February 9, 2013
BOXX'S POWER PLAY
Sermanni helped Boxx prove herself and earn her way into U.S. WNT in 2003
By Michael Lewis
No one ever had to convince new U.S. women's national coach Tom Sermanni about the importance of the fledgling National Women's Soccer League.
As coach of the New York Power in the Women's United Soccer Association a decade ago, Sermanni gave Shannon Boxx a chance to flourish as a defensive midfielder. Boxx's outstanding performance got her noticed by then national coach April Heinrichs, who opened a door to an international career that has lasted to this day.
Boxx has been a part of three consecutive Olympic gold medal teams and has finished in the final four of the Women's World Cup three times (third place in 2003 and 2007 and second place in 2011). She has made 180international appearances while scoring 25 goals.
"I think that sums it up," Sermanni said. "That's why it is important for me as a coach to actually go out and look at players and see what they're like. It was interest in Shannon from the time that I saw her in San Diego, I really liked what I saw. The thing that impressed me about her and in year one in the league, she was able to nullify Sissi [a Brazilian international], who was a fantastic player. So that immediately stuck in the back of my mind, that she had potential. By the end of season two, she was kind of on the out of it in San Diego.
"Again, sometimes things pay off for you in soccer and that kind of stuck in my mind about the potential she had. Getting her to New York obviously, we were fortunate enough that she fulfilled that potential."
Boxx thrived in the same role under Sermanni. Sometimes a player needs a new atmosphere or system or a coach that believes in her. Boxx certainly found that with the Power.
"I think its a combination of all those things and identifying somebody who you think has certain things you like in them and you feel you can bring out those assets and a little bit more," Sermanni said.
"That's why I say it's important to go out in the league and look at players because often I might see a player and somebody else might not. somebody might see something else in that player that I might not see. I think that's where this league can be important for certain players who at the moment who are not involved in the national team."
Despite being 35, Boxx still plays at a high level. She will play with the Chicago Red Stars this spring.
"She's still playing very well," Sermanni said, who gave Boxx credit for going from a good club player to an impact player on the U.S. team.
"It all starts with the players," he said. "All I did as a coach was give Shannon an opportunity. She was the one who took that opportunity and really embraced coming to New York. And that was amazing move for her, coming from San Diego to the Power. We were having some problems at that time. It would have been a difficult move. But she really embraced the move, embraced the team. I think probably was given added responsibility coming to the team and I think she realy embraced those things and went from strength to strength."
This time Sermanni will be on the other side, looking for future Shannon Boxxes in the NWSL.
"I think the league is going to be important in the sense of giving me an opportunity to really look at other players on a week to week basis and then make some judgments from there," he said. "Putting all those things together, that will help me to continue the momentum and continue to building the team."