at Gonzaga University but I ended up turning it down. I sometimes wonder what that would have been like and where it might have led. I am just thankful that I kept my relationship with Einar over the years, he’s one of the biggest influences in my life and it if weren’t for him giving me opportunities and sometimes advice I have no clue where life may have taken me.”
That’s probably just the type of influence his mother was hoping for.
“The pastor at my church had a connection to the board at Whitworth and had recommended it to my mom when she was trying to help me find a way to get off the island. Island life was leading me in the wrong direction,” he said with a smile.
And really, considering the still developing age of men’s college soccer at the time and where Whitworth fit into that picture at the time, who could blame his obsession.
“It was a MUCH different time. We played bigger programs in our preseason and saw a lot of success. We always had stiff competition in the lead up to conference play. We played the University of Washington three times – winning twice – and at Portland when they were ranked #1 in the country with Kasey Keller was in goal – we tied in that one! I was not on the roster for that away trip, but man what an accomplishment! We used to beat up on Gonzaga pretty badly back in those days but then they recruited our coach, Einar, to coach there and that ended our dominance against them.”
Though he is fully entrenched in the club and academy world, Moon still can’t resist those ties to Whitworth and occasionally puts the colors back on in the form of a coach polo.
“I loved learning different perspectives and approaches under Daman Hagerott, Jael Hagerott, Sean Bushey and Morgan Cathey. I was at Whitworth 1991-95, 2001 and then 2010-15 with the women. I also was fortunate to serve as assistant to the men in 2001 and 2017 & 2018.”
His role as a club coach in Spokane advanced to another level when the Spokane Shadow, then a men’s elite national amateur team in USL, launched a youth arm to further develop talent in the community akin to models around the world. Moon would join the staff and develop later into a coaching director as the Shadow grew into what is today the Spokane Sounders – a vast change to what club soccer was 20 years ago.
“What made the difference? The people that initially created the club, Jeff Robbins and Stuart Saunders, had a completely different vision than anything Spokane had seen, and poured themselves into creating a club structure that was as good and modernized as you could have found in our state back in 1999-2000 when it first took off. Jeff and Stu did more for the Spokane soccer community than anyone will ever know. Someday I hope they get the public recognition they deserve.
“When Sean Bushey, another MASSIVE influencer on Spokane soccer culture, took over the club he continued the growth of the Shadow and really emphasized making sure that we realized where kids were coming from and what they are dealing with in today’s society. He was exceptional in his communication and really tried to help our staff become excellent communicators. He was also a big proponent on coaching education and continued learning.
“Abbas (Faridnia) was an excellent pick by Sean to continue to lead the club forward. I do not know anyone who works harder for kids involved in youth soccer in Spokane. Abbas has grown our club’s presence dramatically by getting our boys into the ECNL, our girls into the Girls Academy along with bringing back amateur soccer on the men’s side along with introducing one for the women as well.
“When it comes to a soccer thumbprint in our community The Spokane Shadow / Sounders is undoubtedly the most established and has the longest history with a good amount of success at all levels and when you ask what that revolves around it is around the four people I just mentioned.”
The game has changed a lot in Spokane over the past 30 years and much of that is the reason, along with one of Moon’s philosophies on becoming a better player.
“Briefly, to be successful your players need to invest themselves in becoming the best soccer player they can be if they want to be competitive. Want to be a better soccer player? Then PLAY more SOCCER and WATCH more soccer!”
But let’s face it, it is definitely more than that – and Moon is at the forefront for a lot of what leads to better players.
And much of that is the reason why he has a long-lasting connection with a lot of his players that extend beyond the given season(s) he coaches them.
Our training environment is about as demanding as you will find when it comes to expectations, but we also balance that by always trying to check in on each player to make sure that things are ok away from soccer. We hold players accountable, drive them hard and ask for more every day but we also try to make it fun and enjoyable.
“Sean Bushey passed on many things to me when he was in charge. Two of them have really stuck with me. One – soccer is supposed to be enjoyed; and two – it is tough to be a kid in today’s world. With that in mind we do try to make soccer not just challenging but ENJOYABLE.
“Players should look forward to training, to feel like they are missing out on the fun if they can’t be there. It actually helps a lot when it comes to the dedication and motivation of our players. If it is challenging and FUN who wouldn’t want to be there? Additionally, we have a rule with all of my teams called the “bad day rule.” Soccer needs to be a release and not a stress, so if someone is having a bad day all they have to do is come up and say “hey I just wanted to let you know I am having a bit of a rough day today.” At that point we make sure there is no stress for them the rest of the day. It can be a help to be able to come to training and know it will be an opportunity to get rid of stress, not take on more. Kids, young adults are very smart, they know if you give a crap and if you don’t. If all you do is drive them or demand more of them with no balance then they figure out what you’re about pretty quickly.”
And as the Girls Director of Coaching, that is a fraction of the wisdom he shares with the club staff as he focuses on the overall picture, knowing that each coach and player is unique and may need different kinds of advice or leadership.
“Just try to help where you see a need. Admittedly there are somethings that “must” be done in terms of focus and playing style and we are not willing to compromise in those areas. There are basic building blocks that must be instilled early on for a player to be successful later.
“Coaches have to have a high pain tolerance if they are with young players and teams. The way we play and the things we prioritize can lead to losses, sometimes heavy but our club needs to produce teams that can compete at high levels as they get older.
“Having said that we do realize that coaches are all different and may have styles that are not all the same. Sean Bushey was very patient and we try to be the same with our staff. Again there are some areas that, as a club, we expect our staff to hit but we don’t expect coaches to be perfect if they are trying to adapt to a way of doing things that may not have been familiar to them. They just have to be open to learning new things.”
And… that’s about all you will get out of Moon unless you get to know him personally as he tends to be a little more reclusive away from the pitch. He says “the biggest earthly joy in my life” is his wife Lauri, but beyond that you’ll have to settle with knowing that away from the pitch, one activity he is most like doing is… watching more soccer – whether it be alumni on college streams or the professional game. And that this Hawaiian is perfectly at home in Spokane.
“Only answer I have is this is where God wants me to be at the moment. Spokane is home, at least for now.”