It took several months for the Kaw Valley Soccer Assn. finally to find its guy.
Ken McDaniel officially started work as the executive and coaching director for KVSA this weekend. He replaces Frank Trovato, now the Alaska Youth Soccer Association's state director of coaching.
McDaniel, a former professional soccer player, brings a wealth of coaching experience to KVSA. He has served as assistant to the Kansas University soccer team and this season was an assistant for the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth.
"KVSA now has a director that has played soccer at various levels, including professional," said Shaun Rush, KVSA Club Division Chair. "Because of Ken's experience, KVSA can now offer something more to the Lawrence-area soccer players."
With the new gig in Lawrence, his coaching days at Saint Mary are up in the air. His commitment to Saint Mary ended Saturday, but is decided on a year-by-year basis.
"I haven't made a decision," McDaniel said. "I wanted to finish my commitment at Saint Mary. College is a year-by-year kind of thing. This is a full-time commitment here."
McDaniel has big goals in mind for the KVSA, which is generally divided into three areas: recreational, club and premier.
Sources say the dismissal of Trovato had to do with him focusing too much on the premier side of KVSA. McDaniel, while wanting premier to flourish, said he knew it was important to start at the bottom.
"The way KVSA is set up right now is not far different from a baseball farm system," McDaniel said. "Our feeder programs are the club and rec programs. In order to make a stronger premier program, the lower programs have to get stronger and progress."
And the ultimate goal, McDaniel said, was to develop players with enough talent to have colleges take notice. McDaniel, 32, is from Johnson County, which is lauded for producing soccer talent. Five players on KU's team hail from Overland Park, and a sixth is from Spring Hill.
Nobody from Lawrence plays soccer for KU.
"I'd love to eventually have a Lawrence lady here play Division One at KU," McDaniel said.
"There's a unique opportunity out here. Lawrence has something different than Johnson County. There's an ability to keep kids together here. Kids can jump from team to team in Johnson County. Here, there's an ability to keep kids onto one team."
McDaniel's first order of business is to hold a tryout for high school boys for the premier team. The tryouts will take place today and Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. at the Youth Sports Inc. fields. McDaniel plans to coach the premier squad and hopes to have a good turnout at the tryouts.
"There are some good players at Lawrence Free State and Lawrence High," McDaniel said. "I'm hoping that we can pull those guys together."