By Kevin Kay, media intern
If you talk to Kitsap Pumas’ head coach Cameron MacDonald or assistant coach Shaun Scobie, it takes about half a second to recognize their thick Scottish accents. They might give you a nice “How are ye?” or a “Ye’re welcome” if you perform a favor for one of them. Talk to them for a couple of minutes, and they’ll give you a “cheers” a couple of times.
It didn’t take long for ex-Kitsap coach James Ritchie to notice MacDonald’s accent either.
It was January 2013, and MacDonald, now 26, was on trial with a club in Orlando. He had been there a couple of days when he was walking through his hotel in Orlando and Ritchie overheard MacDonald speaking.
“I think I was on the phone and about to get on the elevator,” MacDonald says. “[Ritchie] heard the accent, and he had his bright yellow Pumas top on. We got to chatting.”
After the trial, MacDonald went back to Scotland and was playing and coaching with various professional teams when Ritchie reached out to him again, officially asking him to come on as a player and youth coach for the Pumas.
“He talked to me about the potential that was there,” MacDonald says. “I figured it was an opportunity worth pursing. I had other options, but he sold me on this place.”
Kitsap was also able to sponsor MacDonald’s travel visa, which is a major selling point for anyone coming to the United States. MacDonald started playing for the Pumas in April 2013, originally playing center back and coaching with two different youth teams through the Pumas.
As a younger player in Scotland, he trained with professional youth academies as young at 10 years old and until he was about 13.
The stakes were high in the twice-weekly sessions, as the club cut players frequently, and the numbers in training were large.
In the end, MacDonald was picked up by Livingston, a Championship team in Scotland, to enter their academy. He played there for seven years and was offered a professional contract when he was 16 and made appearances for the pro team while also playing with the U19s.
“I experienced a lot of success at a young age,” MacDonald says about his time with Livingston. “We won two first team league titles, numerous youth titles and I managed to get a couple of Player of the Year awards along the way.”
Livingston is also where MacDonald met Scobie, now 27, who was coaching the 15 and 16-year-olds in Livingston’s academy. Scobie initially went to Livingston when he was 14, staying with them until he was about 18.
He then left to join Coerver Coaching, an elite coaching company that started in Holland. Scobie was the head of Coerver in Scotland, also spending time in Sweden and Denmark.
Scobie then rejoined Livingston after John Hughes became the head coach, and he was in charge of working with U14s and younger as well as spending some time wth the first team.
At the same time, MacDonald was just getting settled in Kitsap.
“I was always phoning him and texting him about how he was getting on,” Scobie says. “I booked flights to come over on holidays for two weeks.”
Scobie caught the Pumas on one trip where he got to do some coaching sessions. The Pumas head coach at the time was Andrew Chapman, though he would be leaving soon and MacDonald, by then the assistant coach, would take over.
He needed an assistant himself, which opened the door for Scobie to join him across the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was a no-brainer,” Scobie says.
Scobie’s first season with the Pumas was in 2015, the first year that MacDonald was head coach, and the pair led the team to an undefeated season.
In their short time in the U.S., the duo has noticed the potential in American soccer players technically and physically, though MacDonald says the country has work to do developing players with the tactical knowledge to carry them to the top.
“Kids here are really athletic,” MacDonald says, “and there’s a lot of technically skilled players, [but their] soccer IQ is not up to par.”
MacDonald and Scobie credit this to the fact that kids are not playing with people that are five, even 10 years older than them, getting the experience and knowledge of playing with people who have been playing for much longer than they have.
It’s safe to say with a successful 2015 season under their belts and a 2016 campaign well underway that the two have adjusted from their lives in Scotland very well.
The hardest part about that adjustment?
“My accent,” Scobie says, laughing.
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