In 1992, on a holiday to the romantic Greek islands, Jim Galanis of Melbourne Australia had a life changing experience when he met his future wife Coleen, of New Jersey, USA. After a five-year long distance romance Jim decided to leave his country and move to New Jersey.
Fate would have it that New Jersey is the epicentre of soccer in the United States and Jim Galanis had a passion for the game like few others. Few could predict the influence Jim Galanis would have on soccer in the USA and the man they call ‘Crocodile Onassis’, the Aussie Greek, started his journey in Melbourne’s suburbia. Jim Galanis grew up playing soccer at Bundoora Juniors before transferring to Clifton Hill as a 16 year-old where he secured his debut in the senior team.
Playing one day in a Cup final in 1989 Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas scouted Jim and took him to his academy at Parkmore Soccer Club and subsequently to South Melbourne Hellas where he played in the youth team in 1990 with players such as Damian Mori, Harry Micheil, Paul Fernandez and Con Boutsianis. Competition was fierce and the senior team was brimming with Australian Internationals. “Puskas was a great person; I was honoured to have the chance to work with one of the greatest players of all time. This inspired me to make a career out of football,” he says.
In the year 2000 he set up the Universal Soccer Academy and in ten years he has built it up to be one of the leading football academies in the United States.
The academy is built on self taught teachings and the cornerstone of his philosophy is the 5 pillars:
- Technical – what you do with the ball
- Tactical – what you do without the ball.
- Physical – power and strength of the body
- Mental toughness – thriving and excelling under pressure
- Character – doing the right things off the field; being coachable, being a good teammate and generally doing the right things.
The glue that binds these teachings together is consistent practice and the key to practice is the need to fall in love with the game. No love, no practice. A talented player that had her career turned around on a chance meeting with ‘Crocodile Onassis’ is USA International Carli Lloyd who is currently in Germany preparing for the semi final of the World Cup.
Carli Lloyd is one of the best female players in the world, famous for her winning extra time goal against Brazil in the 2008 Beijing Olympic final, yet at one stage of her career she was dropped from the Under 21 National team. She decided to work with Jim, training every day and the results have been astounding.
“If he wasn’t in my life I would not be here today. He was the turning point in my career. He took me to the next level. James keeps everything sharp; he constantly comes up with new ideas and drills. He is like no other coach, he reads the game well, and he is my true inspiration,” she says.
If setting up the Universal Soccer Academy and creating world class players was not enough for Jim, he has also managed to be the technical Director of Football for the Medford Strikers Soccer Club youth teams in New Jersey. The club is enormously successful and has won 22 State Cups. He also branched out the academy to Cordoba Argentina in 2002 where he has trained Argentine coaches and players on his philosophies.
This academy has so far produced National youth team players and multiple professional first division players. In a country like Argentina, this is an exceptional achievement considering their standing in the game. In 2010, Jim’s work over 10 years was recognised with the offer to become interim coach of Atlanta Beat in the Women’s Pro Soccer League, which is the only fully paid professional league in the world for women.
The results were instant and subsequently he was offered a full contract for the 2011 season. His goal is to build a young team to dominate the WPS for years. With all these achievements at just 40 I asked Jim what is left for him? “I think about coming back home sometimes to help the Australian game. I also think of Europe or South America, wherever there is a new challenge. “I have so much work to finish here in the United States in the short to mid term; football is the world game so you never know where you can end up.”