Third year coach earns highest coaching accreditation in North America
San Diego Loyal SC Head Coach Nate Miller was part of the sixth graduating class to complete the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) Pro License, finishing a 12-month journey that began in December 2021. Joining an elite group of fewer than 75 coaches to have completed the highest-level coaching license in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), Miller becomes the first San Diego area coach to earn the prestigious accreditation.
“To have the opportunity to achieve the highest level of learning possible, it’s an honor,” Miller said. “I’m a life-long learner. I love to learn and always be pursuing and evolving. Learning is a personal value of mine. Whenever there is an area to really improve or challenge myself in different ways, or surround myself with people who are at the top level, I will always embrace that.”
As the final stop and most intense course along the U.S. Soccer coaching education pathway from grassroots to professional, the USSF Pro License creates a tailored program for each candidate, where course objectives are met through in-person instruction, club environment assessments, a final presentation, expert speakers, site visits and webinars. The 2022 cohort underwent multiple group meetings and individual evaluations, while topics such as leadership and periodization were highlighted throughout.
“The course was extremely intense,” Miller said. “What makes the Pro different from the other licenses is how it’s tailored to your unique coaching environment. It’s less about methodology and more designed to use the context of your environment to take your coaching to the next level. You are pushed every day to define your identity, leadership style and game model as a professional coach.”
During the 12-month process, Miller worked closely with his U.S. Soccer’s Barry Pauwels, Director of Technical Development and lead instructor for the Pro License. In his role as mentor, Pauwels stayed in constant communication with Miller and visited San Diego multiple times to closely observe his coaching environment.
“Barry is an expert. He’s been immersed in the toughest environments at the highest levels. His job was to provoke me in order to bring out the best in me so I could see the ceiling I can reach. He showed me how to get there,” Miller said. “He has supported me through hard times, difficult situations and challenged me to not just continue to improve myself, but see that I have a responsibility to improve my staff, players and the people around me. Barry helped me learn to manage relationships and create a real culture.”
Along with Pauwels, Miller found equally meaningful learning moments through his cohort experience. The 2022 graduating class included the likes of Mikey Varas (U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team), Wilfried Nancy (CF Montréal), Khano Smith (Birmingham Legion), Wade Webber (Tacoma Defiance), Rob Valentino (Atlanta United), Marlon LeBlanc (Philadelphia Union II) and Jason Bent (LA Galaxy). With each coach going through an equally intensive course progression, Miller unearthed some of his deepest learning lessons through the shared experiences of others.
“Getting to see the nuances and understanding the problems and dynamics of what coaches at other clubs are going through, it made me realize I’m fortunate to be at a club where everyone is pulling in the same direction and our goals are aligned. It’s not always going to be like that and learning through the experiences of others has given me the tools and preparation to continue to be a leader,” Miller said. “I’ve learned what it takes to navigate and how to get the most out of your team in order to create a great culture and product.”
Miller’s coaching journey started in 2010 when he walked away from a career in finance to follow his coaching passion. His first head coaching role was with Spring Arbor University where in six years at the helm, he helped lead the Cougars to three league championships and the program’s highest-ever national ranking (#10). Following three seasons with Lansing United (USL League Two), Miller became the head coach at Lansing Ignite (USL League One). Miller led Lansing Ignite to a second-place finish that included a three-month undefeated run. In Jan. 2020, Miller joined Landon Donovan as the Associate Head Coach of San Diego Loyal. Going into his fourth season with SD Loyal, Miller was promoted to Head Coach on Dec. 2, 2022.
“When I realized that working in finance didn’t motivate me, I immediately left and started coaching. My life was very impacted by coaches I had on a personal level. And because I was so positively impacted by my coaches, I wanted to do the same. I wanted to give back,” Miller said.
“I love soccer, I love the game and I love being a part of a team. And I am extremely driven and motivated by that passion.”
Now with the highest USSF coaching accreditation under his belt, Miller believes his growth and improvement has only just begun.
“As coaches, we have the responsibility to our players and to our clubs to be an example,” Miller said. “We need coaches to care about coaching development—to always be improving and evolving. If we’re asking our players to get better every day and every season, it’s our responsibility to do the same.”