Here is my attempt to retrace a journey of soccer that starting in the rec fields of Shorewood, MN. By no means was my playing career a star-studded affair which led to World Cup Glory! That being said, I have been fortunate for soccer to provide me with lifelong relationships, an ability to travel the world, a set of core values to live by, and ultimately an amazing way to earn a living that I wouldnt trade for anything.
A Love of the game (6-11 years old)
My earliest soccer memories revolve around playing Rec Soccer in the outdoor ice rinks of Minnetonka. Rocks mixed in with patches of crab grass, proper shorts, high tops, and mullets all littered these fields in the 80s. I was extremely fortunate to have my Dad be our youth coach from my first season straight through to U14s. Like the relationship between Rob Hobbs and his Dad in the The Natural through baseball, so was mine with my Dad through soccer. He developed his coaching as I developed my game, playing in the backyard was equally for my development as it was for his. For a man who played 3 sports in college (hockey, baseball, and football), none of which was soccer he worked his way through the USSF Coaching system all the way to a "B" License while first kicking a ball in his 30s.
If I was to mark pivotal moments in my life around soccer the one that sticks out most in this time period would be Christmas Gift in 1986. My parents gave me the Mexico '86 World Cup highlight VHS tape. It was here that I fell in love with all that was soccer. Not just the relationship that I had with the ball in the backyard or in games, but all the other pieces that went with. The worldly names that seemed more alien that human who played in that tournament: Lothar Matthaus, Enzo Scifo, Michel Platini, Igor Belanov, and of course Diego Armando Maradona. My Dad started to call me Maradonny after I obsessively watched the video...to the point that I could and still to this day can do the commentary from beginning to end. On the field I was standing out, I could dribble and cut the ball, and hit with power with my right and left foot. The Minnesota Strikers of the MISL were in their heyday playing in the old Met Center and Coach Alan Merrick would run his soccer camps in the summer. It was here I was able to train with the likes of Tony Pezsnecker, Tompson Usiyan, Ray Hudson, David Budgie Burns, and the colorful Tino Letteri who kept a parrot doll in his goal during games. Suddenly, the world game I found in my VHS World Cup tape was coming to life on fields in the summer for me.
Developmental Phase (12-18 years old)
When I started travel soccer at around 10/11 with Tonka United, teams were put together at the U12, 14, 16, and 19 age groups. At this time a club like Tonka would only have 1 team per age as there just were not that many players making the leap from rec to travel soccer...baseball was a big pull for players at this time. The group of guys I started to play with at this time were very close to the guys I graduated high school with in 1997. My Dad and a few other soccer dads pulled together a group of local kids all going to Tonka schools to make up this team which would go on to be amongst some of the top in the state and ultimately have 6 college players and 2 professionals from it's ranks. I remember my early travel soccer experience being difficult as all age groups played full field 11aside soccer! The worst scenario was a goal kick when both teams would form a wall around the box as the GKs could not kick it out that far, leading to a comical affair of full on shooting fest for the attacking team. Hard work on the field and technical training led to my team winning the "B" Cup at USA Cup in 1990. This was monumental in that other Tonka teams had not achieved this level of success and it boosted confidence for our group while providing a sense of achievement and validation for the path we were on.
Coach Donny Mark brings his wealth of experience and travels to Alchemy DSC having played and/or coached in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. He prides himself on constantly striving to improve the process of player development and creating not just good players, but exceptional young people. He has been blessed to have worked with full internationals, college athletes, children who didnt own shoes, and everything in between. Being one of very few coaches in this country to have worked at all levels in the game, Coach Donny brings a holistic approach to Alchemy DSC.
Marquette University (NCAA Division 1), 1997-1998
University of Connecticut (NCAA Division 1), 1998-2000
*2000 NCAA National Champions
Twin Cities Tornado (USA, PDL), 1997-2000
US Montagnarde (France, Division D’Honneur), 2001
Minnesota Thunder (USA, A-League), 2001-2003
Carolina Dynamo (USA, USL Pro League), 2002
FA Level 2 Certificate, October 2009, Manchester FA, UK
FA First-Aid Certified, June 2009, Manchester FA, UK
FA Child Safeguarding Certified, June 2009, Manchester FA, UK
FA Level 3/UEFA “B” Prelim, October 2010, Bolton Wanderers FC, UK
US Soccer National Youth Certificate, July 2010, Sioux Falls, SD
Coerver Coach 2004-2012, Youth License October 2011, Blaine, MN
Coaching Experience Youth, High School, Collegiate
Minnetonka High School JV Head Coach, Mn USA, 2003
St Olaf College Mens/Womens Assistant Coach, MN USA 2006
QiLin FC Club Founder/DOC, Shanghai China 2006-2010
Minnesota ’94 ODP Team Head Coach, May-July 2011
Orono High School Varsity Assistant Coach, August 2011
Coerver Coach 2004-2012, Youth License 2011
MTA US Development Academy Coach U18 Team, 2011/12
MTA US Development Academy Head Coach U16 Team, 2012
Twin Cities Voyageurs Head Coach, 2013 College Aged Players Summer League
St Croix Soccer Club, U13/U15 Coach, US Club National Premier League, 2013
Coaching Experience Professional
Minnesota United FC Reserve Team Head Coach, NPSL 2014
Minnesota United FC 1st Team Assistant Coach, NASL 2013-2015
Management & Business Experience
The10 Soccer Sports Products LLC
Founded and designed a full line of sports team specific clothing. Outfitted clubs in the US, Australia, China, the UK, and Japan with factory direct full soccer apparel. Total revenue exceeding $100,000 annually in 5 years of operation.
Dulwich College Community Programs and Facilities
Managed and oversaw all the programs on Dulwich College Sports grounds (100,000ft2) including soccer, basketball, dance, ballet, American football, and other youth sports. Programs served over 1500 kids in the Shanghai local and international communities. Annual revenue exceeding $200,000.
QiLin Football Club
Founded QiLin FC in the fall of 2006. Club started with 30 players and has since grown to over 500 players in the club and over 1000 players in the youth league and other programs. QiLin FC currently runs youth and senior training programs, leagues, and camps. QiLin FC is currently Shanghai’s largest youth club and league. Ran mainland China’s largest youth tournament, Shanghai Cup with over 100 participating teams.
The10 Sports Centre
Long Lake, MN
Bought the Long Lake Golf Dome and converted it over to the western suburbs premier year round sports facility. Dome now hosts: soccer, baseball, softball, football, lacrosse, rugby, and other large events. Center also features ice cream shop, 18 hold mini putt golf course, golf range, and outdoor 5aside sports pitch. Annual revenue exceeding $350,000.
Alchemy Sports Training
Long Lake, MN
Started Alchemy Sports Training in late 2015 with emphasis on individual and small group athlete development in Soccer, Lacrosse, Volleyball, Tennis, Hockey, and Strength/Fitness. Programs are for athletes ages 8 to Professional. To date more than 300 athletes have gone through various programs.
Alchemy Developmental Soccer Club
Long Lake, MN
Elite Developmental youth soccer club with teams from the U8-U16 age groups. Club will begin from August 2016.